Nevertheless, some data indicating the dynamics of the country's degradation presents such a bleak vision of the future that even the most sophisticated phlegmatic people should feel sick. One of the most difficult and unsolvable problems of Ukraine as things stand is depopulation, the pace of which is growing at an incredible rate year by year. According to Director of Institute for Demography and Social Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Ella Libanova, the next decade will see a three-million reduction in the population aged 20 to 64 years, and as a consequence the overall population will be down to 39.5 million people by 2031.
This forecast can be called exceedingly optimistic, because, according to other sources, Ukraine has already managed to achieve the above mentioned figures, if not accounting for the six million people dwelling in the Crimea and the Donbass region. Many experts are sure that today the country barely reaches the threshold of 30 million people. This embraces migrant workers outside Ukraine, accounting for 7 to 9 million people. That is, one can talk about some twenty plus millions living in the territory of the Ukrainian state minus the Crimea and the Donbass region.
The figure is monstrous, if we recall that in 1989 there were as many as 52 million Ukrainians, according to population census results. Over the period that passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the acquisition of the much-desired independence, more than 20 million people simply vanished into thin air. This is two and a half as much as the population of Austria, twice as much as the population of Belgium and thrice as much as the population of Switzerland. International law regards similar-scale tragedies as genocide.
Of course, not all those millions are extinct, although the population decline accounts for quite a considerable percentage. However, depopulation is basically fueled by other factors, the main of which are migration and emigration. After the Maidan victory six million people ceased to consider themselves citizens of Ukraine and announced the withdrawal of their ancestral territories. It was quite a natural response to the victors' desire to deprive them of the right to use their native language.
But this damage is obvious and easily quantifiable. Population losses in rural areas and the outflow of rural residents to the cities is a less noticeable, but longer-term and more persistent process. This is primarily due to the collapse of the provinces' social infrastructure. Mass unemployment, rock-bottom wages of rural specialists, closing schools and district hospitals — all this contributes to a rapid desolation of Ukrainian villages, where one can hardly find a job, earn his living, get education and medical treatment.
In fact, those concerned about the fate of their country are able to assess the depth and scale of the catastrophe that befell Ukraine. A year and a half ago, a journalist of nationalist views, head of the SSU press service Stanislav Rechinsky wrote: "In 1989, there were 52 million of us, plus three million immigrants. A total of 55 million. Now, according to official data, we account for 44 million with seven million registered abroad. 44 minus seven is 37. Then we subtract the 2.5 million of Crimea and the 3.5 of isolated districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and get 31 million. Next, we subtract the approximate figure of those who left for Russia and those unaccounted living abroad. We have only 29 left. In Poland this figure stands at 42 million. In fact, Ukraine is a deserted territory with most of its population living in cities with populations exceeding one million and along the western border. The Ukrainians may well suffer the same destiny as the rapidly disappearing people of the Baltic states. Nations, like species, are dying out."
Rechinsky's parallelism is no longer relevant – as regards the rate of extinction, Ukraine surpassed the Baltic Tigers, having fallen to the level of the poorest and most dangerous countries in the world, specifically the African states. Excess of deaths over births in Ukraine remains one of the world's highest: only 55 live births per 100 deaths. Young families fear to become parents due to the extremely low standards of living and hand-to-mouth salaries that can be hardly enough to feed, educate and treat children. Amid overall poverty, when, according to a UN report, about 80 percent of Ukrainians cannot afford to eat well, demographic landscape was bound to go off the rails.
As a result, according to a survey of the Institute of Demography And Sociological Research (IDSR), 65 percent of citizens aged 14 to 55 years would like to leave for abroad. Which is still quite a fine figure. Another report, conducted by the "Justice Movement" non-governmental organization, 81 percent of young people aged 18 to 28 dream of leaving Ukraine. These two statements are consistent with each other. Older people find it hard to change their permanent place of residence and their way of life. And the mobile youth easily burn all the bridges behind them in case there are no prospects at home.
It took Ukraine a quarter of a century to ruin not only its industry and agriculture, science, space, aircraft and car industry, gas transit, but the most valuable thing it possessed – human resources. It is highly questionable who is going to survive and witness the European integration, which will take place in the indefinite distant future, if at all.
(The article was published at Ukraina.ru website, translation)