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Demographics of Russia & Central Asia

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Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Demographics are statistical data about characteristics such as age, race, and sex of a population in a given area of the world. Explore the demographics of Russia and Central Asia, looking primarily at the racial and religious makeup of countries that were once part of the former Soviet Union. Updated: 11/09/2021

What Are Demographics?

Demographics are numbers that tell you things about the people of an area and how they break down into groups. People love to put themselves in boxes: people have religions, ethnic heritages, nationalities, socioeconomic classes, political views, and many other things. The way these various boxes break down numerically is what we mean when we use the word 'demographics.'

Today, we're focusing on the demographics of Central Asia and Russia. We'll break it down country by country, starting with Russia, and continuing on to Central Asia, which includes Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan.

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  • 0:00 What Are Demographics?
  • 0:35 Demographics of Russia
  • 1:50 Demographics of Kazakhstan
  • 2:30 Demographics of All the Rest
  • 3:55 Lesson Summary
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Demographics of Russia

Russia contains approximately 146 million people - the most populous country in Central Asia. When it comes to numbers, Russia isn't especially ethnically diverse, with 81% considering themselves to be ethnically Russian, according to the 2010 census. But nevertheless, in such a large area it shouldn't be surprising that there are still a lot of ethnic groups: around 190 in total. The second largest group after Russians were Tatars at 4%.

So, how about languages? Languages and ethnicities are related, but not always the same. So, it's worth us taking a look. While there are 100 languages spoken in Russia, 99% of the population speaks Russian, and 80% of foreign language speakers speak English. Many of the smaller languages are considered endangered.

When it comes to religion, it's pretty much Russia versus all the other countries. Russia is alone in being mostly Christian. Around 47% of Russians are Christian, with the majority of those being Russian Orthodox. This is followed by people who are 'spiritual but not religious' at 25% and atheists or 'non-religious' people at 13%. Muslims only account for 6.5%, which is kind of a big deal. Not because it's particularly surprising, but because of how different this is to the other countries we'll be talking about.

Demographics of Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is home to 17 million people, tiny compared to Russia, but not an insignificant number. Kazakhstan is more mixed ethnically, with 63% Kazakh, 24% Russian, and a mix of other ethnicities as of 2009. The people of Kazakhstan mostly speak Kazakh and Russian. Considering Russia and Kazakhstan are neighbors, this probably isn't too surprising.

All of the so-called 'stans' are primarily Muslim countries. But Kazakhstan is by far the most religiously diverse, with only 70% Muslim. The rest are mostly Russian Orthodox - there's the Russian influence again!

Demographics of All the Rest

Uzbekistan is the most populated country in Central Asia at 29 million. By comparison, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan are all under ten million.

Uzbekistan is mostly ethnically Uzbek at 80%, with small percentages of various other groups. Turkmenistan is mostly Turkmens, with some Uzbeks and Russians. Tajikistan is mostly Tajiks, with a full 14% who identify as Uzbeks. And Kyrgyzstan is mostly Kyrgyz - 73% as of 2014 - with most of the rest being Uzbeks and Russians. The overall theme is that Uzbeks and Russians are spread throughout the area, but each country has its main ethnic group at the top of the list.

How about languages? Well, the people of Uzbekistan speak mostly Uzbek and Russian. The people of Kyrgyzstan speak mostly Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Russian. The people of Turkmenistan speak mostly Turkmen, Uzbek, and Russian. And the people of Tajikistan speak mostly Tajik, Uzbek, and Russian. You notice the pattern, right?

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