Women eligible to receive the distinction must have ten or more children with an “appropriate level of care for health, education, physical, spiritual and moral development,” according to a statement from the Russian government translated by CNBC. The one million ruble incentive, amounting to roughly $16,600, is 150% of the nation’s average annual salary.
The Mother Heroine award was initially established in 1944 under Joseph Stalin and discontinued after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Russian Federation created a similar award, the Order of Parental Glory, in 2008.
“Families like yours enhance the prestige of the very institution of the family and restore the primordial traditions of a strong home, solidarity and love, loyalty to one’s clan, one’s ancestors, which have always been so strong in Russia,” President Vladimir Putin said at a 2019 presentation of the award. “These traditions reflect the continuity of generations and the preservation of our national identity. They are the foundation of patriotism, devotion to the Fatherland and the willingness to protect it and care for it.”
The award comes as Russia witnesses a diminishing working class. The percentage of the population between 15 and 64 years has fallen from 72% in 2011 to 66% in 2021, according to data from the United Nations. Losses have accelerated since the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has left 15,000 Russians dead and approximately 45,000 wounded.
Many countries in the developed world are likewise experiencing fertility rates below replacement level. While Russia averages 1.5 births per woman, Italy averages 1.2 births per woman, Canada averages 1.4 births per woman, and Norway averages 1.5 births per woman, according to data compiled by the World Bank. Global fertility has gradually declined from five births per woman in 1960 to 2.4 births per woman in 2020.
In the past several months, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly criticized the notion that the world is at risk of overpopulation.
“I think one of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birthrate and the rapidly declining birthrate,” Musk explained at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit last year. “And yet, so many people, including smart people, think that there are too many people in the world and think that the population is growing out of control. It’s completely the opposite. Please look at the numbers — if people don’t have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words.”
Last year, the population of the United States grew at its slowest pace since the nation’s founding, according to the Census Bureau. Among other reasons for the decline, the agency cited “decreasing fertility” and “increasing mortality due to an aging population,” as well as the onset of COVID. Meanwhile, only 17.8% of America’s 130 million households feature married parents with children — a decline from over 40% in 1970.
Between 2020 and 2021, the population of Idaho saw the fastest growth in the nation at 2.9%, while the population of New York shrank by 1.6% and the population of Washington, D.C., shrank by 2.9%.