Saturday, 26 November 2011
Under the headline "Mother of God's Belt comes to Russia to help reverse population decline" The Freethinker The Voice of Atheism since 1881 has featured the news that Vladamir Putin, prime minister of Russia, received the Belt of the Mother of God "a revered Orthodox piece of antiquity" at St. Petersburg Airport.Pictured above, behind Putin's left shoulder, is Vladamir Yakunin, president of Russian Railways since June 2005. I was the guest last month of Mr Yakunin at the Rhodes Forum, of which he is the founding president. He attended the Roundtable on population and the family, moderated by his wife, Natalya, which I was invited to address. Freethinker quotes Vladamir Yakunin thus:
"The belt of the Most Holy Virgin Mary possesses miraculous power. It helps women and helps in childbirth. In our demographic situation, this is … important."
Freethinker's caption under the picture above reads: "Prime Minister Vladimir Putin puts on a solemn face for Mary’s belt".Now whatever one might think about Mr Putin, he has every reason to be solemn at such an occasion for two reasons:
Eberstadt's article begins:
"December marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the Soviet dictatorship and the beginning of Russia's postcommunist transition. For Russians, the intervening years have been full of elation and promise but also unexpected trouble and disappointment. Perhaps of all the painful developments in Russian society since the Soviet collapse, the most surprising -- and dismaying -- is the country's demographic decline. Over the past two decades, Russia has been caught in the grip of a devastating and highly anomalous peacetime population crisis. The country's population has been shrinking, its mortality levels are nothing short of catastrophic, and its human resources appear to be dangerously eroding."
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