Don’t worry, be happy! Or at least don’t work, make love. That’s the message to young Russian couples today, amid worries about falling birth rate. President Putin is determined to reverse a trend which has seen Russia’s population fall by about 700,000 a year as births fail to counter a death rate worsened by AIDS, alcoholism and suicide.
The governor of Ulyanovsk, Sergei Morozov, said government workers have been encouraged to take the day off today, and see what happens. The aim is to get pregnant, and to give birth on June 12th next year, Russia Day. Successful new parents will win prizes, including a car or a fridge.
It seems people are extra keen to cuddle up. One bride said it is Russia’s patriotic duty, because it shows the depth of support for the country and its leaders.
And it is working, especially in Ulyanovsk. This year on Russia Day, a record 78 babies were born at the city’s main hospital, smashsing 2006’s total of 26. In Ulyanovsk, at least, love is in the air, and there are prizes to be won.