Moscow pensioners hold birth rate protest

2011-05-18 22:36

Moscow - In a bid to increase Russia's birthrate, hundreds of pensioners crammed into Moscow metro on Wednesday and occupied all the seats, wearing white bibs reading: "If you don't like it, have a baby."

Around a thousand activists from a group called the Older Generation occupied a whole train on the circle line, only giving up seats to disabled people, pregnant women and those with children.

"We are holding the event in support of the president's policies that have the aim of raising the birth rate of Russians in Russia," said organiser Natalya Golikova from the Moscow suburb of Khimki.

One participant, Raisa, a woman with white hair curled on the top of her head, called out to two strap-hanging passengers, a woman in a miniskirt and a man in a leather jacket.

- "My children, you should have more babies. Give birth!"

- "We have already got two."

- "You need to have more."

Russia's birth rate has jumped recently, attributed to an inflow of immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus where families are traditionally larger, and the protest also had a nationalist, anti-migrant slant.

The flash mob was co-organised by pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi 2.0 and its aim was to increase the birth rate "among Russians, not immigrants", an activist, who only gave her name as Yana, told AFP on the train.

"We are calling specifically Russian women and Russian men to improve the demographic situation," said Yana, 16, who said she was still studying at college.

"There are fewer and fewer Russians and that should not happen. It's big country and there should be a lot of people, not just immigrants."

Passengers watched bewilderedly, some accepting leaflets that showed a teenager in a baseball cap walking down a carriage, stared at disapprovingly by grey-haired women.

Some called the message too heavy-handed, saying young people have other priorities.

"I am in two minds about this. We need to raise the birth rate but everything depends on your material position and a person's aims and desires. We are now getting married at 30 or 35," said Igor, an engineer.

"I think people are becoming more educated and don't have enough time for children," agreed his neighbour, management student Elizbar.

"Young people's mentality is changing. Of course we need to have babies. But it's too early for me to talk about it, I'm still studying."

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