":Russia's population fell by nearly three quarters of a million last year - the biggest annual drop since Soviet times and a sign that the country is on the verge of what one expert called a demographic crisis.

The world's largest country is emptying with 836,000 more deaths than births in the first 11 months of last year, its population on the eve of the millennium stood at 145.6 million. The figure is thought to be roughly six million lower than if birth and death rates had stayed constant since the fall of communism.

Russian healthcare has been in permanent crisis and the average Russian's diet and alcohol consumption has remained as life threatening as ever.

With average adult vodka consumption at three bottles a week and a fatal fondness for high-fat food, Russian male life expectancy slumped in 1995 to 57 and has stayed near there ever since.

Russia's death rate for both sexes is boosted by an astonishing 35,000 deaths a year from accidental alcohol poisoning. The comparable figure for the United States, with a population nearly twice as large, is only 350..."

(The London Times: January 28, 2000)