Russian President Vladimir Putin has revived a Stalin-era award for mothers who have 10 children in a bid to revitalize the country's declining population predominantly caused by the ongoing conflict with Ukraine.
The award, dubbed Mother Heroine, was first proclaimed by Soviet political leader Joseph Stalin in 1944 to boost the population after the country's sharp demographic decline due to the Second World War.
More than 400,000 women received the award before it was rendered non-functional following the fall of the USSR in 1991. Mother Heroine was an honorary title bestowed upon women for rearing a large family, and this time, women who meet a set of rules will be given a one-time payment of 1 million roubles (roughly $16,000).
On top of the cash prize, the recipients of the title will reportedly be conferred with gold medals with Russian flags decorated on them, as well as the country's coat of arms.
Putin signed a decree announcing the award Monday. It came a month after he first proposed reviving the title on Russia's Children's Day holiday on June 1, The Moscow Times reported.
Jenny Mathers, Russian politics and security expert, gave insights into the scheme during a Times Radio interview with British broadcaster Henry Bonsu. Mathers said that under Putin's decree, a mother stands eligible for the award as soon as her 10th child reaches his first birthday, but on condition that her other nine children are still alive.
However, the law still allows a woman to receive the award in case she loses a child during an armed conflict, a terrorist incident or an emergency circumstance.
The decree had no mention of the ongoing war in Ukraine, according to the Washington Post.
Mathers said the reward scheme signals Putin's desperate attempts to replenish the dwindling population at the onset of Russia's record demographic change. The Pentagon estimated that as many as 80,000 Russian troops have been either killed or wounded in Ukraine since Moscow launched its onslaught in late February.
The country's population has shown a downward trend for decades, coming down to 145.1 million as of early 2022. Russia's state statistics service Rosstat also warned that the scenario could get far worse by 2050, with the count likely reaching around 130 to 140 million.
In addition to the war, the COVID-19 pandemic has also been cited as another reason behind Russia's population crisis. As per the estimates of demographer Alexei Raksha, the pandemic claimed as many as 997,000 lives between October 2020 and September 2021, marking the largest recorded peacetime population decline in Russian history.