The Depopulation of Ukraine

a recurrent disaster revisited


  • David Coleman Department of Social Policy and Intervention, Oxford University


Ukraine, depopulation, migration


Blessed by its geology but a prisoner of its geography, the inhabitants of Ukraine have suffered repeated destructive depopulation. The population loss in the Ukraine 1914–21 was over five million. The second modern depopulation culminated in 1932 during Stalin’s manmade famine, with estimated total population losses of 4.6 million people. A third depopulation followed as over 7 million Ukrainians lost their lives in the Second World War.

Between the censuses of 1959 and 1970 population of Ukraine recovered briskly. Total fertility remained at about replacement level until the end of the Soviet Union, then declined. A relatively strong recovery of fertility was reversed in 2012, presumably as a consequence of the Russian invasion in Eastern Ukraine, and total fertility dropped to 1.2.

The population in early 2022 was around 37 million. The Ukrainian global diaspora is one of the most widely-distributed populations in the world, with 6.1 million Ukrainians living abroad already in 2020. After Russia’s invasion in February 2022 thousands have died and millions have been forced to flee. The article ends by considering how Ukraine’s demographic situation might evolve in the future.

This issue of the Yearbook was finalised after Russia attacked Ukraine the 24th of February, 2022. In this invited reflection, professor David Coleman provides an overview of Ukraine’s demographic history and previous challenges. (Editor’s note)




How to Cite

Coleman, D. (2022). The Depopulation of Ukraine : a recurrent disaster revisited. Finnish Yearbook of Population Research, 56, 115–136.