Far-flung Russian regions compete for '7th billion baby'

31st October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Two of Russia's furthest-flung regions at opposite ends of the planet were at odds on Monday over which could claim the symbolic birth of the world's "seventh billion baby" in the country.

State television broadcast pictures of a newly-born boy in the Russian exclave of Kalingrad which borders EU members Lithuania and Poland, saying he had been designated by the authorities as the talismanic newly-born.

But nine times zones away at the other end of the Earth, the government in the Kamchatka region on the Pacific Ocean issued a proud statement saying it had hosted the birth of the "seventh billion" in its main city Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

Wary of putting too much spotlight on a single individual, the United Nations has said it will not designate a single official seventh billion baby as the world's population hits seven billion on Monday.

This has opened the way for countries around the world to claim their own "seventh billion".

Kaliningrad -- former German East Prussia annexed by the Soviet Union after World War II -- said that Pyotr Nikolayev was designated a seventh billion baby by the United Nations just after his birth at midnight to mother Elena.

But the governor of Kamchatka Vladimir Ilyukhin said in a statement that Alexander, born to mother Marina Bogdanova at 19 minutes after midnight local time was the "seventh billion baby" by virtue of being the first to be born in Russia that day.

"Of course there are going to be many claimants for the seventh billion," Ilyukhin said in a statement.

"But our country, as we know, begins with Kamchatka. So we think a Kamchatkan boy was the first born in Russia on the day of seven billion," he added.

Russia is facing one of the world's biggest demographic challenges after low reproduction rates, poor public health and immigration resulted in a dramatic shrinking of the population since the fall of the USSR.

According to the results of Russia's 2010 census, the population shrank by 2.2 million people since 2002 and is now at just under 143 million.

With the campaign to reverse the trend championed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia's regions are keen to show they are doing all they can to boost the population.

According to the UN Population Fund, the cities of Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky were chosen to have the first babies born after midnight given special certificates as being born on the day of seven billion.

© 2011 AFP

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