Bureaucrats have been dreaming up ever more imaginative schemes to help reverse the trend ever since President Vladimir Putin identified Russia's demographic crisis – caused in part by soaring levels of alcoholism – as the country's biggest threat.
But few have been quite as blunt as Sergey Morozov, the governor of Ulyanovsk, a depressed region on the Volga.
In exchange for an afternoon of state-sponsored passion, his "Give birth to a patriot" campaign launched last week offers parents who give birth next year on June 12, Russia's Independence Day, a range of incentives from a fridge or washing machine to a four-wheel-drive vehicle, depending on how many children the couple already has.
The Kremlin is offering even more substantial inducements. In a state of the nation address in May that was redolent of the Soviet era, Mr Putin encouraged Russians to make more babies and promised to give £5,000 to every mother who gives birth to a second child.
Sep 22, 2006
Go forth and multiply
Russian provincial governor gives workers the afternoon off to procreate.