Research Note
Research Note
A new book by Anatoly G. Vishnevsky
expand article infoVladimir J. Echenique
‡ Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
Open Access

The release of every new book by Anatoly Vishnevsky becomes an event not only in the field of demographic research, but also in the Russian humanitarian thought in general. The book Demographic history and demographic theory [Vishnevsky, 2019] recently published in the HSE Tutorials series is a unique textbook prepared for an academic course of this prominent Russian demographer. The course itself bases on the author’s extensive research and reflects the original view of the scientist both on the problems of human reproduction (human world) and on the issues of general patterns of population regulation (in the animal world).

The topics covered in the book gain particular interest due to global threats to population reproduction associated with the climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. Here, the reader will find answers to questions about how reproduction responds to changes in the external environment.

The book is divided into 5 sections (or topics), and each one of them contains two or three lectures (with the exception of Fertility topic, which gets four). In total, the book contains 15 lectures.

The first two lectures of the first section consider issues of the population reproduction theory, i.e. discuss the regulation of population size in nature and the basis of population reproduction in society. The third lecture of this section is devoted to historical types of population reproduction and it serves as the key to understanding the logic of the following narrative.

The second section focuses on one of the population reproduction components, mortality, which determines the process of irreversible attrition from the original population as it ages. The author defines three historical types of mortality and, following his own classification of reproduction types presented in the previous section, calls them archetype, traditional and modern. This section is divided into three lectures (2.1, 2.2 and 2.3), each of which deals with one of the mortality types.

The third section of the book is devoted to fertility, which is another crucial component of population reproduction. The first lecture on fertility discusses the main determinants of fertility, explains the differences between fertility and fecundity, and discusses the Bongaarts’ fertility model with detailed examples. The second lecture of the section is devoted to sources of data on fertility in the past, description of the fertility archetype and the traditional type of fertility. The third lecture (3.3) gives a detailed timeline of the modern type of fertility formation, and also considers issues of social regulation of fertility and demographic policy. The section concludes with the fourth lecture (3.4) on the transformation of marriage, family and fertility in the modern world. The author pays attention to the second demographic transition, the sexual revolution, modern reproductive technologies, and the pluralism of family forms.

The fourth section focuses on migration and consists of two lectures (4.1, 4.2). The first of them considers the role of migration in world history and names different types of migration. The topic of the second lecture is migration transition.

The book is concluded with a section on the demographic revolution, which very logically and excellently fits into the structure of the course: it starts with the analysis of the reproduction in nature, and human society in the historical context, and then passes through the main demographic processes (fertility, mortality and migration) to the modern type of population reproduction. It is important to emphasize once again that this book, including its final section, is based on many years of the author’s research, where the monograph Demographic Revolution, first published in 1976, occupies a special place.

The textbook is well written and easy to read. The literary talent of the author is expressed in the love of word, of terms. At the very beginning of the book, Anatoly Vishnevsky introduces four new terms (demoscopy, demometry, demology, demosophy) reflecting different stages of demographic research and sections of demographic science. The previous attempt to rename demographics into demology (not describing, but revealing logical connections!), which was undertaken by demographers of the Soviet Kiev school (Vladimir P. Piskunov and Valentina S. Steshenko), was unsuccessful. It is hard to say whether the new terms presented by Anatoly Vishnevsky (which, too, are undoubtedly logical) will settle themselves down in Russian language or not. The language lives its own life. Now, when I hear the Russian officials saying that we have problems in demographics, I personally feel anxious for demographers. We have to remind ourselves that in modern Russian executive language, demography is not only science, but rather a demographic situation in the country. It is necessary to accept that the appearance of non-obvious meanings in old words becomes the norm and is being anchored in dictionaries and legislative documents. Let’s see how the new terms proposed by Anatoly Vishnevsky will pull through.

The book by Anatoly Vishnevsky is declared a textbook for master programs, although it may also be useful to bachelors and graduate students. No doubt that the book will be used by teachers of demographic disciplines and researchers in related sciences. The tutorial and course are academic but, given the author’s encyclopedic knowledge and clarity of presentation, the course can be mastered independently by the readers interested in issues of social development.

Reference list

  • Vishnevsky A.G. (2019) Demographic history and demographic theory. Course of lectures. M.: Publishing House of the Higher School of Economics.

Information about the author

Vladimir José Echenique, Cand. Sci. (Economics), Associate Professor of the Risk Management and Insurance Department, Head of the Sector of the Laboratory of Population Economics and Demography of the Faculty of Economics of Lomonosov Moscow State University. E-mail:

login to comment