Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

The Gendered Discourses of Illiberal Demographic Policy in Poland and in Russia

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Abstract:  Despite being dissimilar cases, both Poland and Russia exhibit strong anti-liberal and democratic backsliding tendencies. Concomitantly, politicians are spreading a demographic moral panic, employing the argument that both nations are in danger of demise. There is scaremongering concerning below-replacement population growth rates and, in parallel, a tightening grasp on reproductive health rights and a growing fear of non-binary gender identities, people of color, and homosexuality. The political anti-gender mobilization in Poland in the 2010s and the gendered anti-Western and anti-gay conspiracy narratives in Russia are examples of this phenomenon. How are the policy responses to “demographic crises” constructed and gendered in political discourses today? What lies behind it and what is its role in illiberal politics? In this article, I discuss the current demographic discourses in Poland and in Russia. I argue that the politics of rallying against “demographic crises” surfaced on the wave of growing dominance of ultraconservative and nationalist discourses in East-Central Europe in response to perceived socio-economic pressures. I demonstrate how Polish and Russian politicians have been utilizing nativism, familialism, and “tradition” discourses for reasons of political legitimacy and expediency. Looking at political debates and concrete demographic strategies, I trace how the rhetoric of “democratic crises” is deployed to shore up illiberalism in both countries.

Keywords:  demographic policy; discourse; gender; illiberalism; Poland; Russia



© Barbara Gaweda. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.