A fun fact on another site recently proclaimed that 80% of the males born in the Soviet Union in 1923 did not survive World War II. This seemed like a good fact to share for Commonplace Fun Facts, but before we could do that, this information needed to be independently verified. As it turns out, the snippet of information did not stand up to scrutiny, but it wasn’t that far off.
Census data shows the following with regard to baby boys born in 1923:
- Males born in the Soviet Union in 1923: 3,400,000
- Infant (0-1) mortality: 800,000
- Childhood (1-18) mortality, famine, and terror: 800,000
- Surviving to 1941: 1,800,000
- Wartime mortality: 700,000
- Surviving to 1946: 1,100,000
As you can see, only 32% of the boys born in 1923 were still alive at the beginning of 1946. A 68% mortality rate is still ghastly, even if it falls short of the 80% figure that is circulating through the internet. Interestingly, though, the primary cause of death for that generation was not World War II. One out of five died due to the violence of the Second World War. Twenty-three percent died in infancy, and an equal number died from the horrific conditions of life in the Soviet Union between 1923 and 1941.
That generation had it particularly bad. Not only did they face a major famine in 1932, but they also lived through Stalin’s Great Terror in 1937. They became adults in the year their country went to war with Germany.
World War II packed a wallop to the Soviet population. In the first six months of the war, three million Soviet troops were killed or taken prisoner. Most prisoners did not survive. In all, the Soviet Union suffered around 25 million war deaths, plus or minus a million. This, out of a total population in 1939 of just under 171 million.
To get a better idea of what these numbers actually mean, look at this powerful video that helps visualize the sheer number of deaths in World War II: