In Russia's Ulanovsk region, Sept. 12 is Conception Day.
Workers are given the day off, and encouraged to go home and do their best to conceive a new Russian. The hope is to have a bumper crop of babies on Russia's national holiday, nine months off.
Conception Day has occasioned much mirth and ribald humor. But for Mother Russia, the issue of her children is no laughing matter.
Two decades ago, the Soviet Union was three times the size of any of the other giant nation -- the United States, Canada, China, Brazil -- and the third most populous, with nearly 300 million people. Came then the great crack-up of 1990-91.
The Baltic republics -- Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- broke free first. Next were Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova in the west; Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus; and Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia.
These amputations removed a third of the territory and half the population of the Soviet Union. Yet the remnant, Russia, remained twice as large as any other nation and still boasted a population of 150 million.
Since the 1990s, however, Russia has been losing population at a rate of 750,000 a year -- not to emigration, but to death. By one count, the Russian population is down to 143 million. President Putin has predicted that only 124 million Russians will be alive in 2015. In 2000, the United Nations projected that, at its present birth rate, by 2050 Russia's population would fall to 114 million.
In a 2005 study, the United Nations estimated that, together, Ukraine and Russia will lose 50 million people -- 25 percent of their combined populations -- by mid-century. The Slavs are dying out, and the geostrategic implications are enormous.
In a few decades, Turkey, which seeks entry into the European Union, will become Europe's most populous nation. Like Xerxes' bridge of boats across the Hellespont, Turkey will be the Asian land bridge into Europe, the Bridge of The Prophet into the homeland of the Christians.
As critical, the vast majority of Russians live west of the Urals, while east of Novosibirsk (New Siberia City), all the way to Kamchatka, the tiny Russian population is departing or dying out. Yet, in timber, oil and minerals, this is the most resource-rich region on earth. And south of Siberia lies the most populous and resource-hungry nation on earth.
American children born today may have Chinese for neighbors across the Bering Strait from Alaska.
Nor is it only the Slavic peoples who are expiring. So, too, are the native-born populations of Western and Southern Europe, as the empty nurseries of Europa fill with bawling Muslim babies.
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