Masha Stromova, AP, September 12, 2007
ULYANOVSK, Russia—Make a baby. Win a car.
Ulyanovsk regional Governor Sergei Morozov has decreed today a Day of Conception and is giving couples time off from work to procreate. Couples who give birth nine months later on Russia’s national day—June 12—will receive money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.
It’s the third year that the Volga River region, about 900 km east of Moscow, has held the contest. Since then, the number of competitors—and the number of babies born—has been on the rise.
Just 311 women signed up to take part in the first competition, in 2005, and qualify for a half-day off from work. In June 2006, 46 more babies were born in Ulyanovsk’s 25 hospitals compared to the previous June, including 28 born on June 12, officials said.
More than 500 women signed up for the contest in 2006—resulting nine months later in 78 babies, or more than triple the region’s daily average. So far this year, the region’s birth rate is up 4.5 per cent compared to the same period last year.
In Ulyanovsk, everyone who has a baby in a local hospital on June 12 gets some kind of prize. The winners of the grand prize—a locally made SUV called a UAZ-Patriot—are couples judged by a committee on criteria such as “respectability” and “commendable parenting.”
“If they hold such actions every year, then maybe we will have (more children) growing up and Russia will be bigger,” said Andrei Kartuzov, who won the last grand prize with his wife, Irina.
Russia’s population has dropped since the 1991 Soviet collapse, and now sits at just 141.4 million.