Skip work, make babies, governor says
ULYANOVSK, Russia (Reuters) - The governor of a central Russian province urged couples to skip work Wednesday and make love instead to help boost Russia's low birth-rate.
And if a woman gives birth in exactly nine months time -- on Russia's national day on June 12 -- she will qualify for a prize, perhaps even winning a new home.
"It's normally something for the home -- a fridge or a television set," Yelena Yakovleva at the Ulyanovsk regional administration press office, said.
"It doesn't matter if it's a girl or a boy."
Newly-weds Karina and Anton Bukhanovsky walked hand in hand down the main street of the regional capital of Ulyanovsk. They live in St Petersburg but traveled to Ulyanovsk to soak up the atmosphere Wednesday.
"I used to live here," said Karina, aged 19.
"We plan to come back on the same day next year and try for a baby and the prize nine months later," she said.
Anton, aged 21, kissed her gently on the cheek and they strolled off arm in arm.
Regional governor Sergei Morozov told employers to contribute to a Kremlin campaign to boost the birth rate by giving couples Wednesday off to have sex.
Russia wants to reverse a trend in which the population is shrinking by about 700,000 people a year as births fail to outpace a high death rate boosted by AIDS, alcoholism and suicide.
This is the third year Ulyanovsk region, famous as the birthplace of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin, has dedicated a day to encouraging couples to produce more babies.
Prizes will extend equally to unwed women who produce children on the right day, though the biggest prizes will go to married couples.
On Russia Day this year, a family won a jeep after their fourth baby was born on the holiday.
Next year, the top prizes will include an apartment, Morozov told Reuters. "We need more people," he said.
This year a record 78 babies were born on June 12 at the main hospital in the regional capital of Ulyanovsk, beating the 2006 total of 26, said chief doctor Andrei Malykh.
"The scheme is working. People want the prizes," he said.