Russia's biggest families rewarded

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In many countries, a couple with 17 children would be deemed irresponsible; in Russia, they're given a medal. President Dmitry Medvedev handed out certificates and awards to eight of the country's largest families at a special ceremony in the Kremlin yesterday.

The Russian government has gone on a drive to push families to have several children in recent years, keen to boost a shrinking population and avert an impending demographic crisis. This is the third year that the awards have been handed out to families with particularly large numbers of children, a revival of a Stalin-era practice of giving out "Motherhood Glory" medals to the mothers of large families.

The couples to receive awards are raising 88 children between them. Lyudmila and Nikolai Nikolenko, not content with their own six children, decided to adopt another 19, and raise all 25 at their house in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. Tatyana Saltykov, who lives not far from Moscow, has given birth to a staggering 17 children, all of whom she raises with her husband Nikolai.

The parents were also given a prize of around £1,100. Mr Medvedev said that in the first three months of 2010, 428,000 babies were born in Russia, up 1.5 per cent on last year.

"I hope we have succeeded in reversing the negative demographic tendencies we have had for the past two decades," he said. "It's families like yours who will help to do that," he told the children and parents, who gathered in a lavish Kremlin hall for the ceremony.