When children in Russia ask their parents about why they had them, the answer is increasingly likely to sound like the Price is Right. “Because by having you we won…A NEW CAR!!!!! With All Wheel Drive, a Cd Player, Power Locks….”

Russia, with one-seventh of Earth’s land surface, has just 141.4 million citizens, making it one of the most sparsely settled countries in the world. With a low birth rate and a high death rate, the population has been shrinking since the early 1990s.

President Vladimir Putin called the birth dearth the most acute problem facing Russia and announced a broad effort to boost Russia’s birth rate, including cash incentives to families that have more than one child. But now Ulyanovsk Gov. Sergei Morozov has added an element of fun to the national campaign by giving out to lucky parents sport utility vehicles, video cameras, TVs, refrigerators and washing machines.

The Governor has declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third year running is giving couples time off from work to procreate. The hope is for a brood of babies exactly nine months later on Russia’s national day. Couples who “give birth to a patriot” during the June 12 festivities win money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.

The good news is that the number of babies born in Russia has been on the rise. The bad news is that I’m leaving for Russia tomorrow. Listen, I have five children and we’re open to more. I’ll be treated like a hero in Russia. I’m bound to win some kind of prize at some point. I don’t know if this little town has internet access so it may be goodbye for a few years from blogging. But I’ll have an SUV with something like eight children’s booster seats in it. I should probably pack a lot of coats.