Saturday, November 16, 2019

Duma Deputies Criticize Rosstat Plan to Allow People to Declare More than One Nationality in 2020 Census

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 13 – Rosstat’s draft form for the 2020 census allows those surveyed for the first time to declare that they are members of more than one nationality, an arrangement that apparently has not been finally confirmed but that has drawn sharp criticism from the members of the Duma committee on nationality affairs.

            At a hearing yesterday, members of the committee said that such a provision would put pressure on those surveyed to declare a nationality rather than refuse to answer as is their right under the Russian Constitution ( and

            Sergey Yegorenko, the deputy head of the state statistical committee, told the deputies that he did not believe that allowing people to declare more than one language would constitute pressure. He said that census takers were required to write down whatever the people they spoke with said, however “provocative.”

            He said that the plan to allow people to declare more than one language represented “a compromise with scholars,” adding that “for the definition of the ethnic composition of Russia, only the first answers of the respondents would be counted, but the remainder will be supplied to the scholarly community for investigation.”

            The Duma committee was not impressed and decided to send a letter critical of this Rosstat plan to the government, the representatives of regions and scholars. “The census form has not been confirmed,” the committee’s chair observed; and so there is still time before the enumeration next fall to change it.

            Among those scholars pushing hard to allow people to declare more than one nationality is Valery Tishkov, former head of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology and former nationalities minister. Recently, he suggested he had failed to get this modification accepted but now it appears that Tishkov who is a close advisor to Vladimir Putin, may have succeeded.

            Although neither the Duma deputies nor the Rosstat representative acknowledged it, the biggest threat from allowing those surveyed in the census to declare more than one language is that it will promote dual identities, weaken non-Russians ones, and allow Moscow, whatever Yegorenko says, to count people who declare two nationalities to choose the one that they prefer.

            It is entirely possible, for example, that the offspring of mixed Russian and non-Russian parents will declare both but that Moscow will decide to count those who do as Russians to weaken the position of non-Russians in the republics and of all nationalities other than Russian in the country as a whole.

            Such manipulation, while supposedly proscribed, could dramatically change the balance of power in many places, boosting Russian influence while weakening non-Russian, something many non-Russians suspect is the intention of Tishkov and behind him Putin. (On that, see

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