Friday, October 23, 2020

Russian Census Forms Have to Be Filled Out Only in Russian, Tuvans Report

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 23 -- All residents of the Russian Federation will have to fill out the forms for the upcoming census in Russian. Those who don’t speak or write that language well will be offered the help of translators. This arrangement, certain to offend many non-Russians as an attack on their dignity and rights, will create yet another opportunity for falsification of results.

            That is because those who serve as translators can decide what they have heard or even introduce their own point of view, thus affecting such sensitive issues as national identity, knowledge of Russian, and native language. In the past, such modifications have been introduced in the coding process. Now, that danger is multiplied. 

            This change has been reported by the Tuvan government’s Agency for Nationality Affairs on the basis of what has happened in the village of Kara-Khol in the Bai-Tagin district of that republic, the first place where the general Russian census has taken place (

            The reason the census began there is that the village is cut off from the rest of the republic by high water in the spring and summer and by snows in the winter. Consequently, conducting the census in October has been judged to be the most efficient time.

            Requiring residents to fill out the census form only in Russian is striking because the census questions themselves and explanations for how to fill them out are available in Bashkir, Tatar, Tuvin, Chuvash, Sakha, Uzbek, English, Chinese and Korean, a clear indication officials understand that far fewer people speak Russian nearly as well as Moscow routinely claims.


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