Sunday, October 10, 2021

One Russian in Five Doesn’t Plan to Take Part in Upcoming Census

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 5 – Nineteen percent of Russians – that is almost one in five and more than 28 million of that country’s estimated population – does not intend to take part in the census either by speaking with census takers or using online systems. That is only one of the ways in which this census may be even less accurate than earlier Russian ones.

            According to a Superjob poll, 19 percent of Russians say they won’t open the door to census takers and do not plan to go online to fill in the form either. Young people and men are more likely to say that than older ones and women, the survey agency reports (

            According to independent demographer Aleksey Raksha, such a refusal rate is “too large even if one takes into account the high level of distrust in society.” A decade ago, people didn’t want to take part; and the result was the students used as census takers simply made up results rather than actually visiting people (

            Such actions not only meant that the final figures were less accurate than the government suggested, Nikitia Mkrtchyan of the HSE Institute of Demography says. They also meant that public distrust increased as a result of the census with many who expected a visit and not getting one assuming that the government was falsifying everything.

            This year the government has sought to improve the situation by offering Russians the chance to fill out the census return on line; but that may not work if many choose not to do so. And many Russians will be suspicious, perhaps with good reason, that the authorities have used this means to falsify figures for various reasons.

            Indeed, Moscow demographers say, the main reasons that the government is shifting to digital measuring are not to improve accuracy but to save money and to speed up the process of reporting. And that impulse too can be counted on to spark more distrust in any figures the regime chooses to publish.

            They suggest that the places where falsifications are the most likely as a result are the total populations of cities and regions whose officials want to boost the numbers to get more subsidies and the share non-Russians and non-Russian speakers constitute in the population, with Moscow wanting both to fall and non-Russian republics both to rise.

            That the nationality question results are likely to be questioned is even more likely this time around than last for two more reasons. On the one hand, officials have conceded that they have not yet decided how to record declarations of nationalities not on the approved list, even before groupings are made in processing (

            Thus, in Tatarstan, many are already worried that if they declare themselves Mishars or Kryashens, their final listing in the census may be either of these or Tatars, depending on what officials in Moscow want to do to get the numbers the center prefers.

            And on the other hand, some republic governments are pressing hard to include as part of their language community people who in fact belong to another. The most notorious example is Bashkortostan’s promotion of the idea of a northwestern dialect of Bashkir as the preferred description of what most people consider Tatar (

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