Saturday, January 14, 2023

Seven of Ten Largest Nations in Russia and Nine of 15 Smallest Declined in Population Since 2010, New Census Figures

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 11 – Neither all of the largest nations in Russia are growing nor all of the smallest ones are declining in size, according to the latest census results, a pattern at odds with what many assume and that highlights the variety of factors involved in determining how many people in Russia declare this or that nationality or none at all.

            “People in our country haven’t gone anywhere,” ethnographer Vladimir Zorin says; “simply their answers to questions about nationality have become more varied,” a reflection of their constitutional right to change their identities, have more than one, or declare none at all, Dmitry Funk, head of the Moscow Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, adds (

            Among the ten largest nations in Russia, seven lost population between 2010 and 2020 – the Russians, 5.5 million; the Tatars, 600,000; the Bashkirs, 13,000; the Armenians, 236,000; the Ukrainians, one million, and the Kazakhs, 55,000. Over the same period, three increased in number – the Chechens, 243,000; the Avars, 100,000; and the Dargins, 55,000.

            At the other end of this ranking, the 15 smallest nations in the Russian Federation (those with populations in 2020 of less than 1,000) showed a similar pattern. Nine declined losing between 24 in the case of the Entsy to 169 in that of the Nganasans; while six increased, ranging from 19 in the case of the Kereks to 97 in that of the Alyutors.

            Changes in the number of the largest nations reflect such things as a decline in the importance of ethnic identities and emigration, while changes in the number of the smallest ones are the outcome of a complex interplay of assimilation, on the one hand, and the benefits the Russian government provides to those who identify with these groups, on the other.

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