Thursday, March 2, 2023

Ethnic Russians Actually Number Almost 14 Million More than Census Reported, Tishkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 28 – Ethnic Russians were significantly undercounted in the 2021 census, Valery Tishkov says, with their real number being over 13 million more than that enumeration reported; but at the same time, many non-Russian nations were overcounted because some of their members living outside their native republics were counted twice.

            That means the ethnic Russians increased in number between 2010 and 2021 and that the ethnic Russians are not on the way to becoming a minority in their own country, the former minister for nationality affairs and head of the Moscow Institute of Ethnography and Anthropology says (

            Tishkov, like many others, bases his conclusion on an analysis of the 11.3 percent of all residents of Russia – some 16.6 million people – for whom no nationality is listed. “Among them,” he says, “seven million refused to answer the question about nationality and 542,2000 declared that they had no membership in any nationality.”

            The remaining 9,050,000 simply had no nationality listed, likely an indication that their census forms were filled in on the basis not of contacts with the population but by the enumerators consulting other sources for various kinds of information, none of which would have included nationality.

            According to the ethnographer, there were more people “’without a nationality” among those who filled in forms on the Internet and among those who live in cities. He says that because Russians are more urbanized than most groups, they suffered an undercount in this way greater than the others.

            Other disproportionately urban nations who suffered undercounts included the Tatars, the Ukrainians, the Belarusians, the Chuvash, the Mordvins, and the Udmurts, Tishkov continues. And he thus assigns to the Russian nation a disproportionate share of those for whom no nationality is listed.

            If one follows his logic, then, there were in 2021 not 105 million ethnic Russians as the census reported but 119 million, a difference of more than 13 million – and, especially importantly, an indication that the ethnic Russians in fact from almost ten percent more of the total population that Rosstat is reporting.

            And since Tishkov doesn’t challenge the overall figure the census reported, that in turn means that the non-Russian share of the population was ten percent lower than the census says, presumably an outcome he welcomes. But the ethnographer goes further than that in suggesaing that the reported census results were skewed against the Russians.

            He says that in some non-Russian areas, officials worked harder to get people to declare their nationality than was the case in Russian areas and that in at least a few cases, there were overcounts among non-Russians with those living outside the republic often counted twice as far as ethnicity is concerned.

            Among the groups with such overcounts were the Circassians and Bashkirs living outside their republic. The former almost doubled in number since 2010, from 70,000 to 120,000; and the latter by 100,000. The ethnographer ignores the fact that many Circassian activists encouraged members of Soviet-imposed Circassian divisions to declare themselves Circassians.

            Tishkov says pointedly that “the smaller the nationality, the more numerous it wants to appear.” But his own argument shows that exactly the same desire exists among the largest nationality in the Russian Federation, the ethnic Russians.

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