Tuesday, March 21, 2023

More than a Third of All Residents of Russia – 58 Million -- Did Not Give Census Takers Their Nationality, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 17 – People across the Russian Federation continue to wrestle with the results of the 2021 census; and as they do, more troubling information about the shortcomings of that enumeration both in general and in comparison with past Russian and Soviet censuses and international practice is coming out.

            Nowhere have these discussions been more passionate or as widespread as in Tatarstan, a republic whose titular nationality reportedly lost more than 600,000 members between 2010 and 2021, a figure Tatars reject. The Milliard.Tatar portal has organized the latest such discussion (milliard.tatar/news/v-povolze-situaciya-so-smertnostyu-naseleniya-v-srednem-xuze-cem-v-celom-po-strane-3080).

            Among the findings and comments of the experts and commentators who took part, the following are especially important:

·       The number of people in the census who did not report a nationality was not 16 million if one relies on the official figures or 16.5 million if one adds those who explicitly denied a national identity but instead 58 million if one counts the number of people who were not enumerated by census takers or online but assigned census data on the basis of sources other than declarations.

·       Non-Russian republics were not the only places where nationality was assigned. Many rural Russian areas were too, and thus the number and share of ethnic Russians in the country as a whole was boosted there.

·       In some places, including Udmurtia, if an individual had difficulty declaring what nationality he or she had, census takers first tried to convince them that they were Russians and, failing that, listed them as Russians anyway.

·       Every third Tatar child in Kazan listed both Russian and Tatar as his or her native languages given census takers and processors enormous leeway to assign such people to this or that nation. Almost always these people were assigned to the Russian nation.

·       The ten federal subjects with the highest percentage of those listed as not having provided a nationality were Khanty-Mansiisk (26 percent), Moscow (22 percent or three million people), Tomsk, Ryazan, Primorsky kray, Kostroma, Khakasia, and Nizhny Novgorod.

·       The Tatar population declined but so too did the population of the country. As a result, the percentage of Tatars in the population fell from 3.7 percent in 1989 to 3.6 percent in 2021, well within the margin of error.

·       Tatars who left the republic in Soviet times are now moving back and for the first time in decades, Tatars now form a majority (53 percent) of the population of Tatarstan.

·       The more urbanized a nation, the more likely people are to not declare a national identity. The Tatars are second only to Russians in terms of urbanization, 67 percent to 76 percent.


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