Sunday, April 23, 2023

Russian Officials Undercounted Tatars in Moscow in Last Census by 140,000 or Almost Two Thirds, Analysis of Names on Election Lists Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 20 – Few representatives of any nation in the Russian Federation believe that the 2021 Russian census was accurate, with most convinced that it reported far fewer non-Russians than is in fact the case both to boost the relative size of the Russians and reduce pressure on the government to provide more services to non-Russians.

            Nowhere are these concerns greater than in the city of Moscow which the Kremlin wants to maintain is a Russian city despite the massive influx of Central Asians and Caucasians in recent years, and no national group has done more to highlight just how great the distortions in the census reports there about nationality are than the Tatars.

            The latest to do so is Rim Dashkin, a Tatar who lives in Moscow and who in 2021 served on the election commission in one of the districts of Moscow and thus had the chance to analyze the ethnic composition of population by examining the last names, first names and patronymics of those on the list (

            By using this method, Dashkin says, he was able to separate out the Tatars and Bashkirs, on the one hand, from other Muslim groups, on the other, and conclude that those two nations formed 1.7 percent of the voters in that district. Given that Moscow’s population is 13 million, that would mean there were roughly a combined 230,000.

            Given the division between Tatars and Bashkirs in the 2010 census, an enumeration whose results have been less often challenged, that means that there are approximately 215,000 to 220,000 Tatars in the Russian capital and not the 84,000 the census reported, Dashkin concludes.

            In fact, he continues, the number of Tatars and Bashkirs in Moscow increased dramatically between 2010 and 2021 not only because many members of these nationalities moved to the Russian capital during that period but also and perhaps more important because the city annexed portions of Moscow Oblast where many from the Middle Volga lived.

            Obviously, if the election lists from more than one district were to be examined, these results would be even more persuasive; but even with the one he had access to, the Moscow Tatar says, it is clear that there was a serious undercount, something that has infuriated both Tatars and academic specialists alike.

            “An exact count of Tatars is needed for many reasons,” Dashkin says. “One of them” is that Tatars and others believe this undercount reflects a Kremlin calculation that if it says there are fewer Tatars than there are in reality, then the regime won’t have to allow the construction of mosques or the provision of social services to the group.

            In Moscow, the undercounting of Tatars was clearly intended to boost the Russianness of the capital. Elsewhere in the Russian Federation, Tatars were undercounted by regional officials interested either in currying favor with Moscow or boosting their own titular nationality at the expense of the Tatars.

            At the same time, Dashkin concedes, there really has been “a catastrophic assimilation” of Tatars in Russia in recent years; and he calls on Kazan to provide more linguistic and cultural support to Tatar communities outside that republic.

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