I Got 99 Problems and Census is 1

Russia history was filled with famine due to the destitute of food and resources, however, there was reported “increases” in population… which doesn’t follow sound logic; shortages does NOT equal increases in populace. In 1937, the Soviet Thirties were coming to a close, with a surprising twist: the death of Adamovich Kraval, the chief of the Central Statistics Department (CSD), followed by his comrades, for reasons cited as “crude violations of the principles of statistical science.”

Calculations of natural population growth had projected a population of 186.4 million, an increase of 37.6 million since the 1926 census; the actual increase turned out to be only 7.2 million. The population gap spoke so graphically of unnatural death, and so belied the image of a healthy happy society, that the census was squelched.”

After the debacle of the 1937 Census, the 1939 Census proved to be more statistically sound, but still lacked validity. Also, the countryside peasants were noted as hostile towards the census takers, due to the peasants low socio-economic level within society and their lack of accurate representation. They felt as though their depraved life was ignored and conflated for propaganda, and that their injustices were not accounted for.

censusSoviet Census Example

This video depicts the many interactions between the All-Union Census counters through documenting passengers in a train; and visiting multiple peoples demonstrating how they would account for the population. This was released from the Russian State Film and Archive, denoting definite bias in the “sound” practices of the counters.

A return to the isolationism from self-determination and an emphasis on exclusivity returned as “National self-determination was fundamental to Soviet being, yet by 1939 state ethnographers and anthropologists had compiled lists that categorized groups as major nationalities, ethnic groups or national minorities.” As a result, many minorities were consolidating into larger groups such as the “Uzbeks” and the “Tatars”, losing their individual political and social voices and their right to self determination that was promised under the Soviet regime.

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12 thoughts on “I Got 99 Problems and Census is 1

  1. This is a really cool post. It would be interesting to compare Soviet census issues with other countries during this time to see if these issues were widespread or unique to the Soviet Union. I also like the video you found on 17 Moments, even if it is biased like you mentioned. Great job!

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  2. It is very interesting to me that the 37 census was scrapped altogether because it did not project the image of the Soviet Union that state leadership wanted it to. Additionally, it is comical to think about how much work went into collecting that census data, if the process is anything like the one the United States uses, for it just to be used for propaganda purposes.

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  3. A census seems like such a random thing to falsify and I find it quite humorous. However, it does make sense as the Russian government attempted to tell its own citizens, and the rest of the world, that it was taking care of its people and progressing along with other countries. I like that you wrote about a topic not many people would naturally know about! Good post overall!

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  4. Once again, your title is on point! I also liked that you included the video as an interesting source as well as the picture of the actual Soviet Census. I also like that you chose a topic like this that is usually overlooked but is crucial to illustrating how backwards the Soviet system was, and how often they used things as simple as a census as a form of propaganda. Great post!

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  5. Agree with all of these good comments — the “lost” census is much more important than we imagine, and we often overlook it in our rush to more glitzy and sensational stories (purges, famine, war, etc.). I’d be interested to hear what you think about the reasons for the demographic decline — why were the forecasts so wrong? And why would the peasants be especially suspicious of government agents who came out to “count” them?

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    • I speculate that there were very many reasons for the demographic decline. Due to the economic stress in the USSR, fertility and marriage rates were decreasing. On top of that, there were problems with production of foodstuff.

      The peasants would be especially suspicious of the census takers due to their affiliation with the regime and their reputation for disregarding minorities rights.

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  6. Like others, I really enjoyed this post because it is different from a lot of other posts. The census seems so minuscule in the context of the other things that were happening but it is clear that this census had a direct impact on the loss of individualization of ethnic groups. It is also really interesting that the peasants were hostile over the census process. Great job!

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  7. I think what is most interesting about this post is the process by which the census was taken and the ‘lost’ census of 1937. The video clearly shows how important the census was for Soviet propaganda purposes, and its clear from the censoring of the 1937 census how important it was that the census came to the ‘right conclusion’, for use in propaganda. Again the theme of cautious and hesitant peasants is brought to the fore, clearly these peasants were distrustful of government agents, many of them for good reasons.

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  8. This is a really unique post. I would have never thought that something as mundane as a census could be used for a type of propaganda, but the Soviets seem to cover everything! It’s really interesting how almost every aspect of society was used to make the Soviet Union seem like a prosperous society instead of actually making changes to create a more prosperous society.

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  9. I find it be so sad that these people were were “consolidating into larger groups such as the “Uzbeks” and the “Tatars”, losing their individual political and social voices and their right to self determination that was promised under the Soviet regime.” I’m interested in learning how this all continued or changed as World War II began. If I had to predict I would say the war did not help their voices become louder. You did a great job exampling the census and I enjoyed the video you added.

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  10. Great post! The census issue was really interesting to read about. There motivations might’ve been to look better at their jobs, but they were eventually found out. I thought the anger of the rural peasantry was interesting and how that dynamic played out.

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  11. It’s definitely interesting to see the how even the census was corrupted under the Soviet regime. Peasants felt underrepresented and individuals were clumped together into groups that they did not identify with. The Soviets promised an increase in individualism and self-determination, yet they did not follow through.

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