Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
A GENERAL census of the population of Russia, the second in the history of the country and the first under the Soviet régime, was carried out in the last half of December, 1926, except in certain remote regions in Siberia and Central Asia, for which a longer period was required. The only previous general census was that of 1897.[i] The recent census was conducted on a very elaborate scale; 150,000 enumerators were employed, and it is estimated that 4,500 people will be engaged for the next two and one half years in tabulating the returns. The total cost is placed at about 14,000,000 roubles ($7,000,000),[ii] and it is expected that the results, when completed, will fill 53 volumes of about 500 pages each.
The individual census questionnaire comprised fifteen questions regarding name, sex, age, race, language, birthplace, marital status, literacy, physical condition, soundness of mind, unemployment, occupation, source of income, etc. It is worthy of note that no inquiry was made as to religious affiliation. In working out the instructions for the enumerators, considerable discussion took place in connection with the fourth question on the individual census sheet, as to whether data shall be collected respecting nationality or racial affiliation. It was finally decided to view the matter from an ethnographic rather than from a political-cultural standpoint. Accordingly, inquiry was to be made as to "narodnost" (people) -- which is defined as "a group of persons unified and differentiated from other such groups by certain common biological characteristics and by a common language," whereas nationality ("natsionalnost") is considered as "narodnost plus culture plus state organization."[iii] On the Ukrainian cards, however, the word "nationality" was placed before "narodnost," and in the Transcaucasus the three words: "Tribe, narodnost, nationality" appear on the census sheets. It was also decided that the answer to this question was to be based entirely on the statement of the particular individual. Enumerators were instructed to record the "narodnost" to which the individual stated he belonged. In the Ukraine, White Russia, and the western provinces of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic, there were special instructions to the effect that if a person stated that he was a Russian, he was to be further asked to which of the three peoples -- Great Russian, Ukrainian, or White Russian -- he considered himself to belong. Another question which caused considerable difficulty was that of native language. This was finally defined in the enumerators' instructions to be, not the mother tongue, but the language "which the individual knows best of all or usually speaks." In answer to criticisms on these points, the Chief of the Statistical Administration declared that "our whole census was based upon self-determination of nationality . . . . Therefore we strove to have each person freely decide his own nationality and language."[iv]
In order to obtain data with regard to family life in the cities, a special family questionnaire was elaborated which required particulars as to number in family, number living together on common budget, number of rooms or size of space occupied, kitchen conveniences, etc. Soviet leaders assert that the extremely large number of family questionnaire cards which were required in the census indicate the disintegration of the family under the influence of present conditions in Russia. In many cities, for instance, the number of family cards used exceeded 50 percent of the population.[v]
According to the latest figures which have been made public,[vi] the total population of the Soviet Union at the present time is 146,200,000 people, distributed as follows:
|R. S. F. S. R.||100,500,000|
If this total is compared with previous population figures for the same territory, it will be observed that the enormous losses caused by the World War, the civil war, and the famine, have already been compensated by the extraordinary vitality of the population. Whereas the population of the present territory of the Soviet Union increased from 104,100,000 in 1897 to 135,600,000 on January 1, 1914, it declined to 131,500,000 in 1920 which represents an absolute loss of 4,100,000 as compared with 1914. This figure does not represent the total loss suffered by the Russian people from foreign and civil war, since it does not take into account the natural increase of the population which would have taken place during the six years in question under normal conditions. The recent census returns indicate that not only the loss from war (4,100,000), but also the loss from the famine in 1921-1922, have been compensated, and that in addition there has been an absolute increase of 10,600,000 in the total population as compared with 1914. It is to be noted in this connection that the rate of economic rehabilitation in Russia has been less rapid. As Ossinsky, the Chief of the Statistical Administration, pointed out in January, 1927, "the demographic restoration process in recent years has made more rapid progress than the process of economic rehabilitation."
While the increase of population since 1920 has exceeded every expectation, the acceleration of the rate of increase as compared with the period from 1897 to 1914 is a fact of not less importance. In the period from 1897 to 1914 the annual rate of increase was 1.7 percent; in the last six years it would seem to have approximated 2.5 percent. This elemental phenomenon is of fundamental importance for Soviet economic life.
A comparison of the census figures of 1897 with those of 1927 for the various parts of Russian territory shows that the Far Eastern region has increased 164 percent in the 30 years, Siberia 140 percent, and North Caucasus 48 percent, the percentage of increase for the whole country being 38.5 percent. The smallest increase has taken place in Dagestan and the Central Asiatic regions.
The town population is placed at 26,000,000. This figure represents a much faster growth of the urban population than Soviet statisticians had foreseen. An urban census was taken in the beginning of 1923. According to the recent census, the population of the cities of which a census was taken in 1923 has increased by almost 5,000,000 people, or 24 percent, in the course of three and three quarter years. This constitutes for the urban population an average annual growth of 6 percent, which is double the pre-war rate of growth, and also double the estimated rate of growth used by the State Plan Commission in its calculations, as reported by Ossinsky at the third session of the Union Central Executive Committee. It should be noted in this connection that the annual growth of population for the whole Union in the same period has been not more than 2.5 percent. It is estimated that, of the 5,000,000 increase in the town population, not more than 1,500,000 can be attributed to natural growth. Consequently, the remainder, about 3,500,000, represents immigration from the villages. The rapidity of growth has been especially noticeable in cities of more than 100,000 population. In 1897 there were only 14 cities of this category with a total population of 4,249,000; in 1923 there were 21 such cities with a population of 6,337,000; and according to Izvestia for January 30, 1927, at the present time there are 30 with a population of 9,251,000, some of which were not in existence in 1897. The population of Moscow has increased 34.6 percent since 1923 and that of Leningrad 51.2 percent. The figures for the ten largest cities of Russia are as follows:
It is worthy of note that the effect of the famine of 1921 appears clearly in the census returns for the famine areas. Thus, in the province of Samara the population is 18 percent smaller than it was in 1920, in the republic of the Volga Germans the decrease is 17 percent, in the province of Orenburg 16 percent, in the Tatar Republic 14 percent, and in the Bashkir Republic 12 percent. The most rapid growth of population during the past six years has taken place in the Ukraine, where the population has increased by 12 percent as compared with only 6.3 percent in the R.S.F.S.R. This is explained by the Soviet statisticians as being due to the immigration into the industrial region of the Don Basin and to the lesser influence of the famine in the Ukraine. The largest increase in the R.S.F.S.R. is recorded in the central industrial region, which is ascribed to the influx from the villages. In general, the returns indicate a movement of population on the one hand into the industrial regions and on the other into the grain producing regions.
R. F. K.
[i] In 1920 the Soviet régime took a partial census, which did not include a considerable part of the Ukraine, Transcaucasus, and Turkestan.
[ii] Report of Ossinsky, 3rd session of Union Central Executive Committee, Feb. 17, 1927, Izvestia, February 18, 1927.
[iii] Izvestia, December 9, 1926.
[iv] Izvestia, February 18, 1927.
[v] Weekly Soviet Justice, No. 4, January 31, 1927, page 81.
[vi] Izvestia, July 21, 1927.