International Papers

Counting Russians

Russian authorities should know just how much the nation’s population has declined when the data from this year’s census, completed Wednesday, is crunched, if a government ad campaign persuaded reluctant citizens to open their doors.

Britain’s Guardian reported that although organizers assured the public that answers would not be shared with tax authorities or the police, as many as 22 percent of Moscow residents intended to say “Nyet” to census enumerators. Some Russians refuse to cooperate because they fear the state will use the information gathered to monitor the population or that it will be sold to the black market, others to protest government neglect.

This will be the first census since 1989, the year the Berlin Wall fell; lack of funds prevented the next scheduled count in 1999. The latest estimates suggest Russia’s current population is 143 million, down from 147 million in 1989. According to the Daily Telegraph, “Few doubt that Russia is suffering from a falling birth rate and the ravaging effects of alcoholism, Aids and ill-health.” The census should also reveal the full extent of Russia’s internal migration as vast swaths in the center and east of the country are left virtually deserted and Moscow’s population balloons.

The St. Petersburg Times reported, “[A] student hired as a census-taker sustained injuries to his back when he was butted by a he-goat called Borka, as he was trying to get into a house to interview the goat’s owners. … Fearing he would be held responsible for his animal’s behavior, the owner hid in his garage.”