Censoring the Census


A happy country is a healthy country, full of growth and solidarity of beliefs.  Stalin incessantly promoted this as a truth for the Soviet Union, but it had not yet been backed up with facts.

The First All-Union Census of the Soviet Union was taken in 1926 and the next one was to be taken in 1933.  However, it was delayed for 4 years, until January 6, 1937, most likely to avoid evidence of the famine caused by collectivization in 1932-1934.  Stalin anticipated staggering growth in population to be recorded in the 1937 census, but he did not receive the results he had hoped for.  The results of the 1937 census were destroyed.  Stalin and the Sovnarkom accused priests, kulaks, and other enemies of the Soviets of sneaking into the positions of census takers to sabotage the data and many of them were arrested.

The Soviets may have criminalized and destroyed the census, but the truth of the situation is still apparent.  The projected population for 1937 anticipated an increase of 37.6 million people.  The census data only recorded an increase of 7.2 million people.  This population gap showed the terrible amount of unnatural deaths, which did not align with the Soviet’s misconception of a happy nation.  The data showed how collectivization fueled the famine of the early 30’s, which could undermine the respected authority that the Soviets hoped to maintain.

Aside from the staggering population gap, there was a significant amount of people that were recorded as religious; over 50% in fact.  Again, this was not a favorable, or “correct”, answer for Stalin and the category was ejected from the publication of the 1937 census and was not featured on the 1939 version.of the questionnaire.

The “lost” census of 1937 is a testament to the censorship of Stalin in order to preserve his happy, healthy nation image.  The results had to be destroyed in order to further put off the truths of famine and oppression in the Soviet Union.  The population was not thriving, religion had not been squelched, and Stalin’s vision for the perfect communist nation was shattered by the 1937 census.  After destroying the data, the 1939 was highly manipulated to construe the “correct” vision of the Soviet Union back to the people.

For more information on the Lost Census:

“The Lost Census”: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1939census&Year=1939&navi=byYear

“Soviet Census”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_Census_%281937%29

Photograph taken from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6a/1937CensusPropaganda.jpg


October 13, 2013 · 10:34 PM

5 Responses to Censoring the Census

  1. bfulcer

    This post really exemplifies how desperate Stalin and the Soviets were to portray the communist system as being best for the Russian people. The desperate attempt to hide the true results of collectivization indicates a government that is unstable and destined for failure. I think it’s funny that Stalin would alter particular findings of the census (such as a persons stated religion) because that essentially negates the purpose of having a census in the first place.

  2. brandonlapointe

    Is there a facet of Soviet life that Stalin didn’t “correct” to his own views? It’s sad so many people had to die or bend their views due to this one man and his personal view of what the USSR should look like.

  3. mwill17

    I found this post really interesting as it shows the great lengths Stalin went through just to try and cover up his mistakes. I wonder how Stalin could have possibly believed that there would have been growth when he knew that he was starving people.

  4. samt1

    I find it interesting that historians still try to call this type of government “communist” when in fact all it really is, is totalitarianism. In no way were there any forms of communism when stalin took power because he just did what he wanted and killed anyone who stood in his path to “success.” Great post!

  5. hgiannoni

    When a government is so ready and willing to hide the truth from not only the world but its own people, it is only a matter of time before they eventually collapse. With such poor growth as a result of the famine, and with much of the population still identifying as religious, it makes sense that Stalin was outraged and blamed the census takers for such findings. However, had he paid attention to the findings and understood the truth behind the numbers, he may have been able to better adapt to the situation and steer the USSR on the path to population growth and find better means of repressing the church. It is still astonishing that Stalin expected such a large amount of growth in the first place though. The bar was set miles high, and even if the famine had not occurred it is not likely that the estimates that had been set would have been met anyway.

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