In 1937, a census was taken in Russia which ended up doing nothing but angering soviet leaders. Despite a projected natural population growth of over 35 million citizens from the last census, the census revealed that there were only around 7 million more citizens than the last census. This “lost” census was named because soviet leaders scrapped it all together after receiving these undesirable results and showed many issues with soviet society.
The 1937 census was intended by soviet leaders to show that their nation was a happy, thriving, and growing nation. The natural population would have grown the population by 37 million citizens, but the census revealed only a 7 million person growth, a result of an alarmingly high rate of unnatural death. As Freeze pointed out, many of these deaths occurred in government organized or ordered “purges”, and the discrepancy in what the population growth was supposed to be and what it actually was showed this. This indicated that soviet society was extremely controlling and corrupt, the exact opposite of the picture that leaders were looking to paint. So, leaders discredited the census, claiming that it’s directors committed “crude violations of the principles of statistical science.”
Then again in 1939, soviet leaders ordered that a census be taken under their watchful eye. This census produced more favorable results, though still fell short of the projected growth. This census is also disputed amongst historians because it most likely included many non-citizens so as to make the numbers look more favorable to the soviet leadership.
This “lost” census followed by the highly-criticized 1939 census speak to the societal control that was prevalent in the late 1930’s in Russia. Along with purges ordered to take out opposition groups and various other ethnic groups, the control that the government had on the census reports of 1937 and 1939 showed that soviet leaders were extremely concerned with perception of their regime and nation. This control would not be short lived, and would persist through the entirety of the Soviet Union.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 209-222. Print
Original photo: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=images&SubjectID=1939census&Year=1939&navi=byYear