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#8 - JRL 7168
Vremya MN
No. 68
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
State Secretary Sergei KOLESNIKOV, deputy chair of the State Statistics Committee, talks with Alexandra SAMARINA about the tentative results of the 2002 census

Question: How far have you progressed in counting the census results? When will you make public the next part of information?

Answer: We began by counting those who live permanently or temporarily in Russia and those who were beyond the national borders on business trips, such as journalists and diplomats. We also counted men and women, urban and rural dwellers. Information related to education, ethnicity, age etc. will be made public after we computer process the data by scanning census sheets. It will take several months and if everything goes well, we will have information about ethnicity in September, information about birth rate and other elements interesting to demographers and management bodies in December.

Census allows one not just to study the current situation but also to look several years ahead. For example, the depopulation trend that scared us so much in the 1990s was predicted by demographers on the basis of previous censuses. It became clear back in the 1970s that the depopulation trend would gather momentum at the turn of the 1990s. We were wrong by no more than a year or two.

Question: What conclusions can you draw from the initial results?

Answer: The overall number of Russia's population is 145.5 million, or 145.2 million without those who stayed temporarily in Russia at the time. Despite depopulation, this is not a bad result. There were 147 million people in Russia in accordance with the 1989 census. The absolute decrease equals 1.3%. This is an alarming trend because in actual fact we "lost" many more people - about 7 million - for natural reasons. But the gap was filled by migration, mostly from the CIS and Baltic countries.

Russia has the seventh largest population after China, India, the USA, Indonesia, Brazil and Pakistan. China is the indisputable leader with a population of 1.3 billion.

Question: Why did our population decrease?

Answer: Mostly because more people died than were born and because many people emigrated. Fewer babies are born now. To make up for the decrease in a natural way, families should have three or four children, which is unrealistic now. The family has changed. Today we have 125 babies per 100 women, which is an average European standard. But it is only a half of what we need for natural compensation.

But the main element of depopulation is the growing death rate. It is not quite usual in Russia, as too often people here die at an economically active age. In the 1990s, people mostly died of cardiovascular diseases and such "unnatural" causes as violation of safety rules, suicide and drinking, which can be avoided. We are far ahead of Europe in this area. The men's death rate in Russia is four times the death rate of women. One more factor that is adding to depopulation is that too many of babies in Russia die before reaching the age of 12 months, though the situation has somewhat improved.

The average life span in Russia is 64.8 years, including 58.4 for men and 71.9 for women. The longest life span - 64.9 for men and 74.6 for women - was registered in 1986-87, thanks to the sobriety campaign of the mid-1980s which curtailed the number of "drunken" and alcoholic intoxication deaths. The current life span in Russia is 10-15 years behind the standards of industrialised countries for men and 6-8 years for women. Regrettably, the situation in Russia is worse even than in some former Soviet republics.

Question: According to the 1989 census, there were more men than women in Siberia. Since then, the situation has reversed. Why?

Answer: Maybe the shift method of working is becoming a thing of the past. The people now live permanently and marry in Siberia.

Question: Which are the most densely populated regions in Russia?

Answer: The Central District is the most densely populated with 26.2% of the country's total. The Volga District accounts for 21.5%, the Southern, for 15.8%, the Siberian, for 13.8%, the North-Western, for 9.6%, and the Urals District, for 8.5%. The Far Eastern District has the smallest population: 4.6%. Not enough for such a large territory, right? Since the previous census, population has grown only in the Southern and Central districts. In the Southern District, population grew everywhere with the exception of Kalmykia, while the population of the Central District grew mostly in Moscow and the Belgorod Region. The population of the North, Siberia and the Far East is decreasing; a total of 1 million people have moved somewhere else.

Question: Did the census results coincide with the Interior Ministry information about the number of migrants?

Answer: The number of migrants increased by approximately 5.5 million. A little over 5 million emigrated from Russia and nearly 11 came to Russia. But the actual number of migrants is considerably larger than the registered figure. As of October 2002, the population of Russia should have equalled approximately 143 million, but our figure is 145 million. This means that approximately 2 million migrants somehow escaped registration. We will join heads with the Interior Ministry to elaborate a registration scheme that would cover everyone.

Question: Has the balance of urban and rural population changed in the past 12 years?

Answer: Urban population grew from 52% to 73% in 1959-1979; since then, the process of active urbanisation has stopped. The balance of urban and rural dwellers has hardly changed in the past two decades, with 73% of urban dwellers and 27% of rural dwellers. The share of urban dwellers has somewhat diminished even, partly because some 300 towns and urban settlements have become rural settlements, frequently at the request of their residents who want to draw privileges granted to rural dwellers. The census also revealed a novel trend: a part of urban dwellers live in the countryside nearly the whole year round. For example, a pensioner rents his flat in the city and lives on the money in his small "dacha," which he improved and provided with a stove.

Question: How is the urban population spread throughout Russia?

Answer: Forty percent of urban dwellers live in large cities. We used to have 12 cities with a population of over 1 million. The census has added one more city, Volgograd, to this list.

Question: What can you say about internal migration?

Answer: Many economic processes are hindered by the insufficient mobility of the people. For example, when a mine is closed down, the people do not leave because they cannot do it. The elite, meaning young people with a good education, is more mobile. But internal migration is growing, one way or another, mostly from east to west and from north to south. Since the previous census in 1989, over a million people have moved from Siberia and the Far East.

Question: Much is being said today that the census information is not correct because many people refused to take part in the census.

Answer: Relations between the state and society are complicated during the transition period in all countries. Standing on one pole are people who want the state to protect and nurture them; these paternalist attitudes are still widespread. On the one hand, some people say: "I don't want to deal with the state. I have a business and interests of my own." These people saw the census as interference in their private life and so they did not open the doors of their elite cottages to census takers. On the other hand, poor people did not open their doors because "this state has turned off my electricity and water and frozen my pipes, and so I will tell this state nothing." These are the poles that served as the census background. But the overwhelming majority of the people were not affected by these negative trends. They opened their doors and answered questions honestly, trusting the census takers as representatives of the state.

Question: Yet there were problems, right?

Answer: The two opposing trends I mentioned above were revealed most graphically in Moscow and St. Petersburg. As many as 93% of the population talked with census takers throughout Russia but there were quite a few "refuseniks" in Moscow. This is not our information but the data of the Public Opinion Fundation, which polled 1,500 respondents.

Question: Are these purely Russian problems?

Answer: I have talked with my colleague, deputy head of the statistical service of the Czech Republic, where a census was held during the transition period. He told me they had even more problems than we did. We launched a large-scale information campaign before the census and managed to convince people to take our viewpoint.

Question: The rumour has it that you have admitted that the census covered only 70% of the population.

Answer: I tried to explain several times where the figure 70% came from. We provided the figure in the middle of the census, before it was over. But somebody remembered it and it became widely used. This is an understandable mistake. The main thing is that we have done our job and rather well at that, especially if we take into account the complicated background.

Question: Did you use the experience of other countries to prepare for the census?

Answer: We certainly did. For example, we used the experience of the USA, which preceded its 2000 census with a large-scale information campaign (spending tens of times more money on it than we did). The Americans launched targeted campaigns in ethnic groups in the language of each particular group: Russian, Polish, Chinese, Vietnamese, and so on. We also addressed the people of the multinational Russia in their native tongues.

Question: In which regions has the population grown?

Answer: The largest increment - 43% - was registered in Dagestan. The increment amounted to 17% in Moscow, 13% in the Stavropol Territory, 12% in North Ossetia - Alaniya, and 10% each in the Belgorod and Kaliningrad regions. I think the most striking example is the 12% increment registered in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area which is comparable with some other southern regions. The active economic development of Northern regions can increase population owing not only to migration but also to a growing birth rate.

Question: How can you explain conflicts over the ethnic identification of Russian citizens?

Answer: The principle of self-identification is what the progressive demographers advocated before the 1989 census. We carried out the census on condition of strict compliance with this principle. As a result, we hope to get reliable information about the ethnic composition of Russia.

Question: Did the principle of voluntary provision of information affect the results?

Answer: Russia is a democratic country. We could not do as some countries did where the census was obligatory and held on one particular day, during which the people stayed at home and waited for the census takers. It was our first census held on the basis of a federal law. In the past nobody talked about the obligatory or voluntary nature of censuses because they were de facto obligatory. When drafting the new law, we heatedly discussed this principle because the principle of obligatory provision of information should entail punishment and penalties for refusal to comply with it. As a result, lawyers concluded that this would be inexpedient. Therefore the law says that participation in censuses is a social duty of every human being and citizen.

Question: What is the main lesson of this census?

Answer: It was a genuine compatibility test for the new state and the new society. Our people turned out to be compatible with the new type of economic and social behaviour and the new structure of life. The bulk of the people have adjusted to the new conditions created as a result of the democratic revolution of the early 1990s.

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