Fewer goblins, more Russians

Crowd of RussiansMonday's closing of the 2010 all-Russian census will yield a strikingly different demographic picture than the last time: there will be fewer goblins and elves, but more Russians and Kaliningradians.

Rosstat, the federal statistics body responsible for registering changes and new social tendencies with the census, unfurled a media campaign this fall urging citizens to get involved by telling them that "everyone is important to Russia".

Reports about how the census was carried out showed another picture.

First couples counted

The census began with a publicity drive involving the first couples ­ the Medvedevs and the Putins.

President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife, Svetlana, answered all the questions in their Gorky residence, with President Medvedev recalling his days as a census-taker in 1989, RIA Novosti reported.

He said that "persistence" always got the job done, and urged the census-taker in Gorky to follow his example.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his wife, Lyudmila, also took a part in the census. They were questioned by a census-taker in front of a bank of cameras. Putin laughed at one of the questions ­ "male," he answered with a smile, when a census-taker asked him about his gender.

Elves and worms

The 2002 census in Russia showed that goblins, elves and other mystical creatures were living among Russians, Ukrainians and other nationals.

"People consciously write themselves down as goblins and elves in the census," Gennady Goncharov, Head of the Moscow School of Hypnosis, told The Moscow News.

Goncharov said that a person will definitely associate himself with a mystical or literary character, because the intense flow of information from the media. "It's just impossible for some people not to fall for this," he said.

The 2010 census, on the other hand, will most likely show that there are fewer goblins now, but more ethnic Russians. There are also fewer Jews, according to one report.

The Jewish Telegraph Agency reported that the number of Jewish people in Russia is declining and the figure may become worse, if the census-collectors who were told not to write down "silly ethnicities" did what they were told.

Yevgenia Mikhalyova, head of the Federal Jewish Cultural Autonomy, told JTA that when she declared herself Jewish the interviewer asked her to confirm this.

Such measures may also have a political reason; the population in Russia has declined by 4 million people since the last census. The population figure on the 2010 Census website stands at 141,945,826, while according to the Rosstat statistics in 2002 there were 145,513,037 people living in Russia.

Bloggers and some mainstream media have reported that census-takers have been encouraged to write down "Russian" in the nationality column.

In the Kaliningrad region in western Russia, the media reported that the 2010 census may reveal a new nationality ­ Kaliningradian. Livejournal user kalgrad wrote in his blog that when a census-taker would ask him about his nationality, he would write "Kaliningradian".

Census-takers in question

This year's census did not just show that there were fewer goblins and elves living in Russia, but also what problem the census-collectors faced.

First of all, most of the census-collectors were assigned by Rosstat from the universities. Students were given short instructions.

"Usually it was a one-hour briefing and then they were told ­ off you go," Ivan Bolshakov, from the liberal Yabloko party, told The Moscow News.

The largest problems that the census-takers faced were the long working hours and meagre salary.

The census-takers discussed their problems at the official website perepis-2010.ru.

Many of students complained that the salary of 5,500 rubles was not per person, but had to be divided by two, because they worked in pairs.

Some 670,000 census-takers were appointed to do the job and a total of 10.5 billion rubles was allocated from the federal budget, then-Census Commission chief Sergei Sobyanin said in April.

Ivan Bolshakov confirmed that many students complained to Yabloko about the salary.

"We've received dozens of complaints and are working on this issue now," he said.

Another problem noted by bloggers was the number of mistakes in the census forms.

A Livejournal blogger from St. Petersburg wrote "the collector was illiterate. He wrote my nationality as "ruska" instead of "Russkaya". When asked if he'd ever taken a Russian exam, he said yes," vespro said in her blog.

"We admit that there is [incompetence] in the census-takers' work," Grigory Simanovich, a spokesman for Rosstat, told The Moscow News.

Another job for Sobyanin

The former head of the government apparatus, and recently appointed Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin headed the 2010 census commission.

According to Sobyanin, census data will help optimise inter-governmental relations and also show the social composition of the population in Russia.

Some 70 million people participated in the census, according to Ivan Bolshakov of the Yabloko political party.

"Many people simply refused to open doors to the interviewers," he said.

Rosstat spokesman Grigory Simanovich said that 15 to 20 percent of all addresses in Russia will be revisited again, after the first figures appear ­ "just to confirm the information," he said.

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