The Soviet Population and the Censuses of 1937 and 1939
A long-delayed population census was held at the beginning of 1937. The findings were disappointing from the perspective of a regime that saw a large, rapidly growing population as an indicator of its own success. Factors contributing to the failure of the Soviet population to grow as expected included a long-term decline in the birth rate and the large excess mortality of the 1933 famine, an event that had been concealed from the public. The outcome was a collision between the professional expertise of the demographic statisticians and the political authority of the party leaders. The findings were suppressed and many of those responsible were arrested. A second census, held in 1939, again found too few people, but on this occasion Stalin and Molotov were persuaded to accept the findings after relatively minor manipulation.