The Soviet Population and the Censuses of 1937 and 1939

  • R. W. Davies
  • Mark HarrisonEmail author
  • Oleg Khlevniuk
  • Stephen G. Wheatcroft


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.


Stalin TsUNKhU Sautin Voznesenskii Gosplan 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. W. Davies
    • 1
  • Mark Harrison
    • 2
    Email author
  • Oleg Khlevniuk
    • 3
  • Stephen G. Wheatcroft
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for Russian, European, and Eurasian StudiesUniversity of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of WarwickCoventryUK
  3. 3.National Research University Higher School of EconomicsMoscowRussia
  4. 4.School of Historical and Philosophical StudiesUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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