1937 - Report on the Census

From the report of I A Kraval', head of the USSR Gosplan Central Administration for Economic Accounting to J V Stalin, secretary of the VKP(b) CC and V M Molotov, chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, on the preliminary results of the 1937 all-Union census.

11 February 1937

In accordance with the resolutions of the Council of People's Commissars of 28 and 29 April 1936, the USSR Gosplan Central Administration for Economic Accounting carried out an all-Union census of the population on 6 January 1937.

In view of the fact that the deadline for presenting the preliminary results of the census, laid down by the VKP(b) CC and the USSR CPC expired today, but the work of Comrade Yakovlev's group is not yet complete, the CAEA is presenting the results as they are at the moment.

The census was carried out in strict conformity with the directions of the VKP(b) CC and the USSR CPC...

The Red Army, NKVD units and institutions, crews and passengers on steamers en route were specially counted by the staff of the relevant institutions. Railway passengers and people waiting for them at stations on the night of 5 January were counted by special brigades of assessors, organised for the purpose by CAEA.

In the most remote and inaccessible areas as per the list approved by the USSR CEC, the timing of the census deviated from the above order and timetable.

The population levels established by the census are significantly lower than were expected on the basis of the running tally of the population. On 1 January 1933 CAEA published figures of 165.7 million, which served as the basis for subsequent calculations. The census showed that the running tally of the population was giving inaccurate, steeply inflated figures. The completely unsatisfactory state of the running tally of the population is the main reason for the gap between the anticipated population figure and the actual one established by the census.

The source of the mistakes in the running tally of the population was the exceptionally poorly organised system in the offices for registering births and deaths....

The census data show an exceptional growth of the towns and the urban population. The overall number of urban dwellers according to the 1937 census is 51.9 million as against 26.3 million in the 1926 census (197.1%). Such a rate of growth of the urban population – doubling in ten years – has never been seen in any other country in the world. The relative weight of the urban population in the population as a whole has risen to 31.2% as against 17.9% in 1926. The overall number of urban centres of population (towns and cities, workers' settlements and settlements of an urban type) increased between 1926 and 1937 from 1,925 to 3,208. The settlements have not only increased in number but also in size. In 1926 there were 86 towns with a population exceeding 50,000, and in 1937 there are 159 such towns. In 1926 there were three cities with a population over 500,000, now there are eight.

In preparing the census we came up against very active attempts by hostile class elements to hamper it by spreading hostile rumours, especially in relation to the question on religion. Several facts, like, for example the organised refusal of almost 200 people in Lepel'skiy okrug in the Belorussian SSR to give any information about themselves, showed that here and there not only individual people, but counterrevolutionary organisations were at work, attempting to undermine the census. A great deal of explanatory work, carried out everywhere, paralysed these attempts by hostile class elements and led to a lot of activity among the population to help in carrying out the census successfully.

The thoroughness of the preparatory work, which was carried out considerably better than in the previous 1926 census, the active participation of party and Soviet organs and the exceptionally conscious attitude of the population towards the census contributed towards the completeness of the count.

The overall population, according to the census of 6 January 1937, was 162,003,225, including the contingents in the Red Army and the NKVD. Since the census of 17 December 1926, the population had therefore increased by 15 million, or 10.2%, or on average 1% per year. These figures show that our population increase significantly exceeds the rate of natural increase of the leading capitalist countries, namely England (0.36% on average between 1927 and 1935), Germany (0.58%), France (0.11%) and the USA (0.66% on average for the 5 years 1930 – 1934). It was equal to that of Italy (1.02%) and exceeded only by Japan (1.37%).

An analysis of the dynamics of the population of different regions and republics allows us to break all the regions down into the following five groups.

Group 1 – regions with highly developed industry which has been growing rapidly in the last decade: Moscow (+37.9%), Donetsk (+54.5%), Leningrad (+36.3%), the Far East (+93.2%), Eastern Siberia (+42.9%), Sverdlovsk (+30.9%) and Gor'kiy (+21.7%). All these regions are characterised by an enormous growth in the urban population with a small growth or even a decrease in the rural population.

Group 2 – the national republics and regions. All of them, except Kazakhstan, are marked by a large growth in population both through natural increase and through immigration from outside: Uzbek SSR (+28.8%), Tajik SSR (+34.6%), Turkmen SSR (+18.8%), Kirgiz SSR (+37.2%), Azerbaijani SSR (+32.8%), Armenian SSR (+38.6%), Georgian SSR (+27.3%), Dagestani ASSR (+28.3%), Karelia (+92.0%) etc.

Group 3 – regions from the former grain consuming areas, marked by a large exodus of people moving into the first two groups. These include Kalinin region, the Western region, parts of Yaroslavl', Kirov, the Belorussian SSR etc.

Group 4 – regions with a growth coefficient close to the average with a relatively small mechanical population movement. This group includes Ivanovo region (+13.9%), Omsk (+12.3%) etc.

Group 5 – basically agricultural regions with unfavourable indices of population movement and relatively large, compared to other regions, percentages of kulak elements expelled from the region. This includes the agricultural regions of the Ukraine (excluding the Donbass), Kazakhstan, Kursk region, Saratov region, the Volga German ASSR, Kuybyshev region, the Azov-Black Sea lands, the Russian regions of the North Caucasus, and parts of Voronezh and Stalingrad regions.

It should be noted that this group contains those regions where kulak resistance to collectivisation was most vicious and sharp, and this is reflected in the population levels.

This grouping outlined above reflects only the basic tendencies in each region, whilst in fact in many regions there have been various tendencies. For example, the overall growth of the population of the Dnepropetrovsk region by 6.8% stems from the enormous growth in the urban population (+177.0%), while at the same time the rural population has fallen by 26.3%. An analogous situation has existed in various other regions...

Published source: A F Kiselev, E M Shchagin (eds), Khrestomatiya po otechestvennoy istorii (1914 – 1945 gg.), Vlados, Moscow, 1996, pp. 419 – 422.

Archive source: GARF 5446/29/1096 ll. 17 – 29.