Staunton, November 7 – Russian census officials have hidden the “catastrophic” decline in the population of the Russian Federation over the last decade by counting as permanent residents gastarbeiters who may in fact spend only part of the year in the Russian Federation and who consider somewhere else their homeland, according to a Moscow analyst.
In its report on the preliminary findings of the 2010 census released this week, Rosstat said that it had received 141,183,200 census forms, a figure that was in fact 700,000 lower than the one it had put out in May and one that is more disturbing in other ways, Lev Ivanov writes in yesterday’s “Svobodnaya pressa” (svpressa.ru/society/article/34973/).
As is explained on the census website (www.perepis-2010.ru/history/russia/chapter-5.php), Ivanov says, those who conducted the census said that “in contrast to former censuses, when the present and permanent population was counted, the 2002 enumeration counted only the permanent population as is customary in the majority if countries of the world.”
Under those definitions, the census site continues, “citizens of the Russian Federation, foreign citizens and persons without citizenship constantly living on the territory of the Russian Federation and also located on the territory of the Russian Federation on the date o fhte census but permanently residing on the territory of other states.”
The 2010 census followed the same rules and thus within the 141.18 million people Rossat claims, there are “both citizens of Russia and also migrants (in the majority of cases gastarbeiters or persons without citizenship)” registered as required with the Federal Migration Service.
Anatoly Vishnevsky, the director of the Institute of Demography of the Higher School of Economics, confirmed to Ivanov that migrants were part of the 141 million figure and that it is “possible” to define that number, subtract it from the total, and thus get a population figure for the Russian Federation comparable to the figures of the 1989 and earlier enumerations.
That is what Ivanov has done. Vishnevsky himself suggested that the number of migrants who would be counted would number approximately five million. If that number is used, the Russian population for comparison with past counts is approximately 136 million. But other experts put the migrant number higher and consequently, the Russian total, far lower.
According to Daniil Kislov, the editor in chief of Fergana.ru, there are at least four million Central Asian migrant workers “constantly living on the territory of Russia.” To that figure, Ivanov says, one must add roughly 2.5 million Azerbaijanis, of whom 1.8 to 1.9 million do not have Russian passports.
Mikhail Khubutiya, president of the Union of Georgians in Russia, says his homeland has given the Russian Federation one million immigrants. There are also in Russia today about 700,000 Armenians, 200,000 Moldovans, and two million Ukrainians, according to government institutions and academic specialists in their countries of origin.
Moreover, there are other groups, involved: ethnic Chinese, Vietnamese, and a number of others. If one adds those to the other nationalities whose numbers he has sought to define, Ivanov says, the total comes to 9.2 million. That means that the real population of the Russian Federation for comparative purposes is 132 million.
But in fact, the numbers may be even more dire than those. On November 25, Konstantin Romodanovsky, the head of the Federal Migration Service, told the duma that some 12.3 million foreigners now live in Russia. Of those, 3 to 3.5 million are living in Russia illegally. If his number is used, then the census should show a real Russian population of about 129 million.
Anatoly Antonov, the head of the chair of sociology and demography of the family of the sociological faculty of Moscow State University, suggested that officials are trying to hide the size of the decline by such machinations, a decline that points to even larger fall offs in the future.
Recently, he told Ivanov, “the leadership of Rosstat had a meeting” with him and other scholars. The officials “refused to give even the most preliminary results of the Census.” That was striking, and he said that it shows that “the population must be essentially less than 141 million,” the figure Rosstat eventually came up with.
It was clearly important for the bureaucrats, Antonov continued, that “the number of constantly living in Russia not decline on paper,” even if it is declining in reality. But this new scissors crisis will only get worse as Moscow makes plans on the basis of its own projections but has to deal with the actual situation.