Russian Occupiers Use Longstanding Moscow Method to Undercount Crimean Tatars

June 6, 2015
Crimean Tatars. Photo via

Staunton, June 4 – Having driven out or denied reentry to many Crimean Tatars, the Russian occupation forces have now employed another longstanding Moscow method of “reducing” the number of Crimean Tatars and thus the role of that nation on the Ukrainian peninsula: manipulating the census.

Yesterday, Aleksandr Surinov, head of the Russian Federal State Statistics Service, reported that in the course of the October 2014 census in Crimea, 232,300 people had declared themselves to be Crimean Tatars while almost 45,000 had said they were simply Tatars.

Despite the fact that almost all of the latter are in fact Crimean Tatars, Surinov said it would be a violation of Russian law for census takers to try to clarify this or for those compiling the census to combine the two groups because, in his words, these are “two different peoples by language and by origin.”

What he did not say, but what is obviously the case is that Russian census takers routinely combine groups the authorities want combined – and thus fail to enumerate groups like Siberians as separate from ethnic Russians – and routinely divide groups these same authorities want divided – such as the Kryashens and the Kazan Tatars.

They have frequently done the first in order to boost the number of the favored nationality – in this case, the Russians – and they have done the second to reduce the number of an unfavored nationality – in this case, the Kazan Tatars, the largest non-Russian indigenous nationality in the Russian Federation.

Now the Russian occupiers have brought these Russian census practices to Crimea to reduce the number of Crimean Tatars and thus boost the share of ethnic Russians on that Ukrainian peninsula. The Russian share of the Crimean population was set at 68 percent and the Ukrainian share at 15.7 percent, both slightly larger than they would have been if the Crimean Tatars had been counted correctly

If the Russian census had combined the two Tatar groups – who in fact almost certainly are all Crimean Tatars – that nation would have numbered 277,000 and formed nearly 13 percent of the population. But by separating them, the census implies that the Crimean Tatars are much smaller, 3,000 fewer than in the Ukrainian census of 2001 and just over 10 percent of the total.