Russian Empire Census

The Russian Imperial Census of 1897 was the first and only census carried out in the Russian Empire (Finland was excluded). It recorded demographic data as of 28 January [O.S. 15 January] 1897.

Previously, the Central Statistical Bureau issued statistical tables based on fiscal lists (ревизские списки).

The second Russian Census was scheduled for December 1915, but was cancelled because of the outbreak of World War I one and a half years earlier (in July 1914).[1] It was not rescheduled before the Russian Revolution. The next census to take place in Russia only occurred at the end of 1926, almost three decades later.


The census project was suggested in 1877 by Pyotr Semenov-Tyan-Shansky, a famous Russian geographer and chief of the Central Statistical Bureau, and was approved by Tsar Nicholas II in 1895.

The census was performed in two stages. In the first stage (December 1896 — January 1897) the counters (135,000 persons: teachers, priests, and literate soldiers) visited all households and filled in the questionnaires, which were verified by local census managers. In the second stage. (9 January 1898 [O.S. 28 December 1897]) the counters simultaneously visited all households to verify and update the questionnaires. The census was taken in winter as the population was less mobile then.[2] Despite this being the only census they ever took, Historians were able to find out the Russian Empire's population in earlier periods of time still from collecting city censuses.

The data processing took 8 years using Hollerith card machines. Publication of the results started in 1898 and ended in 1905. In total, 119 volumes for 89 guberniyas, as well as a two-volume summary, were issued.

The questionnaire contained the following questions:

  • Family name, given name, patronymic or nickname (прозвище)
  • Sex
  • Relation with respect to the head of the family or household
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Social status: sosloviye (estate of the realm), rank or title (сословіе, состояніе, званіе)
  • Place of birth
  • Place of registration
  • Usual place of residence
  • Notice of absence
  • Faith
  • Mother language
  • Literacy
  • Occupation (profession, trade, position of office or service), both primary and secondary

In the census summary tables, nationality was based on the declared mother language of respondents.

Census results

The total population of the Russian Empire was recorded to be 125,640,021 people (50.2% female, 49.8% male; urban 16,828,395, median age of 21.16 years).

By native tongue

The most spoken languages, from which nationality was determined were:[3]

Rank Language Speakers % of population
1 Russian (as “Great Russian”) 55,667,469 44.31
2 Ukrainian (as “Little Russian”) 22,380,551 17.81
3 Turkic-Volga Bulgar 13,373,867 10.64
4 Polish 7,931,307 6.31
5 Belarusian (as “White Russian”) 5,885,547 4.68
6 Yiddish 5,063,156 4.03
7 Finnic languages 3,502,147 2.79
8 German 1,790,489 1.43
9 Latvian 1,435,937 1.14
10 Kartvelian languages (Georgian, Mingrelian, Svan) 1,352,535 1.08
11 Aukštaitian (as "Lithuanian", excluding Samogitian) 1,210,510 0.96
12 Armenian 1,173,096 0.93
13 Moldavian and Romanian 1,121,669 0.89
14 Dagestani languages 1,091,782 0.87
15 Samogitian 448,022 0.36
16 Tajik 350,397 0.28
17 Greek (mainly eastern Pontic Greek), spoken especially by Greeks in southern Russia and Georgia, and by Caucasus Greeks of Russian Caucasus province of Kars Oblast 186,925 0.15
18 Bulgarian 172,659 0.14
19 Ossetian 171,716 0.13
Total 125,640,021 100

By religion

Distribution of Jewish languages (such as yiddish in the Russian Empire, 1897
Rank Religion[4] Followers % of population
1 Eastern Orthodox 87,123,604 69.34%
2 Mohammedists (Muslims) 13,906,972 11.07%
3 Roman Catholics 11,467,994 9.13%
4 Jewish 5,215,805 4.15%
5 Lutherans 3,572,653 2.84%
6 Old Believers and other independent Eastern Orthodox denominations 2,204,596 1.75%
7 Armenian Gregorians 1,179,241 0.94%
8 Buddhists and Lamaists 433,863 0.34%
9 Reformed 85,400 0.07%
10 Mennonites 66,564 0.05%
11 Armenian Catholics 38,840 0.03%
12 Baptists 38,139 0.03%
13 Karaites 12,894 0.01%
14 Anglicans 4,183 0.003%
15 Other Christian denominations 3,952 0.003%
16 Other non-Christians 285,321 0.23%
Total 125,640,021 100%

Population by modern-day countries

Largest cities

Largest cities of the Empire according to the census:

Data availability

Each enumeration form was copied twice, with the three copies filed in the county archives, the governorate archives, and the Central Statistical Bureau in St. Petersburg. The copies in St. Petersburg were destroyed after they had been tabulated.[5][2] Most of the copies stored at the local and regional level have also been destroyed; however, the complete census for the Arkhangelsk and Tobolsk governorates has been preserved, and the census for portions of several other governorates is also extant.[6][7]


The results allegedly may reflect the views on national policy of the authorities. In this case, the population of Russian ethnicity was inflated.[8] Thus for example, the number of Poles is underrepresented.[9][10] Imperial officials classified the Ukrainian and Belarusian languages as belonging to Russian group and labeled those nationalities as Little Russian for Ukrainians and White Russian for Belarusians.[8]



  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Russia Census". FamilySearch. Retrieved 10 April 2017.
  3. ^ Первая всеобщая перепись населения Российской Империи 1897 г. Распределение населения по родному языку, губерниям и областям (in Russian). Demoscope Weekly. Retrieved 26 October 2012.
  4. ^ Демоскоп Weekly - Приложение. Справочник статистических показателей
  5. ^ "Russia, Jewish Families in Russian Empire Census, 1897". Ancestry. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  6. ^ "1897 Census of Imperial Russia". Find Russian Heritage. Archived from the original on 2018-02-05.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ "Documents of the First General Census of the population of Russian Empire in the Ukrainian Archives". Alex Dunai's personal website. Archived from the original on 2019-04-17.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  8. ^ a b Anna Geifman, Russia Under the Last Tsar: Opposition and Subversion, 1894-1917, Wiley-Blackwell, 1999, ISBN 1-55786-995-2, Google Print, p. 118-119
  9. ^ Piotr Eberhardt, Jan Owsinski, Ethnic groups and population changes in twentieth-century Central-Eastern Europe, M.E. Sharpe, 2003, ISBN 0-7656-0665-8, Google Print, p.27
  10. ^ Jerzy Borzęcki, The Soviet-Polish peace of 1921 and the creation of interwar Europe, Yale University Press, 2008, ISBN 0-300-12121-0, Google Print, p.10


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