Unique materials on 1926 Subpolar Census published
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Unique materials on 1926 Subpolar Census published

November 19, 2020

The census in the polar regions of the Siberian Territory was carried out in 1926 by order of the Soviet government.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. The census takers described in detail each native farm, its composition, economy and life, details of culture and spiritual life. Nothing like that had ever been done in any country in the world. The main territory of the census was the Turukhansk region and the northern part of the Angara region. The largest number of northern natives and Russian industrialists lived there.

The entire census area was divided into 15 sections. They were organized in the places where the indigenous northerners were grouped for fairs, national holidays and fishing. The registrars were sent to the Turukhansk region in three batches: in June and September. Registrar Tulunin went to the designated site in December 1926. The census takers were from the intelligentsia, not trained to work in the tundra in 60-degree frosts. One of the participants died.

A photo from the census expedition album

For the first time, the Russian population and nomadic tribes were counted. The census was especially valuable because it was carried out at the time when the indigenous peoples of the North were not yet transformed and preserved their traditional way of life.

Head of the census A.P. Kurilovich recalled what the expedition members had had to overcome. Thick books could be written about it, he said. Here are just a few episodes.

“Comrade Girshfeld met one-on-one with a bear in the deep taiga on the Sym River. The Tungus guides fled, as they worship the bear as a sacred animal. Only after firing a few shots from the gun and wounding the bear, Girshfeld made the bear flee. Comrade Dolgih, who had walked a little away from the abandoned boat with his luggage, returned and ran into a bear as well. There were a lot of meetings with bears, but, having good weapons, the registrars did not suffer defeats in these meetings, however, they did not have victories”, Kurilovich recalled.

Bandit groups stole census materials, whole villages refused the census. People feared that the census might reveal a female preponderance and women might be sent to Germany.

94 years have passed since that census. Now, the census in hard-to-reach areas is also held in different time than the main one.

The start of the next census is set at 00.00 on April 1, 2021. At the same time, the census in remote and inaccessible territories – these are some areas of Yamal, Tomsk, Tyumen regions, as well as the north of the Krasnoyarsk region – began on October 1 of this year and will last until June 30, 2021.

Text: Angelica Stepanova

November 19, 2020

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