How Rosstat to solve 'the ethnic question' at All-Russian Census

How Rosstat to solve 'the ethnic question' at All-Russian Census
Photo: tatarstan.ru

The All-Russian population census 2021, against the background of the next wave of coronavirus, will almost completely take place in digital format — Rosstat practically abandoned paper census forms, giving out tablets to census takers, and allowed them to participate in the census through the Public Services portal. As it became known at the briefing in the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Tatarstan on 5 October with the participation of representatives of Rosstat and the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Tatarstan, despite the pandemic, a third of census takers have not yet been vaccinated against coronavirus. In the new census, Russians will be asked about their living conditions, but they refused to give hints on determining their ethnicity and native language: if you call yourself a Misharin or Kryashen — and they will write it down exactly that way. About how Rosstat is going to solve the painful “ethnic question”, why the census data are needed by the officials of the Republic of Tatarstan, and how the QR code will protect the data of Tatarstan families — read in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

All-Russian population Census has been digitalised

Natalia Gataullina, the head of the Territorial Body of the Federal State Statistics Service of the Republic of Tatarstan, spoke about the main difference between the current All-Russian Population Census, which will be held from October 15 to November 14, 2021: it is digital format. The transition to digitalisation led not only to the opportunity to fill out the questionnaire remotely — on the Public Services portal, but also to abandon paper carriers in principle — census takers will go home not with a bunch of census forms, but with small tablets.

According to the head of the department of the Tatarstan Rosstat for the Russian Federation, all the necessary preparatory work has been completed. 1,185 supervisors have been hired for the census, almost half of whom are employees of educational institutions, another third are employees of institutions and enterprises (and, by the way, 6% of unemployed pensioners, 3,3% are unemployed). The main composition of the census takers included 7,108 people, almost half of whom are also teachers. Additionally, 58 district-level instructors have been selected to work at the Multifunctional Public Services Centres. In total, thus, more than 8,500 people will provide the census in Tatarstan, and a reserve of 1,300 people has also been selected for the rapid replacement of personnel.

Together with Rosstat, the work of the census will be provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, whose employees implement a whole complex system of security measures for the surveyed population and census personnel, including enhanced patrolling of territories. All supervisors and census takers are insured free of charge. Four hundred and eighty-five volunteers (who do not have the right to independently interview citizens) will also help them in holding the census.

More than 8,500 people will provide the census in Tatarstan, and a reserve of 1,300 people has also been selected for the rapid replacement of personnel. Photo: strana2020.ru

A third of census takers have not been vaccinated against coronavirus

According to Gataullina, now Tatarstan citizens have several options for participating in the census at once. Firstly, the “analogue” one has not gone anywhere, with visiting apartments and houses by census takers. Second, it is possible to participate in the census in the Multifunctional Public Services Centre if a person does not trust those who come to him and refuses to open the door to “anyone”. For this, the offices will have memos for self-filling out sheets in electronic form. Third, there will also be census sites: 1,185 premises have been leased for this purpose in addition to 58 Multifunctional Public Services Centres and 88 more sites for storing census documents. Fourth, any person over the age of 14, registered on the portal of public services, can vote independently remotely electronically.

For the “analogue” method, Rosstat has provided that census takers and volunteers have certificates valid only upon presentation of a passport. They will also have protective equipment, including masks and gloves. It is worth noting that the commission for the All-Russian Population Census assumed the possibility of 100% vaccination of census takers, but a third of them are not vaccinated and have not been infected. The census takers will be equipped, not counting masks and gloves, in a blue uniform, equipped with a bag of the same colour, a scarf with appropriate symbols and a flashlight. But the volunteers have been deprived of a flashlight and a scarf.

Unique QR code for the whole family: how will the data of the respondents be protected

For the “digital” way of participating in the census, Rosstat provided for the possibility of filling out electronic sheets on the Gosuslugi website or in a mobile application independently, or including other family members. After that, unique digital codes are formed for each person, where the encoded information will be provided. Each code consists of 28 characters.

“Then a unique QR code is generated for the whole family and sent both to the personal offices of citizens and to the tablets of census takes at the relevant sites," Natalia Gataulina said about the complex system, which seems to exclude the possibility of information leakage.

Government of the Russian Federation has developed three forms of census forms. Photo: strana2020.ru

Anyway, the census takers, even after receiving these unique codes, will still come to the house — to confirm the participation in the census. By the way, it will be possible to participate on the Public Services only from October 15 to November 8 — apparently, just so that the census takers then come to the person who did it remotely to clarify this fact.

The Government of the Russian Federation has developed three forms of census forms. The main L form contain information about permanent residents in the Russian Federation and contain 23 questions concerning gender, age, citizenship, place of birth, ethnicity, education, etc. The P form is also interesting, which is aimed at interviewing the population about their living conditions, in particular, it will contain questions about the type of living space, the time of construction of the house, the number of rooms, area, etc. Finally, Form B will be filled out by residents temporarily in the Russian Federation who will answer only seven questions (gender, age, permanent country of residence, purpose of arrival in the Russian Federation, etc.).

There will be no “hints” on ethnicity or native language

Separately, Gataullina focused on the “ethnic question”, which is fiercely discussed in the Republic of Tatarstan and other national republics, as is known, almost every All-Russian census. For example, Rosstat has provided explanations in pop-up “tips” for each question for electronic sheets — but questions about the ethnicity of a citizen and native language will not have these “tips”. Gataullina did not explain what is the reason for such caution but told about other new introductions. For example, unlike the 2010 census, in the new one, there will be questions about pendulous migration (as it is known, which has become painful for large cities of the Republic of Tatarstan in recent years due to the chaotic development of residential housing and residential complexes) and the level of education. There will be questions about preschool education, and the question of vocational education has been divided in two — a resident of the Republic of Tatarstan can choose the answer option “qualified employee” or “mid-level specialist”.

“The list of possible answers to the question about the sources of livelihood will include salary, business income, self-employment, pension, benefits, etc. There will be no question about the amount of income! And you don't need to name your employer either — just a source of income! Citizens will participate at their permanent place of residence, that is, where the interviewee spends most of the time," Natalia Gataulina explained.

Separately, Gataullina focused on the “ethnic question”, which is fiercely discussed in the Republic of Tatarstan and other national republics. Photo: tatarstan.ru

Almost every media representative asked what it was necessary to answer the question about ethnicity, “so that if you call yourself a Tatar — you are recorded as a Tatar, not someone else.” Natalia Gataullina, in response to all the questions, stood her ground — more precisely, on the principle of self-determination of the interviewee — these answers will be decisive.

“It is you who will formulate and fill out the sheet. And express your answers. The staff of the census campaign will not give you any hints on the self-determination of ethnicity. You will have the right to independently determine which ethnicity you belong to. When forming the summary results, all answers that residents of the Russian Federation, in particular the Republic of Tatarstan, will give in the census forms will be taken into account. Restrictions on the primacy [of ethnicities] are not defined," she explained.

Gataullina said that the question of “entry by ethnicity” was developed by Rosstat together with the involvement of the scientific community. And she assured that all the answers that the citizens will give will be taken into account. However, this, in turn, means that if a Tatar prefers to sign up as a Kryashen or Misharin, he will be recorded as a Kryashen or Misharin (and not a Tatar).

Rosstat does not yet give an exact answer what ethnicity the system will eventually “give” to the respondent when summarising the results of the census (the first preliminary data are promised to be published in December this year, full data in December 2022).

Interestingly, last week, the deputy head of Rosstat, Pavel Smelov, remarked: if a Russian indicates two ethnicities or two native languages, only the first options will be taken into account in the overall results. Natalia Gataullina refused to answer the counter question whether this was the case or not, referring to the fact that she would not “refute the words of the leadership”. But again, she tried to assure that “with general divisions” all ethnicities and citizenship indicated in the census form will be taken into account.

Last week, the deputy head of Rosstat, Pavel Smelov, remarked: if a Russian indicates two ethnicities or two native languages, only the first options will be taken into account in the overall results. Photo: strana2020.ru

Rosstat also noted that in the case of “refusers”, when summarising the results, only quantitative indicators from the administrative data of those who did not want to participate in the census will be taken into account, questions of citizenship and ethnicity of “silent” ones will not be taken into account. However, in the Republic of Tatarstan, according to Gataullina, the percentage of “refusers” has always been less than 1%.

“The census will make it possible to conduct regional policy more clearly”

In general, the work of Rosstat on conducting the census, Gataullina summarised, will adhere to four principles. First, the principle of “universal coverage of the population”. Second, the principle of “obtaining information through answers to questions”. Third, “this is the self-determination of people when answering questions — respondents are not required to present any documents to confirm their answers," explained the head of the Tatarstan branch of Rosstat. Fourth, the agency will adhere to the principle of “protecting information received from the public”. All collected information will have limited access and will not be subject to disclosure, only in summary sheets and for Rosstat.

The Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Tatarstan explained the importance of the All-Russian Population Census for Tatarstan by that its data will make it possible to track the population of the republic and confirm the effectiveness (or inefficiency) of economic policy. According to Roman Amirkhanov, the deputy minister of economy, head of the department of socio-economic monitoring, the results of the new census will form the basis of the forecast for demographic trends in Tatarstan, will help to increase the effectiveness of decisions of ministries and departments of the Republic of Tatarstan and the targeting of economic policy.

“The census will make it possible to conduct regional policy more clearly, taking into account territorial features, plan the construction of housing and communications. And to improve the quality of life of the population in the long run," Amirkhanov noted. “During the census, information will be collected that cannot be obtained from other sources: on migration, education, the reliable number of municipal districts — which, in turn, is necessary for the formation of budgets at all levels.”

As the official noted, by participating in the census, a citizen contributes information that will also be included in national projects, will help to understand how many kindergartens, hospitals, feldsher-midwife stations or schools are needed and in which area.

Sergey Afanasyev
Tatarstan