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Microform Collection: Russian Peasantry on the Eve of Collectivization:

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The Dynamic (Cluster) Censuses of Peasant Farms in the 1920s

From 1917 to 1929 statistical observation in the Soviet Union was undertaken by the Russian zemstvo--local councils of self-government dating from the mid-19th century. Late 19th and early 20th century Russia had a predominantly peasant population and zemstvo statistics dealt mostly with the peasant farm and its productive and social evolution.

In the pre-Soviet period, Russia underwent profound social development both in urban and rural areas, and it was during these years before the revolution that statisticians began to consider taking yearly surveys of rural villages. Such surveys would obtain a picture of the actual dynamics of social development in the countryside. In addition, they would enable statisticians to observe and identify the factors causing and the scope of the changes taking place in rural Russia. These surveys--the dynamic censuses--were undertaken during he 1920s.

The new regime was presented with a unique opportunity as a result of transforming zemstvo statistics--those compiled by local organizations--into Soviet State statistics. In 1918, the Soviet Republic Central Statistical Administration was set up, and agricultural statistics were compiled by four departments: agricultural production and current information, land-use statistics, agricultural censuses, and agricultural dynamics. A. I. Khryashcheva, whose earlier work on yearly surveys of peasant farms is particularly notable, headed the agricultural censuses and dynamics departments from 1919 to 1926.

In 1919 and 1920 statistical data on dynamics programs began to be collected. The practical identification of rural "clusters" or micro districts that is, a group of small villages, a large village or sometimes an entire township was started during the peasant farm censuses of 1919 and 1920. From 1920 onward, special materials on dynamic clusters were deposited in the Central Statistical Administration.

In 1921 and 1922 famine and heavy population migration inevitably affected the dynamic cluster surveys. The years 1923 through 1926 saw a great deal of valuable statistical data collected as more and more cluster surveys were conducted; during this period, many farms were surveyed within the clusters. For example, 591,000 farms were surveyed in 1925; 590,000 in 1926; and 614,000 in 1927, when clusters were identified. The dynamic surveys during these years became annual censuses of 3% of peasant farms.

The files, all in the original Cyrillic, contain the following information for the years 1920-1924 and 1926 (the documents of 1925 have not been found) together with selected information from 1927, 1928 and 1929:

Raw census data such as household cards, community forms and land commune forms
Summary tables and tapes
A household form filled out on both sides provides three to four pages of typewritten information. Typically a completed form runs to six or seven pages and a summary table constitutes 10 to 12 pages of information. A wide range of geographic areas -- provinces, republics, and districts -- is covered by the censuses.

The materials of both the 1927 and 1929 dynamic censuses are of particular interest. Shortly before they were undertaken, there was a change in leadership at the Central Statistical Administration Office, notably in the dynamic censuses department. V. S. Nemchinov was placed in charge and made responsible for introducing a more Marxist footing to the peasant farm censuses, with the aim of identifying class structures within the rural population.

The archival documentation offers clear examples of how this was accomplished. Previous dynamic censuses had grouped peasant farms by physical indicators, such as size of sown areas and total head of draft animals. These indicators were replaced by groupings, which indicated the means of production employed. In addition, a detailed description of interfarm relationships provides further insight into the social development of the Russian countryside. Charts are available that indicate the regions of the country included in the surveys, the number of files for each region and the total number of pages in the files.

This publication offers an unprecedented opportunity for scholars in social and economic history, political science and sociology, demography and geography to study the social development of the early Soviet period.

Yale owns all 278 microfilm reels of the collection. Scholars can consult these sources in the Microtext Reading Room, which is in the basement of Sterling Memorial Library. An index to the files is available on reel 278.

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LOCATION: SML, Microform (Non-Circulating)
CALL NUMBER: Film B18294