Economic Inventory Of The Soviet Polar North 192627

The economic inventory in the Soviet North was conducted in 1926/27 by the USSR Central Statistical Board (CSB) in compliance with the Council of People's Commissars Order of March 23, 1926. Parts of 12 large administrative regions of that time's Russia were covered by the inventory. If modern administrative division is used, the inventory area would approximately coincide with the following territories: Murmansk Region, Nenets, Yamal-Nenets, Khanty-Mansy, Taymyr and Evenki Autonomous Districts, Turukhan area of Krasnoyarsk Region, northern parts of Irkutsk Region, Sakha (Yakutia) Republic and Khabarovsk Region, Chukchi and Koryak Autonomous Districts, and Kamchatka and Sakhalin Regions.

The inventory program was developed by a special committee of representatives from CSB and local statistics departments. Two forms were used: a household card to be filled in for any separate, settled or nomadic, family household, and a settlement form to be filled in for any human settlement or a group of families to live a nomadic life jointly.

The household card included questions related to the following:

1. Persons (for every member of the family): male/female, age, nationality, marital condition, literacy, mother tongue, Russian-speaking skill, ability to work, main/additional business, and earnings.

2. Information on natural population movement for 1924-1925 and 1924-1926.

3. Domestic animals: reindeer (detailed data on sex, age, increase, loss due to different causes, buying, selling, slaughtering, and other information), dogs (sledge drawers, hunters, and rein deer herds), horses, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry.

4. Implements: agricultural, hunting (rifles, traps, etc.), fishing, transportation (boats, farm wagons, etc.), and residential and farming buildings.

5. Land: usable acreage; if nomadic, halting places in winter, spring, summer, and autumn.

6. Outputs of reindeer breeding, hunting, fishing, sea animal shooting, or other business. Amounts and values of products obtained or sold during the last year (meat, skins, fish, berry, nut, mammoth bone, etc.).

7. Hired labor used in the family household.

8. Purchase of different consumer goods and hunting equipment.

9. Taking credits for the last year and the current debt.

The settlement form required descriptive answers: physiographical and meteorological information; land use; routes of nomadic population; information on agriculture, cattle husbandry, reindeer breeding, fishing, hunting; communications and carrier's trade; other details of population, trading, cooperation, crediting, prices of the imported and home-made commodities and hunting equipment; taxes; authorities; culture; education; way of life and manners of local people; nutrition; hygiene; and welfare of the population.

More than 300 registrars were involved in the inventory, and most of them were well accustomed to living in tundra and taiga. About 50 men had higher education, including ethnographers, ichthyologists, field zoologists, and other specialists. Many were fluent in the native languages.

For the purpose of inventory, the North territory was subdivided into smaller areas. The routes for registrars' expeditions across the areas were planned in consideration of annual nomadic cycles of the native population, places of winter and summer fairs, national celebrations, aggregation of men in fishing sites or markets, and so on. Many routes were some 1000 km long, taking 16 months to complete. Most of the registrars departed by river or seagoing steamers in May-June 1926 and returned in winter, summer, and autumn 1927 or even later.

The registrars traveled on sledges drawn by reindeers or dogs or on deerback, by fishing ships and small birch-bark boats, by skiing, or on foot. They moved from one "chum" (reindeer tent) to another and from one population site to the next. Neither post, radio, nor telegraph was available in many regions; hence, communication was very rare or not possible with most expeditions during the entire registration process.

Despite such difficulties, the inventory was successful almost everywhere in the Russian North. In total, 164,861 men were surveyed. The inventory comprised about 80% of native and 7% of Russian northerners. It was unsuccessful only in Bolshezemelskaya Tundra where only 286 (26%) of 1100 households were surveyed, and in Omolon area of Kolyma district.

The procedure of processing inventory data included estimation of territorial and group totals. In creating territorial totals, data from the household cards were summed up for a certain populated area or for a nomadic population group. The household sums were separately presented with respect to any nationality. Also, sums were obtained for all administrative units—raions, volosts, governments, okrugs and oblasts—and for the whole Russian North. For each territory, calculation was made of data on settled and nomadic households, subdividing the data according to nationality within nomadic household groups.

As to the group totals, the data were summed up by household groups, taking into account the following criteria: (i) the territory (the group totals were obtained for eight okrugs); (ii) way of life (nomadic or settled); (iii) nationality (two groups, Russian and native households, were discerned); (iv) main business (reindeer breeding, fishing, sea animal shooting, hunting, agriculture, and other occupations); (v) use of hired labor in household (either using or nonusing households); and (vi) amount of gross income (six groups).

In total, 33,600 households were surveyed and included in the territorial totals, of which 30,400 households were processed for the group totals. The group totals were not calculated for transient population and for the households where full information had not been gathered.

The inventory provided unique information to characterize both the northerners themselves and their economic activities. In terms of its content, the size of territories, and the number of indigenous peoples surveyed, the inventory is superior to any earlier or later inventories with respect to the completeness and details of the obtained data. It is regrettable that the inventory results have not been adequately addressed in the literature. (The references below include main publications that consider the inventory results.) Since the time of the inventory, the administrative-territorial division of Russia has changed considerably, which hampers the use of the inventory results in modern investigations.

Konstantin B. Klokov

Further Reading

(1) Publications containing results of the inventory

Pokhozyaistvennaya perepis pripolyarnogo Severa SSSR 1926-27 goda [Household Inventory of the USSR Polar North in 1926-27. Territorial and Group Results of the Inventory], Moscow: Statizdat of the USSR, 1929, 256pp

Itogi perepisi severnyh okrain Dalnevostochnogo kraya (1926-27gg.) [The 1926-27 Inventory Results for Northern Localities of the Far East Country], Blagoveschensk, 1929, 296pp

Materialy Pripolyarnoi perepisi 1926-27 gg. v Sibirskom krae [Materials of the 1926-27 Polar Inventory in the Siberian Country], Volume 1, Krasnoyarsk, 1928, 33 pp, Volume 2, Novosibirsk, 1929, 200pp; Volume 3, Novosibirsk, 1929, 240pp

Pripolyarnaya perepis 1926-27 goda Arkhangelskoi gubernii [The 1926-27 Polar Inventory of Arkhangelsk Government], Statistical File of 1927 for Arkhangelsk Government, Arkhangelsk, 1929, pp. 324-347

(2) Basic publications based on the inventory results

Krasilnikov, M., "Osnovnye cherty pripolyarnogo hozyaistva" [Basic features of polar households]. Statistical Review, (7) (1928): 70-75

Terletski, P.E., "Osnovnye cherty hozyaistva Severa" [Basic features of Northern households], according to the 1926-27 Household Inventory of Polar North. The Soviet North, (12)

-, "Pushnoi i okhotnichyi promysel na Krainem Severe"

[The fur trade and hunting in the Farther North], according to the 1926-27 Polar Inventory. The Soviet North, (7-8)

-, Naselenie Krainego Severa [Population of the Farther

North], according to the 1926-27 Inventory, Leningrad: Peoples of the North Institution, 1932, 64pp

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