1897 Census of Imperial Russia

If you have Russian ancestry then you need to know more about Russian census of 1897.

Special interest for historians and family researchers is the primary data i.e. census forms. However, majority of them were destroyed. Apparently the main reason for census was to collect statistics rater than details  about population.

Fully preserved are the questionnaires for Tobolsk and Arkhangelsk provinces and only partially for other provinces.

Surviving questionnaires are stored in archives of federal funds (the Interior Ministry and Main Census Commission) and of regional archives (in funds of provincial statistical committees, etc).

Below are some references for “lucky” gubernias (provinces), which I was able to find on various Russian genealogical forums and where the census forms survived.

  • Ryazan provincial census commission – Questionnaires of persons residing in villages of Ryazan province  -fond 253 with 167 storage units.  FamilySpace.ru has questionnaires for the Ryazan province including Zaraisky county
  • State Archive of Saratov region in Engels (Fond 102)
  • Website of Latvian archives  “Raduraksti”  has materials on National Population Census 1897 for Verhneshelonsky and Vyshegorodsky villages
  • RGIA archive has questionnaires of 1897 census for Gryazovetskiy and Solvychegodskiy uezd
  • The National Archives of Republic of Tatarstan has 75 storage units containing questionnaires for some uezds/counties of Kazan province
  • Questionnaires for Kolomna district are in Moscow Historical archive -fonds  483, 484, 485
  • State Archive of the Republic of Udmurtia has some questionnaires for National Population Census 1897 for Sarapulsky county of Vyatka province – Fond 236.
  • 10,000 cards from Sakhalin – refer the article “Chekhov,  Sakhalin and census”
  • part of the 1897 All-Russia census for Odessa in digital format is located at familysearch.org – read here
  • Bashkiriya archive does not have the information on 1897 census but you can find more in this archive for other periods – check here.
  • Vladivostok – one day census in 1883 is available on-line at Archives of Dalniy Vostok (Far East)


The statistical results were published in two main volumes and 89 separate volumes (119 books) for each province, region, four main cities (St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, Warsaw) and Sakhalin Island. Publication continued from 1898 until 1905.

These volumes are publicly available today on internet.  They contain only statistical information about provinces and its people but are very important in understanding of how people lived in Imperial Russia.  For example, for one of my clients I prepared a short summary for Tambov gubernia.  It goes like this:

Farmers were the predominant class in the Tambov gubernia (province) totalling 97% of whom 95% were Russian.  92% of the population engaged in agriculture in all its forms.  From various types of agriculture in the province, cattle and horse breeding were the most important. In pre-revolutionary Russia, Tambov Province belonged to the “impoverished” agrarian area with underdeveloped industry, focusing mainly on the processing of agricultural and economic resources. 32% of women married at the age of 17-19 years and remaining in the 20-29 years age brackets.  Men were not in a hurry. Only 17% were married at 17-19 years of age and majority 77% at the age 20-29 years. Literacy among the population of Tambov Province was not developed. Three quarters of the male population and 13/14 of the female population were illiterate. 

In practice, because of the low literacy, most census forms were filled  by ”counters” (“счётчики” in Russian). About 150 thousand counters participated in census who filled in 30 million forms.

Apparently a man (more likely a peasant) was asked to fill out the questionnaire. The question about his wife’s name and patronymic name was answered as follows: “Shall I call her ” Baba” (i.e. woman) and there is no more to her name”. The field “date you were born” most people answered:  “Sometime in January 1897”. “Birthdays” were yet to come and birth certificates were never required and collected.  A person could live all his life without paper birth certificate.

If you are trying to find any record of your ancestors from 1897 census, unfortunately you will not find them.  Unless your ancestors were from Tobolsk and Arkhangelsk provinces and from listed above provinces. I will update the list, if I find anything new.

You can further research this topic by typing “Перепись населения Российской империи” on ru.Wikipedia.org or yandex.ru or alternatively “Russian Empire census ” on google.com.

I will only summarise the interesting facts which will give you the extent of Russian empire and its people and also what information can be found in archives from genealogical perspective.

General census of the population of the Russian empire was conducted as of 28 January 1897 under the leadership of P.P. Semenov. Data below is taken from Wikipedia:

  • Census registered 125.6 million inhabitants in Russian Empire, of whom 13.4% lived in cities. So mainly Russia was an agrarian country with 86% of population living in small villages.
  • Literacy rate was 21.1%.  Among men the rate was significantly higher than among women (29.3% and 13.1% respectively).
  • By religion:  Orthodox – 69.3% , Muslims – 11.1% , Roman Catholic 9.1% – and Jews – 4.2%.
  • By native language – the largest language group was Russians – 44.3%, then Ukrainians – 17.8%, Poles – 6.3%, Belarusians – 4.3%, Jews – 4.0 %.
  • By class – the peasantry – 77.5% , meschanins – 10.7% , foreigners – 6.6% , the Cossacks – 2.3%, noblemen ( hereditary and personal ) – 1.5% , clergy – 0 , 5%, honourable citizens (hereditary and personal ) – 0.3% , merchants – 0.2% other – 0.4%.

Second census in Imperial Russia was supposed to happen in 1912.  At first it was postponed and then cancelled due to World War I.

What data was collected during next censuses in now Soviet Russia read in my next post here.  Do not miss it. You need to know that.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.