After annexing Crimea in March of this year, the Russian Federation has gotten down to the business of governing its new federal subject. The Russian State Statistics Service conducted a census of Crimea in October, the first since the all-Ukrainian census of 2001 (itself the only census Ukraine has undertaken since independence).

Preliminary results of the census, which took place from October 14 to 25, were announced on Monday. No information on some of the really interesting stuff yet – ethnicity, language, migration, economics, age, household composition, etc. – but here are the basics, with comparison to past data, and some of my initial thoughts.

A note on geography: Both Russia and Ukraine divide Crimea into two administrative units – Sevastopol, designated as a federal city (like Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kyiv), and the Republic of Crimea. Russia lumps these two regions together into the Crimean Federal Okrug, a designation which (I believe) does not have an official equivalent in Ukraine.

Crimean and Ukrainian Population

All numbers shown are permanent resident population; 2014 data on population present (including non-residents) is available for Crimea as a whole – 2,293,300 people – but a breakdown of that number between the Republic and Sevastopol has not been given.

* Ukraine total for 2014 is not a census count; it’s this year’s March 1st monthly estimate from the Ukrainian State Statistics Service, and includes Crimea.

2013 estimates are year-end estimates from the Ukrainian State Statistics Service.

Two noteworthy things: Sevastopol’s relatively large increase in population and the Republic’s relatively large decrease. In its April estimate, the last one it conducted in the annexed territory, the Ukrainian State Statistics Service estimated a population of 386,000 for Sevastopol, of which 384,000 were permanent residents of the federal city. The average for 2013 was 384,700 total and 382,700 permanent population, with monthly counts about 2,000 above that average toward the end of the year. So the population was growing, but an increase of eleven thousand people since April 1 is noteworthy.

In the Republic of Crimea, on the other hand, we see a 3% drop in the population from last year’s estimate. If all the numbers are correct, that means the Republic lost more people last year than the twelve previous years combined.

Obviously, the possibilities here are:

1. These large changes really happened. In Sevastopol, it’s possible that members of the Russian Black Sea Fleet were previously uncounted, and are now considered permanent residents of Sevastopol. That would account for much of the increase, as the Black Sea Fleet is several thousand strong. As for the Republic of Crimea, while reports of (Russian) refugees from Donetsk and Luhansk are more common, it’s possible that refugees fleeing to mainland Ukraine, including Crimean Tatars, account for some of the drop. Or maybe a lot of people moved from the Republic of Crimea to Sevastopol.

2. The Ukrainian State Statistics Service estimates were wrong. I don’t know much about Ukraine’s record-keeping, but if these estimates are calculated by accounting for births, deaths, and migration since the last census (which they usually are), there’s been thirteen years for them to drift, so this is certainly a possible factor.

3. The census is wrong. Rosstat claims a very low refusal rate of 0.6%, and they spent almost 400 million rubles on this census. I don’t know anything about Russian census methodology, though. Hopefully when the full results come out, the picture will be clearer.

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