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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Delayed 2002 Census Gets Trial Run

Steps to prepare for the first national census since 1989 got under way Wednesday as the State Statistics Committee launched an eight-day trial census in three regions.

The statistics committee sent out 600 interviewers to conduct the test census in the Preobrazhensky district in eastern Moscow, the Moscow Region’s Krasnogorsky district and the Frunzensky district of Vladivostok in advance of the real census in October 2002.

The interviewers, mostly students, intend to visit about 110,000 people to determine the possible difficulties demographers might face in 2002, statistics committee spokeswoman Olga Kolesnikova said.

Residents unwilling to let interviewers inside their apartments are being given the option of speaking over the telephone or visiting special census stations.

The census — both the practice and actual — consists of 14 questions that include gender, date of birth, native language, citizenship, nationality, marital status, education, sources of income and employment status. Women are asked how many children they plan to have.

All couples living together will be considered married regardless of their marital status.

Respondents will be marked as being residents of the town where they reside, not of the town where they are officially registered. Answers will not be double-checked in passports.

Kolesnikova said the trial will cost 172 million rubles ($6.17 million). The 2002 census will cost 3.2 billion rubles.

While a census used to be held every 10 years, the country has not conducted one since the breakup of the Soviet Union due to a lack of funds, according to the statistics committee. A census scheduled for 1999 was first delayed to 2001 and now to 2002.

With high death and low birth rates, the population has shrunk drastically over the past decade. Observers speculate that the census was pushed back to allow for padding the number of voters in the past year’s national elections.

Countries typically use census information to count the number of voters, track demographic trends, and determine how to better allocate resources.

The statistics committee said that the main difficulties it sees will be convincing people to talk openly about their jobs, sources of income and places of residence. Also, many people may simply not want to open the door to strangers.

The trial, Kolesnikova said, is designed to teach interviewers how to be "friendly and polite" in encouraging respondents to take part in the census and give realistic answers. "We can only rely on people’s good will," she said.

Russia has no legislation on statistics and national censuses.

Tatyana Maleva, a population studies expert of the Moscow Carnegie Center, said that the methodology for the practice census shows that the statistics committee is taking the right steps to assure that respondents give realistic answers. "It’s easier to get realistic information if you get a person comfortable as opposed to examining his documents," she said.

But if the first day of the practice census was any indication Wednesday, the statistics committee’s fears of getting stuck with unwilling respondents are well-founded.

Most of the residents approached in Moscow’s Preobrazhensky district barred interviewers from entering their homes, according to television reports.