I compared the Russian census of 2010 to the recently released census of 2020/2021.

Ethnic group 2010,
#n by pop
pop change
change, %
Tatars 2 5,310,649 4,713,669 -596,980 -11%
Ukrainians 3 1,927,988 884,007 -1,043,981 -54%
Chuvash 5 1,435,872 1,067,139 -368,733 -26%
Udmurts 13 552,299 386,465 -165,834 -30%
Belorussians 16 521,443 208,046 -313,397 -60%

It looks like the population of several ethnic groups has decreased by up to 60%, hundreds of thousands in absolute numbers.

While I probably understand the reason why a million ethnic Ukrainians (including some of my family members) fled from there in 2014,

I still don't get what may have happened to ethnic Tatars, who used to be the #2 ethnic group in Russia in 2010 and whose population has dropped by a whopping 600 thousand since then.

Some public events, like "Billion.Tatar" round table have been conducted recently, but it looks like they only mentioned the reduced population of their nation, not discussing what might have caused it.

It is also a mystery to me that 60% of ethnic Belorussians have disappeared. Minus 26% of ethnic Chuvash and minus 30% of ethnic Udmurts also seem weird numbers.

I did not see any reports of mass ethnic extinction in Russia, so hopefully, these people are alive. Have they fled to another country? Have they admitted that they are ethnic Russians since today?

Question: Have any Russian officials released statements regarding what happened to ethnic Tatars and, probably, some other ethnic minorities?


  • 1
    Note that the change for the Tatars is only 11% or around 1% per year. That could still be explained just through changing demographies (few children, lots of old people). The changes for the other ethnicities are a lot more drastic and can clearly not be explained purely by changing demographies.
    – quarague
    Mar 23, 2023 at 8:33

1 Answer 1


As a personal observation, a significant number of Russian citizens, myself included, report never being approached by any census agents or submitting census info in any explicit way. It is thus possible that 2021 census was mostly done "on paper". The data should likely not be trusted.

Having said that, there's an effect of "ethnic identity plasticity" in Russia. A single person may self-identify as Belorussian in one census, then declare as Ukrainian in the second one and as Russian in the third, each time having some basis for such identification.

The same effect may be applied to e.g. Udmurts - Udmurtia has ~60% Russians and 30% Udmurt and most of the people there likely have mixed identities, so they may choose the former or the latter based on the evolution of their worldview.

With Tatars, another factor comes into play. In the neighboring Bashkiria region, Tatars, Bashkirs, and Russians make up rough thirds of the population, and Bashkirs are a related ethnicity with a similar Turkic language, with a lot of mixing, so it is argued that the government of Bashkiria tries to show more Bashkirs and less Tatars in it, trying via some trickery to pass some of its Tatars as Bashkirs:

В Башкортостане разом, махом огромное количество татар сделали башкирами уже в 2002 году.


In Bashkortostan, at once, in one fell swoop, a huge number of Tatars were made Bashkirs already in 2002.

I recommend reading this long and detailed article, written by Tatar journal, to understand the criticism of Russian Federation census process.

  • 1
    The problem with wild guesses is that they can't explain the numbers we observe. If a Belorussian decided to write as a Ukrainian, the sum of the two would stay unchanged, and it would be impossible for both numbers to drop, especially on a massive scale. The official census rules (linked in Q) explain how double-identity cases are to be handled (hint: not the way how it is put in this post). That is why the question asked for official statements. I don't mind analytical articles, but if they play well with the observed numbers. Mar 22, 2023 at 13:24
  • Если вы посмотрите возрастную структуру белорусов, украинцев, то увидите, что это в основном пожилые люди. Молодые чаще или русскими себя считают, или уезжают в свои титульные страны. - linked article
    – alamar
    Mar 22, 2023 at 13:53
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    @BeBrave, the crux of the linked "analytical article" is that the 2021 census was so bad that its results are useless on most metrics, worse than analytical projections, and it's pointless to discuss them. (And this opinion is unanimous with all the experts I read). This sort of makes the Q moot. Official statements won't suddenly make it better. (In fact, this interview explains how the officials (Rosstat) shy away from official statements).
    – Zeus
    Mar 23, 2023 at 23:43
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    The quoted material in the article in Russian translates to: "In Bashkortostan, at once, in one fell swoop, a huge number of Tatars were made Bashkirs already in 2002."
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 30, 2023 at 16:48
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    @alamar The Russian quotation in the comment translates to: "If you look at the age structure of Belarusians and Ukrainians, you will see that they are mostly elderly people. Young people often either consider themselves Russians or leave for their titular countries."
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 30, 2023 at 16:55

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