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Registration of the Population in Estonia on 1 December 1941: Analysis of the Results

This article continues the analysis of the population registration conducted on 1 December 1941 in Estonia. Although the event was officially referred to as the registration of the population, it meets all the criteria of a census. While the previous article (published in Tuna 1/2017), dealt with the context and methodology, this article provides a systematic overview of the results. To the knowledge of the authors, this is the first comprehensive account of the results of the 1941 census.

The authors address both the results published in contemporary statistical journals (Statistische Monatshefte für den Generalbezirk Estland and Statistische Berichte für das Ostland) and a variety of unpublished results from Estonian archives. An inventory of the unpublished census results is considered a major contribution of the article. Among other things, the article presents for the first time the detailed age structure of the population by single-year groups. The analysis of the census results is organised into six sections: population size, spatial distribution of the population, sex and age distribution, ethnicity and religion, branches of the economy and unemployment, and households.

In each section, the authors provide a comparison between the last pre-war census (1934) and the 1941 census. The comparisons reveal selectivity in the population losses that occurred in 1939–1941 in Estonia. The losses were more severe in urban areas and northern parts of the country where the Soviets had more time for mobilisation and evacuation. As a result, the share of urban population fell back to levels observed before the 1934 census. Across sex and age, the losses are largest among younger adults, particularly men. With regard to ethnicity, minority groups suffered proportionately larger losses than Estonians, especially Jews (deported and evacuated to the Soviet rear, killed during the German occupation) and Germans (resettled to Germany in 1939–1941). The evidence pertaining to economic characteristics indicates a temporary reversal of the trends in the economic structure (the share of the population obtaining livelihood from agriculture increased) and high levels of unemployment, particularly in urban areas.

Special attention was paid to the quality of the 1941 census data. The results of the analysis suggest that despite difficult conditions, the census results are fairly reliable. The estimation based on the number of live births registered during the 12-month period prior to the census suggests that the undercount was rather small (about 1%). A similar conclusion can be drawn from the comparison of the census results and the estimates of population losses (incl. resettlement of Germans, deportations, mobilisation, evacuation, war losses, etc.) that occurred in Estonia in 1939–1941. The frequency of missing responses in the 1941 census does not exceed that of the previous census.