Before the Numbers Disappeared: Media and Perception of the 1937 Soviet Census
Baloun, Jessica A.
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This thesis surveys the 1936 All-Soviet Census and its importance to national image under Stalin as an explanation for its suppression shortly after completion. The census served as a vital data collection tool for the socialist regime and as a point of pride and nationalism. By studying the census as it was promoted, this research explores how Stalinist media functioned in 1936, how promotion of the census reflected concerns of the government, and the nature of Stalinist propaganda at the time. The state implemented a marketing campaign to help push the significance of the census and recruit the roughly 1 million workers needed. The campaign was not able to assuage the potential danger perceived in giving the government personal information, fears further cemented after heightened persecutions throughout 1937. Characterization of the census and its use in governing are highlighted through close analysis of the newspaper campaigns of the Moscow News and Pravda. Public and private life in the census is discussed through the diaries of enumerators and intellectuals in an attempt to understand the fears, but also indifference to the census. The 1937 census was fraught with foundational issues even before enumerators began and was reflected in the undesirable results it yielded. Through media posturing and personal trepidations, power is given to the otherwise mundane act of people counting and through the lens of Soviet society, the 1937 census stood at a tipping point to the political tensions that would define the greater half of the Stalinist era.