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Russian statistical publications in The British Library

Description and highlights of The British Library's collection of Russian statistical material, with guidance on their location and exploration.

We have a comprehensive collection of statistical publications from all over the world, including Russia. Due to dramatic changes in economic and social policies introduced by the Russian government at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, Russian statistics started to evolve. From 1802 all government ministries were obliged to present statistical data on their areas to the Senate, and in 1811 the first Department of Statistics was established, attached to the Ministry of Police (with the portfolio of what later became the Ministry of Interior). A prominent statistician and academician Karl Fedorovich German became head of this department. 

The Library holds the book Statisticheskie issledovaniia Rossiiskoi Imperii (St-Petersburg, 1819; BL shelfmark 10290.b.3) that he authored. Among his academic works, his preface to Güldenstädt’s Geograficheskoe i statisticheskoe opisanie Gruzii i Kavkaza (St. Petersburg, 1809; BL shelfmark 10292.g.24) should also be mentioned.

The data from the first statistical tables by prince I.Golitsyn Statisticheskie tablitsy Vserossiiskoi Imperii (Moskva, 1807, BL shelfmark 1296.i.13) might not be fully trustworthy nowadays, but the book has a great historical importance.

Title page of 'Nachertanie statistiki rossiiskago gosudarstva'

Nachertanie statistiki rossiiskago gosudarstva, St. Petersburg, 1818-1819. BL shelfmark 10290.d.10. Copyright © The British Library Board

However, the information collected by E.F. Ziablovskii (the BL has five works written by him), and similarly by K. Arsen’ev in Nachertanie statistiki Rossiiskogo gosudarstva (St. Petersburg, 1818-1819, BL shelfmark 10290.d.10, also available as a free electronic resource accessible via Explore the British Library) as well as in his other book Statisticheskie ocherki Rossii (St. Petersburg, 1848, BL shelfmark 10290.f, also available as a free electronic resource accessible via Explore the British Library), is still of high value to historians and statisticians.

In the 1830s, new rules on collecting and presenting statistical data were introduced in Russia, and in 1834 statistical committees were established in all the Russian provinces. So, apart from Materialy dlia statistiki Rossiiskoi Imperii (St. Petersburg : Statisticheskoe upravlenie pri Sovete Ministerstva Vnutrennikh Del, 1839, BL shelfmark S.N.64/3), the British Library also holds regional statistical reports, such as Statisticheskoe opisanie Saratovskoi gubernii by A. Leopol’dov (St. Petersbug, 1839, BL shelfmark 10291.e.22, also available as a free electronic resource accessible via Explore the British Library).

The period that followed the major reforms (1861-1917) in the history of Russian statistics is often called the “Zemstvo period”. It is also well represented in the British Library collections. Although the BL does have gaps in its holdings of Statisticheskii vremennik Rossiiskoi Imperii (1866-1890, three series), some really curious items can be found within this periodical publication, e.g. Vinogradarstvo i vinodelie v Rossii, 1870-1873 (compiled by G.Ershov, BL shelfmark S.N.168/2).

We hold numerous publications not only of the Central Statistical Committee and the Statistical Council issued in the time when these bodies were under the leadership of P.P. Semenov-Tianshnaskii, but also his own works, and among them Geografichesko-statisticheskii slovar’ Rossiiskoi Imperii, which he co-edited (St. Petersburg, 1862-1885, BL shelfmark 10291.f.2, also available as a free electronic resource accessible via Explore the British Library). Prince P. Kropotkin, a regular reader of the British Museum Library, in 1888 wrote a letter to Richard Garnett, then Assistant Librarian in the Department of Printed Books, in which, among other things, he suggested how the collection of Russian official publications could be improved:

"If letter (in French) be written to:
a) the Director of the Statistical Committee, P.P. Semenoff;
b) the Director of the Statistical Department of the Ministry of Finance
   --“--         of Justice
   --“--         of Ways of Communication
   --“--         Public Institutions
they surely will all send their publications with the utmost courtesy : P.P. Semenoff will be delegated in doing so, and the Statistical Committee is the most important of all. Once it is made, the B.M. will continue to receive them every year especially if it designates an agency at St. Petersburg.
(The BL archives, DH2, Correspondence, Trustees’ Minutes and Reports of the Keeper of Printed Books, 1888, vol.2, (vol. 41))

Letter by P. Kropotkin to the British Museum Library

Letter by P. Kropotkin to the British Museum Library. Copyright ©The British Library Board

We do not know whether P.P. Semenov ever received a “letter (in French)” from the British Museum, but it looks like the British Museum continued to collect official publications from Russia quite extensively.

A history of censuses in Russia and, later the USSR and the Russian Federation, is a special topic. The materials of the First All-Russia Census, which took place in 1897, are held in the BL (Pervaia Vseobshchaia perepis’ naseleniia Rossiiskoi Imperii, 1897 g. / pod red. A. Troinitskogo, BL shelfmarks S.N.168/7 and S.N.168/6, see also later editions and the microfilm collection: BL shelfmark Mic.E.155). The early Soviet period is not covered in the most comprehensive way, as collecting of material from Soviet Russia was difficult and haphazard, but one can find some interesting publications. Here is just a small selection of examples:

  • Vsesoiuznaia perepis’ naseleniia 1926 goda (Moskva, 1928-1933; BL shelfmark S.N.170/6-8, imperfect set)
  • Spisok naselennykh zimnikh punktov 4-kh iuzhnykh okrugov IAkutii : materialy Vsesoiuznoi demograficheskoi perepisi naseleniia 1926 g. – predvaritel’nye itogi. (IAkutsk, 1929, BL shelfmark S.N.A.O.5)
  • Pogubernskie itogi 10% vyborochnoi sel’sko-khoziaistvennoi perepisi krest’ianskikh khoziastv 1919 g. (Moskva, 1920, BL shelfmark S.NA.3/12)
  • Naselenie Moskovskoi Gubernii po predvaritel’nym itogam perepisi 28-avgusta 1920 goda (Moskva, 1928-32, BL shelfmark S.N.170/6-8)

The most important and controversial censuses of 1937 and 1939 (BL shelfmarks: Mic.A.19764 and description: RAM 314.7), and then of 1959 (BL shelfmarks Mic.A.277 and description: OPL 947.085) are held on microfilms. The first post-Soviet census that took place in 2002 is covered comprehensively in many publications including the 14-volume Itogi vserossiĭskoĭ perepisi naseleniia 2002 goda (Moskva, 2004-2005, BL shelfmark OPK.9.x.78), as well as a vast collection of materials from the regions of the Russian Federation, that were published locally.

Selected annuals of both federal and regional levels are being received in hard copies. These holdings are complemented by the database produced by East View Publications Russian/NIS Statistical database, which is available in the British Library Reading Rooms. The database covers over 200 contemporary periodical statistical publications, listed both thematically and by region.

 The Russian Federal Department of State Statistics (Federal’naia Sluzhba gosudarstvennoi statistiki) has a good website that provides a lot of free information. The Russian Federal Department of State Statistics also supply data to the website Statistika.Ru

When searching for earlier holdings, material published and acquired by the Library before 1975, please follow the tips on how to search for Cyrillic items in the catalogue.


Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator, Russian Studies
European Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7587


Peter W. Hellyer, Curator, Russian Studies
European Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7582