On October 14, Stanislav Il’yasov, the pro-Moscow premier of the Chechen administration, announced that the just-concluded census of the Chechen population had determined that 1,088,816 persons currently reside in the republic. The population of the Chechen capital, he added, is 205,000. “Now,” Il’yasov concluded, “we have received the possibility to plan the social-economic development of Chechnya, taking into account the interests of each individual person” (Lenta.ru, October 14).
A number of articles appearing in the Russian and Western media, however, suggested that the figure announced by Il’yasov was much too high and could represent a deliberate falsification. Writing in the October 16 issue of Novye Izvestia, correspondent Said Bitsoev commented: “It is not to be excluded that in this record number of one million persons there are present not a few dead souls. The republican bureau knew very well that all budgetary flows into the republic will be calculated [on the basis of the census figure]. The more people there are, the more funds there will be.” In a piece entitled “Are There More Chechens?” which appeared in the October 17 issue of Novaya Gazeta, journalist and Grozny resident Mainat Abdulaeva observed that during the taking of the census there seemed to have been “a serious hunt for dead souls…. It emerges that the population of the republic exceeds a million persons, as was the case in good, old Soviet times, before all the wars and cataclysms in Chechnya.” In her own case, Abdulaeva noted, she had been counted three times by census-takers, “in my own apartment in Grozny, on different days, and long before the officially declared date for the census had arrived.” On October 17, the Prague Watchdog cited a comment by a Chechen political scientist: “The poll suggests that instead of falling during the war years, the population grew by almost 150 percent. In view of the great losses among civilians and massive migration of Chechens to other regions and republics of Russia, a natural rise of this scale is impossible” (Reliefweb.int, October 17).