Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 30

On October 10, census-takers began making a count of the population of the Republic of Chechnya, under conditions of tight security. A total of 979, 633 questionnaires were reportedly delivered to the pro-Moscow authorities, according to a spokeswoman for the Kadyrov administration, Alla Vlazneva (Agence France Presse, October 10). In a report appearing in the 10 October issue of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, journalist Il’ya Maksakov wrote that “about 8,000 employees of the [pro-Moscow] police will be involved [in the census effort] as well as forces from the military commandants’ offices. An equal number of census-takers–8,000–will also be involved.” Maksakov noted that there were at present “two official figures” for the population of the republic: 620,000 and 800,000. “It is not known,” he added, presumably somewhat tongue-in-cheek, “whether the census-takers will succeed in reaching Maskhadov and Basaev (and if they do, whether they will return), but the leaders of the Chechen separatists have manifested absolutely no interest in the census.”

On October 8, the Prague Watchdog reported that Chechen human rights defenders were concerned about possible wide-scale abuses connected with the census process. “Each inhabitant of the republic,” human rights activist Tamerlan Aliev commented, “will be attended by two to three policemen and they will check his or her documents. Is that anything else than a mop-up [operation]?” Human rights leaders were also worried about a possible falsification of the results of the survey. According to figures collected in Chechnya in 1998, it was noted, the republic’s population at that time numbered 800,000. “Being aware of the number of people who left the Chechen Republic, it will be possible to determine the number of Chechens killed in the last three years of the war,” Ruslan Zhadaev of the Chechen Council of Non-governmental Organizations pointed out (Watchdog.cz, October 8).