The lack of answers to the question about the real population in Ukraine, its structure and occupations generates manipulations, speculations and abuse. There was only one census of the Ukrainians throughout all the years of independence – in 2001. Several previous presidents failed to implement the next all-Ukrainian census. The team of Volodymyr Zelensky do not intend to put this issue on hold any longer.

Minus 13 million in 5 years?

The speculations on the number of population of Ukraine often have a rough political implication. Some “authoritative” statements sow despair and panic. For example, before returning to Ukraine in an interview for Ihor Kolomoisky stunned with statistics:

“Do you feel that there are fewer people? Like with Iosif Vissarionovich (Stalin – ed.): the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million is statistics. We have 13 million population decline in five years. That is, before the Maidan (I don’t say the Maidan is good or bad), till December 2013, 45 million people lived in the country. As of April 1, 2019, 32 million people live permanently in the country.”

Minus 13 million in five years – it is a serious statement, which covers hidden accusation against those who ruled the country in these years. Where are the numbers from? After all, the website of the State Statistics Service showed that Ukraine’s permanent population is more than 41.9 million people as of April 1, 2019. The discrepancy is deep. Mr. Kolomoisky did not indicate the source of this data, but he gave the reasons for the rapid decline in the population: he blamed Yanukovych, Russia and… revolution, because the Maidan is bad. It gave rise to an internal civil conflict, which can be called a civil war. This is how the oligarch, who openly supported Volodymyr Zelensky in the struggle for the presidency, assessed the events in Donbas.

Zelensky himself noted during the inauguration that “we are 65 million”. However, it was an appeal to the Ukrainians from all over the world. The President promised those who are ready to build a strong successful Ukraine to provide Ukrainian citizenship. Later the need for a census was declared by the ideologist of Ze team Ruslan Stefanchuk, who is now the president’s representative in the parliament. According to him, this issue is one of the first on the agenda, but the audit will precede the census during the first one hundred days (the countdown has already begun). Mr. Stefanchuk stressed that the audit is necessary for understanding the current state of the country. To implement the necessary changes, we should be aware of the human, financial and time resources. Ukrainian and international institutions are to be involved in the process.

Starting not from scratch

The large-scale audit is supported by Oleh Ustenko, the executive director of the International Blazer Foundation and the freelance advisor to president Zelensky. In his opinion, the audit is necessary for the census itself. We must also answer the question: do we need state-owned enterprises that do not have any strategic objectives?

“Another part of the audit touches the functions of the state,” Mr. Ustenko assured. “It is necessary to provide the answer: is this or that function which is carried out by the state necessary? If we want to keep it, we must be sure that it is carried out by one authority, not several. For example, when it comes to the energy market, there are a lot of institutions that take care of it, manage it, influence it. If the answer is positive – that the state should indeed perform a certain function, it is necessary to be confident in the effective use of taxpayers’ money.”

The population census in Ukraine was planned for 2020, long before Zelensky decided to run for the presidency. In April 2018, the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers “On the establishment of an Interdepartmental Commission for the Promotion of the all-Ukrainian population census” was adopted. Particular ministers, deputy ministers and chairmen of Committees and Services are its members.

“The Commission is working, everything is fine, but I do not know how it will be in a month, for example,” Ella Libanova, the director of the Ptoukha Institute for Demography and Social Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. “The SSS works as expected, and tenders are held as needed. It’s complicated. It is necessary to buy a lot of equipment, to take it through the appropriate procedures so that there are no violations and appeals to the court.”

“The census should be conducted on the whole territory of Ukraine except for the territories occupied by the Russian Federation, as it is impossible to conduct it there,” said Oleksandr Diachuk, candidate of technical sciences, the leading researcher of the Institute for Economics and Forecasting of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. “In many ways, it will be similar to the previous one by the list of questions, but there have been significant changes, fractures and transformations in Ukraine over the past 18 years, and the change will be the society’s assessment of it all. After all, about 20 years ago there were significant changes: economic growth after ten years of a mad fall, the transition to market economy, two revolutions (the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity), Russia started a war, the relations with the EU, the United States and other democratic countries were established. But most importantly – the younger generation has grown up in a completely new environment since the last census.”


According to the all-Ukrainian census of December 5, 2001, the total population of Ukraine was almost 48.5 million people. Two-thirds of Ukrainians lived in cities, one third – in villages. Men were 46.3%, women – 53.7%. The representatives of more than 130 nationalities and ethnicities lived in Ukraine. More than two-thirds of the citizens (67.5%) in indicated Ukrainian as their mother tongue.

The trial census in six months

Neither the government nor the opposition questions the importance of the census. The question has long been overdue. There was no census in the past 18 years, although it should be done at least once a decade. According to these recommendations, the census year must end in 0 (2020 is just the match), or 1, or 9. So what questions are we hoping to get answers to?

“We will understand how many people live in Ukraine, how they are located on the territories,” Ella Libanova explained. “It will allow to predict and plan budgets normally, to carry out representative polls. That is, if we know the population, we will be able to do sample surveys. In addition, there is information that can only be obtained from the census. For example, the ethnic composition of the population. It is important to know how many Ukrainians, Russians, Moldovans we have… Not to round up the data, nobody is interested in that.”

“The census will show the real number of the population, how many people live in Ukraine, how many went to work abroad,” the people’s deputy Mykhailo Holovko, a member of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on tax and customs policy told Opinion. “The census must contain a “nationality” column. If last time there were almost 78% of Ukrainians, now, I think, there is much more of them, because Donbas and Crimea “fell away”. Ukrainians will be more than 90%. This shows that we are a mono-ethnic nation, despite the fact that the country is home to many national minorities.”

Before the total population census, it is necessary to conduct a trial census. To find out what questions people answer, how they treat the fact that some people with gadgets will go to these homes. A trial census is scheduled for December 2019. In the corresponding order of the Cabinet of Ministers of July, it is said that the State Statistics Service intends to hold it in Obolon district of Kyiv and Borodyansk district of Kyiv oblast “using innovative technologies for collecting the data on the population”.

“Perhaps, the trial census will give answers to some questions,” Oleksandr Serhiienko, the director of the Analytical Research Center City Institute emphasized to Opinion. “The situation has changed a lot – before there was a registration institute, now there is not. Will they open their doors, will they want to answer? To get adequate results, a lot of preparatory work is needed.”

2 billion UAH is needed

The problem for the census is migrant workers. It is difficult to know their number, but there are millions of people working abroad. It is very difficult to count such citizens.

“To conduct a census in a country that has free access to the European labour market, where everyone can go for at least three months and work there or get a so-called working visa, is a big problem,” Oleksandr Serhiienko continued. “We need specific approaches and methodologies, therefore conducting the census according to the old standards is wrong. We may need to hold a scientific conference for the development of the methodology of this study. And it will take some time.”

“We can expect some resistance in conducting a qualitative and open census of the population from individual authorities at the national and local level or other interested persons,” Oleksandr Diachuk believes. “After all, the lack of accurate correct information about the real number of residents in a particular city or village and their socio-economic state allows for significant manipulations. For example, in obtaining subsidies or other benefits, abuse in national or local elections, maintaining the status of a city or village, which depends on the population, and much more. There might be resistance from the population, which does not want to disclose information about their property state, certain elements of which are not declared.”

But not everything is so critical. According to Mr. Diachuk, the census in 2020 is quite possible if the Verkhovna Rada supports the president’s initiative. Its cost will depend primarily on the length of the questionnaire (the number of questions), the time to fill it out, the form and format of the output data, the speed of the event, the quality of the involved specialists. As well as the political will of the state and local authorities. According to the official assessment of the Ministry of Finance of 2017, the cost of the all-Ukrainian census is 2.2 billion UAH.

Here’s to modern technologies!

Famous Ukrainians explained to Opinion the need for a census of the population of Ukraine.

Andrii Martyn, the deputy head of the department of land management design of NUBIP of Ukraine:

“The population census is an important tool of public administration because it is not just about determining the number of people living in the country. First of all, it is a demographic profile that allows us to understand the structure of the population, the current system of settlement and households and to obtain many other important data for the management of the economy and social sphere. Due to the significant demographic changes in Ukraine in recent years, the census is not just important – it is hasty. It must necessarily provide for the indirect census of the population of the occupied territories of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions by the special methodology.”

Lina Kushch, a media expert on the coverage or migration issues:

“The need for an all-Ukrainian population census is obvious. Ukraine “missed” the census in 2010, that is why we still operate with the figures of the previous one – of 2001. This is a very long period, the country has changed dramatically through this time. The lack of reliable data allowed politicians to manipulate figures at their own discretion for a long time. For example, we do not know the exact number of Ukrainians living abroad or the exact scale of internal migration. I hope that the new census will put an end to many manipulations with numbers. On the other hand, in the era of the big date, it is expected that the survey and its analysis will be carried out with the use of modern technologies.”

Tymofii Milovanov, deputy chairman of the NBU Council:

“The census is critically important. We should know how many Ukrainians there are, what their age is, how they live, where they live, work and study. Without understanding this, any attempt to develop Ukraine is nothing more than a random movement.”

Oleksii Chupa, writer, translator:

“I have a positive attitude to the idea of the census because knowing the facts is always better than not knowing them, at least because it narrows the corridor for political manipulation significantly. In particular, in such a census, it is necessary to ask a few additional questions to get information about the language and ethnic identification at the same time, to finally find out the pace of urbanization, etc. But there are also warnings – given the specifics of Ukrainian politics, firstly, it is necessary to realize that any census results will be used for the manipulation of the public opinion and, secondly, in the era of total histrionics, the census better to be conducted under the auspices of some respectable foreign company.”

Text by Viktor Tsvilikhovsky

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