Census of Industry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Census of Industry


a form of statistical survey of industry at a definite moment in its development. The content, range of enterprises examined, and frequency of industrial censuses are determined by the conditions and goals of industrial development. They therefore differ not only from one country to another but also from one census to another within a single country. V. I. Lenin attached great importance to censuses of industry. In The Development of Capitalism in Russia he wrote: “Only a proper industrial census, organized on European lines, can extricate our industrial statistics from their chaotic condition” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 3, p. 468).

The first censuses of industry were carried out in the United States in 1850; they were conducted once every ten years until 1900, once every five years until 1920, and once every two years from 1922 to 1940. After a break caused by World War II industrial censuses were reinstituted in 1947 and 1954; since 1958, they have been conducted every five years.

In Europe censuses of industry were instituted later and were not conducted at regular intervals. In Belgium, for example, the first census was taken in 1866, while in Italy the first was in 1876; in Great Britain censuses of industry were conducted in 1907, 1912, 1924, 1930, 1935, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1961, and 1971. The United Nations conducts world censuses of industry: the first was made in 1963 and the second was based on materials for 1973.

The most complete and systematic information on the condition of industry in Russia came from the industrial censuses directed by the Russian statistician V. E. Varzar in 1900 and 1908. These censuses covered a broad range of subject areas. The 1900 census, for example, gave information on output in physical and cost terms, on the number of workers, and on the composition of the work force by sex, age, occupation, and time worked. The same census listed the number and capacity of power units, the number and heating-surface area of boilers, the cost of equipment of domestic and foreign origin, the amount and value of raw materials and fuel consumed in a year, and the costs of production. The 1900 census encompassed enterprises in those sectors of industry and those territories that were then under the supervision of factory inspectors.

The plan of the 1908 industrial census was somewhat narrower. It contained no information on the amount and value of raw material consumed, and data on equipment were not given for all sectors of industry. However, it encompassed a broader range of industrial enterprises. Overall, the Russian industrial censuses of 1900 and 1908 were broader in scope than the censuses of the Western European countries. Their weakness lay in not gathering information by using specially trained census takers but by sending out questionnaires to enterprise owners. This method of inquiry did not ensure the authenticity of the information received, especially with respect to expenditures.

In 1913 the Ministry of Trade and Industry carried out another industrial census. Its purpose was to collect materials for a revision of the Russian customs rate, needed after the conclusion of a trade agreement with Germany. Therefore the census covered only “enterprises which produced commodities that may be the object of international trade.” Geographically limited, it did not include enterprises located in Siberia and Central Asia.

During the first years of existence of the Soviet state, censuses continued to be used to gather basic information on industry because primary accounting and nationwide reporting had not yet been organized. The first industrial census in the USSR was based on conditions as of Aug. 31, 1918. The range of enterprises covered by the census was limited to industrial enterprises with mechanical engines and at least 16 workers or, in the absence of mechanical engines, with at least 30 workers. The plan of the census was very detailed. The enterprises were to report on such items as number of production workers and clerical and professional employees, energy systems, production equipment, output of certain types of articles, semifinished goods, raw materials, fuel, and auxiliary materials, and quantity of leftover materials associated with a given output. Information was also sought on enterprise assets, means of transport, and profit and loss. In a number of basic subject areas statistical data were collected for five years, from 1913 until June 1918.

The first Soviet occupational census was carried out at the same time as, and in connection with, the 1918 census of industry. This occupational census provided data on the production workers and clerical and professional employees of the industrial enterprises covered by the census of industry. A preliminary summary of material from the 1918 census was published by the Central Statistical Board (CSB) in 1920 under the title The All-Russian Industrial and Occupational Census of 1918. Work on returns yielded by the 1918 census of industry went very slowly. Final data were published only in 1926, which diminished the operational, practical significance of the census.

In 1920 the CSB conducted a census of industry that covered conditions up to August 28 of that year. This all-Russian census of industrial institutions was carried out simultaneously with demographic and agricultural censuses. The 1920 census took in not only the large and medium-sized enterprises covered by the criteria of the 1918 census but also small enterprises, including domestic handicraft industries.

With the institution of the New Economic Policy (NEP), the need arose for statistical data that both described the first results of the NEP and provided the information necessary for correct decisions regarding fiscal and tax measures. To meet this need, an all-Union urban industrial census of both large and small enterprises was carried out, covering conditions up to Mar. 15, 1923. The results of this census provided a description of the sectorial and geographic distribution of industry, the energy capacities of enterprises, and the degree of concentration of industry. This was the last census of large-scale industry. Since then, the agencies of the CSB have obtained necessary information on the work of large-scale industry through the state reporting system.

The census method was preserved only for small-scale industry. In this area, sampling censuses were taken in 1925, 1927, and 1929, using a detailed program that took the scale of production into account. Beginning in 1932, censuses of small-scale industry were conducted systematically. Such censuses were taken every two years from 1932 until 1938, each year from 1939 until 1953, and again in 1955. Agencies of the CSB receive information on the operations of small-scale (subsidiary) industrial enterprises from data contained in the annual reports of those organizations whose accounting balances include the budgets of the subsidiary enterprises. The reporting program calls for figures on value and physical volume of output, number of employees, wages fund, and value of fixed productive capital.


Lenin, V. I. “K voprosu o nashei fabrichno-zavodskoi statistike: Novye statisticheskie podvigi prof. Karysheva.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 4.
Savinskii, D. V. Kurs promyshlennoi statistiki, 5th ed. Moscow, 1960. Chapter 14.
Baklanov, G. I., V. E. Adamov, and A. N. Ustinov. Statistika promyshlennosti, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1970. Chapter 1.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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