Polish census of 1931

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Polish census of 1931
Mother tongue in Poland, based on 1931 census
GUS languages 1931
Media related to Polish census of 1931 - Statistics of Poland at Wikimedia Commons

The Polish census of 1931 or Second General Census in Poland (Polish: Drugi Powszechny Spis Ludności) was the second census taken in Poland, performed on December 9, 1931 by the Main Bureau of Statistics.[1] It established that Poland's population amounted to 32 million people (over 5 million more than in the previous census of 1921).

The census was organised following the rules established by an act of the Polish Parliament of October 14, 1931. In contrast to earlier census of 1921, the 1931 census did not count national minorities and detailed information on types of farms, leaving only the question of the overall area of land owned by the citizen.[2] The part related to education was expanded to include questions of ability to read and write.

The results of the census were being published in 39 volumes between 1936 and 1939 in a publishing series "Statistics of Poland". A list of all settlements in Poland was also prepared, but only a part related to Wilno Voivodeship was published.


The population was categorized by mother tongue i.e. the primary language in the following categories: Polish, Ukrainian, Ruthenian (i.e. Rusyn), Belarusian, Russian, Lithuanian, German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Local, Other, and Not Declared. The category "Local" (Polish: tutejszy) versus "Other" (Polish: inny) was hotly debated after the fact, because a number of significant languages were not on the list, e.g., Romani, Armenian, and/or what might constitute transitional language e.g. Polesian, Kashubian and others.[3]

Population by first language Population by faith
  1. Total:       31,915,779 (100%)
  2. Polish:       21,993,444 (68.91%)
  3. Ukrainian:       3,221,975 (10.10%)
  4. Ruthenian:       1,219,647 (3.82%)
  5. Belarusian:       989,852 (3.10%)
  6. Russian:       138,713 (0.43%)
  7. Czech:       38,097 (0.12%)
  8. Lithuanian:       83,116 (0.26%)
  9. German:       740,992 (2.32%)
  10. Yiddish:       2,489,034 (7.80%)
  11. Hebrew:       243,539 (0.76%)
  12. Local:       707,088 (2.22%)
  13. Other:       11,119 (0.03%)
  14. Not Declared:       39,163 (0.12%)
  1. Total:       31,915,779
  2. Roman Catholic:       20,670,051
  3. Greco Catholic:       3,336,164
  4. Orthodox:       3,762,484
  5. Protestant Lutheran:       424,216
  6. Protestant Reformed:       33,295
  7. Protestant Unite:       269,531
  8. Protestant (gen.):       108,216
  9. Other Christian:       145,418
  10. Judaism:       3,113,933
  11. Other non-Christian:       6,750
  12. Non-believers:       6,058
  13. Not Declared:       39,663

The population was also categorized by religion. Most Jews spoke Yiddish, and some spoke Hebrew. However included with the Jews are 372,000 Polish speakers who are sometimes classified with the Polish group. Included with the Poles are 984,000 Eastern Orthodox & Greek Catholic adherents who are sometimes classified with the Ukrainian and Belarusian groups by those seeking to assign ethnicity based upon religion.[5] Statistical differences existed between Ruthenians and Ukrainians. Ruthenians nationwide were 96.5% Catholic but only 3.2% Orthodox, compared to Ukrainians who were almost equally divided at 52.4% Catholic and 46.6% Orthodox.[4]

Nationality question and criticism[edit]

Veracity of the census' results has been questioned already in the 1930s, particularly in the part related to national minorities. Contrary to expectations on the side of national minorities themselves, the census used the concept of mother tongue and religion to classify the respondents, rather than nationality. The 1921 census had included a nationality question which was replaced in the 1931 census by the "mother tongue" question; this change was protested by Ukrainians and Jews among others, many of whom were bilingual or trilingual.[6] Moreover, many Jews considered Polish to be their mother tongue.[3]

This situation created a difficulty in establishing the true number of non-Polish citizens of Poland. Some authors used the language criterion to attempt to establish the actual number of minorities, which was difficult considering that over 707,000 people in Polesia declared they speak "local" rather than any other language.[7] Other authors used approximation based on both language and declared religion.[8] After World War II in Soviet bloc countries the interpretation of the census was used for political purposes, to underline the officially-supported thesis that pre-war Poland owned areas where non-Polish population made up the majority of inhabitants. For this purpose some authors combined all non-Polish speakers in South-Eastern Poland (namely Ukrainians, Belarusians, Rusyns, Hutsuls, Lemkos, Boykos and Poleszuks) into one category of "Ruthenians".[9] In fact, the census had counted speakers of Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian, and Ruthenian languages as separate categories[4]

Some authors explain that the change in questions asked by the census officials was due to Polish government's wish to minimise the presence of minorities[3][10][11] and represented an attempt to maximize the effects of a decade of educational policies stressing the Polish language.[12] Tadeusz Piotrowski called the 1931 census official but "unreliable", noting that it had underestimated the number of non-Poles, and that in particular, Poles were not a majority in the Nowogródek Voivodeship and Polesie Voivodeship.[13]

After World War II the pre-war chairman of the Polish census statistical office, Edward Szturm de Sztrem, while living under Communist rule, stated that the returns had been tampered with at the executive level, particularly in the east and south-east, although the extent of any possible tampering remains unknown.[3][14]


  1. ^ Główny Urząd Statystyczny (corporate author) (1932). Drugi powszechny spis ludności z dnia 9 XII 1931r. Formularze i instrukcje spisowe (in Polish). Warsaw: Główny Urząd Statystyczny. p. 128. 
  2. ^ Council of Ministers of the Republic of Poland (1931). Rozporządzenie Rady Ministrów z dnia 2 września 1931 r. w sprawie przeprowadzenia drugiego powszechnego spisu ludności (PDF) (in Polish). Warsaw. Dz.U. 1931 nr 80 poz. 629. 
  3. ^ a b c d Joseph Marcus (1983). Social and Political History of the Jews in Poland, 1919-1939. Walter de Gruyter. p. 17. ISBN 978-90-279-3239-6. 
  4. ^ a b c "Główny Urząd Statystyczny Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej, drugi powszechny spis ludności z dn. 9.XII 1931 r. - Mieszkania i gospodarstwa domowe ludność" [Central Statistical Office the Polish Republic, the second census dated 9.XII 1931 - Abodes and household populace] (PDF) (in Polish). Central Stastical office of the Polish Republic. 1938. p. 15. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-03-17. 
  5. ^ U.S. Bureau of the Census The Population of Poland Ed. W. Parker Mauldin; Washington, 1954. [page needed]
  6. ^ Celia Stopnicka Heller (1993). On the Edge of Destruction: Jews of Poland Between the Two World Wars. Wayne State University Press. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-8143-2494-3. 
  7. ^ Ben Fowkes (2002). Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict in the Post-communist World. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-79256-8. 
  8. ^ Jerzy Tomaszewski (1985). Rzeczpospolita wielu narodów (in Polish). Warsaw: Czytelnik. p. 35. , as cited in Piotrowski, op.cit., page 294
  9. ^ Henryk Zieliński (1983). Historia Polski 1914-1939 (in Polish). Wrocław: Ossolineum. 
  10. ^ Tadeusz Piotrowski (1998). "Belorussian collaboration". Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947. McFarland. p. 294. 
  11. ^ Philipp Ther; Ana Siljak (2001). Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944-1948. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-1094-4. 
  12. ^ Ilya Prizel (1998). National identity and foreign policy: nationalism and leadership in Poland. Cambridge University. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-521-57697-0. 
  13. ^ Piotrowski, op.cit., page 143: [The Belarusians] were distributed as follows: Polesie, 654,000; Nowogrodek, 616,000; Wilno, 409,000; Bialystok,269,100
  14. ^ Richard Blanke (1993). Orphans of Versailles: The Germans in Western Poland, 1918-1939. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-1803-1. 

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