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The First Czechoslovak Population Census – 1921

The last population census carried out in our territory before the World War I took place in 1910. Newly founded Czechoslovak Republic needed to know demographic data on the new state with the greatest possible detail. In 1919 the State Statistical Office was established as a new body authorized to carry out nationwide statistical surveys, among which the population census was one of the most important. According to the tradition taken over from the monarchy, it was to take place in 1920. However, it was impossible due to many reasons (adequate preparation was necessary and state borders of the Czechoslovakia were not clear). Moreover, new law on population censuses was adopted only on 8 April 1920. It prescribed the first Czechoslovak population census to be carried out within a year as the latest and to be repeated every five years, which was an Anglo-Saxon practice.

Population census, according to the new Act No. 256/1920 Sb. (Collection of Laws) was carried out on 15 February 1921. Its content was a bit different from the pre-war censuses; however, it was again carried out for present population (not residing population). An important characteristic was also occupation of population; however, it has to be said that economic activity was surveyed by economic branches and not for traditional professions (occupations). Nevertheless, secondary job and real estate property were not surveyed. Post-war occupation was compared to the occupation as at 16 July 1914 in order to find out social and professional changes between the pre-war and post-war period.

To survey nationality of population was considered to be the most important from political point of view, as it was to confirm justification of foundation of an independent Czechoslovak Republic. Unlike in the pre-war survey on nationality based on “language used in communication”, the Austrian part of the former monarchy adopted a definition of nationality, according to which “under nationality one has to understand affiliation with a tribe, the external feature of which is usually mother tongue”. The definition of nationality determined according to “language used in communication”, which was in favour of German language, was thus to be eliminated as it was disadvantageous for Czech and Slovak ethnic group. Moreover, the reference to acknowledging of nationality according to “affiliation with a tribe” enabled also to Jews and Romany to come out with their nationality, although they did not speak Hebrew or Romany. The question and definition of “nationality” was fought for not only with representatives of Czechoslovak minorities, but also among Czechs and Slovaks. Although officially “Czechoslovak nationality” existed, it was possible to survey population of Czech and Slovak nationality separately.

Another important cultural characteristic was denomination or nondenominational population. Census results confirmed that population of the Czechoslovakia and Czech lands mostly remained to be loyal to some of renowned churches.

The population was surveyed by census sheets for households, as it was usual for pre-war censuses. Difficulties of comparative analyses were the biggest (as expected) as for comparison of professions of the population, as it was in the pre-war period surveyed according to different classifications than in 1921, even despite an effort for the closest possible link-up with the original Austrian and Hungarian classification.

Results of the first Czechoslovak population census were published in seven volumes of the series “Czechoslovak Statistics”. The first Czechoslovak census was considered to be successful not only as for the way it was organised or for its exhaustiveness and correctness, but also from the point of view of the processing.