Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
By Frank Passic, FR Calhoun County, MI
Have you ever wondered what it would be like conducting a census in another country? Census’ are conducted in all sorts of places, and each have their own peculiarities. Recently I came across a census badge that was used in 1922 in the Baltic republic of Estonia. Where is that? Estonia is the northernmost of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and sits just south of Finland across the Gulf of Finland. It has an area of only 17,462 square miles. This small country gained its independence following World War I. It was occupied by the Soviet Union during World War II, and like the other Baltic States, regained independence in the early 1990s. The capital city is Tallinn.
Estonia established a Statistical Office in 1922, and began gathering data which was published in its monthly newsletter, “The Statistical Monthly.” This office conducted the first Estonian Census on December 28, 1922. This Census not only included population data, but an inventory of residential dwellings as well. Results showed the population at 1,107,059 persons. The rural population density was 18.3 persons per kilometer, while the overall population density was 23.3 persons per kilometer. By contrast, the 1998 Estonian Census showed a population of 1,453,800 persons. with a rural density of 17.9, and an overall density of 32.1 per kilometer.
Of special interest is the badge that Estonian enumerators wore while on duty. It is made of silver-plated brass and measures 35 mm. long, and 27 mm. wide. The design features two long-haired unclothed figurative children holding a shield containing the Estonian coat-of-arms. This arms consists of three lions, which in printed form would be blue in color within a golden-yellow shield. One of the lions symbolizes courage fighting freedom in ancient times. The second stands for courage in uprisings in Harijumaa in 1343. The third lion represents courage in the war for independence 1918-1920.
In the center is the date “1922” surrounded by two cornucopias, or “horns of plenty.” The cornucopia is long-time honored symbol of abundance and thanksgiving. On the left is the Estonian census day “28” with the month “XII” in Roman numerals on the right.
On the bottom is the text, “ULDRAHVA LUGEMINE,” which paraphrased, translates, “The Reading of all the People,” as in taking a scientific reading. Special thanks to Dr. Ramona Holmes of Seattle Pacific University for her translation help.
The reverse of the badge is a pin-back. At the bottom in small letters is the name of the manufacturer, “PARIS ART, PARIS” which indicates this badge was produced in Paris, France for the Estonian government.
In our American Community Survey questionnaire, one of the questions we ask concerns a person’s ancestry of origin. All sorts of nationalities are recorded and tallied when this question is answered. In looking up the U.S. Census results for “Estonian,” we find that the 2000 U.S. Census recorded 25,034 persons of Estonian ancestry. This was only about 0.008% of the U.S. population. That figure was down from 26,762 persons in the 1990 U.S. Census. The largest concentrations of Estonians in the United States are found in California, New York, New Jersey, Idaho, and Florida.
1922 Estonian Census Enumerator's Badge
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic