Previously, the Central Statistical Bureau issued statistical tables based on fiscal lists (ревизские списки).
The second Russian Census was scheduled for December 1915, but was cancelled because of the outbreak of World War I one and a half years earlier (in July 1914). It was not rescheduled before the Russian Revolution. The next census to take place in Russia only occurred at the end of 1926, almost three decades later.
The census was performed in two stages. In the first stage (December 1896 — January 1897) the counters (135,000 persons: teachers, priests, and literate soldiers) visited all households and filled in the questionnaires, which were verified by local census managers. In the second stage. (9 January 1898 [O.S. 28 December 1897]) the counters simultaneously visited all households to verify and update the questionnaires. Despite this being the only census they ever took, Historians were able to find out the Russian Empires population in earlier periods of time still from collecting city censuses.
The data processing took 8 years using Hollerith card machines. Publication of the results started in 1898 and ended in 1905. In total, 119 volumes for 89 guberniyas, as well as a two-volume summary, were issued.
The questionnaire contained the following questions:
In the census summary tables, nationality was based on the declared mother language of respondents.
The first page of a census form from Kiev Governorate.
The second page of a census form from Kiev Governorate.
The third page of a census form from Kiev Governorate.
A description page for a census form from Kiev Governorate.
The total population of the Russian Empire was recorded to be 125,640,021 people (50.2% female, 49.8% male; urban 16,828,395).
The most spoken languages, from which nationality was determined were:
|1||Russian (as “Great Russian”)||55,667,469|
|2||Ukrainian (as “Little Russian”)||22,380,551|
|10||Kartvelian languages (Georgian, Mingrelian, Svan)||1,352,535|
|11||Aukštaitian (as "Lithuanian", excluding Samogitian)||1,210,510|
|13||Moldavian and Romanian||1,121,669|
|Greek (mainly eastern Pontic Greek), spoken especially by Greeks in southern Russia and Georgia, and by Caucasus Greeks of Russian Caucasus province of Kars Oblast||186,925|
|6||Old Believers and others split from Pravoslavs||2,204,596||1.75%|
|8||Buddhists and Lamaists||433,863||0.34%|
|15||Other Christian denominations||3,952||0.003%|
Largest cities of the Empire according to the census:
Each enumeration form was copied twice, with the three copies filed in the county archives, the governorate archives, and the Central Statistical Bureau in St. Petersburg. The copies in St. Petersburg were destroyed after they had been tabulated. Most of the copies stored at the local and regional level have also been destroyed; however, the complete census for the Arkhangelsk and Tobolsk governorates has been preserved, and the census for portions of several other governorates is also extant.
As in many other census in the era of nationalism, the results reflect the views on national policy of the authorities. In this case, the population of Russian ethnicity was inflated. Thus for example, the number of Poles is underrepresented. Imperial officials classified the Ukrainian and Belarusian languages as belonging to Russian group and labeled those nationalities as Little Russian for Ukrainians and White Russian for Belarusians.