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Illegitimate Births in Late 19C Russia
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Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890-1907) on illegitimate births:

Illegitimate births / 100 births in Russia in 1892:

St. Petersburg 15.92 Smolenskaya 1.93
Moscow 13.65 Kazan 1.90
Lifland 6.36 Mogilev 1.89
Estland 4.46 Vladimirskaya 1.86
Arkhangelsk 4.33 Kharkiv 1.84
Kovno 4.12 Tverskaya 1.82
Perm 4.07 Olonets 1.79
Yaroslavskaya 4.03 Kaluzhskaya 1.75
Pskovskaya 3.98 Bessarabian 1.74
Vilenskaya 3.82 Volyn 1.74
Kurland 3.68 Ekaterinoslavskaya 1.69
Vyatka 3.64 Don Region 1.58
Vitebsk 3.58 Tavricheskaya 1.58
Vologodskaya 3.58 Saratovskaya 1.53
Kherson 3.24 Orenburg 1.47
Kiev 3.19 Oryol 1.31
Astrakhan 3.06 Tula 1.30
Kostroma 2.82 Ufa 1.17
Novgorodskaya 2.54 Simbirsk 1.07
Nizhny Novgorod 2.53 Samara 1.04
Minsk 2.50 Voronezh 1.02
Poltava 2.40 Kurskaya 1.01
Chernigovskaya 2.07 Penza 0.96
Grodno 2.04 Tambov 0.87
Podolskaya 2.02 Ryazan 0.76

Couple of observations:

  • Persistence of the past: Apart from the urban centers and heavily urban (and irreligious) Baltics, close behind are the northern Russian areas – which are the most irreligious today, and still have the highest percentage of out of wedlock births.
  • Unlike with alcohol consumption during this period, there is no difference whatsoever between Russia regions, and Ukrainian and Belorussian ones. While (outside the urbanized regions) the Russian North has the highest out of wedlock rates, it is also Russian regions that have some of the lowest.


Also, here is the number of illegitimate births in Europe for 1894. Nothing new to my readers; same pattern as what I wrote about here.

Per 10,000
Per 10,000
Austria 57 1438
Portugal 39 1207
Hungary 35 835
Germany 34 915
Sweden 28 1020
Italy 26 703
Romania 24 592
Scotland 23 743
Norway 21 692
France 19 867
Switzerland 16 486
England & Wales 13 428
European Russia (50 gubernias) 12 263
Holland 10 316
Ireland 6 264
Serbia 4 106


• Category: History • Tags: Demographics, Fertility, Russia 
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  1. songbird says:

    Didn’t the czar generally reside near to St. Petersburg, and he had to personally approve all divorces in Russia? I would have thought this meant it was a conservative area. I guess not. Seems crazy that he went through all that paperwork for nothing.

    Russia’s 3rd largest city, Novosibirsk, was only founded in 1893. It is younger than Chicago, which was one of the world’s top 5 cities in 1900.

    • Replies: @Toronto Russian
  2. @songbird

    A birth is called illegitimate when there was no marriage in the first place, isn’t it? By the way, czar Alexander II himself contributed to that statistic by having four children with his mistress (and eventually second wife) Ekaterina Dolgorukova. Royal courts are usually not bastions of sexually conservative behavior anywhere.

    • Replies: @songbird
  3. songbird says:
    @Toronto Russian

    Yes, but in modern times these things are proxy measures for each other. Where marriage is viewed sacrosanct, illegitimacy tends to be rare.

    If I recall, Nicholas II actually had to be encouraged to take up a mistress. I guess it is fair to say that was a part of the culture of high level aristocrats.

    The tight control on divorces was undoubtedly a power dynamic. But one wonders of what sort. For individuals, or for society? Difficult to answer. The czars were always afraid of runaway revolution.

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