Illustration: Mari Msukanidze / Mediazona
After mobilisation started in Russia on September 21, newly enlisted soldiers were allowed to register marriages immediately on the spot instead of applying one month in advance. Many couples seized this opportunity. We used this wedding spree to calculate the total number of people who were mobilised throughout the country. By comparing data from regional civil registration offices to data from the Federal State Statistics Service and the most recent census, we came up with a minimum of 492,000 men drafted by mid-October.
At the start of the “partial mobilisation” in Russia, the authorities claimed that no more than 300,000 people would be enlisted and sent to Ukraine, a mere “1 per cent of total mobilisation resource.” It’s impossible to verify this number: the line in Vladimir Putin’s decree specifying the actual total of people to be drafted is classified. Some media even put the actual number at 1 million. Putin will probably announce a successful conclusion to the mobilisation of 300,000 men by the end of October but just as in the case of Russian casualties in Ukraine, the real number could be much higher. We look at the data about the marriages of drafted soldiers to come to a more realistic number.
Dozens of regional media reported a significant increase in the number of marriages all over Russia since late September. Russian laws designate the draft as a “special circumstance” allowing same-day registration sans the usual one-month waiting period. Many of those newly-wed have been living together for years without any registration of their marriage, but now a man can be wounded or killed in Ukraine, and only his legally recognised spouse can be compensated or allowed in a hospital.
The republic of Buryatia bordering Mongolia in eastern Russia presents the clearest example of a marriage spike. It is the only region where the civil registration office makes data public on a daily basis. Between September 1 and September 21, the average number of weddings per week was 83, and after the mobilisation was announced—662.
Mediazona acquired daily data on September weddings from 16 more Russian regions, and the “mobilisation spike” could be observed in every single one of them.
We can safely assume that all the “excess marriages” from September and the first half of October are mobilisation-related. People who decided to register their relationships “just in case”, before leaving the country to flee the mobilisation, for instance, would not have been able to do it just as quickly: without a draft notice, the couples are required to wait a month. Overall, we have data on 75 out of 85 Russian regions, where 31,000 marriages of mobilised men were registered. In other words, we can deduce that at least 31,000 unmarried men were drafted there by mid-October.
The official term for relationships out of wedlock is “unregistered marital union.” If we know the total amount of men living together with their loved ones without obtaining official marriage registration and the number of men who received their draft notices after September 21 and got married, we can arrive at the estimated scale of mobilisation.
According to the 2021 census (which was called a “disaster” by many demographers and statisticians due to huge gaps in data), there were almost 1,800,000 men aged 18 to 49, who were a part of an “unregistered marital unions.” Demographer Alexei Raksha suggested that we adjust this number for census accuracy, so we ended up with 2,000,000 million men living in the 75 regions that we have marriage data for. If 31,000 men out of 2,000,000 received notices, this means the rate of the mobilisation is 1.56%.
This rate can be applied to all Russian men aged 18–49: military draft offices do not care about the marital status of a potential soldier. The only reason for “draft postponement” is raising four or more children aged 16 or younger. We calculated the exact percentage of mobilised men for each of the 75 regions that provide marriage data—and applied it to the total number of men, aged 18–49, in those regions. Thus, we arrive at 431,000 drafted men. We then approximated the data for the 10 remaining regions, using 1,56% as a reference. In total, this means that 492,000 men were mobilised in Russia by mid-October.
The percentage varies significantly from region to region. According to the “excess marriage” data, the highest mobilisation rate was in eastern Russia: Amur region, Zabaykalsky krai, Jewish autonomous region, Khabarovsky krai, and the republic of Buryatia. In absolute values, the most number of people were mobilised in the Moscow region, Krasnodarsky krai, and the republic of Bashkortostan. These are among the most densly populated regions in Russia, so the draft rates don’t seem unusual.
In Moscow, according to our calculations, around 8,900 people were mobilised. This is consistent with the numbers the capital’s mayor, Sergey Sobyanin, used in his report about support for the drafted men’s families. Although the draft campaign in Moscow produced particularly harsh and scandalous imagery, with people being ambushed on the subway and caught with the help of surveillance cameras, it has the lowest mobilisation rate in the country. The official population of the city is 12,600,000, but the real number is believed to be much higher.
This is an abridged translation.
Text, data, translation, and visuals: Mediazona
Editors: Maxim Litavrin, Yegor Skovoroda
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