The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Farmlands: Counting Sheep

Project Team: Olga Kiyan, Kelly O'Neill, Paul Vădan
Publication Date: 15 February 2024

What It Is

This dataset contains information about the population size and diversity of livestock in 49 provinces of European Russia based on a census compiled by the tsarist government in the middle of the 19th century. You will find population counts for the eight most prominent agricultural animals in the region: cattle, reindeer, goats, horses, ordinary sheep, fine-fleeced sheep, swine, and camels.

Temporal Coverage

1864-1867; 19th century; reign of Alexander III; Great Reform period.

Spatial Coverage

Russian Empire (Western/European part), Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Estonia, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia

About the Primary Source

Citation: Центральный статистический комитет Министерства Внутренных Дел [Central Statistical Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs], Статистический временник Российской империи выпуск I [Statistical yearbook of the Russian Empire, Issue 1]. Saint Petersburg: Ministry of Internal Affairs, 1866.

Part of a two-volume series, the first issue of the Statistical Yearbook was compiled by the Central Statistical Committee helmed by the famous and formidable Pyotr Petrovich Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky (1827-1906). Semyonov served as director of the Statistical Committee from 1864-1875 though he is more commonly recognized for his role as director of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society and his exploration of the Tyan Shan Mountains. This publication, one of the first of his tenure, was created with the goal of providing a broad statistical picture of the geography, demographics, and economy of the Russian Empire. 

The source of this dataset is the eleventh table in the second section of the volume. It records the number of horses, horned cattle, ordinary and fine-fleeced sheep, goats, swine, reindeer, and camels reported in each province in a single year. The provinces of the Kingdom of Poland, Grand Duchy of Finland, and the Caucasus are not included. See pages 242-243 [images 464-465].

Historical Context

Animals and empires go hand in hand. Wild animals and domestic pets have always been celebrated in media and art, but livestock have provided humans with sustenance, mobility, and power for millennia. The history of livestock is a history of farmlands, battlefields, commerce, and imperial politics. Within the Russian Empire, horses and camels played key roles in interactions with rival powers such as the Mongol, Qing, and Ottoman empires, while sheep and cattle figure prominently in literary and artistic depictions of the countryside as well as in the development of domestic and international markets. Despite their significance, livestock are a neglected topic. This dataset provides a window onto their world and an opportunity to define countless question for further research.

Method Notes

The data is taken directly from the original primary source. In some cases numbers were difficult to identify due to image quality; we documented all cases of uncertainty. 
All features are tagged with igazIDs, which are universal identifiers that can be used to link places across all Imperiia datasets. 

The data includes several fields not included in the primary source. These calculated fields are explained in the codebook.

Polygon representations of provincial boundaries are based on vector data extracted from the Geographical Atlas of the Russian Empire (GARE). We adapted the GARE vectors to reflect boundary changes that occurred between the 1820s and early 1860s. The polygons were generated using an equidistant conic projection.

Usage Notes

The maps do not display the exact location of animals: the location data is aggregated at the provincial level by the primary source.

The population numbers should be understood as relatively accurate but should not be taken as a precise census - the accuracy of tsarist official statistics is notoriously unpredictable. The maps visualize the spatial distribution of livestock recorded in the cited source. In order to build a comprehensive study of livestock populations additional research is needed.

The provincial boundaries do not line up perfectly with modern basemaps. See the method note above.

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