First activities of population counting
conducted on the Romanian territory of today

Beginning from the old times people used to observe and carry out estimations which helped them organize their life.

On our country’s territory there was a long and rich tradition in the field of book keeping and statistics. The first records bearing statistical interest carried out, under various forms, on the territory of Dacia go back for over two thousand years, and concerned the number of inhabitants, areas, crops of main agricultural cultures, number of domestic animals and other assets.

Evidence concerning such records were mentioned ever since the centuries V-IV B.C. in the works of Herodotus, Strabo, Xenophon and other historians and philosophers of the antique world.

It is clear that Decebal could not have resisted for so long to the attacks of the best organized military force of antiquity – The Roman Empire – without having knowledge of the size and quality of the human and material resources available, obtained by the methods of his time.

That such activities of „counting ” the population were known to the Dacians , is shown by the relative facility with which the Romans could conduct, immediately after conquering Dacia, by the order of Emperor Traian, that census provinciae, most likely in year 107, to determine the three capitations : humanae, terrene et animalium (people, land and animals).

This sui-generis form of census of the inhabitants and assets would become permanent also in the new imperial province, every five years (later 15 years),and to this aim they built at Sarmisegetusa and Apullum two tabularium, real central „statistical offices” , to which they sent the data concerning the population number and social status thereof slaves or affranchised Roman slaves and the manner of using the land, number of animals , information on mineral resources especially gold , commercial activities etc.

The documents kept to our days refer to the organization and conducting the census of year 297 in the time of Emperor Diocletianus (284-305).

A network of correspondents placed in the most important centres of the province and at the borders – then, like today, the actual territory of Romania represented Europe’s eastern border – it ensured the information flow which, processed by specialized personnel (calculatores liberarii ad instrumentis consulatibus), led by some princeps tabulari, finally reached Rome , the capital of the empire.

This statistic centralized system granted Rome, over centuries, the capacity to rule and exploit a huge area, to its benefit, but also to the benefit of the peoples living in the occupied territories, by imposing the administration based on rigour and coherence of the hierarchy and the system.

This organization responded to some requirements not connected with the ruler’s statute. That is why it continued to operate also after the Romans withdrew from Dacia, throughout the entire period of the Romanian people formation and setting up of the first Romanian states.

Middle Ages

Of course they can not be compared, as quality and diversity, with the complex statistic researches of our days, nevertheless the demographic and economic investigations carried out without interruption in our country beginning with the early Middle Ages granted continuity to the knowledge process, most valuable first for those dealing with the history of the Romanian people and state. Such historical references, scarce as they are, include almost exclusively and mostly for the centuries XI to XIV, statistic information statistice about the number of serves , tithes, monastery lands etc. They grant the image of continuity of the Romanian people on its ancient territories and at the same time allow tracking of the evolution of the social and administrative structures in the Romanian states.

At a later time, in the period of feudal flourishing , when the Romanian Country, Moldavia and Transylvania were already well defined states, the concern of the authorities, and mainly of the rulers and princes, to know about the country’s resources, number and condition of their subjects, resulted in the consolidation of a systematic permanent recording system, ever more diversified and extensive.

The urbaria [urbarii] , registers, tithes lists, Episcopal tables are many forms, generalized beginning with century XV, by which, they keep the evidence of the population and its assets ,as basis of a recruiting system of the people necessary for the state army, on the one hand, and raising of imposts and taxes of all sorts , intended to fill the rulers’ treasury and boyars’ trunks,on the other hand.

Since there were no specialized people , such works had to be fulfilled by servants who could read and write, or priests, but there were circumstances when not trusting the correctness of its subjects, the ruler himself decided to carry out such records. For instance, Petre Schiopul, did that, and draws up, in 1591, by his own hand mâna, „the register of peasants’ cisle [village assembly] from all the counties and courtiers and bailiffs and neamesi and priests.

The following two centuries. The seventeenth and the eighteenth, show an important diversification of the statistical research , catagraphies , in Muntenia and Moldavia , and conscriptions, in Transylvania and Banat, with more and more extensive data concerning the population number and, mainly, their wealth.

Being very interested to know the taxpayers’ capacity for the treasury, the rulerNicolae Mavrocardat, who occupied, in turns, the throne of Muntenia and Moldavia, ordered successive population counting from each of the two principalities, as shown in „The political and geographic history of the Romanian Country from its oldest establishment until the year 1774”, attributed to High Steward [ stolnicului ] Mihai Cantacuzino.

An extensive catagraphy of the two Romanian countries was conducted during the Russian-Turkish War (1769-1774). The original documents of the catagraphy drawn up in the Romanian language, accompanied by a centralizing summary in the Russian Language is currently kept in the archives of Moscow and include the collection of an extended field of information about the heads of families, churches, number of houses, number of oxen, number of horses, number of acres with vineyard etc.

A special importance (by the quasi-universality of the information collected, which draws them closer to a modern census) is held by the conscription carried out in 1785-1786 by the order of the Emperor Joseph II, in historical Transylvania, Banat, Crisana and Maramures and, mostly, the catagraphy of Moldavia of 1803, also known as Cronica liuzilor [People’s register].

The references included in the latter documents concerning the economic and social data grouped on villages, small towns, towns, wards and counties, social classes, tax level etc., confirming that the changes taking place in a world where the feudal society made way to the seeds of the capitalist society imposed a different degree of the information through study , mainly concerning the development resources of the new economy structures.

We can find interesting proof in the documents gathered by Nicoale Iorga in „Codicele Hurmuzachi”[Hurmuzachi Codex], well-known in the historic research areas, yet very little used in respect of their contribution to the knowledge of the economic development of the Romanian countries and, implicitly, at the level reached by the Romanian statistics in the time period between the reign of Constantin Brâncoveanu and the Phanariot reigns .

An important step forward for the Romanian statistics took place after the revolution of Tudor Vladimirescu of 1821, by introducing in the Romanian Country and Moldavia Regulamentele Organice, which allowed carrying out of some catagraphies vital for knowing the reality of the epoch. In connection with them we know the result of the records and even the whole methodology on which the investigation was based.

Thus, we know that recording body was the landowner, assisted by the village priest and six impost payers, the organization and control on the catagraphy being the duty of the Department of Interior, later the Ministry of Interior. All the deeds were drqan up in two counterparts , one for the department , the other for the county ruler who, together with the county deputy and a boyar with no lands held in that county , formed the county commission.

The instructions provided the separate recording of the different population categories , either in compliance with their civil status, age, health (old people, the widows and disabled people, were registered separately), or in compliance with the profession and social condition (peasants, boyars, tradesmen, handicraftsmen etc.).

The Council [Divan] of the Romanian Country multiplied in 3600 copies a notification which was to be posted in each and every locality of the country for informing the people about the scope and duties of the county commissions , the duties of the landowners and obligation of including the population on the lists. Also the notification was to be made public by the newspapers [“gazette”], and the metropolitan was asked that priests get involved in this action by explaining the parishioners the scopes of the catagraphy. As regards the data collected , they had to be included in the forms printed in 10000 copies, such being a large amount for the capacity of the printing houses of that epoch.

The Council [Divan] of the Romanian Country multiplied in 3600 copies a notification which was to be posted in each and every locality of the country for informing the people about the scope and duties of the county commissions , the duties of the landowners and obligation of including the population on the lists. Also the notification was to be made public by the newspapers [“gazette”], and the metropolitan was asked that priests get involved in this action by explaining the parishioners the scopes of thecatagraphy. As regards the data collected , they had to be included in the forms printed in 10000 copies, such being a large amount for the capacity of the printing houses of that epoch.


p style=”text-align: justify;”>Another important moment of the Romanian statistics is represented by The Population census of 1838, which is also the first authentic demographic census of Romania, including the totality of the inhabitants of the Romanian Country , irrespective of age, sex, social status etc. and gathering most of the requirements imposed on such investigation (universality, recording by direct dialogue with the subject, the individual character of the recording, initiation and carrying out of the activity by the state authority).

By this census they achieved: knowledge of the total number of the Romanian Country population grouped on administrative units, including all the characteristics relating to sex, age, civil status, nationality, profession etc.; knowledge of the agricultural development stage; knowledge of the buildings irrespective of their destination; determining the size of the estates and settlement of their boundaries; obtaining of general information about each and every village; knowledge of the communication ways and the natural resources etc.

p style=”text-align: justify;”>The results of the census conducted in 1838, their centralization being completed by the end of may, 1840, were published two years later, in „Almanahul Statului” (partially), and in „Analele Parlamentare ale României” year 1842, also including the final report of Mihai Ghica.

We should know that the census of 1838 is not a singular activity. At the same time with such vast statistic investigations, in the first half of the 19th century the current statistic activities were consolidated.

For instance, relating to the natural population movement, in 1829, they institutionalized the civil status documents, by setting up some special registers wherein they registered the new-born and deceased, this recording activity being carried out , in the first stage, by government servants of the Ministry of Interior, supported by the church .

p style=”text-align: justify;”>Also, they diversified the agricultural statistic records, the many, boyar and monastery registers preserved so far allowing the reconstitution of a sufficiently exact rural landscape of that epoch, in respect of the number of villages, building, cultivated land and exploitation manner thereof, the agricultural production , number of animals/span> etc.

In the urbane area, less developed,but showing clear growing tendencies, the statistic recordings were used more and more.

For instance, a catagraphy carried out in 1811 by the Police Station [agie] of Bucharest showed there were 59 handicraft trades and commercial trades, carried out in the capital city by 2961 people who, distributed in four wealth categories, were obliged to pay taxes corresponding to their revenues.

At the same time, between 1828 and 1829, in Moldavia, they conducted a series of recordings concerning the existing roads and bridges,number of mills and their operation conditions, number of cattle, according to their use, for agricultural activities or food, etc.

They were concerned with health statistics as well,and drew up records concerning sick people and the deceased, the quarantine regim in the Danube ports, and also the number of health care personnel, chemist’s shops,druggist’s shops, medicines etc.