The population of Tartu’s Supilinn in the light of the 1897 census Tartu Supilinna elanikkond 1897. aasta rahvaloenduse valguses

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Margus Maiste
Veiko Berendsen


This article is based on the book, Esimene ülevenemaaline rahvaloendus Tartus 28.jaanuaril 1897*, published at the beginning of 2000, together with Veiko Berendsen, M.A. The source material for the book was provided by the copies of the Tartu census sheets from the 1897 All-Russian census. We are indebted primarily to Bernhard Körber, Professor of Public Health at the University of Tartu, for the existence of these materials.  

The book did not strive for anything more than to present unused information to the public and to put it at the disposal of researchers. The historical background included in the book was intended only to help explain the information and to reveal the “context.” Therefore, this article also should be interpreted only within the framework of the given census and its source, which means that this may not correspond to the information found in other documents from the same period. 

For various reasons, including the volume of the article, only those census indicators that should most clearly describe the population of Supilinn in the late 19th century are included, such as population, population structure based on gender, age and ethnicity, familial structure, as well as spheres of activity and sources of income.

At the end of the 19th century, Supilinn was unexpectedly diverse. On the one hand, based on purely quantitative indicators, it could be characterised as a typical working class neighbourhood, the function of which was to provide services for the “richer” districts.

At the same time, from the qualitative aspect, it was ethnically, socially and economically considerably more colourful, and influenced to a great degree by multi-directional factors, foremost, of course, by the university (students!), but also the development of the Catholic community on Jakob Hill.  

And finally – there is no doubt that long before the census was organised, a community had developed, whose main activities and other forms of everyday life were essentially limited to Supilinn and who ensured the sustainability of the settlement.

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