Contemporary Southeastern Europe
Census, Identity, and the Politics of Numbers: the Case of Macedonia
A census is a statistical procedure which can provide detailed information on demographic characteristics including the fluidity (or stability) of identities with which a population identifies in a given period of time. A census also represents a political process which can play an essential role in ethnic politics, especially when power is distributed on the basis of numbers. As such, censuses often have results that are contested, and the case of Macedonia is no exception. This article provides an overview of the census taking processes in the years following Macedonia’s independence in 1991, the dynamics and the challenges of the process itself and implementation of the results, and potential implications for the creation of identities. The author shows how census politics in Macedonia has been used as a political tool both in inter- and intra-ethnic relations, presenting ethnic political elites as true defenders of the interests of their respective communities. Moreover, it shows how the census taking process has generated tensions, fear, lack of trust, and reification of ethnic demographics. The author demonstrates that there is a lack of political will on the part of policymakers to move forward in conducting a new census and creating relevant policies that will enhance the lives of individuals.