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The Centenarian Question: Old-Age Mortality in the Soviet Union, 1897 to 1970

Lea Keil Garson
Population Studies
Vol. 45, No. 2 (Jul., 1991), pp. 265-278
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2174783
Page Count: 14
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The Centenarian Question: Old-Age Mortality in the Soviet Union, 1897 to 1970
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Abstract

There is a long history of claims of extraordinary longevity among the populations of the Soviet Union, and the Russian Empire before it, especially in the Caucasus region. Exceptionally high proportions of centenarians have been reported in the censuses, and much publicity has accompanied the announcements of `super-centenarians' living well beyond 150 years. The major question regarding this phenomenon of supposed extraordinary longevity is whether the claims are, indeed, true or, rather, the result of age exaggeration. This paper examines the available Russian and Soviet census and mortality data from 1897 to 1970 in order to assess Soviet claims of extraordinary numbers of centenarians. A detailed analysis of age overstatement in the census data and death registration statistics shows that the long history of longevity claims goes hand in hand with a long history of age overstatement. The extraordinary longevity observed in the Soviet Union is in all likelihood the result of that age overstatement.

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