Perhaps Decades to Wait for Clear to Accurately Estimate Ukraine War Deaths

Here is some historical information about how long it might take for the fog of war to lift to get more accurate estimates of deahs in the current War in Ukraine. It took until 1990-2006 to get better estimates for Russian deaths in World War 2. The Soviet Union had to fall for records to…
Perhaps Decades to Wait for Clear to Accurately Estimate Ukraine War Deaths

Here is some historical information about how long it might take for the fog of war to lift to get more accurate estimates of deahs in the current War in Ukraine. It took until 1990-2006 to get better estimates for Russian deaths in World War 2. The Soviet Union had to fall for records to become available. The Soviets did not have their first official population census until 1959. This was fourteen years after the end of the war.

Getting accurate information about Russian deaths in the current war in Ukraine may have to wait until one to three rulers after Putin is no longer alive.

There are two main methodological approaches to estimating war deaths:

1. Collate and record reports of war fatalities from a wide variety of sources.


2. Estimates derived from mortality surveys after the war is over.

However, it can be decades or never before what are believed to be better estimates can be made.

BMJ article says estimating using surveying (asking) people to see if they personally know about people killed in a war can be three times more than passive surveillance (governments, hospitals, morgues and journalists and other sources reporting deaths). Other articles then say the BMJ research is wrong and overestimates deaths, implying political agendas for higher or lower numbers.

I observe – Estimates seem to end up in a 30-300% range of what might be the “real” number. The deaths in WW2 seem to have settled into a 80-120% range and we don’t know where in the range the real number might be. A major upward revision to Russian deaths happened 50 years after end of the war with fall of Soviet Union and new data availability. This was a 50-100% increase from before the fall of the USSR.

The question of Russian deaths in WW2 was discussed in Rulers and Victims: The Russians in the Soviet Union By Geoffrey Hosking, Emeritus Professor of Russian History Geoffrey Hosking.

The question of how many soviet citizens who died during WW2 was taboo for a long time. It was not until the fall of the Soviet Union that better records became available.

British Medical Journal – Fifty years of violent war deaths from Vietnam to Bosnia: analysis of data from the world health survey programme (2008)

From 1955 to 2002, data from the surveys indicated an estimated 5.4 million violent war deaths (95% confidence interval 3.0 to 8.7 million) in 13 countries, ranging from 7000 in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 3.8 million in Vietnam. From 1995 to 2002 survey data indicate 36 000 war deaths annually (16 000 to 71 000) in the 13 countries studied. Data from passive surveillance, however, indicated a figure of only a third of this. On the basis of the relation between world health survey data and passive reports, we estimate 378 000 globalwar deaths annually from 1985-94, the last years for which complete passive surveillance data were available.

NOTE: This BMJ research is saying that complete accumulation of passive surveillance data for all wars in a given set of years can take 20 years to accumulate and verify. They are estimating surveying people to see if they personally know about people killed in a war can be three times more than passive surveillance (governments, hospitals, morgues and journalists and other sources reporting deaths).

Other research then disputes the higher estimates. Estimating War Deaths- Arena of Contestation.


There are claims implying a political agenda for higher or lower estimates of war deaths in particular wars.

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