All throughout the existence of the USSR, there was always the claim that the number of USSR citizens who died in WWII was 20 million.

Lately, I am seeing a persistent claim that that number was 27 million. That's quite a difference. And it's never presented as an estimate. People bring this number up with decimal-point precision when discussing WWII.

I am NOT, NOT, NOT, NOT asking if the claim is true.

I am curious what is the origin of this "27.x million" claim. What is the FIRST source for it. Was it some scholarly revision which did the 1st work and gained traction?

I am sure people can point to a lot of supporting sources which confirm it, but that's not what I am asking. I am asking about what is the 1st source for it.

  • 3
    What research have you done so far, and/or are the references in the Wikipedia article insufficient?
    – shoover
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 1:17
  • 3
    From the link provided by @shoover : "During the period of Glasnost, the official figure of 20 million war dead was challenged by Soviet scholars. In 1988–1989, estimates of 26 to 28 million total war dead appeared in the Soviet press." Also, one scholar "acknowledged that the components used to compute losses are uncertain and disputed." The article also has a chronological table of casualty estimates by scholars, starting in 1988. Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 1:38
  • I guess the 20 million is the simple figure, which happens to be rounded down.
    – James
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 7:51
  • 20 million came from Khrushchev, though that was corrected later by Brezhnev who admitted to 25 million. 26-28 million were officially presented in 1993 - encyclopedia.mil.ru/encyclopedia/history/… Though in 2021 Russian Duma published documents suggesting that number is closer to 42 million. I still think it's not all of it, but I think it's the best we'll get.
    – AcePL
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 8:05
  • This may sound like channelling Stalin but: if you look at the WP page already cited (also in other languages, like ru?), you see that the estimates vary widely (between 7–50 million!), and do so repeatedly going up & down. So, why focus on 'exactly' "27"? What difference does that make? That's asking for an illusion of precision, as we see Timashev/'48 or Eason/'59 with already estimating >25 mill, but 25–27 gaining more traction after 85/91 for other scholars. (Cambridge Hist of Russia: "25"±1!) Looks like the most useful answer might be a thorough frame challenge? Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 10:15