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The number of charged particles in barrier microdischarges that operate in Townsend regime (like ldquoramp dischargesrdquo that are widely used in plasma display panels) is relatively small, and the statistical fluctuations should be taken into account when considering the discharge development. The main processes that cause the fluctuations are studied, and a simple analytical model for their description is developed. The model clarifies the mechanism of the statistical instability of the barrier Townsend discharge. Analogy to a nonlinear oscillator driven by a random force is revealed. Results obtained from the model are checked against those from Monte Carlo simulations.