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Peasant communes and factor markets in late nineteenth-century Russia

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  • Nafziger, Steven

Abstract

The peasant land commune was the emblematic institutional feature of agrarian Russian society before the Revolution of 1917. Economic historians have long blamed the commune for restricting household behavior in ways that contributed to Russia's economic "backwardness" by the late 19th century. Drawing on new household-level data collected from archival sources in Moscow province, this article provides the first microeconomic analysis of local factor markets and household behavior within the institutional context of the Russian peasant commune. The empirical evidence indicates that peasant households did have substantial flexibility when it came to allocating their land and labor holdings. In response to mortality shocks or lags in the communal adjustment of land, households engaged in land rentals and off-farm labor market transactions to improve upon suboptimal factor endowments. Although these findings do not imply that the resulting allocation of resources was fully efficient, they do illustrate how peasants made rational factor market transactions in a seemingly inhospitable institutional environment.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 47 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (October)
Pages: 381-402

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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:47:y:2010:i:4:p:381-402

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830

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Keywords: Russia Communal institutions Factor markets;

References

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  1. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1993. "Credit Market Constraints, Consumption Smoothing, and the Accumulation of Durable Production Assets in Low-Income Countries: Investment in Bullocks in India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(2), pages 223-44, April.
  2. de Janvry, Alain & Fafchamps, Marcel & Sadoulet, Elisabeth, 1991. "Peasant Household Behaviour with Missing Markets: Some Paradoxes Explained," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(409), pages 1400-417, November.
  3. Borodkin, Leonid & Granville, Brigitte & Leonard, Carol Scott, 2008. "The rural/urban wage gap in the industrialisation of Russia, 1884–1910," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(01), pages 67-95, April.
  4. Deininger, Klaus & Jin, Songqing, 2005. "The potential of land rental markets in the process of economic development: Evidence from China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 241-270, October.
  5. Sarah Gavian & Marcel Fafchamps, 1996. "Land Tenure and Allocative Efficiency in Niger," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(2), pages 460-471.
  6. Christopher B. Barrett & Shane M. Sherlund & Akinwumi A. Adesina, 2008. "Shadow wages, allocative inefficiency, and labor supply in smallholder agriculture," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 38(1), pages 21-34, 01.
  7. Bardhan, Pranab & Udry, Christopher, 1999. "Development Microeconomics," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198773719, September.
  8. Loren Brandt & Dwayne Benjamin, 2002. "Property Rights, Labour Markets, and Efficiency in a Transition Economy: The Case of Rural China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 518, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  9. Nafziger, Steven, 2008. "Communal Institutions, Resource Allocation, and Russian Economic Development: 1861–1905," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 68(02), pages 570-575, June.
  10. Rudolph, Richard L., 1985. "Agricultural Structure and Proto-Industrialization in Russia: Economic Development With Unfree Labor," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 45(01), pages 47-69, March.
  11. Hourwich, Isaac Aaronovich, 1892. "The Economics of the Russian Village," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number hourwich1892.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Steven Nafziger & Peter H. Lindert, 2012. "Russian Inequality on the Eve of Revolution," NBER Working Papers 18383, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Tracy Dennison & Steven Nafziger, 2011. "Micro-Perspectives on Living Standards in Nineteenth-Century Russia," Department of Economics Working Papers 2011-07, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  3. Fenske, James, 2012. "Imachi Nkwu: Trade and the commons," MPRA Paper 36759, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Jörg Baten & Mikolaj Szoltysek, 2012. "The human capital of Central-Eastern and Eastern Europe in European perspective," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2012-002, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.

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