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Dictators, Repression and the Median Citizen: An “Eliminations Model” of Stalin’s Terror (Data from the NKVD Archives)

Author

Listed:
  • Paul R. Gregory

    (University of Houston and Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

  • Philipp J.H. Schr oder

    (Aarhus School of Business, Denmark)

  • Konstantin Sonin

    () (CEFIR/NES)

Abstract

This paper sheds light on dictatorial behavior as exemplified by the mass terror campaigns of Stalin. Dictatorships – unlike democracies where politicians choose platforms in view of voter preferences – may attempt to trim their constituency and thus ensure regime survival via the large scale elimination of citizens. We formalize this idea in a simple model and use it to examine Stalin’s three large scale terror campaigns with data from the NKVD state archives that are accessible after more than 60 years of secrecy. Our model traces the stylized facts of Stalin’s terror and identifies parameters such as the ability to correctly identify regime enemies, the actual or perceived number of enemies in the population, and how secure the dictators power base is, as crucial for the patterns and scale of repression.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul R. Gregory & Philipp J.H. Schr oder & Konstantin Sonin, 2006. "Dictators, Repression and the Median Citizen: An “Eliminations Model” of Stalin’s Terror (Data from the NKVD Archives)," Working Papers w0091, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  • Handle: RePEc:cfr:cefirw:w0091
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "The Curley Effect," NBER Working Papers 8942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1999. "Political economics and macroeconomic policy," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 22, pages 1397-1482 Elsevier.
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    5. Jody Overland & Kenneth Simons & Michael Spagat, 2005. "Political instability and growth in dictatorships," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 125(3), pages 445-470, December.
    6. Edward L. Glaeser, 2005. "The Curley Effect: The Economics of Shaping the Electorate," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(1), pages 1-19, April.
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    8. Eugenia Belova & Paul Gregory, 2009. "Political economy of crime and punishment under Stalin," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 140(3), pages 463-478, September.
    9. Casey B. Mulligan & Ricard Gil & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2004. "Do Democracies Have Different Public Policies than Nondemocracies?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 51-74, Winter.
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    11. repec:cup:apsrev:v:84:y:1990:i:03:p:849-872_19 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Mark Harrison, 2016. "Fact and Fantasy in Soviet Records:The Documentation of Soviet Party and Secret Police Investigations as Historical Evidence," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 263, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    2. Miller, Marcus & Smith, Jennifer C., 2015. "In the shadow of the Gulag: Worker discipline under Stalin," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3), pages 531-548.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2015. "Political Economy in a Changing World," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 123(5), pages 1038-1086.
    4. Gehlbach, Scott & Keefer, Philip, 2011. "Investment without democracy: Ruling-party institutionalization and credible commitment in autocracies," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 123-139, June.
    5. Harrison, Mark, 2011. "Secrecy, Fear and Transaction Costs: The Business of Soviet Forced Labour in the Early Cold War," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 47, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    6. Xue, Melanie Meng & Koyama, Mark, 2018. "Autocratic Rule and Social Capital: Evidence from Imperial China," MPRA Paper 84249, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. repec:cge:wacage:2018 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Ferrero, Mario, 2013. "Extermination as a substitute for assimilation or deportation: an economic approach," POLIS Working Papers 174, Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice - POLIS.
    9. Dmitriy Vorobyev, 2010. "Growth of Electoral Fraud in Non-Democracies: The Role of Uncertainty," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp420, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.
    10. Yuri M. Zhukov, 2014. "Theory of Indiscriminate Violence," Working Paper 365551, Harvard University OpenScholar.
    11. Koyama, Mark & Xue, Melanie Meng, 2015. "The Literary Inquisition: The Persecution of Intellectuals and Human Capital Accumulation in China," MPRA Paper 62103, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Andrei Markevich, 2007. "The Dictator’s Dilemma: to Punish or to Assist? Plan Failures and Interventions under Stalin," Working Papers w0107, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Dictatorial systems; Stalinism; Soviet State and Party archives; NKVD; OPGU; Repression;

    JEL classification:

    • P00 - Economic Systems - - General - - - General
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy

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