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The Economic Effects of the Abolition of Serfdom: Evidence from the Russian Empire

Author

Listed:
  • Andrei Markevich

    () (New Economic School)

  • Ekaterina Zhuravskaya

    () (Paris School of Economics (EHESS))

Abstract

We document very large increases in agricultural productivity, peasants’ living standards, and industrial development in Imperial Russia as a result of the abolition of serfdom in 1861. A counterfactual exercise suggests that if serfs were freed in 1820, by 1913 Russia would have been about 50% richer compared to what it actually was. We construct a novel province-level panel dataset of development outcomes and conduct a difference-in-differences analysis of the effects of the abolition of serfdom, relying on cross-sectional variation in the shares of serfs and the timing of the different stages of reform, controlling for unobserved variation across provinces and over time and province-specific trends. We disentangle the two stages of the abolition of serfdom: the emancipation of serfs and land reform, and find that, in contrast to a large positive effect of emancipation, land reform negatively affected agricultural productivity. We provide evidence that better incentives resulting from the cessation of the ratchet effect in the landlordpeasant relationship is a likely mechanism behind the positive effect of emancipation, and the increase in the power of the re-partition peasant commune is a mechanism behind the negative effect of the land reform.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrei Markevich & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2017. "The Economic Effects of the Abolition of Serfdom: Evidence from the Russian Empire," Working Papers w0237, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
  • Handle: RePEc:cfr:cefirw:w0237
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:deveco:v:135:y:2018:i:c:p:504-516 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Vicente Pinilla, 2018. "Agriocliometrics and Agricultural Change in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries," Documentos de Trabajo (DT-AEHE) 1803, Asociacion Espa–ola de Historia Economica.
    3. Peter Sandholt Jensen & Cristina Victoria Radu & Battista Severgnini & Paul Sharp, 2018. "The introduction of serfdom and labour markets," Working Papers 0140, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    4. Grosfeld, Irena & Sakalli, Seyhun Orcan & Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina, 2017. "Middleman Minorities and Ethnic Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms in the Russian Empire," CEPR Discussion Papers 12154, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. repec:kap:copoec:v:30:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s10602-019-09273-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Buggle, Johannes C. & Nafziger, Steven, 2018. "The slow road from serfdom : Labor coercion and long-run development in the former Russian Empire," BOFIT Discussion Papers 22/2018, Bank of Finland, Institute for Economies in Transition.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J47 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Coercive Labor Markets
    • N13 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • Q11 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Aggregate Supply and Demand Analysis; Prices

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