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

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  • Markevich, Andrei
  • Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina

Abstract

We document a very large increase in agricultural productivity, peasants’ living standards, and industrial development in the 19th century Imperial Russia as a result of the abolition of serfdom. We construct a novel province-level panel dataset of development outcomes and conduct a difference-in-differences analysis relying on cross-sectional variation in the shares of serfs and over-time variation in emancipation controlling for region-specific trends. We disentangle the effects of the emancipation and the subsequent land reform and show that land reform contributed negatively to agricultural productivity in contrast to a large positive effect of the emancipation. The evidence is consistent with the increase in the power of the peasant commune as the channel of the negative effect of the land reform. The different organizational forms of serfdom were associated with different levels of nutrition of serfs and productivity. The emancipation of serfs from estates where serfs were obliged to work on the landlord’s farm (corvee, barshchina) caused an increase in height of their children by 1.6 centimeters. Estates where serfs were required to make in kind payment to the landlord (quitrent, obrok) were equally productive, but, in contrast, their emancipation did not lead to rise in their height. Commitment to an implicit longer-term contract on the amount of serf obligations to landlords, practiced in some estates, made serfdom more productive.

Suggested Citation

  • Markevich, Andrei & Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina, 2015. "Economic Effects of the Abolition of Serfdom: Evidence from the Russian Empire," CEPR Discussion Papers 10398, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10398
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nathan Nunn, 2008. "The Long-term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 139-176.
    2. Markevich, Andrei & Harrison, Mark, 2011. "Great War, Civil War, and Recovery: Russia's National Income, 1913 to 1928," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 71(03), pages 672-703, September.
    3. Nathan Nunn & Leonard Wantchekon, 2011. "The Slave Trade and the Origins of Mistrust in Africa," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 3221-3252, December.
    4. Nafziger, Steven, 2010. "Peasant communes and factor markets in late nineteenth-century Russia," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 381-402, October.
    5. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    6. Paul Castaneda Dower & Andrei Markevich, 2013. "Land Tenure and Productivity in Agriculture: The Case of the Stolypin Reform in Late Imperial Russia," Working Papers w0202, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
    7. Dennison,Tracy, 2011. "The Institutional Framework of Russian Serfdom," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521194488, March.
    8. Acemoglu, Daron & García-Jimeno, Camilo & Robinson, James A., 2012. "Finding Eldorado: Slavery and long-run development in Colombia," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 534-564.
    9. Maddison, Angus, 2007. "Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199227204.
    10. Paul Castañeda Dower & Evgeny Finkel & Scott Gehlbach & Steven Nafziger, 2016. "Collective Action and Representation in Autocracies: Evidence from Russia's Great Reforms," Department of Economics Working Papers 2016-08, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    11. Eugenia Chernina & Paul Castaneda Dower & Andrei Markevich, 2010. "Property Rights and Internal Migration: The Case of the Stolypin Agrarian Reform in the Russian Empire," Working Papers w0147, Center for Economic and Financial Research (CEFIR).
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    Cited by:

    1. Gani Aldashev & Catherine Guirkinger, 2016. "Colonization and Changing Social Structure: Kazakhstan 1896-1910," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2016-10, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    2. Quamrul H. Ashraf & Francesco Cinnirella & Oded Galor & Boris Gershman & Erik Hornung, 2017. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and the Emergence of Labor Emancipation," CESifo Working Paper Series 6423, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. repec:eee:deveco:v:127:y:2017:i:c:p:413-430 is not listed on IDEAS
    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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    development; forced labor; Russian empire; serfdom;

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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