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Middleman Minorities and Ethnic Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms in the Russian Empire

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  • Grosfeld, Irena
  • Sakalli, Seyhun Orcan
  • Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina

Abstract

We present evidence to reconcile two seemingly contradictory observations: on the one hand, minorities often choose middleman occupations, such as traders and moneylenders, to avoid competition with the majority and, as a consequence, avoid conflict; on the other hand, middleman minorities do become the primary target of persecution. Using panel data on anti-Jewish pogroms in Eastern Europe between 1800 and 1927, we document that ethnic violence broke out when crop failures coincided with political turmoil. Crop failures without political turmoil did not cause pogroms. At the intersection of economic and political shocks, pogroms occurred in places where Jews dominated moneylending and trade in grain. This evidence is consistent with the following mechanism. When political situation was stable, negative economic shocks did not instigate pogroms because the majority valued future services of Jewish middlemen. In contrast, in times of a sharp increase in political uncertainty, Jewish middlemen became the primary target of mob violence following an economic shock as the value of their future services fell. Peasants organized pogroms when they could not repay loans to Jewish creditors and buyers of grain turned against Jews blaming Jewish traders for an increase in grain prices.

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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12154
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    1. Sascha O. Becker & Luigi Pascali, 2019. "Religion, Division of Labor, and Conflict: Anti-semitism in Germany over 600 Years," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(5), pages 1764-1804, May.
    2. Maryam Barzegar Marvasti & Somayeh Razzaghi, 2020. "Investigating the Determinants of Financial Development in OPEC Countries: An Application of Bayesian Model Averaging Approach," International Journal of Energy Economics and Policy, Econjournals, vol. 10(1), pages 342-352.
    3. Guardado, Jenny, 2018. "Land tenure, price shocks, and insurgency: Evidence from Peru and Colombia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 256-269.
    4. Raphael Franck & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2017. "Emigration during the French Revolution: Consequences in the Short and Longue Durée," Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute Working Papers 2, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, revised 26 Sep 2017.
    5. Francesco D’Acunto & Marcel Prokopczuk & Michael Weber, 2019. "Historical Antisemitism, Ethnic Specialization, and Financial Development," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(3), pages 1170-1206.
    6. Belmonte, Alessandro & Di Lillo, Armando, 2018. "From Italianization to Germanization : Division of Labor, Economic Rents, and Anti-German Attitudes in South Tyrol," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 379, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).

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