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

Listed author(s):
  • Grosfeld, Irena
  • Sakalli, Seyhun Orcan
  • Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina
Registered author(s):

    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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    Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 12154.

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    Date of creation: Jul 2017
    Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:12154
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    1. Quamrul Ashraf & Stelios Michalopoulos, 2015. "Climatic Fluctuations and the Diffusion of Agriculture," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(3), pages 589-609, July.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Tarek A. Hassan & James A. Robinson, 2011. "Social Structure and Development: A Legacy of the Holocaust in Russia," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 895-946.
    3. Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel & Mutlu Yuksel, 2015. "The Long-Term Direct and External Effects of Jewish Expulsions in Nazi Germany," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 58-85, August.
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    6. Anirban Mitra & Debraj Ray, 2014. "Implications of an Economic Theory of Conflict: Hindu-Muslim Violence in India," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(4), pages 719-765.
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    8. Luigi Pascali, 2016. "Banks and Development: Jewish Communities in the Italian Renaissance and Current Economic Performance," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 98(1), pages 140-158, March.
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    10. Remi Jedwab & Mark Koyama & Noel Johnson, "undated". "Negative Shocks and Mass Persecutions: Evidence from the Black Death," Working Papers 2017-4, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.
    11. Irena Grosfeld & Alexander Rodnyansky & Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, 2013. "Persistent Antimarket Culture: A Legacy of the Pale of Settlement after the Holocaust," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(3), pages 189-226, August.
    12. Conley, T. G., 1999. "GMM estimation with cross sectional dependence," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 1-45, September.
    13. 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).
    14. Cemal Eren Arbatli & Gunes Gokmen, 2016. "Minorities, Human Capital and Long-Run Development: Persistence of Armenian and Greek Influence in Turkey," CESifo Working Paper Series 6268, CESifo Group Munich.
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