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

  • Gregory, Paul
  • Schrôder, Philipp
  • Sonin, Konstantin

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 dictator's power base is, as crucial for the patterns and scale of repression.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 6014.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6014
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  1. 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.
  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.
  3. Lazarev, Valery, 2007. "Political labor market, government policy, and stability of a non-democratic regime," MPRA Paper 2352, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-i-Martin & Ricard Gil, 2003. "Do Democracies Have Different Public Policies than Nondemocracies?," NBER Working Papers 10040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "The Curley Effect," NBER Working Papers 8942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Jody Overland & Kenneth L. Simons & Michael Spagat, 2000. "Political Instability and Growth in Dictatorships," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 354, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  7. Eugenia Belova & Paul Gregory, 2009. "Political economy of crime and punishment under Stalin," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 140(3), pages 463-478, September.
  8. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2006. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521855266.
  9. Wintrobe,Ronald, 2000. "The Political Economy of Dictatorship," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521794497.
  10. Valery Lazarev, 2005. "Economics of One-Party State: Promotion Incentives and Support for the Soviet Regime1," Comparative Economic Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 47(2), pages 346-363, June.
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