Proposal preview

LATE IMPERIAL AND EARLY SOVIET ECONOMIC HISTORY

Abstract: For the years leading to the Great War and the Russian Revolution as well as for the early years of the Soviet Regime, we have limited data with which to assess the living standards of the Russian population which, in turn, limits our understanding of certain key developments in the country’s history. This session discusses the current situation of the literature on living standards and what affected them.

Four papers that have been proposed for this session. The first two papers by Ekaterina Khaustova, Vadim Kufenko and Vincent Geloso (see paper #1 below) and by Ekaterina Khaustova and Robert Allen (see paper #2 below) will discuss living standards in Russia as far as 1937 (in the latter case) and the role of population pressures on wages (in the case of the former). The other two papers will discuss the role of certain key events on living standards. Natalia Rozinskaya (see paper #3 below) will discuss the role that civil wars played on living standards by comparing the Russian Civil War with the Spanish Civil War. In the paper, Rozinskaya also provides further evidence about Russian living standards. Finally, Gani Aldashev (see paper #4 below) will discuss the role of the 1917 revolution and effects of economic reforms in Central Asia in the 1920.

Expected Participants: Vadim Kufenko (University of Hohenheim), Vincent Geloso (Texas Tech University), Ekaterina Khaustova (Arizona State University), Natalia Rozinskaya (Moscow State University), Robert Allen (New York University at Abu Dhabi), Gani Aldashev (Université libre de Bruxelles),Zhudyzbek Abylkhozhin (National Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan)

Organizer(s)

  • Vincent Geloso Texas Tech University vincent.geloso@ttu.edu USA
  • Ekaterina Khaustova Arizona State University ekaterina.khaustova@asu.edu USA

Session members

  • Vincent Geloso, Texas Tech University
  • Ekaterina Khaustova, Arizona State University
  • Vadim Kufenko, University of Hohenheim
  • Robert Allen, NYU Abu Dhabi and University of Oxford
  • Natalia Rozinskaya, Moscow State University
  • Gani Aldashev, Université libre de Bruxelles
  • Zhudyzbek Abylkhozhin, National Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan

Discussant(s)

  • Paul Sharp University of Southern Denmark pauls@sam.sdu.dk
  • Gani Aldashev Université libre de Bruxelles kazhistory.project@gmail.com

Papers

Panel abstract

Abstract: For the years leading to the Great War and the Russian Revolution as well as for the early years of the Soviet Regime, we have limited data with which to assess the living standards of the Russian population which, in turn, limits our understanding of certain key developments in the country’s history. This session discusses the current situation of the literature on living standards and what affected them. Four papers have been proposed for this session. The first two papers by will discuss living standards in Russia as far as 1937 (in the latter case) and the role of population pressures on wages (in the case of the former). The other two papers will discuss the role of certain key events on living standards.

1st half

A late escape Malthusian pressures in late 19th century Moscow

Ekaterina Khaustova, Arizona State University, ekhaustova@mail.ru Vadim Kufenko, University of Hohenheim, vkufenko@gmail.com Vincent Geloso, Texas Tech University, vincent.geloso@ttu.edu

The map and the timeline of demographic transitions across the world as in Reher (2004) has provided insights about the time frames, during which different countries escaped the Malthusian trap. Yet, taking into account regional heterogeneity within countries, pinpointing the dissolution of the Malthusian effects may be problematic, especially in cases of frontier economies with different levels of regional development. Imperial Russia in the 19th century in this sense is an interesting candidate. Instead of considering Russia on aggregate, we focus on a particular region: the city of Moscow, one of the leading industrial regions at that time. Finding a positive or a preventive check as in Nicolini (2007) would be a sufficient evidence for existing of population pressures: for these purposes, we use newly collected data on monthly birth, death, marriage and infant mortality rates from 1871-1910 in Moscow city combined price and wage for 1824-1917 (Allen and Khaustova,...

The map and the timeline of demographic transitions across the world as in Reher (2004) has provided insights about the time frames, during which different countries escaped the Malthusian trap. Yet, taking into account regional heterogeneity within countries, pinpointing the dissolution of the Malthusian effects may be problematic, especially in cases of frontier economies with different levels of regional development. Imperial Russia in the 19th century in this sense is an interesting candidate. Instead of considering Russia on aggregate, we focus on a particular region: the city of Moscow, one of the leading industrial regions at that time. Finding a positive or a preventive check as in Nicolini (2007) would be a sufficient evidence for existing of population pressures: for these purposes, we use newly collected data on monthly birth, death, marriage and infant mortality rates from 1871-1910 in Moscow city combined price and wage for 1824-1917 (Allen and Khaustova, 2017). This allows us to capture on of the most interesting periods in the Russian history: the industrialization, which took place after the emancipation of labor. We appeal to the VAR framework involving growth rates of real wages of the unskilled workers, birth rates (or nuptiality, depending on specification) and death rates. We find no Malthusian effects for the whole period, but there were signs of effects in subperiod, namely the earliest (1871-1882), but they vanish rapidly indicating that in the late stages of industrialisation none of the Malthusian effects were found. The findings suggest that these effects existed just in the second decade after abolishment of serfdom in 1861, namely during 1871-1882, and vanished afterwards.

Did Russian workers gain from 1917? Russian wages and living standards, 1853-1937

Robert Allen, NYU Abu Dhabi and University of Oxford, bob.allen@nyu.edu Ekaterina Khaustova, Arizona State University, ekhaustova@mail.ru

The paper measures real wages in St Petersburg, Moscow, and Kursk between 1853 and 1937. The wages are those of building labourers, building craftsmen, and employees in cotton mills. Prices are measured in terms of subsistence baskets that approximate the World Bank poverty line. Attention is given to the problem of comparing living standards across climate zones, and a solution is suggested. Russian living standards grew very modestly between 1853 and 1913–much less than the growth in output per worker. Real wages in Russia jumped up by 50% to 100% between 1913 and 1928. When seen in a Russian perspective, this looks like a big advance; when seen internationally, it is much less. Real wages dropped to their pre-War level between 1928 and 1937, as the social surplus, which had been distributed to the working class and peasants after the 1917 Revolution, was mobilized for the industrialization drive.

The paper measures real wages in St Petersburg, Moscow, and Kursk between 1853 and 1937. The wages are those of building labourers, building craftsmen, and employees in cotton mills. Prices are measured in terms of subsistence baskets that approximate the World Bank poverty line. Attention is given to the problem of comparing living standards across climate zones, and a solution is suggested. Russian living standards grew very modestly between 1853 and 1913–much less than the growth in output per worker. Real wages in Russia jumped up by 50% to 100% between 1913 and 1928. When seen in a Russian perspective, this looks like a big advance; when seen internationally, it is much less. Real wages dropped to their pre-War level between 1928 and 1937, as the social surplus, which had been distributed to the working class and peasants after the 1917 Revolution, was mobilized for the industrialization drive.

The Social and Economic Causes of the Various Outcomes of the Russian and the Spanish Civil Wars

Natalia Rozinskaya, Moscow State University, rozinskaya@econ.msu.ru

The article examines the socio-economic causes of the outcome of the Spanish Civil War, which, as opposed to the Russian Civil War, resulted in the victory of the “Whites”. Choice of Spain as the object of comparison with Russia is justified not only by similarity of civil wars occurred in the two countries in XX century, but also by large number of common features in their history. Based on statistical data on the changes in economic well-being of different strata of Spanish and Russian population, the authors formulate the hypothesis according to which the increase of real incomes of Spaniards engaged in agriculture is “responsible” for their conservative political sympathies. As a result, contrary to situation in Russia, where peasantry did not support the Whites, in Spain the peasants’ position predetermined the outcome of the confrontation resulting in the victory of the Spanish analogue of the Whites.

The article examines the socio-economic causes of the outcome of the Spanish Civil War, which, as opposed to the Russian Civil War, resulted in the victory of the “Whites”. Choice of Spain as the object of comparison with Russia is justified not only by similarity of civil wars occurred in the two countries in XX century, but also by large number of common features in their history. Based on statistical data on the changes in economic well-being of different strata of Spanish and Russian population, the authors formulate the hypothesis according to which the increase of real incomes of Spaniards engaged in agriculture is “responsible” for their conservative political sympathies. As a result, contrary to situation in Russia, where peasantry did not support the Whites, in Spain the peasants’ position predetermined the outcome of the confrontation resulting in the victory of the Spanish analogue of the Whites.

The effectiveness of land reforms in traditional societies: Central Asia in the 1920s

Zhudyzbek Abylkhozhin National Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan and Gani Aldashev Université libre de Bruxelles,kazhistory.project@gmail.com

The key debate in the economic history of agriculture concerns the effectiveness of large-scale land reforms. Economic historians have documented examples of both successful and failed reforms. Successful cases are rare in the history of developing countries. Thus, the crucial question is: Which aspects of developing societies hamper the effectiveness of land reforms? In this paper, we focus on the role of traditional institutions of clan-based solidarity, and exploit the detailed micro-level data we collected from the Russian statistical expeditions in the early 20th-century Central Asia and the series of agricultural reforms implemented by the Soviet government during 1920s. First, we document the functioning of clan-based traditional institutions among nomadic pastoralists and sedentary Central Asian peasants, focusing in particular on the informal-insurance and redistributive role that clans played during the period under study. Second, we describe agrarian reforms of 1920s (land redistribution and confiscation of livestock from rich owners) and...

The key debate in the economic history of agriculture concerns the effectiveness of large-scale land reforms. Economic historians have documented examples of both successful and failed reforms. Successful cases are rare in the history of developing countries. Thus, the crucial question is: Which aspects of developing societies hamper the effectiveness of land reforms? In this paper, we focus on the role of traditional institutions of clan-based solidarity, and exploit the detailed micro-level data we collected from the Russian statistical expeditions in the early 20th-century Central Asia and the series of agricultural reforms implemented by the Soviet government during 1920s. First, we document the functioning of clan-based traditional institutions among nomadic pastoralists and sedentary Central Asian peasants, focusing in particular on the informal-insurance and redistributive role that clans played during the period under study. Second, we describe agrarian reforms of 1920s (land redistribution and confiscation of livestock from rich owners) and explore the Soviet government’s motivation behind them. In particular, we address the political goals of weakening the feudal structure that remained essentially intact in the aftermath of the 1917 Revolution. Next, we analyse the effect that the reforms had on the economic behaviour and outcomes of Central Asian pastoralists and peasants. Finally, we provide economic explanations for the reasons behind the failure of these reforms. The main reasons that we identify are two: (i) the trade-off faced by the poorer strata of the society between the low-return and low-risk traditional economic structure, and the higher-return new agricultural organization that involved substantial risks of failure; and (ii) the (unfulfilled) need for new coordination mechanisms and cooperation among members of society that were not linked through clan networks.

2nd half