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Russian Serfdom, Emancipation, and Land Inequality: New Evidence

Steven Nafziger ()

No 2013-14, Department of Economics Working Papers from Department of Economics, Williams College

Abstract: Serfdom is often viewed as a major institutional constraint on the economic development of Tsarist Russia, one that persisted well after emancipation occurred in 1861 through the ways that property rights were transferred to the peasantry. However, scholars have generally asserted this causal relationship with few facts in hand. This paper introduces a variety of newly collected data, covering European Russia at the district (uezd) level, to describe serfdom, emancipation, and the subsequent evolution of land holdings among the rural population into the 20th century. A series of simple empirical exercises describes several important ways that the institution of serfdom varied across European Russia; outlines how the emancipation reforms differentially affected the minority of privately owned serfs relative to the majority of other types of peasants; and connects these differences to long-run variation in land ownership, obligations, and inequality. The evidence explored in this paper constitutes the groundwork for considering the possible channels linking the demise of serfdom to Russia's slow pace of economic growth prior to the Bolshevik Revolution.

Keywords: Russia; economic history; serfdom; inequality; land reform; institutions (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N33 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 58 pages
Date: 2013-05
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cis, nep-cwa and nep-his
Note: This long descriptive paper is part of an even larger project - "Serfdom, Emancipation, and Economic Development in Tsarist Russia" - that is very much a work in progress. As such, some obvious extensions are left out. I apologize for any inconsistencies that remain.
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