DP10398 Economic Effects of the Abolition of Serfdom: Evidence from the Russian Empire

Author(s): Andrei Markevich, Ekaterina Zhuravskaya
Publication Date: February 2015
Date Revised: November 2018
Keyword(s): development, forced labor, Russian empire, serfdom
JEL(s): J3, N33, P4
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=10398

We document substantial increases in agricultural productivity, industrial output and peasants? nutrition in Imperial Russia as a result of the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Before the emancipation, provinces where serfs constituted the majority of agricultural laborers lagged behind provinces that primarily relied on free labor. The emancipation led to a significant but partial catch up. Better incentives of peasants resulting from the cessation of ratchet effect were a likely mechanism behind a relatively fast positive effect of reform on agricultural productivity. The land reform, which instituted communal land tenure after the emancipation, diminished growth in productivity in repartition communes.