Discussion paper

DP9371 Persistent effects of empires: Evidence from the partitions of Poland

We use spatial regression discontinuity analysis to test whether the historical partition of Poland among three empires?Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Prussia?has a persistent effect on political outcomes in contemporary Poland and to examine the channels of this influence. We find that the main difference in voting across Polish territories attributed by many observers to the legacy of empires is driven by omitted variables. However, empires do have a significant causal effect. The lands that belonged to Prussia (compared with those that belonged to Russia) vote more for anticommunist (post-Solidarity) parties. This difference is largely explained by the persistent effect of infrastructure built by Prussians at the time of industrialization. The former Austrian lands (compared with former Russian lands) votes more for religious conservatives and for liberals. The difference in the vote for religious conservatives is explained by persistent differences in church attendance driven by vastly different policies of the two empires toward the Catholic Church. Higher support for liberals on the Austrian side is partly explained by a persistent belief in democracy, which is a legacy of decentralized democratic governance of the Austrian empire.


Grosfeld, I and E Zhuravskaya (2013), ‘DP9371 Persistent effects of empires: Evidence from the partitions of Poland‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 9371. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp9371