Natalya Naumenko

I am an assistant professor of economics at George Mason University. My research concentrates in the fields of Economic History and Political Economy with the regional focus on Russia and the former Soviet Union. I received a PhD in economics in 2018 from Northwestern University and spent a year as a postdoc at the Political Theory Project at Brown University.

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The Political Economy of Famine: the Ukrainian Famine of 1933, forthcoming at the Journal of Economic History (SSRN)

The 1933 Ukrainian famine killed as many as 2.6 million people out of a population of 32 million. Historians offer three main explanations: weather, economic policies, genocide. This paper documents that (1) available data do not support weather as the main explanation: 1931 and 1932 weather predicts harvest roughly equal to the 1924–1929 average; weather explains up to 8.1% of excess deaths. (2) Policies (collectivization of agriculture and the lack of favored industries) significantly increased famine mortality; collectivization explains up to 52% of excess deaths. (3) There is some evidence that ethnic Ukrainians and Germans were discriminated against.

Working papers

The Soviet Great Famine, 1932–33, with Andrei Markevich and Nancy Qian (PDF)

This paper investigates the causes of the Soviet Great Famine, 1932–33, and documents several new empirical facts. First, excess mortality was much higher in regions with a higher share of ethnic Ukrainians, even outside of the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. Second, this cannot be explained by differences in natural conditions, grain productivity, demographic structure or urbanization. Third, in regions with a higher share of ethnic Ukrainians, Soviet economic policies were implemented more zealously, which resulted in higher food procurement and famine mortality. Fourth, there is suggestive evidence that mortality was exacerbated by the presence of non-ethnic Ukrainian Communist Party bureaucrats. These and other results in the paper provide novel evidence for the presence of ethnic bias in famine-era Soviet policies and the contribution of ethnic bias to famine mortality.

Economic Consequences of the 1933 Soviet Famine

Using recently discovered archival data, this article studies the impact of the 1933 Soviet famine on population and urbanization patterns. It documents that, although most of the direct victims lived in rural areas, the famine had a persistent negative impact on the urban population. In fact, the rural population gradually recovered while urban settlements in more affected areas became permanently smaller. The paper argues that the shortage of labor during the crucial years of rapid industrialization hindered the development of cities in the areas struck by the famine. Thus, the timing of the shock to population appears to be an important factor. While established urban networks tend to recover from large temporary negative shocks, the lack of people during construction and rapid growth might have a permanent negative impact.

Work in progress

Unintended Long-Term Consequences of Industrial Nuclear Explosions in the USSR, with Alexey Makarin

Image: Prokudin-Gorskiĭ, Sergeĭ Mikhaĭlovich, photographer. Na zhnitvi︠e︡. Rossiĭskai︠a︡ imperii︠a︡. Baltic Waterway Russian Federation Volga, 1909. Photograph.