Working papers

“The Political Economy of Famine: the Ukrainian Famine of 1933”, Revise and Resubmit at the Journal of Economic History

The 1933 Ukrainian famine killed as many as 2.6 million people out of a population of approximately 32 million. Three main explanations have been offered: bad weather, poor government policies, and genocide. This article documents that (1) available data do not support the bad weather explanation: weather in 1931 and 1932 predicts harvest roughly equal to the 1924–1929 average; back-of-the-envelope calculations show that weather explains up to 8.4% of excess deaths. (2) Poor government policies, in particular, collectivization of agriculture and the lack of favored industries, significantly contributed to the famine mortality; collectivization explains up to 52% of excess deaths. (3) There is some evidence that ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Germans were discriminated against: they are more likely to die even after controlling for exposure to poor policies, and ethnic Ukrainians were more exposed to policies that later led to the famine. The evidence of discrimination is not proof of genocide. To prove genocide, it has to be the case that Stalin had the foresight that his policies would fail and lead to famine years after they were introduced (and therefore disproportionately exposed Ukrainians to them).

“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 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

“The 1933 Soviet Famine” with Andrei Markevich, Nancy Qian, and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya

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