In History's Shadow: Do Formal Institutions Leave a Cultural Legacy?

40 Pages Posted: 2 May 2013 Last revised: 12 Jun 2013

See all articles by Leonid V. Peisakhin

Leonid V. Peisakhin

Juan March Institute for Study and Research

Date Written: January 1, 2013


In this paper I make use of a natural experiment that divided a homogenous population of ethnic Ukrainians between Austrian and Russian empires in the late 18th century to demonstrate that historical legacies are not always a proxy for differences in factor endowments. I show that when otherwise identical communities are exposed to different institutions during the pivotal moment when group identity is being created, the behavior of affected communities starts to differ. Differences in behavior and attitudes between previously identical communities usually persist for a long time even when institutions that initially helped shape the change in primary identity have long disappeared. Data from a survey of 1,395 individuals in 195 settlements situated within 16 miles of the long defunct Austrian-Russian imperial border in western Ukraine demonstrate that despite numerous institutional and material perturbations the populations residing either side of the former imperial border are still very different today when it comes to political and economic behavior and attitudes. They vote for different parties, hold diverging views on both Ukraine’s past and its future and do not see eye to eye when it comes to the practice of collective farming or the rule of law. I advance a theoretical explanation to account for this puzzling variation and consider plausible alternatives.

Keywords: historical legacies, political identity, foreign policy preferences, voting behavior, culture, natural experiment, Ukraine

Suggested Citation

Peisakhin, Leonid V., In History's Shadow: Do Formal Institutions Leave a Cultural Legacy? (January 1, 2013). EPSA 2013 Annual General Conference Paper 286, Available at SSRN:

Leonid V. Peisakhin (Contact Author)

Juan March Institute for Study and Research ( email )

77 Castello Street
Madrid, E-28006

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