Does Reform Prevent Rebellion? Evidence from Russia's Emancipation of the Serfs
Comparative Political Studies, Forthcoming
52 Pages Posted: 29 May 2013 Last revised: 16 Nov 2014
Date Written: November 15, 2014
Contemporary models of political economy suggest that reforms intended to reduce grievances should curtail unrest, a perspective at odds with many traditional accounts of reform and rebellion. We explore the impact of reform on rebellion with a new dataset on peasant disturbances in nineteenth-century Russia. Using a difference-in-differences design that exploits the timing of various peasant reforms, we document a large increase in disturbances among former serfs following the Emancipation Reform of 1861, a development counter to reformers' intent. Our analysis suggests that this outcome was driven by peasants' disappointment with the reform's design and implementation — the consequence of elite capture in the context of a generally weak state — and heightened expectations of what could be achieved through coordinated action. Reform-related disturbances were most pronounced in provinces where commune organization facilitated collective action and where fertile soil provoked contestation over land.
Keywords: reform, rebellion, serfdom, political economy, contentious politics, global game
JEL Classification: D74, N00, P16, Q15
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation