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

See all articles by Evgeny Finkel

Evgeny Finkel

Johns Hopkins SAIS

Scott Gehlbach

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Tricia D. Olsen

University of Denver - Business Ethics & Legal Studies; University of Denver - Korbel School of International Studies

Date Written: November 15, 2014

Abstract

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

Finkel, Evgeny and Gehlbach, Scott and Olsen, Tricia D., Does Reform Prevent Rebellion? Evidence from Russia's Emancipation of the Serfs (November 15, 2014). Comparative Political Studies, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2271453 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2271453

Evgeny Finkel

Johns Hopkins SAIS ( email )

1740 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-1984
United States

Scott Gehlbach (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin-Madison ( email )

1050 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-263-2391 (Phone)

Tricia D. Olsen

University of Denver - Business Ethics & Legal Studies ( email )

2101 S. University Blvd.
Denver, CO 80208
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.triciaolsen.com

University of Denver - Korbel School of International Studies ( email )

Denver, CO 80208
United States

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