The Economic Effects of the Abolition of Serfdom: Evidence from the Russian Empire

124 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2014 Last revised: 11 Nov 2017

See all articles by Andrei Markevich

Andrei Markevich

New Economic School

Ekaterina Zhuravskaya

Paris School of Economics (PSE)

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Date Written: January 27, 2017


We document substantial increases in agricultural productivity, industrial output and peasants’ nutrition in Imperial Russia as a result of the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Before the emancipation, provinces, where serfs constituted the majority of agricultural laborers, lagged behind provinces that primarily relied on free labor. The emancipation led to a significant but partial catch up. Better incentives of peasants resulting from the cessation of ratchet effect were a likely mechanism behind a relatively fast positive effect of reform on agricultural productivity. The land reform, which instituted communal land tenure after the emancipation, diminished growth in productivity in repartition communes.

Keywords: serfdom, emancipation, economic development, Russia

JEL Classification: N13, N53, O1

Suggested Citation

Markevich, Andrei and Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina V., The Economic Effects of the Abolition of Serfdom: Evidence from the Russian Empire (January 27, 2017). American Economic Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

Andrei Markevich (Contact Author)

New Economic School ( email )

100 Novaya Street
Moscow, 143025
+79629851892 (Phone)
+74991293722 (Fax)


Ekaterina V. Zhuravskaya

Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014

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