Middleman Minorities and Ethnic Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms in the Russian Empire

Review of Economic Studies, Forthcoming

100 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2016 Last revised: 9 Dec 2018

See all articles by Irena Grosfeld

Irena Grosfeld

Paris School of Economics

Seyhun Orcan Sakalli

University of Lausanne

Ekaterina Zhuravskaya

Paris School of Economics (PSE)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 1, 2018

Abstract

Using detailed panel data from the Pale of Settlement area between 1800 and 1927, we document that anti-Jewish pogroms--mob violence against the Jewish minority--broke out when economic shocks coincided with political turmoil. When this happened, pogroms primarily occurred in places where Jews dominated middleman occupations, i.e., moneylending and grain trading. This evidence is inconsistent with the scapegoating hypothesis, according to which Jews were blamed for all misfortunes of the majority. Instead, the evidence is consistent with the politico-economic mechanism, in which Jewish middlemen served as providers of insurance against economic shocks to peasants and urban grain buyers in a relationship based on repeated interactions. When economic shocks occurred in times of political stability, rolling over or forgiving debts was an equilibrium outcome because both sides valued their future relationship. In contrast, during political turmoil, debtors could not commit to paying in the future, and consequently, moneylenders and grain traders had to demand immediate (re)payment. This led to ethnic violence, in which the break in the relationship between the majority and Jewish middlemen was the igniting factor.

Suggested Citation

Grosfeld, Irena and Sakalli, Seyhun Orcan and Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina, Middleman Minorities and Ethnic Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms in the Russian Empire (September 1, 2018). Review of Economic Studies, Forthcoming . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2797500 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2797500

Irena Grosfeld

Paris School of Economics ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014
France

Seyhun Orcan Sakalli

University of Lausanne ( email )

Quartier UNIL-Dorigny
B√Ętiment Internef Bureau 501.1
Lausanne, 1015
Switzerland

Ekaterina Zhuravskaya (Contact Author)

Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014
France

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