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

103 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2017 Last revised: 5 Nov 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: July 2017

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 demanded 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.

Keywords: Climate Shocks, conflict, Ethno-occupational segregation, Jews, Middleman minorities, Pogroms, Political uncertainty

JEL Classification: J15, N33, N43, Z12, Z13

Suggested Citation

Grosfeld, Irena and Sakalli, Seyhun Orcan and Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina, Middleman Minorities and Ethnic Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms in the Russian Empire (July 2017). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP12154. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3008335

Irena Grosfeld (Contact Author)

Paris School of Economics ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014
France

Seyhun Orcan Sakalli

University of Lausanne ( email )

BFSH1
Lausanne, 1015
Switzerland

Ekaterina Zhuravskaya

Paris School of Economics (PSE) ( email )

48 Boulevard Jourdan
Paris, 75014 75014
France

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