Democratic Support for the Bolshevik Revolution: An Empirical Investigation of 1917 Constituent Assembly Elections
60 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2017 Last revised: 15 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 10, 2020
We analyse the stability of democracy in agrarian societies by exploring cross-district variation in Russian citizens’ preferences in 1917 Constituent Assembly elections. After plurality eluded the Bolsheviks, they introduced a dictatorship of the proletariat, which they claimed was necessary until the industrial worker became the median voter. We find that i) proletarians voted pro-Bolshevik; ii) citizens rewarded Bolsheviks for redistributive policies that were antagonistic to the Bolsheviks’ long-run development program but were strategically chosen to bolster peasant support; iii) surprisingly, these same policies fuelled proletariat support. The Bolshevik promise of democracy after industrialisation thus already lacked credibility in 1917.
Keywords: Revolution, Regime change, Popular support, Elections, Communism, Russia
JEL Classification: D72, H7, N44, P26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation