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Research Seminar on Diversity Timur Natkhov "All Along the Watchtower: Defense Lines and the Origins of Russian Serfdom"

12+
*recommended age
Event ended

HSE International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development (ICSID) and NES Center for the Study of Diversity and Social Interactions are pleased to announce their next joint Research Seminar on Diversity and Development.The event is held jointly with the seminar “Political Economy”.

Timur Natkhov, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Economic Sciences, Senior Research Fellow in the Center for Institutional Studies NRU HSE, will present his paper "All Along the Watchtower: Defense Lines and the Origins of Russian Serfdom" (co-authored by Andrea Matranga, Chapman University).

The seminar will take place in the HSE building at 11 Pokrovsky blvd., room S1013, at 5.00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24, 2019.

Working language of the seminar is English.

We would like to ask everyone who requires an HSE pass to send an e-mail to Vladislav Gorbov vlad.hamp@gmail.com (stating your name, surname, your affiliation and contact e-mail address) until 10 a.m., September 23.

Abstract: Why did Russian state introduced serfdom for its previously free peasants, at the time when Western Europe was undergoing the opposite direction? In this paper we empirically test two prominent theories of Russian serfdom - Domar's (1970), who argued that low population density was the primary reason for serfdom, and Hellie's (1971), who stressed the role of military class, arguing that serfdom ensured stable supply of the army to compensate for the low fiscal capacity of the state. To discriminate between the theories we employ, for the very first time, unique data on the structure and spatial distribution of the Russian population in late 17-th century. We show that the highest proportion of serfs in 1678 was on the Tula fortification line (Tul’skaya zasechnaya cherta), which was the first in a sequence of defense lines built to protect the southern frontier against the nomad raids. The location of other types of peasants (free, church, state) was not associated with the defense line. To deal with possible endogeneity, we deploy spatial methods and terrain data to calculate optimal invasion routes for nomads, and optimal location of the defense line to block the raids. Using it as an instrument for the actual defense line we confirm our OLS estimations. We also test statistically the mechanism of the enserfment - small land plots along the southern frontier were granted by the government to high ranked solders in exchange for military service. Using data on Russian landowning elites of the late 17-th century we show that small estates (up to 5 peasant households, which is sufficient to support one solder and his family) were disproportionately concentrated in regions on the Tula defense line. Overall, the data do not support Domar's predictions, but favor, with some modifications, Hellie's insight about the origins of Russian serfdom

We look forward to seeing you!

Kind regards,
ICSID and NES CSDSI