The Causes of Ukrainian Famine Mortality, 1932-33
We construct large, unique panel data to study the causes of Ukrainian famine mortality (Holodomor) during 1932-33 and document several new facts: i) Ukraine (the Soviet Union) produced enough food in 1932 to avoid famine in Ukraine (the Soviet Union); ii) mortality was increasing in the pre-famine ethnic Ukrainian population share and unrelated to food productivity across regions; iii) this pattern exists across the Soviet Union, even outside of Ukraine; iv) the pattern was similar at different administrative levels; v) migration restrictions exacerbated mortality; vi) actual and planned grain procurement were increasing, while actual and planned grain retention (production minus procurement) were decreasing in the ethnic Ukrainian population share across regions. Anti-Ukrainian bias in Soviet policy explains up to 92% of famine mortality in Ukraine and 77% in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus; approximately half of the total effect comes from bias in the centrally planned food procurement policy.
Previously circulated as “The Political-Economic Causes of the Soviet Great Famine, 1932–33.” We thank Daron Acemoglu, Maxim Ananyev, Volha Charnysh, Michael Ellman, Ruben Enikolopov, Jeff Frieden, Scott Gehlbach, Mikhail Golosov, Sergei Guriev, Mark Harrison, Oleg Khlevniuk, Alexey Makarin, Victor Malein, Joel Mokyr, Cormac O’Grada, Elias Papaioannou, Steven Nafziger, Maria Petrova, Sakari Saaritsa, Torsten Santavirta, Marco Tabellini, Chris Udry and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya for their insights; the participants of the Harvard/MIT Development Workshop, Harvard Political Economy Workshop, NYU Development Workshop, LSE STICERD Applied Workshop, Northwestern Economic History Workshop, USC Development Workshop, Fudan University SOE Applied Workshop, Trinity College Applied Economics Workshop, CERGEEI Applied Economics Workshop, EIEF Workshop, HECER (Helsinki Center of Economic Research) Labor and Public Economics seminar, Helsinki economic and social history seminar, Northwestern Economic History Lunch, Northwestern Development Lunch, George Mason Economic History Lunch, the NBER Political Economy Workshop, the Ridge Conference, the ASSA/AEA On the Role of and Culture and Community 2020 session, 2020 Summer Workshop in the Economic History and Historical Political Economy of Russia, Kiel/CEPR Conference on Geopolitics. For excellent research assistance, we thank Pavel Bacherikov, Nikita Karpov, Ivan Korolev, Sergio Lopez-Araiza Bejar, Kaman Lyu, Carlo Medici, Ludovica Mosillo. All mistakes are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Government policies motivated by ethnic bias can account for up to 92 percent of the deaths of ethnic Ukrainians living in Ukraine at...