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European Statistics, Russian Numbers, and Social Dynamics, 1861–1914

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 May 2017


Recent analyses of the economic impact of the abolition of serfdom mark a major return to quantitative approaches in the economic and social history of Russia. Tracy Dennison, Steven Nafziger, and Ekaterina Zhuravskaya, among others, make wide use of data produced by the zemstvo (provincial elected assembly), the Central Statistics Committee (TsSK), the Ministry of Agriculture, and local governors. These figures are particularly crucial with regard to the debate over the impact of the abolition of serfdom and the economic dynamics of tsarist Russia between 1861 and 1914. Indeed, the authors are too quick to consider the data reliable and only concerned about which statistical method should be used. Markevich and Zhuravskaya claim outright: “Historians agree that the quality of the late imperial statistics and governor reports is rather high.” Nafziger makes a similar statement regarding zemstvo statistics, which he declares are fully reliable sources. Dennison and Nafziger add: “Zemstvo publications offer a unique window into rural economic conditions in the post-1861 period, but western scholars have only begun to explore them. We consider these household surveys, other zemstvo publications, research by central government and provincial statistical authorities (including the 1897 census), and various secondary sources to develop some “stylized facts” about rural living standards in Iaroslavl' and Vladimir provinces in the post-1861 period.”

Critical Forum on Statistics
Copyright © Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies 2017 

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