Excess Mortality in Russia in 1868–1912 and Its Historiographic Implications

Authors: Nefedov, Sergey; Ellman, Michael
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 20, Number 1 / March 2021

DOI: https://doi.org/10.30884/seh/2021.01.07

In late imperial Russia, peasants were placed in an extremely difficult situation. The terms of the 1861 Emancipation had left them short of land and highly indebted to the government. Their rate of population growth was extremely high, and as Russia entered the demographic transition, it increased even more. The government was intent on a policy of rapid industrialization, which was ultimately to be paid for by large grain exports. This already strained situation was further complicated by three additional factors. Both the changing level of international grain prices and the weather-induced fluctuations in grain yields were external factors capable of applying severe shocks to the peasantry, and little could be done to affect their impact. The third factor was the effectiveness of the tsarist administrative machinery for levying taxes on the peasants and providing them with relief (Wheatcroft 1991: 128).

Keywords: excess mortality, famine, epidemics, food consumption. 

Sergei Nefedov, Institute of History and Archeology Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Yekaterinburg more

Michael Ellman, Emeritus Professor University of Amsterdam more