The Political Legacy of Violence: The Long-Term Impact of Stalin’s Repression in Ukraine

Journal article

Schutte, Sebastian (2017) The Political Legacy of Violence: The Long-Term Impact of Stalin’s Repression in Ukraine, The Journal of Politics 79 (4): 1147–1161.

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Political scientists have long been interested in how indiscriminate violence affects the behavior of its victims, yet most research has focused on short-term military consequences rather than long-term political effects. We argue that large-scale violence can have an intergenerational impact on political preferences. Communities more exposed to indiscriminate violence in the past will—in the future—oppose political forces they associate with the perpetrators of that violence. We document evidence for this claim with archival data on Soviet state violence in western Ukraine, where Stalin’s security services suppressed a nationalist insurgency by deporting over 250,000 people to Siberia. Using two causal identification strategies, we show that communities subjected to a greater intensity of deportation in the 1940s are now significantly less likely to vote for “pro-Russian” parties. These findings show that indiscriminate violence systematically reduces long-term political support for the perpetrator.

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