Stalin and the Origins of Mistrust

14 March, 2022

We are happy to share the news that Milena Nikolova, Olga Popova, and Vladimir Otrashenko had their paper entitled "Stalin and the origins of mistrust" published in the Journal of Public Economics. They examine current differences in trust levels within former Soviet Union countries and trace their origins back to the system of forced labor during Stalin.

"It appears that Stalin's terror created a wide-ranging change in social norms, including gender and trust norms, which persisted for over half a century. Our work complements the extant literature by showing that the gulag sites are a potent reminder of the horrors of totalitarian repression to persecuted victims and their relatives. This active reminder of repression erodes the civic norms and values and the quality of the social fabric in these gulag localities.

In short, the social and behavioral norms that emerged due to Stalin's terror persist in the former Soviet countries' repressed communities. The lesson from history is that past political repression can have long-lasting negative consequences in terms of eroding trust and civic engagement."

Read the paper here. Summary published by Brookings Institution Blog.