Economic Fluctuations and Their Drivers in Russia

  • Sergey V. SmirnovEmail author
Part of the Societies and Political Orders in Transition book series (SOCPOT)


In many respects, the historical trajectory of the Russian economy during the twentieth century has been a terra incognita until now. As for the official statistics, there are at least three important reasons for this. First, many relevant indicators were either not measured or were kept secret and never published. Second, Russia (as the RSFSR) was a part of the USSR, and statistics for the RSFSR was much less prevalent than for the USSR as a whole (historical changes of the Russian borders also require special consideration). Third, an ideological dogma existed about the absence of inflation in the planned Soviet economy; therefore, all deflators (if any) were underestimated, and all aggregates in constant and/or comparable prices were overestimated (as were the corresponding growth rates). As for the unofficial historical estimates, most of them were focused on the USSR, not on the RSFSR. It’s very risky to use them as a proxy for historical indicators of the Russian Federation.

Hence, our first aim was to construct a statistical time-series that might be useful to describe the long-run trajectory of the Russian (the RSFSR and/or the RF) economy. Using previously unpublished data stored in Russian archives, we tried to extend them back as far as possible; in fact, most of them began in the late 1920s.

Our second aim was to denote periods of growth and contraction in the Russian economy and to reveal the economic factors that caused changes in trajectory. Periods of contractions during the era of the planned economy were of special interest for us. We found that recessions had occurred, not only in the market but also in the planned Russian economy (of course, with a significant remark that contractions in the planned economy were much rarer but evidently more destructive).


  1. Akindinova N, Chernyavskiy A, Kondrashov N, Yakovlev A (2017) Political response to the crisis: the case of Russia. In: Havlik P, Iwasaki I (eds) Economics of European crises and emerging markets. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp 239–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alekseev AV (1994) Alternative estimates of Russian economic growth. ECO no 11, pp 94–108 (in Russian) [Алексеев АВ (1994) Альтернативные оценки российского экономического роста. ЭКО. No. 11, C 94–108]Google Scholar
  3. Alekseev AV, Kiselyov AV, Kuznetsova NN (1996) Long-run tendencies in Russian economic growth. ECO no 1, pp 108–126 (in Russian) [Алексеев АВ, Киселев АВ, Кузнецова НН (1996) Долгосрочные тенденции российского экономического роста. ЭКО. No. 1, C 108–126]Google Scholar
  4. Åslund A (2013) How capitalism was built: the transformation of Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Balashov A, Martianova Y (2015) Re-industrialization of the Russian economy and the development of military-industrial complex. Voprosy Ekonomiki 9:31–44 [Балашов А, Мартьянова Я (2015) Реиндустриализация российской экономики и развитие оборонно-промышленного комплекса. Вопросы экономики 9:31–44]Google Scholar
  6. Baranov EF, Bessonov VA (1999) Indexes of industrial production (Jan 1990–Dec 1998). Promyshlennost Rossii 3:4–12 (in Russian) [Баранов ЭФ, Бессонов ВА (1999) Индексы интенсивности промышленного производства (январь 1990 г. — декабрь 1998 г.). Промышленность России 3:4–12]Google Scholar
  7. Bergson A (1961) The real national income of Soviet Russia since 1928. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  8. Bokarev YP (2006) Growth rates of industrial output in Russia from the late XIX to the early XX century. Econ J 1:158–190 (in Russian) [Бокарев ЮП (2006) Темпы роста промышленного производства в России в конце XIX–начале XX в. Экономический журнал 1:158–190]Google Scholar
  9. BP (2017) Statistical review of world energy – underpinning data, 1965–2016.
  10. Burns AF, Mitchell WC (1946) Measuring business cycles. NBERGoogle Scholar
  11. ClA (1963) Index of civilian industrial production in the USSR, 1950–1961. CIA RR ER 63–29. US GPO, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  12. CIA (1971) Indexes of Soviet industrial production, 1950–70. CIA intelligence report RR IR 71–11. US GPO, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  13. CIA (1990) Measuring Soviet GNP: problems and solutions. A conference report, vol 3. US GPO, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  14. Davies RW (1996) Crisis and progress in the Soviet economy, 1931–1933. Palgrave School, HoundmillsCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davies RW, Wheatcroft SG (2009) The years of hunger: soviet agriculture, 1931–1933. Revised edition. Palgrave Macmillan, New York [Russian edition: Дэвис, Роберт и Стивен Уиткрофт (2011) Годы голода. Сельское хозяйство СССР 1931–1933 гг. Росспэн, М]Google Scholar
  16. Davies RW, Harrison M, Wheatcroft SG (eds) (1994) The economic transformation of the Soviet Union, 1913–1945. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  17. Easterly W, Fischer S (1995) The Soviet economic decline. World Bank Econ Rev 9(3):341–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gerchuk YP (1926) Index numbers of the physical volume of industrial production computed by Conj. Inst. Economic Bulletin of the Conjuncture Institute 2:12–20 [Герчук ЯП (1926) Индексы физического объема промышленного производства, исчисленные Конъюнктурным институтом. Экономический бюллетень Конъюнктурного института 2:12–20]Google Scholar
  19. Goldsmith RW (1961) The economic growth of tsarist Russia 1860–1913. Essays in the quantitative study of economic growth. Presented to Simon Kuznets on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday, April 30, 1961, by his students and friends. Econ Dev Cult Chang 9(3):441–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gregory P (2003a) Economic growth of the Russian empire (late XIX—early XX century). New estimates and calculations. Moscow: ROSSPEN (in Russian) [Грегори П (2003a) Экономический рост Российской империи (конец XIX - начало XX в.). Новые подсчеты и оценки. РОССПЭН, М]Google Scholar
  21. Gregory P (2003b) Soviet defence puzzles: archives, strategy and underfulfilment. Eur Asia Stud 55(6):923–937CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Harrison M (1998) Prices, planners, and producers: an agency problem in Soviet industry, 1928–1950. J Econ Hist 58(4):1032–1062CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harrison M (2002) Accounting for war: Soviet production, employment, and the defence burden, 1940–1945, 2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  24. Ickes BW (1986) Cyclical fluctuations in centrally planned economies: a critique of the literature. Sov Stud 38(1):36–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. JEC (1962) Dimensions of Soviet economic power. Part II. The measure of production. US GPO, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  26. JEC (1973) Soviet economic prospects for the seventies. US GPO, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  27. JEC (1976) Soviet economy in a new perspective. US GPO, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  28. JEC (1982) USSR: measures of economic growth and development, 1950–80. US GPO, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  29. JEC (1990) Measures of Soviet gross national product in 1982 prices. US GPO, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  30. JEC (1993) The former Soviet Union in transition. M.E. Sharpe, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. Kafengauz LB (1930) Evolution of industrial output of Russia (from the last third of the XIX century to the 1930s). Publishing House ‘Epiphany’, Moscow, 1994 [Кафенгауз ЛБ (1930) Эволюция промышленного производства России (последняя треть XIX в.—30-е годы XX в.). М.: Эпифания,1994]Google Scholar
  32. Korneychuk B (2015) The role of foreign participation in Soviet industrialization: an institutional view. Voprosy Ekonomiki 9:109–123 (in Russian) [Корнейчук Б (2015) Роль иностранного участия в советской индустриализации: институциональный аспект. Вопросы экономики 9:109–123]Google Scholar
  33. Kuboniwa M (1997) Economic growth in post-war Russia: estimating GDP. Hitotsubashi J Econ 38(1):21–32Google Scholar
  34. Kuboniwa M (2014) The impact of oil prices, total factor productivity and institutional weakness on Russia’s declining growth. RRC working paper series no 49. Hitotsubashi University, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  35. Lopatin LN, Lopatina NL (2009) The collectivization and dispossession: testimony of witnesses and documents. Publishing House ‘Axiom’, Kemerovo (in Russian) [Лопатин ЛН, Лопатина НЛ (2009) Коллективизация и раскулачивание (очевидцы и документы свидетельствуют). Кемерово, Изд-во Аксиома]Google Scholar
  36. Macheret D (2015) The dynamics of railway cargo transportation as a macroeconomic indicator. Econ Policy 10(2):133–150 (in Russian) [Мачерет Д (2015) Динамика железнодорожных перевозок грузов как макроэкономический индикатор. Экономическая политика 10(2):133–150]Google Scholar
  37. Markevich A, Harrison M (2011) Great war, civil war, and recovery: Russia’s national income, 1913 to 1928. J Econ Hist 71(3):672–703CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Moorsteen R, Powell R (1966) The Soviet capital stock, 1928–62. RD Irwin, HomewoodGoogle Scholar
  39. Ponomarenko AN (2002) Russia’s national accounts in retrospect, 1961–1990. Financy i Statistika, Moscow (in Russian) [Пономаренко АН (2002) Ретроспективные национальные счета России: 1961–1990. М., Финансы и статистика]Google Scholar
  40. Rosefielde S (2003) The riddle of post-war Russian economic growth: statistics lied and were misconstrued. Eur Asia Stud 55(3):469–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rosefielde S, Kuboniwa M (2003) Russian growth retardation then and now. Eurasian Geogr Econ 44(2):87–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Simonov NS (1996) The military-industrial complex of the USSR from the 1920s to the 1950s. ROSSPEN, Moscow (in Russian) [Симонов НС (1996) Военно-промышленный комплекс СССР в 1920–1950-е годы: темпы экономического роста, структура, организация производства и управление. Росспэн, М]Google Scholar
  43. Smirnov SV (2012) Industrial output and economic cycles in the USSR and Russia, 1861–2012. National Research University ‘Higher School of Economics’. Publishing House of the Higher School of Economics, Moscow (in Russian) [Смирнов СВ (2012) Динамика промышленного производства и экономический цикл в СССР и России, 1861–2012: Нац. исслед. ун-т «Высшая школа экономики». Изд. дом Высшей школы экономики, М]Google Scholar
  44. Smirnov SV (2013a) Cyclical mechanisms in the US and Russia: why are they different? Working paper WP2/2013/01. National Research University ‘Higher School of Economics’, MoscowGoogle Scholar
  45. Smirnov SV (2013b) Cyclical patterns of railroad freight transportation (RFT) in Russia. CIRET/KOF workshop on sectoral dimensions in economic cycles, Zurich, 4–5 Oct 2013Google Scholar
  46. Suhara M (2000) An estimate of Russian industrial production: 1960–90. Voprosy Statistiki 2:55–63 (in Russian) [Сухара М (2000) Оценка промышленного производства России: 1960–1990 годы. Вопросы статистики 2:55–63]Google Scholar
  47. Suhara M (2006) Russian industrial growth: an estimate of a production index, 1860–1913. Research Institute of Economic Science, College of Economics, Nihon University. Working paper series, no 05-03Google Scholar
  48. Varzar V (1928) Index of physical volume of consumption of the USSR for forty years (manuscript). Russian State Historical Archive (RSHA) F. 1607. Op. 1. D. 59 [Варзар ВЕ (1928) Индекс физического объема потребления СССР за сорок лет (рукопись). Российский государственный исторический архив (РГИА) Ф.1607. Оп. 1. Д. 59]Google Scholar
  49. Zhuravlev S (2012) The 1932–33 Famine: false and real causes. Expert no 1 (26 Dec 2011–15 Jan 2012) (in Russian) [Журавлев С (2012) Голод 1932–1933 годов: причины реальные и мнимые. «Эксперт» 1 (26 дек. 2011–15 янв. 2012)]Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Research University Higher School of EconomicsMoscowRussia

Personalised recommendations