Breaking the Unbreakable Union: Nationalism, Disintegration and the Soviet Economic Collapse


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This paper investigates the effect of prospective secessions on economic integration and growth by examining the break-up of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Firstly, I show theoretically how regional elites had an incentive to restrict domestic trade once secession from the Union became possible. Secondly, I show empirically that the increased likelihood of secessions by the Union's member republics strongly cut domestic trade. Thirdly, I show how this explains the severity of the Soviet output fall. These patterns persist once I instrument for prospective secessions with nationalist agendas that are exogenous to trade or growth.

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