Staunton, June 17 – Those Stalin identified as “enemies of the people” and sent to the camps were three times as likely as the Soviet population as a whole to have higher educations; and on their release and the closure of the camps, many of them remained by compulsion or by choice near where they had been incarcerated.
As a result of that and the fact
that their children and grandchildren were more likely than the population as a
whole to acquire higher educations, those regions where the percentage of
enemies of the people was higher still seven decades later show better economic
performance than others, according to Gerhard Toews of the Higher School of
“The connection between the distribution of political prisoners from the GULAG camps and the present-day level of the development of districts around the former camps can be explained by the long-term maintenance of a high level of education of the population, in particular thanks to inter-generational continuity and also the positive influence of the level of education on the growth of productivity of firms,” he writes.
According to Toews, “the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development conducted research” that confirms this link. And both investigations suggest that an alternative explanation that has been proposed – that the Soviets took note of where the educated were and invested accordingly – doesn’t hold water.
“The massive and forced resettlement of people which occurred in the early USSR thus had long-term consequences for the development of district to which political prisoners were sent,” the Moscow scholar says. And now, 70 years later, the places they were sent are doing better at least in part as a result.
This reflects the significant of intergenerational continuities in educational attainment, but these findings also have another lesson, one that often is ignored. “Political decisions can influence the development of regions over the course of several generations” and not just the one first affected.