Kondratiev, Nikolai Dmitrievich

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(18921938), agricultural economist and business cycle analyst.

Internationally renowned for his work on long-run economic cycles, Nikolai Kondratiev was born in 1892 in Ivanovskaya region. He studied economics under Mikhail Tugan-Baranovsky and became an important member of the Socialist Revolutionary (SR) Party. His first major work was a detailed study of the Russian grain market, and in 1921 he created the world-famous Conjuncture Institute in Moscow. In 1922 he published his first account of long cycles. These were approximately fifty-year economic cycles, revealed in price levels and trade statistics, which appeared to provoke (or be provoked by) technological innovations and social upheavals, and which were caused by the periodic renewal of basic capital goods. This idea, subsequently called the Kondratiev cycle, has been very influential among non-mainstream economists and is even employed by historians and stock market analysts, but it is fundamentally questioned by more orthodox economists.

From within the People's Commissariat of Agriculture, Kondratiev also wrote insightful commentary on the economic development of Russia, particularly on agriculture and planning methodology, and advocated a market-led industrialization strategy for the USSR. This involved specializing in the export of agricultural produce in the short term in order to fund industrial development in the medium term, in line with the Ricardian idea of comparative advantage. This approach received impetus from Kondratiev's trip overseas in 1924 and 1925, and was crystallized in Kondratiev's plan for agriculture and forestry from 1924 to 1928. Such thinking was anathema to Josef Stalin, who had Kondratiev arrested in 1930, jailed for eight years, and finally shot. While in jail, Kondratiev wrote a book on economic methodology as well as moving letters to his wife on the human condition.

See also: agriculture; economic growth, soviet; industrialization, soviet


Barnett, Vincent. (1998). Kondratiev and the Dynamics of Economic Development: Long Cycles and Industrial Growth in Historical Context. London: Macmillan.

Makasheva, Natalia; Samuels, Warren J.; and Barnett, Vincent, eds. (1998). The Works of Nikolai D. Kondratiev. London: Pickering and Chatto.

Vincent Barnett