The Price of Sovereignty: Russia’s Resources in World War I and the Origins of the Foreign Trade Monopoly

Economic History Workshop
Apr 24, 2023, 12:00 pm1:20 pm
Room 210 | Dickinson Hall
Princeton University faculty, staff, and students


Event Description

This workshop will be offered in hybrid format both on Zoom and in-person. Registration is required to attend in either format. The pre-circulated paper will be distributed to those who register for the workshop.

Zoom Registration

In-Person Registration*

*A boxed lunch will be provided to those who register in-person for the workshop. Boxed lunches will be available prior to and after the workshop. We kindly ask that workshop attendees refrain from eating during the workshop.

We kindly ask all in-person attendees please follow the current University Covid-19 guidelines.

Speaker: Friedrich Assenchenfeldt, Princeton University

Commentator: Jonathan Raspe, Princeton University

Like the Russian Empire, the Soviet State relied critically on resource exports for its economic and military development. Russia’s role as a resource supplier was cast into stark relief during World War I, when its natural riches attracted the attention of other belligerents: while the Central Powers sought to offset the effects of the Allied blockade through the military conquest of Ukraine, the Entente, notably Britain, attempted to gain hold of resources in the Russian Empire by extending wartime loans. When they came to power, the Bolsheviks thus faced a dilemma: On the one hand, they sought to prevent the “plunder” of Russia’s resources – like grain, timber and Manganese – by foreign capitalists. On the other, they would depend on the hard currency generated by the sale of these resources for the sake of reconstruction and rearmament. Specifically, the paper shows how the Bolsheviks tried to resolve this dilemma in April 1918 by introducing the Foreign Trade Monopoly, a hallmark of Soviet economic organization until its collapse. In contrast to the economic system under the Tsars, the Foreign Trade Monopoly was designed to grant the state ultimate authority over the proceeds from selling resources on the world market.

The Economic History Workshop (EHW) is a monthly seminar series for Princeton students and faculty interested in the study of economic history. Co-sponsored by the Center for Collaborative History and the Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy & Finance, the workshop provides a forum for scholars to present their findings and receive feedback on their research in a wide array of subfields, such as financial, business, labor, legal, intellectual, technological, and social history. Open to faculty, scholars, and students of Princeton University, Rutgers University, and the Institute for Advanced Study.

  • Julis-Rabinowitz Center for Public Policy & Finance
  • Economic History Workshop
  • Center for Collaborative History