chapter  3
23 Pages

At the Conjuncture Institute, 1926–30

The second half of the 1920s witnessed Slutsky’s move from Kiev to Moscow, after officially being invited to work at the Conjuncture Institute of the People’s Commissariat of Finance (NKFin) by Nikolai Kondratiev in 1925. Slutsky was made one of three top ranking consultants in the Conjuncture Institute, alongside A.L. Vainshtein and N.N. Shaposhnikov. The former was a specialist in peasant tax policy and national wealth estimation, the latter in foreign trade policy and investment planning. This geographical move entailed a significant change in culture, as Moscow was the capital city of the new Soviet state, whereas Kiev was merely a regional centre within Ukraine, itself now part of a wider federation. Kiev and Moscow had different traditions in mathematics and also in economics, although Slutsky would have been familiar with all these traditions from his wide reading and correspondence. The director of the Moscow Conjuncture Institute (Kondratiev) was an agricultural economist and a specialist in the study of market conjuncture, within which the field of business cycle analysis was seen as one very important part. It was mainly as a mathematician and statistical theorist that Slutsky was invited to join the Conjuncture Institute, not primarily as an economist, although his previous experience in economics would have been understood. At this time, his 1915 article on consumer budgets was not particularly well known either in Russia or the West, and indeed he never followed up on this line of investigation in any direct way while he was a member of Kondratiev’s Institute. In order to arrange for Slutsky’s transfer to Moscow, Kondratiev wrote a letter to the People’s Commissar of Finance (G.Ya. Sokol’nikov) dated 1 October 1925, requesting official permission for Slutsky to become an Institute member. Kondratiev explained to the relevant higher authorities that:

In the Conjuncture Institute we have a vacant post of consultant. Slutsky has agreed to take up this vacancy. Professor Slutsky works in the field of applying the methods of mathematical statistics to the study of economic phenomena. I consider the participation of Slutsky in the work of the Conjuncture Institute very important and valuable.