Nikolai Kondratieff

Nikolai Dmytriyevich Kondratieff (1892-1930?) worked in the Agricultural Academy and Business Research Institute in Moscow. His research covered the major economies of the time: the USA, Great Britain, Germany and France. He first considered wholesale prices and then looked at interest rates, wages and foreign trade. Finally he analysed data on the production and consumption of coal, pig iron and lead. He adjusted production figures to allow for population change and used a moving average (nine years) to remove statistical `noise.’ Kondratieff thought that the presence of the long wave was probable but could not be specific as to its cause, deeming it to be inherent in a capitalist economy. He postulated that it could arise because of the wearing out of capital goods but he admitted that lack of reliable data curtailed conclusive verification. Critics have attacked his methodology.

What was dangerously unacceptable to his Communist masters was the idea that there was an inherent self-correcting mechanism perpetuating capitalism. He was banished to the Gulag where he was quickly condemned to solitary confinement. He became mentally ill and died.

Again, it was posthumous publication that drew attention to his work. His work was translated into English in 1935 (a German translation had been printed outside Russia in 1926 but it did not attract much attention at the time). There were two waves in wholesale prices during the nineteenth century in the USA of about 50 years each that could conform to Kondratieff’s waveform. Both became identified as Kondratieff cycles and consequently his work was given prominence in America.

A 50- to 60-year economic cycle was observed by a Dutchman, Van Gelderen in 1913 although there is no evidence of a connection with Kondratieff. W.H.Beveridge (1879-1963), later Lord Beveridge, studied wheat prices back to the 1500’s and is reputed to have deduced them back to 1260. He discovered many cycles, publishing his findings in 1921 and 1923 (three years earlier than Kondratieff). One of these cycles occurred every 50 to 60 years, with an average periodicity of 54 years.

The long wave rhythm, which varies from 45 to 60 years, has attained its periodicity from averaging a wide distribution. It is widely known
as the `Kondratieff wave’ or, less elegantly the `K-wave.’

An article on the Cause of the Kondratieff Cycle by Ray Tomes.