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It is well established that institutions evolve in a path-dependent manner, yet this essay shows that certain types of formal institutions leave a cultural legacy by creating political attitudes and behaviors that can persist for a surprisingly long time even in the face of hostile material and institutional environments. Making use of a natural experiment of history, a partition of a homogenous population of ethnic Ukrainians between Austrian and Russian empires, the chapter demonstrates how differences in political preferences that came about as a result of a historical accident have persisted over the course of several centuries. The essay records contemporary differences in political attitudes and behaviors in a survey of over 1,600 individuals residing in settlements that are located within 15 miles of a long-defunct Austrian–Russian imperial border. The chapter also proposes and tests a theory of political identity transmission. It finds that families, as long as they remain embedded within likeminded communities, play a vital role in transmitting historical political identities. By contrast, state institutions, and especially schools, are dominant in identity building and transmission in families where historical political identities have not taken root.
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- Cultural Legacies: Persistence and Transmission
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