Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 August 2016
North (1994) famously remarked that ‘it is the polity that defines and enforces property rights’. This paper traces the development of property rights in Poland and Ukraine and explores their divergence over the past three centuries using North's framework of economic calculation. In each country, the distribution of political power and political institutions had a profound impact on property rights. Indeed, while it was the Polish polity that defined the evolution of property rights from 1386 to 1795 and then from 1989 onward, due to diffusion of power, it was Ukrainian politicians that controlled the destiny of property rights for most of Ukraine's history. This situation has not changed despite the Maidan revolution in Ukraine, and recent moves in Poland show how tenuous property rights are in the face of political opposition.