Volume II.][Number 1.


Isaac A. Hourwich, Ph.D.,
Seligman Fellow in Political Science, Columbia College.

New York.



Introduction. The Rise of “Peasantism.”7
Chapter I. General Sketch of the Development of Landholding in Russia19
The Russian village community of historical times—Survivals of communal co-operation—The communistic peasant household—Origins of private property in land—Patrimony and fee—Slavery resulting from the obligation of loan—Tenure in fee an institute of public law—Limitation of the peasant’s right of migration—The fee becomes hereditary—Statute of Peter the Great on inheritance in the estates held by the nobility; abolition of the distinction between patrimony and fee—The poll tax—Slaves and serfs put upon a common footing—Emancipation of the nobility from their duty toward the state—The serfs agitated by a feeling in favor of emancipation—“Land and Liberty”—The question discussed in the Legislative Assembly convoked by Catherine II.—Insurrection under the head of Emilian Pougatchoff—Further developments of the abolitionist problem—Peasant riots about the time of the Crimean War—Economic necessity of abolition of serfdom—Evolution of private property achieved by the emancipation—Expropriation of the peasantry—Legends of land nationalization popular with the peasantry—The Statute of 1861 in its characteristic features—Russian taxation—Limitation of the personal liberty of the taxpayer—The village community upheld by over-taxation of the land—Counteracting influence of the rise of rent.
Chapter II. Community of Land37
The region selected for review with regard to geographical position and population—Forms of ownership in land—Agrarian communism—Community of land with shares fixed in perpetuity—History of the latter form of ownership—Evolution of the same into agrarian communism—Opinions of Russian students on the origin of agrarian communism.
Chapter III. The Productive Forces of the Peasantry47
Normal size of a farm required by the present state of agriculture—Actual size of peasant farms—Legal discrimination—Want of fodder—Depressed condition of stock breeding—Want of fuel—Manure used as [iv]fuel—The land not fertilized—Exhaustion of the soil—Improper situation of the lots—Yields of cereals—Balance of peasant agriculture—Review of real peasant budgets—Development of money economy in peasant farming.
Chapter IV. Taxation of the Peasant59
The taxes in inverse ratio to the income—The redemption tax paid by the former serf—Assessment per capita—Arrears in taxes—Bearing upon the peasant’s live stock—The fiscal system lived down by economic development.
Chapter V. Communal Tenure and Small Holdings67
Economic relations arising from the lack of land—Tenure at will—Community as party to the agreement—Easements—Pasture—Tendency toward individualism produced by inequality of wealth and money economy—Arable land and grass land—Individualism prevailing—Communal agreements—Influence of divergent interests within the community—Rental partnerships, a step toward individualism.
Chapter VI. The Evolution of the Farmer into the Agricultural Laborer75
Relations between landlord and tenant—Division of crops—Labor in payment for rent—Tendency towards money agreements—Rise of rent—Rate of rent to wages—Differentiation of tenant and farm laborer.
Chapter VII. The Wages in the Rural Districts80
Farmer as wage-worker—Farm work prevailing—Indebtedness of the farmer—Wages in rural districts cut down by the farmer-workingman—Low wages a drawback to the development of industry—Pauperism.
Chapter VIII. The Rural Surplus Population85
Increasing movement away from the rural districts—Wages higher abroad—The bonds to the village severed—Growth of the proletariat.
Chapter IX. The Dissolution of the Patriarchal Family90
The position of the peasantists and of the government in the question—Opinions of students of peasant life on the dissolution of the patriarchal family—The typical family of to-day—Influence of outside jobs—Parcellation of the soil—Landless—Ruin of the farmer occasioned by the decay of family co-operation—The employing farmer.
Chapter X. The Modern Agricultural Classes104
The vagueness of class distinctions at a primitive stage of economic development—The peasantist conception of class antagonism in the village—Results of statistical investigation—Farmers deriving a net profit from agriculture—Farmer and business man—Concentration of the land and a strong patriarchal household—The employing farmer developing [v]side by side with the dissolution of the compound family—The rural proletariat—Lack of land—The dissolution of the patriarchal family complete—The Russian proletarian as wage-laborer and employer at the same time—The transitional class—Deficit in the balance of farming resulting from the division of the co-operative family—The farmer as wage laborer—Imminent transition into the proletarian class—“The struggle of generations” in the village a reflected form of class antagonism.
Chapter XI. Individual Ownership and Agrarian Communism123
Their effects upon the distribution of landed property—Lease of communal land a step toward expropriation of the poor—Speculation in peasant lots—Mobilisation of communal land.
Chapter XII. The Redivision of the Communal Land130
The censuses for the assessment of the poll tax—Redivisions of land—General redivisions—Partial redivisions brought into disuse by the rise of rent—Lease of communal land a check to its redivision by the mir—Vote required for redivision—Privilege for the wealthy minority—Concentration of communal land in private hands—Influence of redemption—Antagonism of economic interests within the village—Dissolution of the community going on.
Note: The “inalienability” scheme.
Chapter XIII. Agriculture on a Large Scale138
The peasantist view of the matter—The destinies of capitalism in Russia, by V. V.—Large agriculture and peasant farming—Backwardness of large agriculture—The latter still prevailing over small peasant tenure—Agriculture progressing with the increase of the estate—The beginnings of capitalistic agriculture—Decrease in the dominions of the nobility—Growth of capitalistic property in land—Displacement of the small tenant by the capitalist farmer—Progressive tendencies of capitalistic management—Substitution of the small farmer by the proletarian laborer—Economic dependence of the nobility upon the small farmer—Imminent ruin of the landed nobility.
Chapter XIV. Conclusion: The Consequences of the Famine157
The bearing of the above discussion upon Middle Russia at large—The economic policy of the Government—Crédit Foncier for the peasants, and its failure—The famine a result of agricultural backwardness—Failure of the peasantry and of the landed nobility—The rise of capitalistic agriculture.
Appendices. Statistical Tables.
I. Distribution of land among the several sections of the peasant population166
I., a. Acreage of a peasant farm167
[vi]II. Taxation of the peasantry168
III. Arrears in taxes169
IV. Distribution of rented land: A.—With regard to ownership in land; B.—With regard to stock-breeding170
V. Budgets of typical peasant households171
VI. Wages of the peasant in industrial employment: A.—Local; B.—Outside180
VII. Average yields of wheat182



The awful famine which has lately been raging over an area as large as the territory of the Dreibund, and inhabited by a population as numerous as that of the “allied Republic,” has called the attention of the whole civilized world to the condition of the starving Russian peasant. A movement has been set on foot in this country to relieve the hard need of the sufferers. This has induced me to think that it would perhaps not be without some interest for the American student of economics to cast a glance at the rural conditions which have finally resulted in that tremendous calamity. I felt bound to improve the opportunity of having been educated in Russia, by introducing the American reader to some one portion of the vast Russian economic literature which, because of the language, remains as yet completely unknown to the scientific world at large.

Russians by education, though not by ethnical descent, who, in spite of having identified themselves with the cause of the Russian people, are now denied the honorable title of “Russian,” may find consolation in the fact that the first investigator of Russian history (Schlözer), the first grammarian who scientifically elaborated the laws of Russian grammar, our Brown (Vostokoff = von Osteneck), the best, if not the first Russian lexicographer, our Webster (Dahl), and finally the man who, it may be said, discovered for the Russian public the Russian village community, the mir (Freiherr August von Haxthausen), were all of foreign birth.

The last named discovery was destined to play a prominent part in the subsequent political history of Russia. Agrarian[8] communism, spread throughout a vast country during an age of extreme economic individualism, when the last traces of such a form of possession were deeply buried in the past of European nations, gave rise for years to an erroneous theory both in Russia and in Western Europe, viz: that this was a specifically Russian or Slavic institution. In Russia it contributed greatly towards drawing the line between the two parties of the Russian educated class in “the epoch of the forties,” between the “occidentalists” (zapadniki) and the “slavophiles.”

The latter regarded the village community as being, with autocracy and orthodoxy, an emanation of the Russian “national spirit.” These three institutions were predestined in their belief to prevent Holy Russ from entering upon the impious ways of the “rotten West,” with its class antagonism, extremes of luxury and poverty, intestinal discords and civil wars.

Precisely for the same reasons, considering the village community as an integral part of the prevailing system of paternalism, the “occidentalists,” opposed to autocracy and orthodoxy, strove for the abolition of the mir as well as of bond serfdom.

The archaic communism of the mir appeared to them to stand in acute contradiction to Western liberalism or individualism. The “epoch of emancipation,” however, that came to realize the aspirations of the occidentalists, brought about a fundamental change of public opinion in regard to the village community.

The intellectual development in Russia was ever going on under the steady influence of Western ideas. The “epoch of the forties” coincided with the era during which socialistic and communistic ideas were in full blast throughout France. Thanks to the many Russian tourists and students who became imbued with these ideas during their sojourn in Paris, socialism, towards the end of “the forties,” attained no inconsiderable popularity among the educated class in Russia. Not to speak[9] of Herzen or Bakunin—who were at that time closely affiliated with Proudhon, Karl Marx and other prominent representatives of the social movements of the day—Belinsky, who was the foremost Russian critic and publicist, equally renowned among all parties (except, of course, the bureaucratic party), became in his latter years a socialist. “Secret circles,” or, as they would be called in this country, debating clubs, swarmed in every large centre of intellectual culture. Among the young men connected with this movement, there was one who was later on to play a part of extraordinary importance in Russian history; this was Nicholas Gavrielovitch Tchernyshefsky.

The influence of Tchernyshefsky upon the development of Russia was far wider, and far more many-sided, than might be supposed. Philosophy, ethics, æsthetics, criticism, political economy, politics, fiction:—these were the various fields of his activity; and everywhere his ideas determined the course of further development. It would require the elaborate study of a scholar to truly represent the historical value of Tchernyshefsky, who can justly be called the father of Russian Nihilism.

Nihilism was entirely misunderstood in Western countries. It will, perhaps, appear somewhat surprising to an English reader to learn that Jeremy Bentham’s doctrine of utilitarianism offered the philosophical foundation of Nihilism. The latter was in reality nothing but an attempt to construct socialism upon the basis of individual utility.

The village community, seen in the light of Nihilism, must evidently have presented quite a different aspect from that which it presented to both the slavophiles and the occidentalists of the preceding epoch. The first article of Tchernyshefsky upon the village community was written in 1857, on the eve of the emancipation of the peasants, and was in the form of a criticism on the papers that had appeared in the slavophile magazine Russkaya Beseda. Tchernyshefsky, though apparently an “occidentalist,” sided with the slavophiles, and in a[10] series of brilliant articles laid down the basis of the so-called “peasantism” (narodnitchestvo) which since then, and until quite recently, has constituted the common ground of all liberal and radical aspirations in Russia, however greatly they may have differed upon other questions.

“Must Russian development of historical necessity follow in the tracks of Western Europe? Cannot Russia benefit by the lessons taught by the history of Western nations, and find out some new way of her own to avoid that evil of pauperism which necessarily accompanies private enterprise in production?”

These were the questions raised by Tchernyshefsky. Taking as a basis Hegel’s famous triad, he showed that Western Europe went from State regulation to individualism and laissez-faire, and now was entering upon a new path which tended toward coöperation and social regulation of economic phenomena. Why then should Russia pass through the intermediate phase, since she already possessed a national institution which permeated the whole economic life of the people, and embodied the principles of coöperation? The individualistic French farmer must inevitably succumb in the war of competition with the large landholder, for the latter is in a position to utilize all new agricultural improvements, while the former lacks all means of combination with his neighbors. On the other hand, supposing that the time has come for the introduction of improved machinery into Russian agriculture, would it require any revolution in the social relations prevailing in the Russian village? Not in the least; the land belongs to the community, and not to the individual; the forms of distribution of land are very various, and admit, not infrequently, even of collective mowing and subsequent distribution of the hay. If new machinery were to be introduced, the Russian community would combine at once the advantages of a large concern, and those of having each individual worker directly interested in his work. This latter, it is claimed, is[11] the characteristic feature of small farm holding. Having thus proved the superiority of Russian communism in land, judged from the standpoint of individual utility, Tchernyshefsky goes on to the other very important question:

“Is it possible for Russia to leap over one phase of her historical development? Natura non agit per saltus.

To answer this question he quoted the history of technical progress. There was a time when our forefathers produced fire by rubbing together pieces of dry wood. Man next found out how to strike the fire from flint, but centuries elapsed before matches were invented. Now suppose an African nation were to come into contact with European culture, would such a nation have to pass through all the inconveniences of the period of transition suffered by Europeans, or would it not rather adopt matches immediately? Applying the same principle to social institutions, Tchernyshefsky advocated nationalization of land, and communal landholding, as a basis for the emancipation of the peasants, which was then under the consideration of the government. In a paper entitled Is the Redemption of Land Difficult? he showed in figures the practicability of buying out the land by the government, and in a series of other articles he maintained that such a reform would prevent the formation of a proletariat in Russia.

The period that preceded the reform of 1861, was a time of universal enthusiasm for the liberal government on the part of the educated class. So much the greater was the disappointment when the reform was at last proclaimed. It has not been stated whether Tchernyshefsky himself was in any way connected with the “underground” agitation against the government, of which he was accused at so early a date as 1862. Tried in 1864, and exiled to Siberia, he was allowed to return to European Russia only in 1883, when the revolutionary party seemed to have been finally suppressed by the government. And yet for this whole period none but Tchernyshefsky was the spiritual leader of the social movement that[12] sprang up from the disappointment caused by the manner in which the emancipation of the peasants had been carried out. It will be seen further that, owing to the origin and development of private ownership in land, nationalization of land became intimately connected, in the minds of the Russian peasants, with emancipation. Hence a series of riots in 1861-62, at the time when the reform was being put in force. The peasants claimed that they were duped by the “masters” and the officials, who were concealing from the people “the true will of the Czar.” The belief that the Czar desired to nationalize the land for the use of the tiller of the soil was so universal among the peasants that, in 1878, minister Makoff found himself under the necessity of issuing a special circular for the purpose of dispelling the gossip current upon the subject. The priests were ordered to read and explain this circular in all the churches; and on the 16th day of May, 1883, while receiving the elders of the peasants, who presented their congratulations on the solemn occasion of the Czar’s coronation, the latter told the delegates to disabuse the peasants’ minds of the false rumors of gratuitous distribution of land, that were being spread abroad by the enemies of the throne. Yet the influence of the said enemies of the throne was infinitesimal as compared with the extent to which these rumors became popular. On the contrary, instead of its being a case of the radicals influencing the people, it was precisely the radicals themselves who were influenced by this popular belief. The latter seemed to them a proof of the moral support their aspirations were to gain from the people; and if “the will of the people” is not to be fulfilled through the government, why, this will must be complied with against the government. Thus revolutionary peasantism came into being. After years of propaganda it broke out in 1873-1874 in a huge movement that was called “the pilgrimage amongst the folk.” Hundreds of boys and girls, chiefly college students, settled in villages as common laborers to make propaganda[13] among the peasants for what they believed to be socialistic ideas. They hoped to be able, sooner or later, to foment a popular uprising that would result in the establishment of a new social order.

Certainly this juvenile movement must, under any circumstances, have inevitably proved a failure. Defeat was, however, accelerated by the merciless persecution of the Government. The events which followed are only too well known for it to be necessary for me to dwell on them. The final defeat of revolutionary peasantism after 1881, brought into the foreground a peaceable peasantist movement that excited little attention, but which will certainly be of great consequence for the coming development of Russia. Having suffered shipwreck in their revolutionary course, the peasantists came to the conclusion that scientific investigation of the economics of the village was the most essential preliminary for any rational political action. And scores of former revolutionists zealously took part in the statistical investigation started by the zemstvos (provincial assemblies).

It is true that the revolutionary peasantists cannot be credited with the initiative of this important work. The founder of the so-called “Moscow method” of statistical investigation, the late Vasili Ivanovitch Orloff, was a peaceable peasantist in 1875, when a young man of twenty-seven he took into his hands the Statistical Bureau of the Moscow zemstvo. Yet the many who helped him in his work, and who afterwards became somewhat prominent in spreading his system over new provinces, such men as Messrs. Greegoryeff, Werner, Shtcherbina, Annensky, etc., had previously spent several years in prison and in exile for “political offences.”

It is by no means exaggerated to say that in the hundreds of volumes of the censuses, ordered by the majority of the thirty-two zemstvos, Russia possesses a masterpiece of statistics which for its completeness, and for the mathematical exactness of its figures, has hardly been rivalled in any country.[14] The following quotations will give some idea of the methods practiced by the Russian statisticians:

“We used to begin by making a minute extract from the Book of assessed taxes. Another highly interesting document found in the “bailiff’s board” (volostnoye pravlenie) was the Book of transactions and contracts. It had been kept for many years, and contained the terms of agreements made between peasants and landlords of the neighborhood for agricultural work, as well as the terms of those agreements made between peasants and contractors, where the work had been done outside the limits of the village. There were also to be found there rental agreements, made both by peasants and those outside the ranks of the peasants; loan agreements made by individuals, as well as by communities, with joint suretyship of all their members, etc. The third document was the Book for registering passports, from which we could learn approximately the number of peasants yearly leaving their villages for a time.… After these quotations had been made in the bailiff’s board, we made a tour through the villages under the jurisdiction of the board, and it was here that the local inquiries began, and the most valuable material was collected. In every community of every village[1] we called a regular meeting of the community’s members, and, in meeting assembled we took a census. We passed with every householder through a series of questions, tending to elucidate the economic capacity of his family, and capable of being put in figures. The method itself of collecting these data in full meeting insured the greatest possible correctness of the figures obtained; one householder often aided the other in remembering some fact, or corrected his misstatements. It frequently happened that some sheep or calf, which was intended for sale or was already sold, called forth a discussion as to whether it should not also be included in the list.[15] The questions were asked with a view to ascertain from every household the following points: the area of land allotted at the emancipation, purchased as private property, or farmed; the way in which the soil was tilled, whether it was cultivated by the householder himself, or by some of his neighbors, whom, in such cases, he had usually hired, because he himself owned no horse, or finally, whether he had entered the ranks of the “husbandless” (i. e., destitute of husbandry),[2] who lease their lots or desert them altogether. We also ascertained what were the labor forces of the family, male and female; the entire number of heads of which it consisted; the business, apart from agriculture, of every adult member of the family, and whether the member sought work at a distance from home; the quantity of cattle; the size of the buildings; the shops belonging to every family. In a word, through the census a picture is drawn of the economic condition of all the households of the community. The number of those who can read, or who are learning to read, is also given in the census. Certainly the material collected appears to be of such a character as to furnish fundamental facts for the formation of a judgment as to the economic condition of the population.”[3]

The technical side of statistics, says Mr. Shtcherbina, the methods applied in the local investigations, are elaborated with the minutest detail.… The questions are several times crossed by each other, so as to mutually complete and verify the statements.[4]

The area covered by the investigations for the year 1890, is represented by the following figures:[5]


Provinces (Gubernias)25
Peasant households3,309,020
Total males and females19,693,191

This is about one-fifth of the total population of European Russia.

As the unit for all information is identical with the economic cell—the peasant household—these investigations present us with the true scientific anatomy of Russian economic life. Nevertheless there may be cases in which plain truth is not exceedingly welcome. This holds true even of the most advanced reform parties. Why then should the Russian nobility be among the exceptions, if there are any? If the rent is exorbitant and the earnings of the farmer are scanty, it does not require a genius to draw the conclusion that there must be some connection of cause and sequence between the two facts. Still, this is precisely what the landlords would like to keep hidden from public notice. Hence strong opposition by the party of the nobility to the statistical investigations. The statisticians were generally charged with representing only such facts as favored their leanings toward land nationalization and expropriation of the landlords. The first outbreak of this opposition took place in 1882 in Ryazañ against Mr. Greegoryeff, Superintendent of the Ryazañ Bureau of Statistics, and his assistants. The assembly passed a resolution that the two volumes of the census which dealt with the districts of Dankoff and Ranenburg should be suppressed. These volumes were confined exclusively to raw material, and contained only tables and statements, without any generalizations. The excitement was so great that some of the members moved to buy out all copies which had already been put in circulation, though it should cost 100 roubles ($50) a copy, and to solemnly burn them as a public example. It is true that this extreme motion was not carried, but Mr. Greegoryeff was sent for four[17] years into administrative exile at Kineshma, a small town of the province of Kostroma, and put under police surveillance as a political suspect. Thus Russian statistics have already had their martyr. Mr. Greegoryeff’s book, The Emigration of the Peasants from the Province of Ryazañ, founded on the same proscribed data, was subsequently honored with a prize by the University of Moscow.

Similar occurrences took place in Kazañ and Kursk. In the latter province the assembly proscribed the general review of the province, although the review consisted merely of the totals of the respective items for the several districts, and the volumes containing these items were in due time published by the assembly.

However, it must be admitted that Mr. Werner’s fate was not a specially hard one, since he was not even exiled, while his book, which caused his discharge from the Bureau, was awarded the same honor by the University of Moscow, as Mr. Greegoryeff’s investigation had received.

Finally the government saw fit to interfere, and a law was passed in 1888 forbidding any investigations into the relations between landlord and peasant, and putting the programmes of statistical investigations under the control of the administrative authorities. The work, however, had been done; a work that may be truly called the social work of the eighties.

Was it virtually a fallacious census, imbued with party spirit?

The present famine has offered the most striking proof of the authenticity of the much-assailed figures.

It will require years of study to sum up the results of the statistical investigations, and I have been necessarily forced to limit the scope of my essay to some one locality. I have selected the two districts of the province of Ryazañ,[6] the statistical[18] data relating to which were attacked as unreliable by the nobility in 1882. This is the very locality in which Count Leo Tolstoi has carried on his work of philanthropy in feeding the hungry. It has seemed to me that it might be of some interest to know what information there was actually at command, as far back as 1882, respecting the districts now stricken with famine.



It seems now to be a fairly well established fact in science that at the dawn of the evolution of mankind the individual had not yet differentiated from the social aggregate. Archaic communism in the production of food and other necessaries, as well as in possession and consumption, is now, I imagine, universally recognized as the primitive form of social life. It is only during the higher stages of development that private ownership by individuals comes into existence; and private property in land was the latest to appear on the historical scene. The dissolution of the land community in Western Europe is a fact of comparatively very recent date. In Russia, where the process of evolution has been less rapid, we see this primeval institution preserved until to-day.

In Russia we do not find within historical times that tribal communism which Lewis H. Morgan met with among the American Indians. The Russian village community of historical times consists of a number of large families, often, yet not necessarily, of common ancestry, who possess the soil in common, but cultivate it by households. The ancient communal coöperation re-appears sporadically, upon various special occasions, in the form of the pómoch (help). Some householder invites his neighbors to help him in a certain work: to mow his meadow lot, to reap his field, to cut down wood for a new house he has undertaken to build, etc. This is considered as a reception tendered by the family to its neighbors, and different kinds of refreshments are prepared for the occasion.[20] These constitute the only remuneration for the work done collectively by the guests. Of course, there is nothing compulsory in the custom, and no one is bound to answer the call in case he does not like to do so. On the other hand, the party benefited is under an obligation to appear at the call of all those who participated in the pómoch. This custom, which is now limited for the most part to extraordinary occasions and is more and more falling into disuse, apparently played a far more conspicuous part in former days, when rural settlements were scattered clearings in the midst of virgin forests, and pioneer work was constantly needed. Still even then it was but a social revival, hinting at a preceding epoch of closer communistic co-operation, yet at the same time pointing out the existing severance between the households of which the community was formed. In other words, the pómoch, being undoubtedly a revival of primeval communism, is at the same time a sign of the dissolution of communism into individual households.

However, it is essential to notice that the Russian household is not identical with the Roman family or its derivatives. The Roman paterfamilias is the absolute master of all living under his patria potestas; he is the unlimited owner of all property belonging to the household, even where such property is the product of the personal industry of particular members of the family. The modern family, on the other hand, is merely a union of individuals having their individual rights recognized by law, though sometimes not without certain limitations in favor of the head of the family. The Russian peasant family alone is a perfect communistic commonwealth. All the moveables belonging to the household, as well as its whole income, constitute the collective property of the family, but not of its head. The same holds good even of those parts of the Empire in which the village community disappeared long before the emancipation of the peasants. In Little Russia and White Russia, as elsewhere, the statute of 1861 recognized[21] the rural institutions upheld by peasant common law. Thus the land was there allotted to the families, and it was subsequently reaffirmed by the Senate, in one of its interpretations, that the land does not belong to the head of the family, but does belong to the family as a whole.

Moreover, an old Russian family greatly resembled a community even in the number of its members. Mr. Krasnoperoff, in a paper which appeared some ten years ago in the Otechestvenniya Zapiski, described a family he met with in the province of Mohileff. The family numbered ninety-nine members, and was composed of a grandmother, with her children and married grandchildren, all of whom were living together and working for their own common benefit. Such households are, indeed, isolated exceptions at the present day, but they were universal in the past.

Thus ownership of land by the community without, and complete communism within the family, were the fundamental elements in the structure of the village at the dawn of Russian history.

The rise and growth of private property in land soon came in to restrict the domain of the village community.

In the early days of mankind coöperation is essential to success in the struggle for life which man is carrying on daily against his natural surroundings. Landholding, whether collective or individual, must be large enough to admit of coöperation. Therefore private ownership in land first appears in history in the form of large holdings. Now, so long as population is thin, and vacant land lies practically free to anybody, it would be useless to occupy large estates if there were no means of compelling the husbandman to labor in the landlord’s fields instead of for his own benefit. Indeed, private property in land in the early periods of history goes hand in hand with the personal dependence of the tiller of the soil.

In the Muscovite State we find two forms of individual landed property: patrimony (vottchina) or freehold, and fee (pomest’ye) or benefice.


While fee was an institution of public law, patrimony owed its origin to private law and to a more ancient epoch. Patrimonies were to be found in the Republic of Novgorod, and in some other States of the Russian Federation, before their conquest by the Great Princes of Muscovy, afterwards Czars of all the Russias. The rise of this form of property is intimately bound up with the growth of slavery in ancient Russia. Slavery, like patrimony, was also an institution of private law, arising from the transaction of loan. The payment of the debt was secured, as in the civil law (jus civile), by the person of the debtor. Unquestionably this was the only possible security in an historical epoch when landed property had no value, save when human labor was applied to it. As in Rome, war was the constant cause that put the peasant under the necessity of contracting loans. As in Rome, there could hardly be found two years of uninterrupted peace in the course of the first centuries of Russia’s history. Destruction, by force of arms and rapine, usually compelled the plundered peasant to alienate his liberty to the “better man” (vir bonus, καλὸς κἀγαθός) who furnished him with cattle, seed, and implements. The peasant sold himself either for a term of years, or for life, and in the course of time the state of serfdom became hereditary. The labor of these slaves (zakup, kabalniy holóp) was used by the creditors to cultivate their estates, or to reclaim new acres from the forest. Amidst the wilderness of primitive forests, such parcels of cultivated land had already a certain value which attracted settlers. Here we have the origin of patrimonies in Russia during the “period of federation and witenagemote.”

Left, however, as it was, to private intercourse and initiative, the spread of individual landed property, like the number of slaves, remained comparatively limited. It was only as political institutions that individual landholding and personal dependence of the peasant were to become the foundations of social life in Russia.


The fee was the virtual germ of Russian private property in land.

Not only in Russia, but also in many other countries, private property in land owed its origin to relations of public law. Public land (ager publicus) was primarily held by officers on the ground of, and for the purposes of their office as a benefice. In proportion as the offices became hereditary, and the relations growing out of administration of public affairs developed into personal dependence of the common people upon the office holders, the tenure of land by reason of office became hereditary, and subsequently developed into an institution of private law. The next step was in the direction of freeing the landholder from the duty of public service connected with the tenure of his land. Thus his possession became independent. On the other hand, the free ownership of land by the people was replaced, in the course of evolution, by dependent possession. And finally, with the abolition of the personal dependence of the peasant, his right to land expired.

Such was, taking a bird’s eye view, the evolution of private property in most European countries. In Russia the course was essentially the same.

Old republican and semi-republican Russia of “the period of federation and witenagemote” knew no firm government. The prince was elected and deposed by the people, and it was very difficult for him to hold his position for more than any single year amidst the dissensions of the hostile factions of turbulent citizens. Usually princes tramped their whole life long from one principality to another, attendants tramping with them. War was their chief business and war was also their chief source of income. Moreover, through a confiscation of the judicial functions by the prince, a part of the wergild paid by the convicted wrongdoer to the right party, found its way into the treasury of the prince to be distributed among his followers. No bond wedded the prince and his followers to the land until the nomadic elected prince was replaced[24] by the Muscovite Great Prince and Lord of All the Russias. Struggle with the Tartar conquerors—a struggle that lasted for two centuries—furthered the growth of centralization and of monarchical authority, and the former free attendant of the prince became the servitor of his sovereign. The State in Russia has always been a self-sufficing entity, which claimed the services of everybody, without owing in return anything to anybody. And this still remains to-day the fundamental principle wherein Russian public law differs from constitutional law. If, perchance, the state engaged in suppressing crime, it was not for the sake of justice or defense to the people, but rather for fiscal considerations, or for the sake of the safety of the state, threatened by gangs of brigands and highway robbers. It was the duty of the “servitor” (sloozhiliy chelovek) to prosecute bandits, to defend the frontiers from invasion by nomadic tribes, and to appear in case of war among his sovereign’s troops with a number of armed men. To furnish the “gentleman” with the necessary means for the support of his detachment, and in general for the discharge of his office, he was granted a certain tract of land “in fee.” The peasant who settled upon this lot was bound to pay a certain tax (in kind) to the “gentleman” to whom the power of taxation was delegated by the State. However, it was no easy task to enforce the exact payment of the taxes, since the peasant could run away at any time he chose as soon as he found the payments becoming burdensome.

Indeed, even in modern Russia, wherever land is in abundance, agriculture is to a great extent a nomadic pursuit. A field is cultivated uninterruptedly for from two to three years, and the peasant then leaves it and turns to another fresh lot. It is only after a period of not less than twenty years that the peasant will perhaps return to the first lot. It may be, however, that he will change his place for an entirely new one.

In olden times the facilities for migration were the same as they now are in Siberia. This state of things gave rise to[25] competition among the gentry, who vied with one another in cutting down the rate of payments exacted from the peasants. The gentry constantly complained of being unable to fulfil their duties toward the State so long as this self-willedness on the part of the peasants continued. In order to secure exact fulfilment by each of his duties toward the state, freedom of migration was first limited, and then gradually abolished. The free peasant became bound to the soil, glebæ adscriptus. Yet this dependence was based entirely upon public law. The peasant was made subject to the gentleman, not for the gentleman’s sake, but for the benefit of the state. The only restriction of civil rights imposed upon the peasant by his dependence was the prohibition of emigration; and even in that no distinction existed between the peasant and the gentleman, since the latter was also forbidden to quit his fee. Throughout the Muscovite period the peasant was considered as a citizen, and was protected by the state against abuses of power on the part of the gentleman. The latter was not even the owner of the land; it belonged to the state, or to the Czar, as the personification of the state. Land was allotted to the gentleman for service, and for lifetime only, and could escheat by the state for cause. Inasmuch, however, as the gentleman’s son also entered the service of the Czar, it became little by little a custom to transfer to the son his father’s fee. Thus the fee became hereditary.

Peter the Great effaced all the distinctions that were characteristic of the preceding epoch. By compelling every landholder to enter the service of the state, and by establishing a uniform law of inheritance for all real estate belonging to the nobility, he merged in one patrimonies and fees. On the other hand, by imposing the poll tax upon peasants, and by making the landholder responsible for the exact payment of this tax, he put slaves and serfs upon a common footing, and made the latter personally dependent upon the landlord. His successors restricted the civil rights of the peasants and took[26] away from them the right to sue their masters. At the same time the latter were granted the right to exile their peasants to Siberia, and to sell them, even where such sale entailed the separation of the wife from her husband, of the child from its parents. On the other hand, after the time of Peter the Great, the duty of service was gradually relaxed, and at last definitively abolished by Peter III in 1762.

It was by this ukase that private property in land and serfdom were finally recognized in Russia as institutions of private law.[7] But immediately after the “Charter to the Nobility” was granted by Peter III, the question of emancipation began to agitate the peasants. Three generations were too short a period in which to implant in the minds of the peasantry the new principles brought into social relations by the St. Petersburg Emperors. The conservative mind of the peasant was wedded to the old customs of the Muscovite common law. He knew no Emperor; for him there was still a Czar, who owned all the lands of his country for the good of his people. The gentleman was bound to serve the Czar; the peasant was bound to provide the gentleman with the necessary means;[27] hence bond serfdom and fee. And was the idea really so obsolete? Were not the gentlemen daily granted large estates for services they had rendered to the Czar? Now, since the Czar in his grace has freed the gentleman from service, there is no longer any ground upon which the gentleman can be justified in detaining the land in his possession, nor is there any reason for keeping the peasant in dependence upon the gentleman. Consequently “Land and Liberty!” (Zemlya ee Volya!) It is now plain enough why the nobility conspired to assassinate the Emperor Peter III Theodorovitch. After the “dear father” had narrowly escaped his fate, the lords declared him dead; but fortunately he succeeded at last, after eleven years of exile, in recruiting an army of loyal subjects to help him in taking lawful possession of his throne, usurped by his perfidious wife. The war over, the people will be graciously vouchsafed “Land and Liberty.”

This legend found its way readily into the minds of the peasants, who for a whole year, under the leadership of the rebellious Cossack Emilian Pugacheff, alias “Emperor Peter Theodorovitch,” held half Russia in their power. It would be, of course, a rash conclusion to seek to establish any immediate connection between the bloody uprising of 1773-1774 and the discussion of the question of emancipation in the “Commission for the Enactment of a New Code,” called by Catherine II. in 1767. Yet it is worth noticing that such a question did arise, and that the emancipation of the peasants was pleaded for by the representative of the Don Cossacks, who were shortly to lead the insurrection. And, indeed, many of those who represented the Cossacks in the commission were later on active in the civil war. The suppression of the latter led to the expansion of serfdom, since the “pension system” of that epoch consisted, of necessity, only in grants of “peasant souls.” Thus in the reign of Catherine II. about one million “state serfs” were given into the private possession of landlords, for military, or civil (or “personal”) merit.


The reigns of her successors were marked by an uninterrupted series of peasant uprisings, agrarian crimes, and half-measures on the part of the government to loosen the bonds of serfdom. At the same time, after the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars, abolitionist ideas began to win their way among the land-owning, upper classes. The insurrection of December 14th (26th), 1825, had among its chief purposes the abolition of serfdom. The disastrous termination of that insurrection did not stop the propaganda of the abolitionist ideas which reached even to the palace, through the famous Russian poet Zhukoffsky, instructor of Alexander II.

The political necessity of emancipation, as guaranteeing the safety of the state, was brought still farther home to the minds of the ruling classes by the general excitement among the peasantry which followed the Crimean war, and broke out in numberless riots of a most alarming character throughout the country. “We must free the peasants from above, before they begin to free themselves from below,”—these were the historical words addressed by Alexander II to the Assembly of the Nobility in Moscow, August 31st (September 12th), 1858. Yet such political farsightedness could hardly have developed, had not the economic conditions been ripe for the change. Indeed, after the Crimean war it became obvious to the government that Russia, with her old-fashioned methods of transportation, could play no prominent part in the “European concert.” Now it was perfectly evident that an extensive system of railways could not possibly be supported out of the resources of agriculture alone, in a country in which nine-tenths of the people were serfs, either of the state or of the landlords, and had to bear out of their scanty income the expenses of a large military state, and of an aristocracy. Industry and commerce were necessary for the maintenance of the state. The emancipation of the peasants was the scheme to attract domestic and foreign capital to industrial pursuits in Russia. By placing money in the hands of the landlords it[29] was sought to promote the progress of agriculture, and the growth of industries intimately connected therewith. By setting at liberty twenty million serfs, who were the subjects of the landlords, wage-workers were created for industrial enterprises.

The economic significance of the reform of February 19th, (March 3d,) 1861, lies in the fact that, on the one hand, it completed the evolution of private property in land, and that, on the other hand, it effected at a single blow the expropriation of the peasantry on a large scale.

Before the emancipation anything like distinction between the land of the lord and that of the peasant existed on those estates on which the duties of the serf toward his master were discharged in compulsory labor. Yet even there the distinction was not clearly marked, for the peasants enjoyed the right of pasture in common with the lord, and were furnished a modicum of wood from the lord’s forest. The distinction, moreover, was not a rigid one, since the lord could, at his option, transform the corvée into tallage (taille)—compulsory labor into compulsory payments. The latter form prevailed on many estates. In such cases the lord enjoyed merely the legal ownership, Ober-Eigenthum (dominium ex jure Quiritium) while to the peasant belonged the real possession, Nutzeigenthum (possessio ex jure gentium). Now the severance of a tract of land from the fields held by the community transformed communal possession into private property of the gentleman. The owner who tilled the soil was transformed into a tenant or into a wage-laborer.

There was a party among the nobility at the time of the emancipation who would have liked to see a still more decided reform in the same direction. In compliance with the wishes of the members of this party it was accordingly proposed to transfer all the land into the private property of the noble, while leaving to the peasant merely his homestead (i. e. house, yard and garden). But, after consideration, this radical plan[30] was abandoned, for fear lest it might prove seriously dangerous to the public peace.

Unquestionably, the principles in accordance with which the reform was carried out stood in striking contradiction to the aspirations of the peasants, who held fast to the idea expressed by the old saying: “We are yours, but the land is ours!” Hence general disappointment of the peasantry with the reform, which failed to grant the people “land” as well as “liberty.” Now, since the land is the Czar’s and has been unlawfully seized by the masters, can there be any doubt that the gentlemen and the officials have conspired together against the will of the Czar? We here arrive at the source of those wide-spread legends of land nationalization that were so popular with the peasants for a quarter of a century after the emancipation.

To obviate all incitement to acute outbreaks of popular discontent, the government, as far as possible, avoided drastic measures.

In order to meet the wishes of those who leaned toward the Irish system of landholding, the government satisfied itself with offering to every community the choice either of agreeing to pay the redemption tax for the normal lots, or of taking in lieu thereof the so called “donated lots” extending to one-fourth of the normal lots, and free from the redemption tax. At the same time these lots became at once the absolute property of the donees.

Similarly, the government did not proceed to an immediate assault upon agrarian communism, though considering the same as an obstacle to agricultural progress. Wherever communism was in existence, the land was allotted to the community as a whole. But a road was opened to the spontaneous and gradual dissolution of the community. The “homesteads,” i. e. the house, the yard and garden, were declared the property of the family. Further, the community was empowered to divide the field into private property, upon a vote[31] of two-thirds of the householders. Finally every individual householder was granted the right of enclosing his lot, after having complied with certain formalities, and paid the whole amount of amortization. It was hoped that as soon as the way had been opened to private property, the latter would not fail to take the place of communism. These expectations were, however, fulfilled but in a comparatively meagre measure. The reason lay in the fact that the government could not make up its mind to break entirely with the old regime.

In order to smooth the opposition of the nobility to the emancipation of their serfs, the redemption of land was not made compulsory. The State undertook the part of middleman between the gentleman and the peasant, under certain normal conditions. But the agreement was to be made voluntarily between the parties. The gentleman alone was given the privilege of rendering the redemption compulsory at his own option, by making an abatement of one-fifth of the normal rate of installments. In case no such action was taken by him, and no mutual understanding could be reached, the peasant remained in a transitional state of dependence upon his former master. His obligation was to be discharged either in pecuniary payments or in forced labor. This state of moderated serfdom lasted throughout the reign of Alexander II., surnamed “the Liberator,” and was abolished in 1883 by a law ordering the compulsory settlement of the relations between the so-called “temporary obligors” and their masters.[8]

In so far as this state of dependence remained in existence, the destructive influence of the “Statute of Redemption” upon the rural community was suspended.[9]


Whatever may have been the effect of permitting the dependence of the peasant to be continued, the support offered to the community by the old fiscal system, which has remained up to this very day, was still more influential.

It would be idle to criticise the Russian financial system from the standpoint of justice in taxation. The law of self-preservation is the first law of all being. To cover her nine hundred million budget, official Russia has got simply to take money wherever it can be found. Now where can it be found in Russia? The State can tax either the producer or the consumer, or both. Where is the producer to be sought for purposes of taxation? Is it in industry, which is being fostered by means of bounties and prohibitive tariffs? Is it the noble landlord, for whom State mortgage banks are established, and State lotteries issued, whose solo notes are discounted by the State Bank, etc? Then there remains none but the peasant to pay the taxes. Should on the other hand the consumer be taxed, then again it is the 80 per cent. peasants who must pay the major part of the indirect taxes.[10] In a word, whether the burden weigh upon producer or consumer, it must needs be the Russian peasant to whom will fall the lion’s share—in paying the taxes. And truly the peasantry, like the “burghers,” are designated as a “taxable order,” but the burghers are too few to cut any figure as compared with the peasant.

What follows?


A great sensation was produced in 1877 by a book on Russian taxation by Prof J. E. Janson, of the University of St. Petersburg.[11] On the strength of the Reports of the Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of Agriculture in Russia, 1872, and of the Proceedings of the Commission on Taxation, he brought to light the startling fact that the amount of taxes paid by the peasant toward 1872 considerably exceeded the net income of his land.[12] This means that it did not pay for the peasant to own land, since he had to cover a part of the taxes from his wages, while, by deserting his plot, he would enjoy the whole amount of his wages with the exception of a[34] small poll tax. And indeed many a peasant would be glad to run away from his farm, if he was only permitted to do so. But the fulfilment of the peasant’s obligation toward the State was secured by the curtailment of his personal liberty. In case of arrears he would get no passport, and no one is allowed in Russia to go farther from home than 30 versts (about 20 miles) without a passport, under penalty of being imprisoned and forwarded home by étape. Should, however, the peasant renounce his right of locomotion, then public sale of his homestead and personal effects, and corporal punishment[13] inevitably follow arrears in the payment of taxes. Moreover all the members of the community are responsible, jointly and severally, for the exact payment of the taxes assessed upon the community as a whole. Therefore wherever, and so long as, the taxes exceed the rent brought in by the land[14] the ancestral tenet of communal supremacy is emphatically observed, and the most scrupulous justice and equality are maintained in the distribution of the land.

The lots are strictly proportioned to the number of males in each family, or to that of the workers (from the ages of 15-18 to 55-60), or even to the number of “eaters”; democratic principles being so far lived up to as to efface all distinction between male and female “mouths.” The terms of distribution vary according to the kinds of land. Meadows are subdivided every summer. Arable is usually distributed at intervals of greater length. Yet, in the meantime, for some reason or other, land may become vacant, or fall to the disposal of the community. It often happens that some householder[35] requests to be relieved of a part of his land on the ground of the decrease in the number of workers in his family, e. g., because his son has been enlisted in the army. At the same time there may be other families who are “strong,” i. e., well-off and numerous enough to pay the taxes for an additional tract of land. In such cases a partial subdivision between the households is made by the community. After a time, with the increase in the number of these partial subdivisions, the complexity and inequality of distribution necessitate a fresh general subdivision. The land is once more minutely redivided among the villagers. The optimistic enthusiast of the community would fancy that at last it stood firmly rooted in the soil, in spite of all unfavorable environments.

And yet, notwithstanding the strictest minuteness in the distribution of land, wherein the sovereignty of the mir over private interests is manifested, the equilibrium of the rural community must be defined as utterly unstable, since it rests upon such a shaky basis as over-taxation of the land. The economic development of Russia, however, tends to eliminate the disproportion between tax and income.

By taking one-half of the land out of the occupancy of the community, the government put the peasant under the necessity of seeking land or employment outside of his own farmstead. To secure to the landlords an abundant supply of farm hands, the emigration of the former serfs to districts where there was plenty of vacant land was so throttled with red tape that it was practically equivalent to prohibition.[15] Moreover, in 1866 the emancipation of the State peasants brought about[36] the repeal of the old law, which encouraged emigration, under certain conditions, through the support of the State. As opposed to this the “Statute of the peasants freed from bond serfdom,” which was now to be applied to the former State peasant, brought with it a new restriction of his personal rights.

The peasants now found themselves tied to the place in which they had been born. The increased demand for land could not but react upon the peasants’ plots, by raising the rent that they brought, and so neutralizing the effects of over-taxation. The fiscal influence which tends to counteract the dissolution of the village community is thus passing away.



The region which has been selected for the present discussion comprises two Districts: Dankoff and Ranenburg, (or Oranienburg) in the province (Gubernia) of Ryazañ. They are situated in Middle Russia, between North latitude 53° and 53° 31´, East longitude 38° 40´ and 40° 10´, and enjoy a moderate climate, at least when judged by Russian ideas. The soil is mostly pure black earth, the rest being made up of black earth mixed, or alternated with other soils.[16]

According to the census taken by the zemstvo in 1882, the entire peasant population of this region numbered 36,126 families,[38] composed of 232,323 males and females, and living in 653 village communities.

Agrarian communism is the prevailing form of land tenure; the right of property belongs to the community, while the land is either used in common, or subdivided in equal shares among the members of the community, according to some scale, adopted by the same.

It is the pasture alone that remains to-day in the common use of all the members of the community. Arable land and meadow are subdivided, and remain in the temporary possession of the several householders. But after harvest and mowing they return into communal usage, for pasture.

Still, side by side with agrarian communism, we meet with that peculiar form of hereditary tenure known as “quarterly” (tschetvertnoye) possession.[17] The difference between agrarian communism and quarterly possession consists in the fact that under the former, the plots are fixed by the mir, whereas under the latter they are fixed through inheritance, gift, etc. Yet it is not the land itself, but some ideal share in the common possession, that is held by the individual, precisely as under agrarian communism. The arable land, though considered[39] by law as private property, is virtually subdivided by the community according to the same rules as those practiced wherever agrarian communism is dominant—the pasture, the forest, and the meadow are in the possession of the community. The forest and the meadow are redivided yearly. The villages differ as to the standard of subdivision: in some of them the lots of the peasants are proportioned to the size of the inherited lots of arable land, in some they are equal. The pasture is used in common.

It is a well established fact that the actual agrarian communism among the majority of the State peasants of the region in question is a phenomenon of very recent date and has evolved from hereditary possession.[18]

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the present gubernias of Middle Russia formed the boundaries of Muscovy adjoining the dominions of the Porte and the military Republic of Little Russia. To defend the borders of the state a kind of national militia, or yeomanry, was settled along the frontiers. As usual, it was granted land in fee. The gradual transformation of fee into patrimony by force of legislation did not, however, concern this class of tenants in fee, as they did not count among the gentry. Nevertheless, the process went on, thanks to the natural play of economic forces. Mr. Pankeyeff, in his essay on the subject, does not show us the causes of the frequent sales of small fees during the eighteenth century. As the times coincided with the period during which the resources of the country were strained to the utmost in order to keep up the aggressive annexation policy of the Empire, it seems very probable that this mobility of the land belonging to the yeomen (odnodvortzy, as they were designated after 1719) was due to the burdens imposed by the State. On the other hand, the policy of the government in regard to this class tended to bring them down to the level of the peasantry. Alienability of land was obviously opposed to these views of the government,[40] since thereby many members of this class became landless. The attempt was therefore made to put a stop to it by a series of ukases forbidding the sale of lands belonging to the odnodvortzy. To insure obedience to its ukases the government, in 1766, changed the method of allotting land to the odnodvortzy, in conformity with the communistic method used by the peasantry. It was ordered that land should henceforth be measured for the entire village in one tract, and not in individual parcels to every householder, as had been previously done; and at the same time the alienation of lots was forbidden. Thus the community was entrusted with the subdivision of the land among its members. The distribution was based originally upon the dimensions of individual possession of former times. It generally led, however, through many intermediate forms to the establishment of equal distribution, i. e. to agrarian communism. According to the information gathered by the Ministry of Public Domains, toward the fifties, the odnodvortzy, as regards the forms of possession, were divided as follows:[19]

Forms of Possession:Number of Males and Females:

In all the villages inhabited by these 533,201 persons, agrarian communism came to be substituted for the once generally prevailing quarterly possession. In the region now in question there were, according to the census taken by the Government in 1849, 287 villages inhabited by odnodvortzy in the whole gubernia of Ryazañ. According to the forms of landholding they were divided as follows:

Forms of Landholding.Number of villages.Number of Males and Females.Land in dessiatines.
Quarterly possession17611,26564,811
Agrarian communism5621,28384,448


Here also agrarian communism developed from quarterly possession. The process went on after 1849, without even stopping after the reform of 1866, by which the land held by the former odnodvortzy was recognized as their private alienable property. The progress of agrarian communism between 1849 and 1882 can be seen from the following table:[20]


Population (males and females.)
In 1849.In 1882.

What appears here in most striking contradiction with the ideas universally adopted by modern writers, is the inverse historical correlation between these two forms of possession. This fact seems to offer a new argument in favor of the theory which regards community of land as a derivative form of ownership owing its origin to the policy of the State. Prof. Tschitscherin, the author of this theory, maintains that the land community was called into life by the ukases of Peter I establishing the poll tax and the responsibility in solido of all members of the community for the punctual payment of the tax.

A full discussion of the issue in controversy does not come within the scope of this essay; for whatever may have been the origin of the land community, its existence during the past two centuries is a fact beyond dispute; and it is only the period after the emancipation that constitutes the immediate subject under consideration. Moreover, the theory belongs to an[42] epoch when the study of the history of the Russian peasantry was yet in its infancy. In the course of the last thirty years this special branch of knowledge has progressed enormously, and Prof. Tschitscherin’s views have been since abandoned by the students of the history of Russian law. A few remarks will suffice for the purpose of the present discussion, inasmuch as no one to-day believes that communism in land sprang, like Minerva, from the head of some administrative Jupiter.

Responsibility in solido for the payment of taxes could hardly be thought of in a country of developed individualism. It presupposes a state of society in which not the individual but the aggregate alone counts in social relations. And such was indeed the social condition of Russia as late as the seventeenth century. The Council of the Commons (Zemskee Sobor) represented, not, as under modern constitutional governments, the individual voters, but the communities alone. These Councils were convoked on extraordinary occasions, one of their chief purposes being to assess certain additional taxes upon the communities represented therein, but never upon individual tax-payers. Even punishments were inflicted in solido upon the community where a murdered body had been found, or some other crime had been perpetrated, and the culprit remained undiscovered. Collective ownership in land appears to be the inseparable concomitant, if not the material basis, of such social conditions.

The study of the development of landed property among the odnodvortzy, however, brought about a revival of the views held by Prof. Tschitscherin, so far as this class of the Russian peasantry is concerned. Prof. Klutschefsky advanced the opinion that the growth of communal landholding was due to the policy of the Government, which saw in this form of ownership a means of guaranteeing the fiscal interest. The fact that the ukases of the Government interfered with the method of surveying the land among the odnodvortzy, as well as with the purchase and sale of their lots, seems to support this opinion.[43] On the other hand, Mr. Semefsky, the famous historian of the Russian peasantry, thinks that the establishment of agrarian communism was due to the initiative of the peasantry, who came to the conclusion that this form of ownership suited their needs better than did quarterly possession. The Government acted only in accordance with the wishes of the peasants, as expressed in numberless petitions and land-suits, and granted the sanction of law to the results of economic development.

Mr. Pankeyeff, the statistician, inclines to the latter opinion. The investigations made by the statisticians of the zemstvo, showed that the struggle over the form of landholding was very obstinate and lasted for years. Oftentimes the contending parties had recourse to violence. The courts were encumbered with interminable suits, and not infrequently the courts and the government decided in favor of quarterly possession. Thus the decisive stand made by the government in favor of the village community is open to question. Moreover, the development of agrarian communism from quarterly possession after the emancipation, when the policy of the government took a turn directly favoring private property, is considered by the peasantists as a proof of the vitality of the communistic spirit among the peasantry. While the promoters of agriculture upon a large scale, on the one hand, and the Russian Marxists, on the other hand, point out the growing dissolution of the village community, the example of the quarterly landholding tends, in the view of the peasantists, to disprove their position. Mr. Pankeyeff claims that, even at present, quarterly landholding cannot be considered as a settled form of possession. A hidden strife is ever going on within the village between the rich and the poor, similar to that which previously led to the final victory of agrarian communism; and it seems very probable that the latter will soon triumph over quarterly possession all along the line.

There appears, however, to be room for yet a third view.[44] The case can hardly be considered as one of evolution from private property to communal landholding; nor, consequently, can it serve to support the theory that derives communal landholding from the policy of the government.

As Mr. Pankeyeff correctly puts it, quarterly landholding, even in its present aspect, combines the features of private and communal property.

If we go back to the origin of quarterly landholding, we find that even the fees granted to the yeomen in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries cannot be construed as private property. The land was given in temporary or hereditary possession; the right of property remained with the state. The pasture, the forest, and the meadow were allotted to the village as a whole, not to the individual yeoman. The arable alone was apportioned to every one in separate plots. Though these plots were conferred on individuals, through inheritance, gift etc., yet this cannot be considered as a proof of private property in land. It must be borne in mind that wherever in Russia land is in abundance, its possession rests upon the title by occupancy. In Siberia such plots pass from father to son, or daughter, exactly as was the custom among the quarterly landholders some hundred years ago. And yet by all students of the Russian village community this is regarded as communal, not individual, landholding, since the supreme right over the land rests in the community. So long as there is no want of land, this right is exercised by using the stubble as common pasture after the harvest. As soon as land, with the increase of population, becomes too scarce to allow of unlimited exercise of the right of first possession, the supreme right of the community asserts itself through the subdivision of the “claims” (zaeemka). In the region under consideration the right of first possession[21] was still in use in the beginning of[45] this century, and the movement toward subdivision of the arable land dates from then.[22]

In the district now under review we are able to observe the steps in the transition from possession by occupancy to subdivision of arable land. We find here the original form—quarterly ownership, and the final form—equal subdivision of the land by the community among its members, and the intermediate stage in which one part of the field is subdivided into fixed hereditary shares, and the other part in equal lots among all the members of the community.

In the districts of Dankoff and Ranenburg, in those communities where this intermediate form of possession is prevalent, forty-four per cent of the whole land (pasture, forest and meadow inclusive) is now considered as communal property. Formerly it was all common pasture. When want of land began to be felt, various tracts of the communal pasture were taken possession of by individual householders, and converted into arable land. This arable land was the first to be declared the property of the community, and subject to equal subdivision among the community’s members. The next step is subdivision of[46] the quarterly arable. Thereby the intermediate form passes into communal landholding proper, or agrarian communism.[23]

The conclusion which can be drawn from the facts as presented above is that quarterly landholding, is but an archaic form of communal landholding, and follows no exceptional course in its development, though that development has been somewhat retarded.



The old laws governing the State peasants, before the reform of 1866, fixed the normal size of the plots at eight dessiatines (about 21 acres) to each male “of the revision” (i. e., included in the last preceding census) for the “regions where land is scarce.”

By the reforms of 1861 and 1866, not a single class of peasants was granted the extent of land that the state of agriculture in the district under consideration called for,[24] and the average tract owned by the more comfortably situated State peasant is only a little more than one-half of this normal plot as it was empirically fixed; of course, the normal extent of a farm is subject to change through increase of population and progress of agricultural methods. Let us see how large is the extent of land actually required by, but not in the possession of, the peasantry of the districts under review.

The table on the top of the next page gives the total number of communities, in which all the householders were able to carry on farming with their own stock and implements.

The favorable condition of these few communities was due to the fact that the land rented and acquired as private property by the prevailing majority equalled in extent the communal tract. The communities in question occupied, as a whole, over one-half more land than the average.


Title of Possession. Communities. Revision males. Households. Land (Dessiatines).
Number Per cent. Total. To one revision male. To one household.
Communal land:
a. allotted2846515810011802.57.5
b. rented?314
Tenure from landlords107686666.2
Private property14914710.5
In all2846515810023075.014.6
Total in the region (allotted land)65390031361262944433.38.1

Still land tenure is unequally distributed among the peasantry, thanks to legal discrimination. The main distinctions date from the reforms of 1861 and 1866. Here is the proportion of land to population in the several classes of the peasantry of our region:

Districts and Classes.In every 100.To each peasant.
Former serfs59.945.41.0
Former state peasants39.954.41.7
Former serfs64.150.01.1
Former state peasants35.449.41.9

That the disproportion is not the result of subsequent alterations in population or property can be seen from the comparison between the average lot fixed by law for the former serf in 1861, and that given to the former state peasant in 1866:

To each male of the Xth census:Ranenburg. Dessiatines.Dankoff. Dessiatines.
Former serfs2.42.7
Former state peasants4.34.6


This inequality is due to the influence of landlord interests upon the reform of 1861, considerable tracts of land having been cut off from the former peasant possessions and granted in absolute property to the masters.[25] It goes without saying that the free peasant must have sunk below the level of the serf. By the side of the former serfs even the state peasants appear as an “upper class.” And yet the average quantity of land held by the state peasants falls short of the extent proved by experience to be necessary for farming in the districts under consideration.

Want of land urged the peasant to convert everything into arable land, and that to such an extent that no improvements worth mentioning were left for the use of the cattle.

The total hay yield of the meadows belonging to the peasants who live under agrarian communism[26], is 458,000 poods[27], and this has to be distributed among 83,079 head of large cattle[28]. This makes on an average 5½ poods, i. e. 200 pounds to every head for the Russian winter, lasting at least half a[50] year. In other words, there is about one pound of hay a day for every head of cattle.

Nor is the condition any better in the summer, since the pastures, where there are any, are very scanty; and this is due to conversion of pasture into arable land, as already mentioned, as well as into homesteads for the increased population. This reduces to a paltry figure the number of cattle raised by the peasants.[29] Two working horses to a farm can hardly be considered as representing, even for Russian agriculture, a particularly high standard. The actual extent to which stock-breeding is carried on by the peasants falls below even this minimum, save among the 415 quarterly proprietors in the Ranenburg district, who are a kind of peasant “four hundred” in their own way, owing to the extent of allotted land that they own.


The depressed condition of stock-breeding reacts in its turn upon agriculture. Apart from this there is another universal cause that diverts the cattle manure from its natural use. I refer to the lack of woods.

With respect to possession of forests, so necessary in a climate like Russia, most of the state peasants were originally in a privileged condition, compared with the former serfs, to whom, as a rule, no woodland at all was allotted.[30] However, time has effaced all distinction between the privileged communities and those less fortunate. Of the former forests there remain at present only shrubs, and young bushes, of no practical value. State peasant and former serf are equally dominated by the want of fuel, a want which must be satisfied with the only burning material at hand, viz: with dung. In many a community this precludes the fertilizing of the soil altogether; in a great many others it is but the land next to the homestead that is manured, and the poorest among the peasants have no manure at all worth carrying to their fields. It is needless to speak of the extent to which this contributes to the rapid exhaustion of the soil.[31]

Apart from these general conditions, we cannot pass by[52] without notice certain special circumstances that continually depress the level of the peasants’ agriculture in a number of villages inhabited by former serfs.

The reform of 1861 was not carried out without serious troubles which in certain cases called for the intervention of armed force. As an example we may quote the village Speshnevo, bailiwick (volost) Hrushchefskaya, Dankoff district. We find the following in the Statistical Reports:

“In 1861 the peasants refused to accept the present tract, which was allotted to them in the place of one they had formerly held. The latter was far superior as regards both situation and quality. They stopped ploughing for seven years and finally agreed to accept the tract only after a detachment of soldiers had arrived at the village.”

“The village is now surrounded by property that is owned by strangers. The plots owned by the peasants begin at a distance of 1400 feet, and extend about 3½ miles. The peasants are very frequently fined for damage done by the cattle to the fields of the landlords of the neighborhood.”[32]

Behind this dry, matter-of-fact statement, is hidden the story of a system of trickery practiced, at the time of the emancipation, by the masters and the subservient officials. The land was, in some cases, purposely divided in such a way as to create for the peasants the necessity of an easement or servitude (servitus itineris, actus, aquæ etc.), in the master’s estate. The tract given in possession to the peasants is situated, at least in part, far away from their villages, sometimes without even a road for driving, and stretched in a long and narrow strip. Not to speak of the waste of time in going to and fro, it would not pay to manure the distant tracts. Thus in addition to the immediate injury to the peasants aimed at by this system, a large portion of land is lost to all rational culture.[33]


In short, the effects of the scarcity of land are summed up in the lack of animal power, which is no unimportant drawback to agricultural progress, and in the predatory character of the peasant farming.

This can be easily figured from the yields of rye and oats, the principal crops raised by the peasantry[34]:

Countries.Yield Per Acre.
Bushels.Per Cent.Bushels.Per Cent.
Russia,[35] District of Ostrogozhsk, Gubernia of Voronezh, average for 10 years (1877-1886)8.910010.7100
United States, average for 10 years (1880-1889)11.913426.6249
Ontario, Canada (1889-1890)15.517430.7287
Great Britain (1889-1890)40.3377
France (1888-1889)16.118126.1244
Germany (1890)14.716530.1287
Austria (1889)14.516317.6164
Hungary (1889)13.815517.4163


Unless the small productivity of agriculture is made up for by the size of the farm, the balance must needs close with a deficit. This is exactly what has been stated in figures by the statistical investigation of the gubernia of Voronezh, where balances of all moneys received and expended were made out by the statisticians for each one of the registered families. The results are shown in the following table:[36]

Districts.Households.Receipts from sale of produce (rubles).Expenses (rubles).Deficit[37] (rubles).

If we examine the items of expenses, we find rye and flour among those necessaries which the farmer has to procure in the market during a portion of the year. The deficit of a peasant farm is consequently one of daily bread.[38]


To give some idea of the standard of life of the Russian peasant, we append a summary review of three peasant budgets of the gubernia of Tamboff.[39]

1. Gabriel, the son of Michea, surnamed Trupoff, who owns four horses and holds 15 dessiatines (40 acres) of land, is, in faith, one of the chosen ones among the Tamboff peasantry. Verily it is worth while going through the budget of these peasant “four hundred.” The total expenditure of a family of four adult persons and three children does not exceed 510 rubles a year, say (in round figures) $10 a week.[40] All the dresses of two rustic Lady Astors amount to the exorbitant figure of sixteen rubles a year, while the gentlemen are satisfied[56] with one hat once in five years, and one girdle of the value of eighty cents once in a decade. To make both ends meet they have to content themselves with, upon an average, about one and a half pounds meat a day, for seven persons, and to do without tea, rejoicing over one glass of brandy a day, for the whole family. All the sundries expended make up the sum of ten dollars a year, or less than one cent a day to every grown up man or woman. This frugality enables them to add to their wealth 7.79 rubles in a year, when the harvest is 10:1 to the seed. Now this is about twice as much as the Ryazañ average, and exceeds by one-half the Ryazañ maximum. Should we reduce the yield from 10:1 to the average 6.5:1 for rye and to 6.8:1 for oats, as given in the Reports for the district of Borisoglebsk, it would cause a deduction from the income, as follows:

3.5:10 from 40 Russian quarters rye @ 2.00 rubles56.00
3.2:10 60 oat @ 2.00 38.40

This would give a deficit of 86.61 rubles a year. To cover this deficit Gabriel Trupoff used to engage in various occupations besides his farming.

2. The second family is likewise one of the best off, since they can even allow themselves the luxury of consuming one pound of tea, and five pounds of sugar yearly. Their farm yields them however a total income of only 358.80 rubles and the balance, 660.45, must be provided from other sources.

3. Finally, the third family of “peasant-proprietors” draws a yearly income of 27.80 rubles from farm and house, while the entire expenditure amounts to 241.80 a year, or 20.15 a month for 8 persons. Although it causes a yearly deficit of 65.20, which must be covered through loans, and probably through the sale from time to time of their chattels, yet they are tax-payers, and contribute 8.00 yearly toward the expenses of the state.

In short, it is manifest that even the most favored classes of[57] the Russian peasantry are hardly able to make a living, however moderate, by farming on their plots. Hence the economic dependence of the Russian peasant, evidenced in various ways.

There is yet another very important feature of modern peasant economy which is brought to light by the budgets. A by no means insignificant part of the entire peasant consumption is to be provided for in the market outside of farming,[41] and consequently a corresponding portion of the peasant’s labor must be spent in production for the market. Thus the archaic peasant husbandry based upon natural economy has been to a[58] very considerable extent superseded by money economy.[42] In other words, Russian farming has developed from the production of use-values or utilities to a production of commodities.



When the balance of a peasant farm is closed, year in, year out, with a deficit, it is only of secondary importance whether there be added to it a score of rubles or not, in taxes. In either case the farmer has to look for employment outside of his homestead that he may be able to keep body and soul together. Nor is it of great moment that the taxes must be paid in money, since at any rate not a small part of the produce must be carried to the market to be converted into money for the purchase of implements, clothing, and even of food for the peasant and his cattle.[43] But the economic influence of taxation is marked by its compulsory character, as well as by its unequal pressure upon different classes of the people.

It may be regarded as an established rule that the burden of taxation is, in Russia, in inverse ratio to the means of the taxpayer.[44]


The former serf is taxed more, absolutely (every male and every worker), and relatively (every acre of land), than is the former State peasant. The difference is literally the tribute paid to the landlord class for the emancipation of their serfs.

Indeed, the greater part of the contributions of the former serf is composed either of his redemption tax, or of the payment due to his master (taille):


Classes of Peasants. Dankoff. Ranenburg.
Total. Taille. Redemption Tax. Rent. Per Cent. Total. Taille. Redemption Tax. Rent. Per Cent.
I. Former serfs:
1. Temporary obligors12.68.26511.97.560
2. Proprietors11.16.65910.86.358
II. Former serfs, subsequently state peasants7.92.9367.02.434
III. Former state peasants10.03.83810.44.442

That there is one part of the payments to the landlord which is in reality nothing but a redemption tax for the person of the serf,[45] appears clear from the comparison between the amount of rent paid by the former State peasant to the treasury, and that of the taille paid by the “temporary obligor” to his master, since in neither is any portion set apart for redemption of the land. And the amount of taille paid is made the basis for the amortization.

On the other hand, the least amount in taxes is paid by those among the former serfs who have already redeemed their lots (“absolute proprietors”) or who received the so-called[61] donated lots, i. e., the least is levied from those who are free from the obligation to their former masters.

Here, however, we are again face to face with the characteristic feature of the Russian financial system: the “absolute proprietor,” who owns from six to ten times as much land as the donee, and who breeds more than twice as much stock as the latter, is taxed from four to eight times less upon every acre. It would be absurd to suspect even a Russian financial administration of the intention to overtax the neediest while relieving the burdens of the better-off. Yet this is the necessary result of a financial system which belongs to a different historical epoch, and has survived the overthrow of its economic foundations through a social revolution.

Let us take as a unit every male of the revision, (i. e., the official unit of taxation); let us then compare with one another the assessments levied upon both exceptional classes of absolute proprietors and donees, on the one hand, and let us again compare with each other the assessments levied upon the remaining classes of the peasantry. We shall see that every male is taxed on the whole at an approximately uniform rate. This is the usual system of taxation in every primitive state, where land is in abundance and human labor is the main source of wealth. The labor powers of men being approximately equal, assessment per capita insures a rude equity in taxation. But after the reforms of 1861 and 1866, which added new and sharp distinctions to those already in existence among the peasantry, taxation per capita became a power that accentuated the social inequalities, and hastened, through its extortion, the ruin of the feeble.

Indebtedness of landed property is the inclined plane usually leading toward expropriation of the small farmer, as well as of the aristocratic landlord. In Russia the three minor subdivisions of the peasantry, viz. the “absolute proprietors,” the “donees” and the “quarterly possessors,” are the only ones who enjoy the title of property in their land, and consequently[62] they alone are in a position to mortgage to private persons. The bulk of the peasantry[46] have no right of alienating their plots. Chronic indebtedness upon the latter takes, therefore, as its only possible form that of arrears in taxes, which is precisely the sore place of the Russian administration.

The amount of “arrears” due by the peasants to the treasury is represented by no inconsiderable figure, as may be seen from the following table:

Amount of taxes apportioned (rubles). Arrears.
Rubles. Per cent.
RanenburgFormer serfs347,672176,28850
Former State peasants212,57170,30333.1
DankoffFormer serfs292,64812,3524.2
Former State peasants135,0194,9363.7

It is needless to dilate upon the consequences to the budget of a deficiency of about one-half of the direct taxes paid by the most numerous class of the population. Yet the average figures for the entire region do not convey any true idea of the real disturbance caused to the concrete communities which are unable to stand the burden of their payments. The number of those communities, as well as the rate of indebtedness, is very considerable, and the burden is, moreover, very unequally distributed among the communities indebted, the consequence being that some are entirely crushed.[47]

In the district of Ranenburg, this den of “sturdy nonpayers,” we find only 9.6 per cent. of the former serfs and 2.1 per cent. of the former State peasants who give no annoyance to the “constituted authorities.” The rest, that is to say, 293[63] communities out of 340, are in arrears for not less than 6.70 rubles. The burden is aggravated by its unequal distribution. We find one third of the former State peasants owing above one-half of the arrears of their class, while above three-eighths of the former serfs are responsible for 70 per cent. of the entire debt of their class. These, the most heavily indebted groups, are made up of those communities which are in arrears for more than the tax levied for the use of the land, the rent paid to the treasury by the former state peasant, the taille or the redemption tax imposed upon the former serf. In other words, one-third of the former State peasants, and three-eighths of the former serfs, are unable to bear the fee levied for the use of their land.[48] Finally, this fact attracted the attention of the central government, and in 1882, the zemstvos were required by the Minister of the Interior to report upon “the communities in which husbandry had fallen into ultimate destitution,”[49] and a relief in the amount of the redemption tax was desirable. The committee elected by the zemstvo of the district of Ryazañ applied, as we learn, to the Reports of the Statistical Bureau. The same could hardly be done for the districts under consideration, since the Reports were subsequently proscribed by the zemstvo of the gubernia of Ryazañ.[50] If the Reports were taken into account, all the above three-eighths of the former serfs would perhaps have to be classed among those whose husbandry “has fallen into ultimate destitution,” since above one-fourth owed to the treasury 20.10 rubles, and one-ninth above 34 ruble to an average household. This one-ninth was in chronic arrears of from one to two annual instalments.

Whatever may be the absolute amount of the arrears, the point is that they bear upon the peasant’s live stock, which is[64] the only valuable part of his movable property, and is consequently the first to be taken hold of by the auctioneer. Arrears in taxes are, therefore, a constant threat to the very existence of the peasant’s farming.[51]


Moreover they bind the peasant to the spot, and thus restrict the market for his labor.

This, however, is only an evil of the transitional epoch. A change of great moment has taken place in so short a period as the ten years which separate the census of the zemstvo from the investigations of the above mentioned Commissions of the central government.

Overtaxation has been swallowed up in the increase in value of the land. The rent of the peasant’s plot in both districts of the gubernia of Ryazañ exceeds the taxes by from one to three rubles (i. e. the taxes absorb, in an average, from 78 to 91 per cent. of the rent.)[52] Though rise of rent is by no means[66] a blessing for the Russian peasant, partly tenant, partly agricultural laborer as he is, yet the benefit he gains as taxpayer is the possibility of disposing of his labor by leasing his plot to any one willing to pay the taxes thereon.

Thus the old question of chronic arrears is to-day easy to be settled through public sale of the peasant’s stock. Flogging as a measure of financial policy can be dispensed with, so far at least as the insolvent debtor is concerned; for the taxes are secured by the land, over and above the body of the taxpayer.

Thus economic evolution has loosened the legal bonds which formerly chained the Russian peasant to the soil.



Two economic features determined the further development of Russia, after the abolition of serfdom. Personal dependence of the serf was replaced, as above shown, by economic dependence of the “peasant-proprietor” compelled to seek work for wages beyond the limits of his own holding. Inequality of condition among the peasants, created by legal discrimination and furthered by the fiscal system, furnished the basis for the division of labor by which the peasants tried to fill up the holes in their farming. What were these occupations, and how did they react upon the village community?

In the times of serfdom the village community, as above mentioned, enjoyed certain rights to the land which was used by the master himself. Pasture, and water, and way in the landlord’s estate were free to the community. The emancipation deprived the peasants of these privileges and put them under the necessity of entering into agreements, of one kind or another, with the landlord for the use of these easements.

Where lack of water, or the necessity of a way through the landlord’s estate, has been artificially created by the reform, it is obviously the community as a whole that must contract the agreement.

In so far, however, as rented pasture is concerned, the usual communistic rule is put on trial by the growing inequalities that have arisen in the business of stock breeding within the village community. About one fourth of the community is composed of the poorest families, who own no horses, and oftentimes no cattle at all.[53] It is obvious that whenever the[68] use of a pasture is rented for horses or cows, a not inconsiderable part of the community is practically excluded from the agreement. The assessment of the obligation in proportion to the shares held by the several householders in the communal land would be unjust to the poorest part of the community.

Another basis for the distribution is found, in many instances, in the number of heads of cattle belonging to each householder, i. e. outside of the province of agrarian communism; the poor are thus released from the burden of payments. But, on the other hand, the community becomes virtually the voluntary partnership of its wealthier members. The economic tendency of the time is shown by the following figures:[54]

Party of the renter. Rented pasture. Total in class and region.
In consideration of Total.
Labor. Money. Mixed.[55]
Former State peasants.
1. Community11
2. Individuals11
All to former State peasants11291
Former serfs.
1. Community93228123
2. Community, obligation discharged per head of stock
3. Community, beside individuals33
4. Partnerships and individuals112
All to former serfs1053712154562


We find the province of communism extended in only two villages of the former state peasants, who had nothing to do with the landlords’ pasture before the emancipation. On the other hand, the right of pasture held by the mir in the landlord’s fields in the times of serfdom has disappeared in 408 out of the 562 free communities. Yet wherever pasture is rented, the mir prevails, and individual agreements are the rarest exception. The latter form is, however, likely to keep pace with the development of money economy in rural relations. So long as the easement is granted in consideration of a certain amount of farm work to be done, (and this is now the ordinary rule), it is to the landlord’s advantage to secure the collective labor of a whole community at once, instead of entering into a special agreement with each peasant for a small service. The fulfilment of the obligation is secured by the joint suretyship of the community, while to sue each peasant for failure to perform two or three days’ work would be far too troublesome. It certainly matters little to the landlord, how the labor is distributed among the several members of the community, and it was but in 12 cases out of 105 that the agreement was made for so much work to be done per head. On the other hand payment was stipulated for at so much per head in 14 out of 37 cases, in which the transaction was one of money. But as soon as the agreement is made in this form, the householders can act individually as well as through the mir, and this was in reality the case in 6 communities out of the 156, the peasants managing to get their cattle counted as part of the landlord’s flock.

We notice here how economic inequality weakens the tie of communism, even where that communism has its roots set deep in the prevailing methods of agriculture, the cattle grazing in one flock upon the common pasture under the surveillance of the communal shepherd.

Quite naturally we find individualism to be the rule as soon as we come to the tenure of arable land, which is cultivated by the householders individually:


Party to the agreement. Number of communities. Rented dessiatines. Land, per cent.

As appears from this table, in so far as peasant farming has survived on the landlord’s estate, agrarian communism has been almost entirely superseded by individual tenancy.

Should not, however, the few cases of communal tenure be considered, on the contrary, as signs of a budding agrarian communism? Is it not a fact that peasant tenancy has sprung into existence from nothing within recent times, and that in 48 villages agrarian communism has acquired a foothold even in that tenancy which was always considered as being essentially an individualistic form of landholding?

Such was the argument of an optimistic school of peasantists, which gained much credit in Russia in a few years ago.[58] In reality, however, nothing like a growth of communism can[71] be seen in the recent rise of communal tenancy. As a matter of fact the latter is restricted solely to communities of former serfs.[59] Consequently it is but the title of possession that has changed, and that from tenure in perpetuity into tenancy at will, for periods of from 3 to 12 years.

On the other hand, the land which had been before the emancipation occupied by the village community of the serfs, is now held by the individual tenant.

Let us compare the area of land held by the tenants in 1882 with the tracts carved out of the peasants’ possession in 1861.[60]

Carved out
in 1861.
in 1882.

Really worth thinking over is the question; why could not communal tenure stand the competition of individual peasant tenancy?

In the first place the lots leased by the community are considerably larger than those rented by individual peasants.[61][72] Moreover by the joint suretyship of all the members of the community a security is offered lacking in small individual contracts. Quite naturally the terms on which land is rented by the community are more favorable for the peasants than those of individual contracts.[62]

The result of cheaper rent is the better condition of the communities in question as compared with the average.[63]

Why then should not other communities imitate this praiseworthy example? The answer seems to be found precisely in the higher economic level of the communities concerned, which carries with it greater uniformity of interests:


Classes of communities. Percentage of householders.
Engaging in tenure. Indifferent. Letting out their own lots.[64]
Tenure by the community642511
Tenure by individuals265717
Tenure by the community582517
Tenure by individuals255916

The language of the figures is unequivocal. Wherever land is leased by the mir, the prevailing majority is made up of tenants, while under ordinary circumstances they form but a small minority. On the contrary above one-half of the village assembly consists at large of those householders who are indifferent to the question, and would not put themselves to the trouble of incurring responsibility.

Thus it is in the growing heterogeneity of the village that the cause of the decline of communism in tenancy is to be sought.

On the other hand, the same reason accounts for the substitution of the usual method of distribution of land and burdens by the community, through subdivision of the rented land in proportion to the money invested by each householder.

The question arises whether that can really be called tenure by the community, where a part of its members keep out of the agreement, and the land is held severally, and pro rata to the capital invested? It seems to be rather a joint partnership.

Yet partnership is by nature an individualistic contract, whether the parties to such contract be the “elders” of the mir, or common business men.[65] We consider therefore rental[74] partnership only as a stage of transition from communal to individual tenancy.

As above mentioned, in those very communities where communal tenure is yet in existence, side by side with it individual tenancy has taken root:

Dessiatines.Per cent.Dessiatines.Per cent.
Held by the mir219566224081
Held by individuals11383453419
Total rented33331002774100

Thus communism in tenancy is passing away; small holdings for a term of one summer have become to-day the dominant form of rental agreements.[66]



In the vast majority of cases tenure at will did but take the place of the old relations between master and serf.[67] The obligation of the serf toward his master was discharged on some estates in labor (corvée), on others by payments, either in money or in kind. It is only natural to find the old practice inherited by modern economy:


Rented for Communal tenure. Individual tenure. In all.[68]
Communities. Land. Communities. Land. Land.
Dessiatines. Per cent. Dessiatines. Per cent. Dessiatines. Per cent.
Share in crops3471438224292
Money rental (merely)34333076846687431001750
Labor (merely)1481856246103
Labor compulsory and money in addition1095822132806551902345

The patriarchal custom of division of the product itself between landlord and tenant (métayage) has now become about entirely obsolete, and is now to be found only in combination with extra payments in money. Forced labor on the part of the peasant for the benefit of the landlord continued in use. Abolished by law, it has been upheld until to-day, through the economic pressure of the need of land. The free tenant was compelled to bind himself to do a certain amount of work for the landlord. If he failed in this he could not get the opportunity of renting land. Pecuniary agreements were in vogue on those estates alone, whose owners did not care for farming.


The economic tendency of the time, however, is toward money economy and “free contract.”[69] As in the matter of taxation, the change is brought about by the rise of rent.

On the one hand, the amount of work done by the tenant for the landlord has enormously increased, thereby diminishing the demand for compulsory labor.

On the other hand, whenever the rent is to be paid in cash, at least one part must be advanced in the spring, i. e. at a time when most of the peasants are short of money. Moreover, the extraordinarily heavy rents exacted have made the leasing of land a very hazardous business; one bad yield is sufficient to upset all the tenant’s calculations, and to throw him into insolvency.[70] The circle of tenants who can pay their rents in[78] cash has thus been reduced to the “stronger” householders.[71] The natural consequence was increased offers of farm labor in exchange for land, on the part of those who could not afford to lay out ready money.

Thus in the process of the economic evolution, compulsory labor becomes obsolete. It was only in the minority of cases that the promise of labor was required as an essential part of the rental agreement, and even then it was only in exceptional cases that farm work was to be performed for the full amount of the rent. Generally only a part of the latter was to be covered through labor; the rest could be paid, at the option of the tenant, either in work or in money.

In this transitional form of agreement prevalent in 1882, the peasant appears, properly speaking, as tenant and laborer at once. The next step is toward the differentiation of both.

The purely money form of rent has already won the field over about one half of the whole area of rented land.

That this is the form which is finally to prevail, follows from the fact, undisputed by Russian statisticians, that peasants in good standing avoid working on the landlords’ estates, and prefer to pay their rent in money. The miserable remuneration for farm work is the very obvious reason of this dislike.

These are the average amount of rent and the average price[79] paid for the full work of cultivating, and harvesting one dessiatine, and carrying the crops to the barn:

Rent for 1 dessiatine > Wages for 3 dessiatines.

The average figures can be considered, however, merely as representing static conditions at any given moment. The tendency of the movement is rather indicated by the extreme limits.

When work is offered in payment of rent, wages very often sink far below the level. At the same time rent is ever on the rise.

Let us take for purposes of comparison, some communities in which piece wages are lowest, and some others in which rent is highest:

District of Ranenburg. Communities. Land rented (dessiatines). Average rent per dessiatine (rubles). Wages per dessiatine (rubles). Rates of rent to wages.
From. To. From. To.
Minimum of wages44190915.
Maximum of rent1283323.724.005.005.9:14.3:1

As the ratio of rent to wages is moving from 3:1 towards 5:1, it finally becomes questionable whether we should class among tenants or among laborers a peasant who has to till five dessiatines for the landlord in exchange for one dessiatine given to himself.

Thus land tenure is degenerating into wage labor.



The amphibious character of the peasant, who is at once farmer and laborer, proves a very important factor in shaping the relations of Russian economic life.

In Russia we have the case of the so called allotment system on a large scale. The influence of this system was picturesquely elucidated by John Stuart Mill when he stated that “it makes the people grow their own poor rates.”[72] Exactly the same is observed in Russia.

The greater part of the work in agriculture, as well as in industry, is performed by farmers.[73] With them the earnings from outside labor are to cover only a part of their expenses, which cannot be provided for by farming. It is obvious that wages alone must fall below the usual standard of life.[74]

We have seen how, in the course of the evolution from farmer to wage worker, the tenant first becomes farm laborer.[81] Accordingly it is natural to find farm labor prevailing among the local occupations of the peasants:

Per cent.
Per cent.

The transitional stage between husbandman and help is occupied by the householder who alternates his own farming with working on the landlord’s estate. In either case the workman comes with his own horse and implement.[75]

The relation between employer and employee is, with a very few exceptions,[76] one of money economy.

Owing to the circumstances above discussed, the farmer is ever in quest of ready money. In his quality of “peasant proprietor” he enjoys “the blessing of credit,” that is to say, he is always in debt to the landlord. Unquestionably, the favor is not granted for the sake of pure neighborliness. Money is advanced in fall time, or in winter, in reward for farm work to be performed next summer, and sometimes in a year or two.[77][82] The noble descendant of Rurik[78] gains the benefit of 50 per cent. yearly upon an average on the reduced rate of hire.

Low pay for piece work beats down the workman proper, who has to depend entirely upon his employment. The wages for day-labor may serve as an illustration:


In winter0.
In spring and fall0.250.35....
In summer0.350.700.200.45

Furthermore, the comparison between agriculture and industry brings out the fact that skilled labor[79] is paid in the rural districts at nearly the same rate as farm work.[80] The case is perfectly analogous to that of agricultural labor. In many of the households in question there are, besides the artisan, other[83] male members of the family who carry on their farming.[81] In fall and winter the farmer, who is at the same time an artisan, would work for any price. A tailor, e. g., travelling around his village, earns in the fall from 1.50 to 2.50 a week, while boarding with the customer. On the other hand, the maximum in wages is paid to carpenters, whose trade is carried on in the summer, so as to preclude competition on the part of the farmer.[82]

Certainly, the maximum of two rubles, say $2.00, a week, and board, to a skilled carpenter, falls short of the minimum in some civilized countries. It is in this rate of wages that we must seek the reason for the slow development of industry in the rural districts.

Indeed, it is but for a small part of the hands who have been “freed” from farming, that room could be found in local industry:

Percentage of “horseless.”Households engaged in industry.

The ranks of the rural proletarians, who had no working horses with which to carry on their farming, grew four times as fast as rural industry, though it might be expected that the latter would have been fostered by low wages. The example of the quarries in the bailiwick Ostrokamenskaya, District of Dankoff, can be used to make the matter plain.

About fifty men are engaged there in breaking stone, and working it into millstones. Some of them work in small partnerships, and sell the stone to middle men; some are in the employ[84] of petty contractors. A rent of 25.00 per head is levied by the owner of the place; the net income of an independent worker is from 75.00 to 100.00 for the summer, which is more than the income in any other trade. The hired workman, however, is paid only from 35.00 to 60.00, the profit of the entrepreneur amounting to 47-66 per cent. in a season. Where the product of a man’s semi-annual labor sells for 125 rubles, no mechanical improvements could make the commodity cheaper. So long as ten per cent. a month can be made by the petty employer, at a practically nominal outlay of money, he will successfully compete with big capitalistic enterprises. Indeed, we see that five men are about the average number of workers employed in any one concern.[83] There are, certainly, a few capitalistic concerns: distilleries, sugar factories, steam flour mills, coal mines. A railway line is crossing the district, and employs some of the peasants. But here, as elsewhere, the proletarian is beaten on the labor market by the farmer.

In distilleries a farmer can be got to work in winter merely for mash, which is used as fodder for his cattle. Money wages naturally oscillate between the very modest limits of 5.00 and 9.00 a month, out of which the workingman must board at his own expense. In sugar factories the wages are between 6 and 8 rubles a month in winter, i. e. between $0.75 and $1.00 a week![84]


It follows from what has been here shown that it is only the farmer who can get along with the rates paid in rural industry. The peasant who is unable to farm could hardly eke out an existence. He has the choice either of becoming a pauper[85] or of leaving his village.



The movement of population away from the rural districts, which is an economic law in capitalistic countries, plays a very conspicuous part in modern Russian economy.

Colonization of the border districts and periodical migration in quest of work, are tending to absorb the natural increase of the peasant population:

Districts. Ratio to the population of 1858.
Per cent.
Ratio to the respective groups of the population of 1882.
Per cent.
Emigration, 1858-1882. Surplus of population in 1882. Adult males working outside, 1882.
Total. Males.

There is thus but a minor fraction of the surplus population that has forever left the native village with the chance of settling somewhere else as farmers.[86] It is still to agriculture that most of the wandering peasantry are looking, not as farmers,[87] however, but as wage laborers, while a vast minority flock to the cities.[87]

As to this class of the peasantry, it is commonly regarded by the Russian press as standing on the lowest round of the ladder of village life. It does not seem generally to occur to the public mind that a regular movement of the working population, like the movement of mercury in the barometrical tube, has to select the line of least resistance. Indeed, it is distinctly shown by comparison that the wages are higher outside than within the village.

Branches. Local. Abroad.
Minimum. Maximum. Minimum. Maximum.
I. Agriculture.
Per summer, board provided by the employer.
Farm help25.0035.0040.0060.00
Ranchmen in the south50.00100.00
II. Trade and service.
Per month, no board extra.7.0015.0010.0018.00
III. Capitalistic industry.
Per month, no board extra.
Factory hands, in winter5.009.00
Factory hands through the year10.0018.00
Turf cutters in summer15.0025.00
Coal miners, in winter, etc.8.0013.0024.0037.00

Difference of wages stimulates the movement, which when once started in a village, goes on at an ever increasing rate.[88]


This rural surplus population, nominally counted as peasant proprietors, is in reality even now severing the bond that has hitherto linked it to its birthplace. Those who year after year spend the summers as farm-laborers in the South or in the East have already said farewell to farming.[89] The case of artisans who leave the village for the summer season is similar. A peasant who has given up his farming for the sake of working outside has very little to gain by returning for the winter, when the supply of labor in the village far exceeds the demand. After a time some of them move their families to the place in which they have found employment, and part with the old homestead forever.

Those who are employed in factories, in St. Petersburg and Moscow, in coal mines and in railroad service, may have started by spending only their winter leisure in town. But imagine the position of the peasant who manages to put aside, out of his four rubles a week, from 50 to 70 rubles a year to send home.[90] To such a man the attraction of a large capitalistic concern running winter and summer, is one that will hold him captive for years.

How far this estrangement of the peasant from his native village has gone, can be learned from the following figures:[91]


Districts. Outside workers. Permanently absent.
Households with. Male. Households. Male workers. Households. Male workers.
Percentage within the total population. Percentage within the class of outside workers.

The ownership of a home holds the peasant fast to his village even after he has already abandoned farming.[92] The peasant however, who is year by year employed far away from home, has settled, through the sale of his house, his account with the old village.[93]

We have here consequently an indication of the recent growth of Russia’s town proletariat.



The Russian village community, as has been stated above, was a compound integer of which the unit was the communistic household. The individualistic tendency of the economic evolution after the emancipation did not fail to affect this cell of archaic communism. The dissolution of the compound family became the evil of the day within the village, and the most warmly discussed topic both in literature and in administrative circles. The peasantist regarded the decline of the “pillars”[94] of Archaic communism with the deepest regret. “O tempora, o mores!” clamored the bureaucrat, indignant at the spirit of “disobedience to the elder” which was permeating the village. Of greater importance, perhaps, was the perfectly justified apprehension as to whether the dissolution of the peasant family might not have an injurious effect upon the taxpaying power of the household. It might be questioned by individualists whether the peasant, as a human being, was necessarily to be guided in his domestic life solely by regard for the public purse, but from the standpoint of Russian public law, such objections do not hold water. To use an analogy, the stock farmer, when mating his animals, does not take in consideration the possible condition of their mutual affection, his object being solely the maintenance and improvement of the breed. Is not the wise ruler the shepherd of his human[91] flock? Thus about 1885[95] a law was passed forbidding the “self-willed” division of the compound family without due authorization by the village assembly, whose resolutions are subject to the control of the officers of the State.

This new dictate of paternalism has certainly caused much annoyance in the village, and it must unquestionably have failed in achieving the desired end. The matter has been excellently elucidated by Mr. Gleb Oospensky, one of Russia’s foremost writers, as well as by Mrs. Epheemenko and Prof. Engelhardt.

So long as the occupations of all the members of the family were identical, the tie of co-operation bound them closely together. The income of the family, due to their collective labor, constituted accordingly their collective property. The authority of the “major” of the household was respected on the ground of his greater experience, which comes with age, as well as of his administrative ability.[96] When altered circumstances forced the family to look for its income to a variety of sources, the basis of the ancient household received a fatal shock. The carpenter who worked all through the summer in some far distant town was no longer an active member of the agricultural co-operative circle. On the other hand, his income being greater than that of his elder brother who was still employed as a farm laborer in the neighborhood, the spirit of individualism revolted against the old communistic rule. The age-long despotism of the elder over the younger members of the family became unendurable. The women, who had to suffer most, were the champions in this “fight for individuality.”[97] The head of the family could oppose no moral authority[92] to this spirit of “disregard of age,” inasmuch as, with all his agricultural experience, he had nothing to say in industry. Thus the growing economic differentiation within the family made its dissolution into separate couples unavoidable.

This presentation of the case, made as the result of individual observation, was fully proved by the figures subsequently collected by the statisticians.

This is the comparative membership per household before, and a quarter of a century after, the emancipation, and the distribution of the peasantry according to the membership of the several families:

I. To one family upon an average. Gubernia of Ryazañ. Gubernia of Voronezh.
Ranenburg. Dankoff. Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitzk.
1858 1882 Decrease. 1858 1882 Decrease. 1858 1887 Decrease. 1858 1887 Decrease.
Total membership9.
Male workers[98]2.21.5..2.21.5..2.11.7..2.61.8..
II. Classification of the families to-day (1887). Gubernia of Voronezh.
Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitzk. Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitzk.
Per cent. Per cent. Average
Without adult workers. 5 4 3.0 3.9
Having 1 adult worker. 46 } 76 44 } 76 5.4 5.7
2workers. 30 32 7.8 8.1
3 or more adult workers. 19 20 12.2 12.3


II (continued). Classification of the families to-day (1882). Gubernia of Ryazañ.
per cent.
per cent.
Without adult workers 7 7
Having 1 adult worker 42 } 74 43 } 74
from 1-2 adult workers inclusive 32 31
2-3 13 } 19 13 } 19
above 3 6 6

In 1858 the average family had from two to three adult male workers above the age of 18, while in 1882 it had only from one to two male workers. This shows that before the emancipation the compound family, consisting either of the father and his married sons, or of married brothers, was the rule. To-day the typical family is represented either by a young couple with little children, or by the father and his boys below 18, who are counted only as “half-workers,” or finally by the father and one of his adult sons. In all, the family has decreased by from three to four persons. It points out plainly that separation of the younger couple from the old stock is already[94] an accomplished fact.[99] That this individualistic tendency develops as outside jobs gain in importance in the household economy is shown by the following figures:

Households. Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitzk.
Percentage of male hands (of any age) taking to jobs. Percentage of families separated 1878-1887. Percentage of male hands (of any age) taking to jobs. Percentage of families separated 1878-1887.
With 1 adult male worker52446744
With 2 adult male workers39314740
With 3 or more adult male workers36243428

The rate of separated families increases with the percentage of wage laborers. It is by wage laborers that most of the households of the modern type (with one adult male) have been started, while within the patriarchal household about two-thirds of its labor forces are applied to farming.

The dissolution of the old household was of the greatest[95] economic consequence, parcellation of the soil being its necessary result:

Classes and Districts. Percentage to the total of households. Average membership of 1 family. Adult male workers to 1 family upon an average. Households. Families separated from 1877 to 1887. Landholding (dessiatines).
Without adult male workers. With 1 adult male worker. With 2 adult male workers. With 3 or more adult male workers. To one household upon an average. To 1 adult male worker upon an average.
Per cent. Per cent. Per cent. Per cent. Per cent. Per cent.
Tenure, less than 5 dessiatines144.01.0128071464.14.2
Tenure, from 5 to 15 dessiatines505.31.53553483810.57.1
Tenure, from 15 to 25 dessiatines259.12.112740323119.79.3
Tenure, above 25 dessiatines913.53.1. .925662435.611.6
Tenure, less than 5 dessiatines174.61.1974134503.73.3
Tenure, from 5 to 15 dessiatines516.71.635037104110.36.5
Tenure, from 15 to 25 dessiatines239.92.212438373319.48.5
Tenure, above 25 dessiatines815.03.4. .721722436.69.2

We notice that the greater the percentage of separations during the period from 1877 to 1887, the smaller the average plot per family and per worker, and vice versâ. About one-half of the households whose plots are the smallest, are those who have separated in the course of the last ten years and have as a rule only one worker. On the other hand, the largest plots, absolutely and relatively, are held by the compound[96] families of the old stamp, of whom only about one-quarter have undergone division during the last decade.[100]

Furthermore we find a certain percentage of the village community absolutely without any land: Thus we have—

Per cent.
In Ranenburg4
In Dankoff4
In Korotoyak1.7
In Nizhnedevitsk0.5

This new class of the peasantry owes its existence solely to the division of the family:

Landless households.Korotoyak.Nizhnedevitsk.
Without male worker26069
With 1 male worker5842
With 2 male workers126
With 3 or more male workers52
Above the age of 60—
Difference, females376
[97]In the age from 18 to 60—
Difference, females26981
Males between 18 and 60—
With physical defects67

It might be supposed that landlessness was connected mainly with old age, widowhood, orphanry, and bodily defects (blindness, lameness, etc.). Yet such, what we may call, biological phenomena will carry with them consequences that vary according to the social institutions of the time. The patriarchal family was not destroyed by the death of one of its male members. His widow and orphans belonged, in some analogy with the Roman family, not to the husband, but to the household as a whole. It was no unusual thing for a widowed daughter-in-law to be given in marriage to an outsider with the purpose of introducing a new male worker into the coöperative body in the place of the deceased member. Similarly the other members remained until death in their family. It was only after the dissolution of the patriarchal household that the feeble and helpless began to figure as a distinct group in village life.

On the other hand the division of the original household and of its lot in the communal land necessarily resulted in a decrease of the live stock belonging to each family, and consequently in a decrease of its agricultural efficiency.

This is shown by the following tables:



D. of Korotoyak. Classes of Households (per cent.).
With regard to the number of horses. With regard to the size of the farms.
Horseless. 1 horse. 2 or 3 horses. 4 or more horses. Less than 5 dessiatines. From 5 to 15 dessiatines. Above 15 dessiatines.
Without workers602911..61336
With 1 worker2046331255916
With 2 workers62861535641
With 3 or more workers110622712277


D. of Korotoyak. Classes of Households (per cent.).
With regard to the number of workers. With regard to the size of the farm.
None. One. Two. Three. Less than 5 dessiatines. From 5 to 15 dessiatines. Above 15 dessiatines.
With 1 horse363286206515
With 2 horses} 1314127 {65539
With 3 horses23266
With 4 or more horses7227111881

The highest class in regard to the ownership of live stock is composed chiefly of the households of the old type that[99] number at least three male workers, and whose shares in the communal land exceed the average.

The households of the new type consisting of two adult male workers are provided in the majority of cases with two working horses; but there is a very notable minority which is gradually falling into the lower group with only one working horse to a household.

Finally even that level appears to be too high for the households in which there is only one male worker. Only the minority of such households are in the position to keep up at least two working horses; the great majority have either one horse or none, and vice versâ: the groups with one horse or without horses are made up mainly of those households with only one adult male worker, their plots only very seldom exceeding the average, or even falling short of the average.

Now, without a horse there can be no farming; and a household with only one horse is liable to go down in the long run.[101] Still these two groups cover at least one-half of[100] the peasantry of to-day.[102] Thus the dissolution of the old peasant family sapped the productive forces of the peasantry at large and prompted the liquidation of independent farming with a considerable minority of the householders. A distinct group of the village is formed to-day by those peasants who for want of live stock with which to till their plots, are compelled either to hire their neighbors to do the work, or to lease their plots and consequently to stop their farming altogether. The bulk of this class is made up of those families in which there is only one adult male worker.[103] Lack of land,[101] lack of live stock and lack of labor power, make it by no means an easy task for a “singleton” to carry on farming, and a good many must needs fail.

It becomes plain that small peasant agriculture, based on the labor of the farmer alone, could stand only as long as its basis, the compound coöperative family, held together. The previous economic evolution has demonstrated that the co-operation of three adult workers is required upon an average to constitute a stable peasant household. As the progress of individualism will not stop in presence of the survivals of the patriarchal compound family, so the lacking labor force will have to be supplied by hire. The dissolution of the patriarchal family brings forth, of necessity, the employing farmer.

The characteristic feature of this class is that the employer is still the tiller of the soil. The laborer is hired only to help the farmer in his work, the average number of laborers employed[102] varying between one and two to one household, so as to constitute the required coöperation of three working men.[104]

For the present this class appears but in small numbers in the Russian village,[105] and this obviously accounts for the little attention paid to the employing farmer in Russian literature, even in the statistical investigations. Still the need of hired labor increases on the larger farms[106] with the division of the compound family, as can be seen from the following table:


Extent of the farm. Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitzk.
Households with 3, or more, workers. Households with 2, or less, workers. Households with 3, or more, workers. Households with 2, or less, workers.
Above 25 dessiatines:—
a. Employing farmers (total = 100)54465347
b. Non-employing farmers (total = 100)66347426
From 15 to 25 dessiatines:—
a. Employing farmers (total = 100)21793169
b. Non-employing farmers (total = 100)31693664

As the dissolution of the patriarchal family is going on at a progressive rate,[107] it follows that the class of employing farmers is on the rise. The farmer’s own family, supplemented by the assistance of one or two permanent wage-laborers, is the coming type of agricultural coöperation, which is destined to take the place of the natural family coöperation.



The existence of the employer presupposes his correlative, the employee. Thus we are brought close to the fact that there have arisen opposite social classes within the village community.

It must be borne in mind, however, that the lines between the classes in the Russian village are as yet far from being as sharply drawn as in countries with developed capitalism. It would seem that laborers permanently employed outside of their farms must unquestionably be classed among the proletarians. And yet we find the majority of them maintaining the standard of farmers.[108] This is due to the existence of the compound family, the average household numbering two adult male workers, which enables one of them to carry on farming,[105] while the other is employed outside.[109] Only the minority of the households in question that have only one adult worker, and accordingly we find that independent farming has been given up only by the minority of those householders who are permanently employed as farm laborers.[110] These are the genuine rural proletarians with whom the earnings from wage labor constitute the main source of income. Still they are landholders, and inasmuch as they have no live stock of their own, their plots are tilled chiefly by means of wage labor:

Farm laborers whose plots are Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitsk.
Households. Per cent. Households. Per cent.
Tilled by hired laborers3716423766
In all576100361100

Thus we have the very peculiar economic type of a wage-laborer[106] who is at the same time employer of wage labor. It is obvious that the characteristics of a modern European proletarian could not properly be extended to the Russian agricultural laborer.

Class distinctions are very easily perceived, of course, when the classes have already ripened to a certain degree. In the embryonic stage, the true tendency of the development going on is disguised by the many transitional forms combining the characteristic features of opposite classes. The peasantist of “the seventies,” whose opinions were influenced by European socialism, had no idea of class antagonism within the ranks of the peasantry themselves, regarding it as confined entirely to the “exploiter”—kulak or miroyed[111]—and his victim, the peasant imbued with the communistic spirit.[112]

The statisticians necessarily started in their investigations with preconceived ideas respecting the uniformity of the peasantry[113] as a class, except in so far as legal discriminations had to be taken into account. The study of the facts brought them subsequently to a recognition of the true position, and in some of the later Reports attempts were made to arrange the data according to class distinctions. The main difficulty in the question is as to what proof should be selected for classification. The characteristics of employer and employee would[107] cover only a minor part of the peasantry of to-day,[114] not to speak of a certain vagueness of the terms, as explained above. Mr. Shtcherbina, Superintendent of the Statistical Department of Voronezh, has classified the peasants according to: 1, the size of their farms, 2, the quantity of stock raised, 3, the number of adult male workers to a household, and 4, to the occupation by which they supplement the insufficient income derived from their plots. The households are accordingly scheduled into 320 minute sections, so as to afford the opportunity of subsequently combining them into wider social classes.

We shall divide the peasantry into three main classes:

I. Those whose income from farming is sufficient to meet all the expenses of the household (taxes included), so as to obviate any need of wage earnings.

Households that pay their expenses by the income from commercial or industrial enterprises and draw a net profit from agriculture, are also included in that class.

II. Farmers who are at the same time wage laborers, either in agriculture, or in industry.

III. Proletarians, i. e. those who stopped working on their plots and earn their living exclusively by means of wage labor.

Let us examine these classes in detail.

Ad I. Combine all merely agricultural groups in which[108] the income from farming exceeds the expenses of housekeeping, taxes and rent, and in which, furthermore, all the householders cultivate their plots with their own stock and implements. The results are presented in the following tables:

1. Balance Sheet.

Households, 1501, D. of Korotoyak. Receipts.
Gross income from farming185171
Expenses of housekeeping77004
Net profit16073
Net profit to 1 household upon an average10.70

2. Land to 1 farm.

Per cent.
From 5 to 15 dessiatines5
From 15 to 25 dessiatines72
Above 25 dessiatines23

3. Live stock to 1 farm.

Per cent.
1 horse1
2 horses[115]42
3 horses[115]38
4 or more19

The requirements for a “strong” household, as evidenced by the above tables, are as follows: 1, a farm exceeding in size fifteen dessiatines, i. e. one of above the average size; 2, at least two working horses.

Guided by these principles, we obtain the following table comprising all the householders of the class in question, in the district of Korotoyak:


In the class.In the district
at large.
Total households199920282
Membership of an average household:
Males and females10.17.3
Adult male work2.11.7
Communal land (dessiatines)—
a. To 1 adult male worker11.58.3
b. To 1 household24.414.2
Rented land, to 1 household (dessiatines)5.14.2
Horses, to 1 household2.71.8
Gross income from farming minus expenses, taxes, rent and wages paid: to 1 household, rubles+2.09-26.97
Households classified with regard to—
Labor forces:Per cent.Per cent.
Having 1 adult male worker2947
Having 2 adult male workers41} 7130} 49
Having 3 adult male workers3019
Owning from 15 to 25 dessiatines7225
Owning above 25 dessiatines289
Tenants of rented land5442
Live stock:
Keeping 2 horses4533
Keeping 3 horses3816
Keeping 4 or more horses177

The class in question occupies the top of the village. It owes its economic independence to the fact that the majority of the households represent a co-operation of at least two adult male workers, assisted by half-workers, as well as to the favorable circumstance that the size of the farm exceeds by about one-half, relatively to the number of workers, the average in the district. The number of working horses is accordingly increased in the same ratio, three horses constituting[110] about the average to a farm, while about one half of the households at large fall short of even the average two to a farm.

Another branch of the same class is formed by those householders with whom trade and commerce are as important a source of revenue as agriculture, as shown by the balance below:


Items. Households,
or concerns.
Gross income from sale of produce1366211237
Wages paid16113
All to farming211237144289+66948
Gross income from trade and commerce1384230527
Expenses of housekeeping171705
All to trade and commerce230527171705+58822
Net profit to 1 household9207

The net profit drawn from trade and commerce enables these householders to enlarge their farming, with the exception of a very small minority who have devoted themselves entirely to trade, and do not turn to farming.[116] The economic level of this section is shown in the following table:

Class I., D. of Korotoyak. Average size of a farm, dessiatines. Land rented (by 1 household) dessiatines. Tenants (in every 100 households).
Farmers merely24.45.154
In the district at large14.24.242


Concentration of the communal land proves to be the general basis of the economic welfare of the class under consideration.[117] Under the rule of the mir a large farm means a strong patriarchal family; the preservation of the latter is equally characteristic of the trader as of the mere farmers of the class, and appears to be even somewhat more pronounced among the former than among the latter.[118]

On the other hand, farming with the help of hired labor has enormously advanced among this section of the village community; it may be said that the employing farmer is a[112] member of this progressive class par excellence.[119] The growth of this form of agricultural coöperation is going on within the class under consideration keeping pace with the dissolution of the patriarchal family.[120]

Ad III. The rural proletariat is generally marked by the absence of live stock to till the land with.[121] The class in question[113] is formed of those peasants whom it did not pay to work on their farms, in view of the scarcity of the same.

Nearly one-half of the class are landless or own less than five dessiatines, the percentage of such households being three times greater than among the peasantry at large. Only a very small minority are in the possession of plots exceeding the average, the percentage being three times less than among the peasants at large. On the whole, a holding of a proletarian is half the average in the district.[122]

This is the immediate result of the complete dissolution of the patriarchal family among the village proletariat, the bulk[114] of the latter consisting of families with only one adult male worker.[123]

Having failed as farmers, one-half have become farm laborers, the rest are employed in industry, or have no steady employment at all.[124] With all of them, wages are the chief means of livelihood.[125] The income from their farms is of secondary importance. The gross receipts from sale of produce are absorbed by the taxes.[126] Still the produce of the farm is partly[115] consumed in kind and may serve to supply the owner with some of the necessaries of life.[127] In fact, it proves profitable for the village proletarian to cultivate his plot with the help of hired labor; accordingly, the majority of the proletarians of the Russian villages are not only employees, but also employers at the same time.[128] As yet there is but a small fraction of the village that has evolved into the condition of proletarians proper, whose only economic interest is that of wage labor.[129]


Ad II. The mean between both extremes, i. e. between the independent farmers and the proletarian laborers, is occupied by a transitional class who are farmers and wage laborers at once.

The soil being tilled by its owner’s labor, the farmer is supposed to raise live stock. We remember that two horses to a farm is the minimum required to constitute a strong household, the normal approaching three horses upon an average. The proletarians, as a rule, have no horses. The transitional[117] class under consideration is characterized by the ownership of from one to two horses.[130]

Within this class a further distinction is to be made as between (A), those with whom outside earnings are to cover only a small deficit in their farming, and (B), those with whom wage labor has become as important a source of income as farming:

District of Korotoyak, Class II. Income from farming, per cent. Income from wage labor.
Per cent. To 1 household per year, rubles.
Section A9286.39
Section B505050.47

Small as the deficit of agriculture is in Section A, still it is the first step down of the lately independent farmer. The comparison between this section and the farmer pure and simple of Class I brings out the unmistakable reason: the deficit begins[118] with the dissolution of the patriarchal family.[131] The absolute and relative size of the farm owned by a divided family with only one male worker cannot compare with that of a patriarchal household[132]. The single worker keeps only very seldom above the average; in the long run he is liable to turn to some wage-paying occupation, that is to say, to pass into the section adjoining the proletarians.

This wing of the transitional class seems to show even a somewhat greater strength of farming than the upper section just described.[133] It must be, however, placed at a lower degree[119] of the scale, inasmuch as, in the first place, the relative income per adult male worker is below that of Section A,[134] and, in the second place, its higher absolute level of agriculture is not of long duration. In reality, it is due to the fact that the compound family still prevails in Section B, while it is about to disappear in Section A.[135] The existence of the compound family enables some of its workers to carry on farming, while others are employed outside.[136] With the division of the family, which, as we know, is only a question of time, a number of householders will be compelled to stop farming. Such are in the first place those employed yearly or during the[120] summer as farm laborers. At present they number as follows:

With 1 adult male worker649With 2 or more adult male workers1242
“Horseless”568With 1 horse or more1323
Stopped tilling their plots576Tilling their plots1315

The “single” householders permanently employed as farm laborers have in most cases stopped working on their plots. The separation of the remaining 1242 compound householders would swell the proletarian class by nearly as many families, which would constitute an increase of the proletariat by forty-five per cent.

After having examined in detail the several classes of the village, let us sum up their characteristic features in one schedule, to show the tendency of the evolution going on:

Classes. Households, per cent. Average membership per household.
Males and female. Full workers. Half-workers. Total workers.
I. Agriculture yielding net profit:
Trading farmers610.
Farmers merely1010.
All to the class1610.
II. Agriculture leaving a deficit:
A. Farmers merely2061.30.31.6
B. Farmers—laborers507.
All to the class707.
III. Proletarians:
Employing labor9
Proletarians proper5
All to the class143.

We find a clue to the coming development of the village in[121] the fact that the main classes within the peasantry correspond to the age of the householders.

It is but the minority of old-fashioned compound families that have stood their ground as virtual farmers; the middle economic group of the village, is formed by “the middlers” i. e. the householders of middle age, who count in their families half-workers or one adult worker besides themselves. The proletarians are recruited from among the youngest generations, who consist of husband and wife with their little children.

Here we have the economic basis of the “struggle of generations” in the village, a topic which was very much discussed in Russian literature. The elders, the “middlers” and the young, represent the farmer of the old stamp and strong make, the modern peasant,—half farmer, half laborer at once,—and the proletarian, with their variance of views, which mirrors their diverse and antagonistic economic interests.[137]



Thus far we have seen the changes which the parcelling of soil wrought in the constitution of the village population. We are now brought face to face with the question of how small peasant landholding is influenced by this parcelling.

In countries with individual property in land, the question is settled. In Russia the case is complicated by the system of communal ownership in land.

Yet the right of alienation, the main essential for the question at issue, is inherent in quarterly possession on an equal footing with private property. Thus we can avail ourselves of the opportunity for comparative study.

Quite naturally, the distribution of land shows more irregularity under quarterly possession than under agrarian communism.

Former state peasants. Quarterly possession. Agrarian communism.
Dankoff and Ranenburg.
Per cent.
Zadonsk, Gubernia of Voronezh.
Per cent.
Owning less than 5 dessiatines3727
Owning more than 5 dessiatines5972
Average holding: dessiatines10.910.4


The maximum extent of one quarterly holding exceeded ten times the average. Under the rule of agrarian communism, where land is periodically distributed pro rata, according to the membership of the families, such extremes are quite impossible, so far as ownership is concerned.

Let us compare further the number of the dispossessed under agrarian communism and under quarterly possession:

Dankoff and Ranenburg:
Former state peasants.
Per cent.
Per cent.
Per cent.
With quarterly possession31417
With agrarian communism1910

It must be taken into account that the plots of the emigrants remain, under agrarian communism, the property of the community, which is not the case under any other form of possession that is at all analogous to private property. Thus the rural community appears to be a fairly efficient safety-valve against the expropriation of the poorest among the peasantry. In reality, however, the influence of communal ownership is merely formal. Communal land escapes from the hands of its titular owners under the form of lease.

The communal land held under lease is now nearly equal in amount to that leased by the peasants directly from the landlords.

Tenure from the landlords. Communal land in lease.
Dessiatines. Dessiatines. Per cent.

Furthermore, the figures show that only about one-fourth of the lessors are regular farmers, cultivating their lots with their own horses and implements, while about one-half have abandoned farming altogether:


Per cent.
Per cent.
Per cent.
Leased: a part of the plot, the rest cultivated
a) by the owner777
b) with the aid of hired labor665
The total plot12118
In all252420

Now, it is only in a few cases that the lease of a part of the plot is a proof of its extra size. As a rule, the plot is leased in part by those who are unable to raise the quantity of live stock required for the cultivation of their farms. The plots leased in full are the smallest, which it would not pay to cultivate.[138]


It will be remembered[139] that the terms of the agreement include the payment of the taxes with from one to three rubles yearly per plot for the enjoyment of the owner. It is evident that lease on such terms means practically expropriation of the owner.

Thus, under the rule of the mir, about one-fourth of the householders, nominally counted among “peasant proprietors,” are on the way toward expropriation, or have already become expropriated. As to the lessees of the peasant plots,[127] they must be at the top of the tenant class,[140] by reason of the terms of lease. The landlord gives the tenant credit for his rent, at least in part, till after harvest, and, in case of need, part of the rent is permitted to be paid in labor. The peasant lets his plot, either in full for the payment of taxes, or in part, by reason of lack of money. In either case it must be advanced in the fall. It is by no means unusual for the lease to be contracted[128] for a term of from six to twelve years,[141] the rent for the whole being payable in advance. This is very often the case with the plots of emigrants, leaving home for purposes of colonization, and with those who are permanently employed outside. It goes without saying that rent is advanced only at a considerable reduction of the rates.[142] This difference gave rise to speculation in peasant land. A hundred shares are leased by a wealthy peasant or merchant, to be re-rented in the spring in small plots to the poorer among the lessees.[143] The fact that[129] alienability of the peasant land had become a rule in the community, was first stated by Mr. Trirogoff as far back as 1879.[144] The observer, however, was not aware of the economic significance of the phenomenon when he advanced the opinion that alienability of land exhibits the great capacity of adaptation intrinsic in the community.

In reality the contrary is the case. The fact that communal land is disposed of by private agreement, means the displacement of agrarian communism by economic individualism. This was most strikingly demonstrated when the question of the general redivision of the communal land came up before the free mir in the beginning of the eighties.



Peasant Russia of the time of serfdom was a kind of a single tax realm. Land was treated by the peasantry as the only source of taxable income. Accordingly, the terms of the general subdivisions of the land were adapted to the censuses (revisions), made by the government for the assessment of the poll-tax, at average intervals of fifteen years.

The division of the nation into “taxable orders” and “privileged orders” did not correspond to the new idea of equality before the law, proclaimed by the reformers who surrounded Alexander II. A commission was appointed in 1858 to consider the question of the repeal of the poll-tax, and of a general reform in the financial system. After twenty-five years of hard labor (very liberally remunerated, I feel bound to state, to the credit of the government), the Commission brought about the repeal of the poll-tax[145]. In the meantime the censuses were held in abeyance, since they had for their sole purpose the assessment of the tax. The general redivision was consequently delayed. Wherever, and so long as the rent did not cover the taxes, partial subdivisions took place yearly to readjust the assessment of the taxes to the changed condition of the several tax-payers. Rise of rent made the intervention of the community unnecessary, and the practice of partial subdivisions fell into disuse. Yet, while at first everybody had[131] been anxious to be relieved from his share of land, which imposed a heavy obligation upon the holder, everybody now became eager for land, since it brought a certain income. Inequality of landholding, which developed with the growth of population, produced a keen antagonism within the village. About the time of the Ryazañ census, in a few communities the strife was already over, having resulted in the victory of the mir. But in the great majority the controversy had just reached its climax.

In 6 bailiwicks (out of the 45), i. e. in 87 communities, a serious obstacle to the subdivision arose from the lease of communal land.

A strong opposition was shown by the wealthy members of the community, who held the lots of the emigrants, and of outside workers, for long terms, and had advanced the rent for the whole period of lease. The subdivision would necessarily have had the effect of rendering their agreements void[146], while it would have been useless to have sued the lessors[147]. The remedy lies in the fact that, under given circumstances, the present law enables a small minority to put a stop to the subdivision.

The resolution must be passed by a vote of two-thirds of the mir. Now, about one-fifth of the householders are absent from home, engaged in some wage-earning occupation, and there is also a certain percentage among the emigrants who have not yet severed their relations with the community. After subtraction of both these groups, which are counted in the vote, it becomes very easy for the stronger households to stand against the advocates of subdivision. Furthermore, those who are in[132] the habit of leasing their plots would have no interest in the subdivision, even if present. The case of the adherents of the mir thus becomes a very precarious one. This is strikingly evidenced by the following figures:

Per cent.
Per cent.
Total of the community100100
Vote required for subdivision66⅔66⅔
Opposition sufficient to stay the same.[148]910


We know that the lessor class is constantly growing with[134] the increase of the population, and the spread of the movement from the village. Thus the young generation grows indifferent to the custom of the village community.

The old-fashioned households, on the other hand, are accumulating the plots of the declining farmers, and show a pronounced opposition to agrarian communism. There still remain the intermediate groups of the “weak” householders, who faithfully preserve their allegiance to the mir. The position of these groups is, however, very unstable.

It follows that the formation of classes within the mir tends to perpetuate the expropriation of the “weak” families, and[135] the concentration of communal land, formerly held by them, in the hands of the “strong.”

It is true that it is only the right of possession which is conferred upon the lessee of communal land. But there are many facts that go to show the possible evolution of possession into property.

Attention has been called in Russian economic literature to the tendency toward private property developing among the former serfs out of the redemption of their plots. At the time of the Ryazañ census there were 364 communities concerned in the region under consideration, and it was in 100[149] out of this number that the opposition against the redivision of the communal land came to the front. Those who had been paying the redemption tax at the time when the taxes exceeded the net income of the lots, objected to the decrease of the latter after the land had acquired a certain value. The wealthier householders had threatened to pay at once the whole amortization debt that hung over their plots, so as to compel the community to deed them over to their owners at the time, according to law[150].

Whatever may have been the final outcome of the issue this time[151], “the ides of March are not gone.” The nearer we approach the end of the period of redemption, the greater becomes the material interest attaching the individual to his plot, and the greater, consequently, his opposition to the redivision of the land. At present, since the Statute of Redemption has been extended to all divisions of the peasantry, the conflict between agrarian communism and the interests of the individual has become universal. The old peasant common law,[136] which developed naturally as the consequence of economic equality, now proves oppressive for the destitute, no less than for the wealthy. Given the existing class distinctions within the community, there is no good reason why the proletarian, on leaving his village, should sacrifice his right of property to the mir, instead of alienating it for his own benefit.

Thus the play of economic interests is dissolving the village community into, on the one hand, a landless rural proletariat, and, on the other hand, a peasant bourgeoisie, to whom the title to a large portion of communal land is destined to be transferred.


The antiquated presumption of the homogeneity of the village found its practical expression in a scheme which came out of the peasantist press, and caught the ear of the ruling classes. This was the proposal to declare communal land inalienable. The question at issue has had its history. So long as the capitalized amortization tax exceeded the value of the land, the number of peasants who had redeemed their lots in absolute property was limited to a score of the wealthiest householders in a district. It took about 20 years before the rise of rent brought the price of land above the redemption debt, as decreased by the previous amortization payments made by the peasants. It then became profitable for speculators to advance the money necessary for the repayment of the remainder, so as to compel the community to carve out the lot into a separate tract, and thus make the sale feasible. As this speculation dates only from the eighties, the statistics gathered by local investigations are as yet insufficient. The question can be properly handled only when we have the data of a large region comprising, at least, several gubernias. So the matter has been dealt with in a series of articles in the Russian press. It appears that a considerable number of peasant plots have passed, by sale, into the hands of strangers, thanks to the law permitting the alienation of communal land. (Sec. 165 of the General Statute of the Peasants freed from bond serfdom.)

To see our way clearly through the question at issue, we have to discover who are the buyers of the land sold by the peasants.

We have seen that only a minor portion of the quarterly lots have been purchased by merchants. As a rule, the small lots sold by the nobility are acquired by peasants only. (Cf., next chapter.)

The question at issue is thus one that has been settled as between peasants alone, and that affects neither the interests of the nobility nor those of the capitalistic class. In such cases it may well please the Russian government to throw a sop to the peasantists. This mésalliance of oriental paternalism with some queer sort[137] of state socialistic prohibitionism, however, would be apt to meet with opposition from the very ones who were supposed to be benefited.

As the process of dissolution is obviously spreading from within, and not from without the village, inalienability of peasant land would simply mean gratuitous expropriation of the poor for the benefit of the wealthy members of the community.

We notice that the percentage of emigrants among the quarterly possessors who have enjoyed the right of alienating their land has been far greater than that among the former state peasants who live in agrarian communism:

Title of possession.Ranenburg.
Per cent.
Per cent.
Quarterly possession1712
Agrarian communism95

To what is this difference due? A single concrete example will clear up the matter.

“In 1881 a small community of 5 households, former serfs of Gregoroff, emigrated from the village of Bigildino, district of Dankoff. Their land, 30 dessiatines, was sold to a rich peasant in consideration of 1500 rubles. The emigrants could not make a living at home, and most of them were yearly laborers.” (Loc. cit., part II., pp. 115, 247.) According to Mr. Greegoryeff (Emigration of the peasants of the gubernia of Ryazañ), 300 rubles, the price of an average peasant holding of 6 dessiatines, is sufficient to enable a peasant family to start farming in Southern Siberia. A peasant who has been absolutely ruined is thus enabled, through the sale of his lot in the communal land, to rise to the position of a farmer in the new country. Devotion to the sacred customs of forefathers would hardly be able to withstand such a temptation as this, but for the helpful right hand of the most gracious Bureaucracy.

I shall, of course, be charged with pessimism, as I have been recently on account of my views on the emigration of the peasants. (Cf., The public and the Statute on Emigration, by A. Bogdanoffsky, p. 38, in the Severny Vestnik, May, 1892). The usual method of reasoning followed takes some such course as this: Granted that the case is presented true to life as it actually stands, the evil consequences are nevertheless due to the present abnormal condition of the peasantry, and under normal circumstances, the objections are “no good.” Unhappily, however, these very “abnormal” conditions are developing spontaneously, while the creation of “normal” conditions is beyond the jurisdiction of the well-wishers of the peasantry.



The peasantist ideas with regard to the village community found their necessary complement in an economic theory which gathered to itself a large following in Russia some ten years ago. The founder of this school, a young writer who concealed his name under the initials V. V., advanced the thesis that the development of capitalism in Russia is precluded by her economic constitution, as well as by her belated appearance on the international market. Export of grain had been the only vacancy left by European capitalism for the enjoyment of its younger brother in Russia. But then there you have “our Transatlantic friends,” the Yankees, who are going to turn us out of the Western ports. Production for the international grain market is a phantastic dream of Russian “large agriculture.” The reality belongs to the peasant, who produces for home consumption. Large estates are in decay. Small peasant farming is spreading in all the dominions of the nobility. Economic development will compel the noble to cede to the triumphant ploughman the use of the land, while taking for himself the modest role of an absentee.[152]

At last the word was uttered which was so eagerly longed for. The Russian peasantists labored at the riddle how to reconcile the theory of Karl Marx with the teachings of Tchernyshefsky. If capitalism is the laboratory in which socialism is concocted; if furthermore, capitalism has grown out of the expropriation of the peasant, then the consistent[139] Russian socialist must foster the dissolution of agrarian communism, to which all his sympathies are pledged, and contribute to the development of capitalism, of which he himself is a bitter enemy.[153] Mr. V. V. found the solution of the riddle in reaching the conclusions of Tchernyshefsky through the materialistic method of Karl Marx.

The unrelenting course of historical development tends to eliminate landlord agriculture in Russia. As land is steadily passing into the control of the peasantry, the time is imminent when land nationalization can easily be carried out through the abolition of rent. Whether the reform will be accomplished through violence, like the emancipation of the slaves in the United States, or in a peaceful way, like the emancipation of the peasants and the redemption of land in Russia, entirely depends on the wisdom of the ruling classes. Sooner or later the government will see itself in a condition similar to that which existed before 1861, and the next reform will only achieve the work which had been left half done by the emancipation.[154]

This attractive theory gained for a time control of the whole[140] monthly press. Statistical investigation, however, has subsequently brought to light the utter baselessness of the very premises of the doctrine.

Given the development and actual condition of farm labor, the character of agriculture on a large scale is fully determined thereby. Farming on the estates of the nobility after the emancipation of the peasants continued for a time as a pursuit of merely natural economy. One part of the land was rented to the peasants in consideration of a certain amount of work to be done on the other part. Labor was also provided for through the grant of easements to the peasant communities. The entire area of the estate, whether rented or farmed by the owner, was cultivated by the peasants’ implements and live stock. This enabled the landlord to carry on agriculture on a large scale without any outlay of capital.

The rise of rent resulted in the increase of the work to be performed by the tenant for the benefit of the landlord. The area cultivated by the latter increased, diminishing the part of the estate rented to the peasant. Small peasant agriculture was being step by step displaced by large farming, and that continually without any additional investment of capital.

Finally, however, the displacement of the small farmer must needs have led to the gradual substitution of money economy for natural economy. As the number of impoverished peasants increased in inverse ratio to the tenant class, a time arrived when the demand for labor could no longer be supplied by tenants alone, and had to be provided for through wage labor. The employer became the creditor of the laborer. This necessitated money payments for the land given in tenure.

Such are the inferences necessarily following from the above review of peasant agriculture. The immediate study of agriculture on a large scale must obviously lead to the same conclusions.[155]


As yet the major part of the area of private property is cultivated by means of peasant live stock and implements, as evidenced by the comparative quantity of live stock raised on the large farms and in the rural districts abroad:

District of Voronezh. Land,
Horses. To 1 horse
on an average,
On large estates under cultivation (land in small tenure excluded)86360170850.5
In the district at large434372524658.3

It follows from these figures that the landlords’ stock is hardly sufficient for the cultivation of one-sixth of the land which is virtually farmed by the owners of large estates. Quite naturally, from the agronomic standpoint the Russian “bonanza farms” have very little advantage over small peasant farming. The primitive division of the arable land into three well-nigh equal fields, of which one is yearly left unsown, prevails on the large estates as well as on peasant farms.[156] The[142] tillage with the antediluvian peasant plough (sohá) is very imperfect, while improved ploughs are not in common use, and wherever they are, one plough is found for every 91.2 dessiatines (246 acres) of arable land. Superficial tillage strains the productive forces of the upper layers of the soil, while lack of live stock prevents the fertilizing of the land on a reasonable scale, the fields being manured on an average once in eighteen years.[157]

Large farming thus partakes of the wasteful character of small peasant agriculture, and proves therefore almost as little productive, a fact shown by the comparative yields of cereals:[158]


Classes of farms. Rye. Oats.
Ratio to the seed. Per cent. Ratio to the seed. Per cent.
On peasant farms5.31004.6100
On large estates (over 50 dessiatines)7.31385.8126

Still, even that slight increase of productivity is sufficient to make large farming prevail over small peasant tenure:

Arable land yearly under cultivation. Payment in money, Dessiatines. Payment in share of crops, Dessiatines. In all.
Dessiatines. Per cent.
In small peasant tenure2422610832530940
Cultivated by the large farmer3718310283821160
Total[159], dessiatines61409211163520
Per cent.973..100


Another reason for the prevalence of large farming over small peasant tenure is to be found in the greater economic dependence of the farm laborer as compared with the tenant, while the laborer, being a farmer himself, saves his employer the investment of fixed capital.

Nevertheless a certain outlay of capital for the payment of wages was necessitated by the development of money economy in agriculture. This has drawn the line between the smaller and the larger estates.

While on the smaller estates peasant tenure is practiced to the extent of excluding landlord agriculture, on the larger estates, on the contrary, peasant tenure plays but a subordinate part:

I. System of management. Number of estates. Total extent. Average Dessiatines.
Dessiatines. Per cent.
Estates without arable land1451174
Estates exclusively in small tenure641560512244
Estates with large farming19010961583577
Management not stated1116161
II. Ploughland yearly under culture.Dessiatines.Per cent.
Total on the estates with large farming52627100
Cultivated by the owners3718371
In small peasant tenure1544429

Small peasant tenure is a very ruinous management of large estates, inasmuch as the land allotted in tenure is, as a rule, never manured.[160] The above figures testify therefore to a certain[145] progress of agriculture on the larger estates. Farming without fertilizing the soil is found only on the smallest estates, which do not reach even the average size of those exclusively in peasant tenure.[161] On larger estates application of manure goes hand in hand with the culture of more valuable crops.

On peasant farms, as well as on the smaller estates approaching the standard of peasant agriculture, rye is found to be the only winter crop[162]; whereas on the larger estates it has been supplanted to a vast extent by winter wheat:

Estates with large agriculture. Number of estates. Dessiatines. Wheat to total winter crops (per cent.).
Total extent. Average extent. Winter crops.
Total. Rye. Wheat.
Wheat not grown963445335944444444....
Wheat grown9475162800127448171457336

Winter wheat is only exceptionally grown on unfertilized land; on the other hand, only a minor part of the fertilized[146] land is never planted with wheat. As a rule a field is manured on an average for two seeds of winter wheat.[163]

The need of manure necessitates the raising of live stock by the landlord. Then it becomes a matter of good economy with the largest farmer to apply his own live stock and implements to the tillage of his land.[164] This leads to the improvement of farming implements, and must consequently be considered as another proof of the progressive tendency of large farming.[165]

Still all these improvements presuppose a corresponding investment of capital. Thus we are face to face with the beginnings of capitalistic agriculture in Russia.


The nobility, as a class, owed its existence to relations of natural economy. The bonds, which were issued to the landlords by the government in payment for the land allotted to the peasantry, were promptly wasted for personal enjoyment, for all kind of risky speculations, and for agricultural improvements which could not pay from a business standpoint. Thus, as soon as the need of capital began to be felt in agriculture, the estates of the nobility flew, through lease, mortgage and sale, into the hands of the capitalist class.

The following shows the movement of private landed property in the district of Ryazañ, from 1867 to 1881.[166]


Classes of owners. Percentage in the area. Average holding (Dessiatines).
1867. 1881. 1867. 1881.
Property of the nobility9266.6284.9283.6
Property of the capitalistic class3.322.3124.4372.1
Small property4.711.13.74.9

Immediately after the emancipation of the peasants the domains of the nobility covered nearly the total area of private property. Twenty years after the reform, one-third of their property had already gone to other classes. The land which was lost by the nobility was divided between the capitalist and the small farmer in the ratio of two to one, the possessions of the capitalist growing about three times as fast as small private property.

The new classes of property holders well-nigh correspond, as to their origin, to the legal status of “merchants” and “peasants.” Among these classes is being divided the inheritance of the nobility. “The merchant class take possession mainly of the large estates, neglecting altogether, and even relinquishing, the small plots, … which gradually pass into the hands of the peasant.”[167]

The following figures may serve as an illustration:


Status of owners. Percentage of the area.
Estates under 50 dessiatines. Estates over 50 dessiatines.
Merchants & “hon. citizens.”[168]
Burghers, clergy, etc.

The growth of capitalistic tenure furthers the progress of capitalistic agriculture. The small tenant is being superseded by the large business man (or merchant, to use the Russian expression), exploiting the land by means of wage labor. This is proved by the following figures:

Systems of management. Property of the nobility. Property of the capitalist class.
Number of estates. Total extent. Average (dessiatines). Number of estates. Total extent. Average (dessiatines).
Dessiatines. Per cent. Dessiatines. Per cent.
Estates exclusively in small tenure511394213.42731316646.3128
Estates without tillage land57940.7..9432316.3..
Estates with large agriculture1239022385.4734671939173.4289
Management not stated65560.5..510604.0..


The nobility has proved able to farm only on the largest estates. Where the nobleman would merely distribute his estate in small lots among peasant tenants, the capitalist landholder carries on agriculture on a large scale:

Average holding of a noble in small peasant tenure273
Average holding of a capitalist with farming on a large scale289

The average holding on which peasant tenure pays the capitalist better than farming, is less than one-half the corresponding size of a noble’s estate. Accordingly we find that wherever the capitalist has replaced the noble, the exclusive practice of small peasant tenure has lost over one-half of its area:

Estates in small peasant tenure.Percentage
in the area.
Property of the nobility13.4
Property of the capitalists6.3

Among the capitalists we notice the timber speculator, who purchases tracts without ploughland, or, perhaps, sells the latter to the small farmer. Yet, with all that, three-fourths of the total area acquired by the capitalist class are farmed by the owners. Practical business men who invest their money in large estates, would undoubtedly prefer to quietly pocket the enormous rents paid by the peasants, if in reality agriculture on a large scale had proved a loss, as both the nobility and the peasantists claimed.[169]


Moreover, the management of the estates by the capitalists is far superior to that which the noble landlord could afford.

The capitalist would manure his fields as soon as his holding reaches scarcely one-half the average estate on which the nobleman would care to fertilize the soil; and even then the latter lags behind the capitalist as regards the area yearly manured:

Estates with large agriculture. Number of estates. Average (dessiatines). Area under cultivation.
Dessiatines. Once in how many years manured?
Total. Per cent. Yearly manured.
Property of the nobility:100
Farming with manure1048162849592255511.1
Farming without manure1928024158
Property of the capitalist class:100
Farming with manure453635314858256.4
Farming without manure2213895815


The expense of fertilizing is compensated by the greater productivity of capitalistic agriculture.

We observe that wheat is planted by the capitalist where rye would be the only winter crop raised by a nobleman:

Estates with large agriculture.Number.Average
Property of the nobility:
Wheat grown72898
No wheat grown51501
Property of the capitalist class:
Wheat grown22478
No wheat grown45197

Of much greater consequence is, moreover, the fact that the yields of wheat are by far higher on capitalistic farms than on the estates of the nobility[170]:

Wheat planted. Dessiatines. Average yields.
Yields stated. Yields not stated. Per cent. Regardless of class of property. With regard to class of property.
Chetverts[171] from 1 dessiatine. Bushels per acre. Comparative percentage rates.
Manured. Not manured. Regardless of manure.
By noblemen36091665.45.311.797
By capitalists768308.48.117.8148
U.S. 1880-89[172]12.0100


It appears from these figures—

1. That on the estates of the nobility the average yield of wheat amounts to what can be got from the soil without the application of manure, while on capitalistic farms the average is nearly on a par with that which is raised from fertilized land.

2. That the average yield of wheat per acre on a capitalistic farm in the district of Voronezh outruns by about one-half the American average, while the noble landlord is barely able to keep on a level with the American producer. Taking into consideration that the farm laborer of middle Russia, with his 50 kopeks a day (25 cents in gold) in the summer, is well fitted to underbid the Chinese cooly, so large an advance in productivity seems to justify the prediction of Mr. Paul Lafargue, viz., that Russia will soon become a successful competitor of America on the international grain market.[173]

The rise of the income from agriculture, as above shown, goes hand in hand with the development of stock breeding. Thus where the nobleman would have all his land tilled with peasant live stock, the capitalist draws a benefit from cultivating a part of his estate with his own stock, and this part is relatively greater than on the largest estates owned by the nobility. The evidence is presented in the following table:

Estates with large farming. Number of estates. Total extent. Average
To 1 horse,
Dessiatines. Per cent.
Property of the nobility:100
With working horses88788148789662
Without working horses351140913326..
Property of the capitalists:100
With working horses54175979132644
Without working horses1317949138..


The displacement of the laborer’s live stock and implements by the owner’s stock, while it fosters the introduction of improved implements,[174] replaces on the other hand the small farmer by the proletarian. In fact, proletarian labor is employed by the capitalist on estates where the noble owner would confine himself to the services of the small farmer:

Estates with large agriculture. Number of estates. Average size, (Dessiatines). Permanently employed (males). To 1 laborer (Dessiatines).
Property of the nobility:
Proletarian labor employed112783195645
not employed11233....
Property of the capitalist class:
Proletarian labor employed5035139848
not employed17108....

To sum up, it is thanks solely to the obstinate persistence of backward methods in Russian agriculture that the nobility is able to maintain its position.


The biggest of the aristocratic landlords are the only ones who can keep on capitalizing a part of their net income.[175]

On the whole, the existence of the nobility as an agricultural class is closely dependent upon the continued vegetation of a class of peasants, who are farmers and laborers at once, or who, to express it more accurately, are neither farmers nor laborers. We have seen what is the trend of the times with regard to this class of peasantry. The former masters will inevitably share the fate of their former serfs.



The conclusions drawn from the previous discussion of the economic structure of the Russian village must be taken with a threefold limitation.

In the first place, the science of statistics is essentially a science of large numbers. There are many questions, by no means unimportant, which it has been impossible even to touch upon, their discussion being feasible only where large agricultural areas are concerned.

In the second place, inasmuch as the facts and deductions have only a local basis, the question arises whether the conclusions drawn would also hold good when applied upon a larger scale.

In the third place, the conditions prevailing some five or ten years ago must inevitably have undergone by this time great modifications.

It is no exaggeration to say that the round thousand[176] communities in the section submitted to examination represent an equal number of varying combinations of the fundamental agencies of rural economy. Nevertheless, we observe a certain regularity as soon as a complex, sufficient and necessary,[157] of units is taken as a basis for examination. Thus we notice that all the figures relating to the district of Ranenburg are copied with a remarkable constancy in the district of Dankoff in the gubernia of Ryazañ. The same similitude is observed between the districts of Korotoyak and Nizhnedevitzk in the gubernia of Voronezh. It points to a certain uniformity of economic constitution as prevailing under like conditions over a still wider area. In a region confined mainly to agriculture, landholding is the determining factor of economic life. Should we find the same condition of landholding amidst similar surroundings, physical, geographical and legal, we might be justly entitled to assume throughout identity of economic structure. Such is virtually the case as regards the “central black soil, prairieless zone,” which has been the main seat of famine.

It may, therefore, reasonably be assumed that economic conditions in middle Russia about 1881 were essentially the same as in the region here described, allowance being made for numerical fluctuations. It was at this date that revolutionary peasantism had reached its climax, and to cope with it, a new era of “national policy” was inaugurated by Count Ignatieff. The question now arises as to whether counter-influences had arisen which exercised a neutralizing effect upon the economic tendencies that developed during the reign of Alexander II. A full discussion of the economic policy of the present Russian government would carry us beyond the limits of the present treatise.[177] I shall confine myself, therefore, to a few remarks[158] relative to the two state institutions created for the encouragement of agriculture, viz: The Nobility’s Crédit Foncier, and the Peasant’s Crédit Foncier.

Hundreds of millions were appropriated in the course of a few years to prevent the complete ruin of the landholding nobility. No such liberality was allowed in the conduct of the Peasant’s Bank, which was founded with the express object of providing the money needed by the peasant for the purchase of land.[178] Amidst the jubilations with which the peasantist press greeted the birth of this still-born child, Mr. Lobachevsky (pseudonym), one of the broadest minded of the Russian statisticians, raised the sole dissenting voice. He advanced the opinion[179] that to establish a Bank with a stock of a few millions for tens of millions of peasants, was to create a small peasant bourgeoisie that would inevitably take advantage of the poverty of the more helpless members of its class, and that the poor householder would infallibly succumb if he accepted the services of the Peasant’s Bank. This opinion received a speedy confirmation in the actual practice of the Bank, which soon proved itself to be merely a supplementary department of the Nobility’s Bank.

Says Mr. Herzenstein, a Russian Catheder-Sozialist, “It is universally known that the peasants’ purchases enabled the landlords to get rid, at a high price, of those tracts which yielded them no income, and that, taking it all in all, the peasants paid more for their land than it was worth.”[180]

It was again the same truly Russian system which had been tried with such splendid success on the occasion of the emancipation of the serfs. Furthermore, the interest levied by the[159] Bank, viz: 7½ per cent., exceeds that charged by any of the private mortgage banks (6 per cent.), whereas, with the Nobility’s Bank, the interest is less than that charged by private banks.[181]

It is therefore by no means surprising to find that speedy ruin is the debtor’s fate. In the period from 1887 to 1890, 8.8 per cent. of all the land purchased with the aid of the Peasant’s Bank, was relinquished by the mortgageors, the failures amounting to 7,637,034 rubles, or to 14 per cent. of all the loans granted by the Bank.[182] The operations of the Bank necessarily suffered a diminution.[183] However, all these inconveniences are but matters of secondary importance. Had everything gone smoothly, the Bank would nevertheless have effected no actual change in the economics of the village.

As may be remembered, the village community needs about one-half more land in order to enable all its members to hold[160] their position as farmers. To put peasant landholding upon a proper footing in the famine-stricken region, many times more land would be required than that purchased by all the peasants throughout Russia with the aid of the Peasant’s Bank.[184]

It may be questioned whether the operations of the Bank have been even sufficient to counterbalance the further parcellation of peasant holdings which has resulted from the growth of population. The economic tendencies prevalent in the village during the first year of the present reign may be regarded as being even more pronounced to-day.


The present catastrophe was consequently by no means unexpected, and there has been no lack of alarming symptoms within the past ten years. In 1883, 1884 and 1885 famine stalked alternately through western Siberia, through the northeast, and through certain of the central provinces of European Russia (Vyatka, Kazañ, Kursk, etc.). Famine was again reported in 1889.[185] To such an extent was the peasantry already exhausted that even the extraordinarily good harvest of 1890[186] was unable to prevent a subsequent failure of crops from resulting in a famine.

It is only in the area affected that the present failure is distinguished from its precursors.[187] The cause of the various famines is at bottom always essentially the same, viz: the backwardness of Russian agriculture. The surface of the soil has become finally exhausted and the wooden plough of the Russian peasant is unable to reach down to the deeper layers where the soil is yet virgin. Deep ploughing is impossible with only one horse, and that horse fed on straw. It is further not only the peasant land, but also the major part of the landlord’s fields, that is cultivated with the peasant’s stock and implements. Thus the crisis of peasant agriculture is at the same time the crisis of Russian landlord farming.[188] The famine[162] has brought about at one single stroke the dissolution which had been slowly going on in the village since 1861.

The Russian papers have published a multitude of letters from their correspondents telling of the loss of some 50% of the horses owned by the peasants. This means the complete ruin of the weak groups of the village, and the further concentration of the communal land into the hands of the strong, who alone survived as the farming class.[189] The class of small[163] farmers in Russia is evolving into a peasant bourgeoisie similar to the French peasantry after the great Revolution, or to the American small employing farmers. The transitional groups of half farmers, half laborers, by whom the major part of the landlords’ estates were formerly cultivated, have sunk through the famine into the proletarian class. The laborer having become a proletarian, it is by proletarian labor that the estates must be tilled, and agriculture upon a large scale becomes a regular capitalistic pursuit.[190] The nobility with its estates under mortgage can not possibly afford the capital needed.[191]


The land is destined to be divided between the large capitalist and the small farmer—the homo novus of the village.[192]

Thus the present famine must be considered as a genuine turning-point in the economic history of Russia.

Family co-operation, village community, nobility, and natural economy—such was the economic constitution of Russia in the past.

The Russia of the days to come will have for its basis a peasant bourgeoisie, a rural proletariat, and capitalistic agriculture.[193]




TABLE I.—Distribution of Land Among the Several Sections of the Peasant Population.

Classes of peasantry by district, origin, and by title of possession. Population. Land (Dessiatines).
Communities. Households. Persons (males and females). Total. Per cent. To each male of the tenth census. To each household of the census of 1882.[194] To each person of the census of 1882.[194]
Number. Per cent.
District of Ranenburg:
I. Former serfs:
1. Corvée or taille75254716071121479792.46.21.0
2. Redemption192103106362147.45950936.
3. Donation5905530.4119.
4. Absolute Property4161330.12420.15.316.11.9
All to former serfs276129638037859.97466745.
II. Former State peasants
1. Agrarian communism2762374229731.56823041.
2. Quarterly possession1541529402.261443.76.7152.1
3. Mixed[195]10122482486.2150929.24.512.41.8
All to former state peasants5278765348539.98946654.44.311.51.7
III. Former serfs, subsequently state peasants12362360.22280.
District of Dankoff:
I. Former serfs:
1. Corvée or taille7520781292313.21351210.
2. Redemption172752448126495002638.52.571.1
3. Donation723113761.45510.
4. Absolute property6695110.59470.74.814.11.9
All to former serfs26099026293664.16503650.
II. Former state peasants
1. Agrarian communism1830821981720.23175624.
2. Quarterly possession1817651213112.42720820.95.415.92.3
3. Mixed[195]341527892.853314.
All to former state peasants3952623473735.46429549.44.612.41.9
III. Former serfs, subsequently state peasants[196]14875510.57510.649.11.4



To make it clearer for the purposes of comparative study, some of these data are translated into English measures:


I. Former serfs:
1. Corvée or taille16.818.7
2. Redemption16.518.9
3. Donation5.47.3
4. Absolute property43.538.1
All to former serfs16.518.7
II. Former state peasants:
1. Agrarian Communism29.728.1
2. Quarterly possession40.543.0
3. Mixed33.534.9
All to former state peasants31.133.5
III. Mixed17.624.6


TABLE II.—Taxation of the Peasantry.

Classes of peasants and titles of possession. District of Ranenburg. District of Dankoff.
Land in dessiatines. Cattle. Taxes in rubles. Land in dessiatines. Cattle. Taxes in rubles.
To 1 male, 1858. To 1 household. To 1 dessiatine. To 1 male, 1858. To 1 male worker. To 1 male, 1858. To 1 household. To 1 dessiatine. To 1 male, 1858. To 1 male worker.
I. Former serfs:
1. Corvée or taille2.
2. Redemption2.
3. Donation0.
4. Absolute property5.316.
II. Former serfs, subsequently state peasants2.
III. Former state peasants:
1. Agrarian communism4.
2. Quarterly possession6.715.04.01.913.218.05.415.93.31.910.818.1
3. Mixed4.512.43.12.411.


TABLE III.—Arrears in Taxes.

Degree of indebtedness. Former serfs. Former state peasants.
Communities. Households. Arrears in Rubles. Communities. Households. Arrears in Rubles.
Number. Per cent. Amount. Per cent. To 1 household. Number. Per cent. Amount. Per cent. To 1 household.
District of Dankoff:
Without arrears175610761.217212540.4
In arrears:
For not more than the land tax[197]88354135.4660253.41.921311959.3466894.71.5
For not more than 1 year’s taxes81621.6243219.715.01180.32635.314.6
For from 1 to 2 years’ taxes31791.8332226.918.6
Total in arrears99388238.81235610022313759.64931100
Total in the district2749989100395262100
District of Ranenburg:
Without arrears4112549.661692.1
In arrears:
For not more than the land tax138677652.15289130.17.834506364.33386947.96.7
For not more than 1 year’s taxes76352927.17081440.320.113264433.63685752.113.9
For from 1 to 2 year’s taxes29136710.64739226.934.7
For from 2 to 3 years’ taxes3730.647682.765.3
Total in arrears2461174590.417586510047710797.970726100
Total in the district28712999100537876100


TABLE IV.—Distribution of Rented Land.

A.—Classification with regard to ownership of land.

Households. D. of Korotoyak. D. of Nizhnedevitsk. In all.
Tenants, per cent. Rented land. Tenants, per cent. Rented land. Rented for money rental, per cent. Rented for share in crops, per cent.
Per cent. To one tenant (dessiatines). Per cent. To one tenant (dessiatines).
Landless0.2} 13.40.3}} 19.40.3}
Owning under 5 dessiatines13.28.92.819.
from 5 to 15 dessiatines49.038.93.349.741.73.339.850.0
from 15 to 25 dessiatines26.1} 37.627.5} 51.94.522.0} 30.924.6} 43.44.426.126.4
over 25 dessiatines11.524.49.08.918.

B.—Classification with regard to stock-breeding.

Households. D. of Korotoyak. D. of Nizhnedevitsk. In all.
Tenants, per cent. Rented land, per cent. Tenants, percentage within the class. Dessiatines to 1 tenant. Tenants, per cent. Rented land, per cent. Tenants, percentage within the class. To 1 tenant, dessiatines. Rented for money rental, per cent. Rented for share in crops, per cent.
Without horses3.51.911.
With 1 horse28.416.537.92.321.410.628.82.113.316.4
from 2 to 3 horses54.146.749.63.463.050.354.93.448.059.5
4 or more horses14.034.978.59.714.538.781.611.337.623.5



Translated from the Statistical Reports for the District of Borisoglebsk, Gubernia of Tamboff (Appendix I., pp. 28-32, 88-97).[198]

I. Gabriel Michea’s (son) Trupoff, village Sukmanka, bailiwick (volost) Sukmanka.

The family selected is one of medium standing, getting along well with its farming. The figures refer to 1879, when the crops were good, the yield being in the ratio of 10:1 to the seed.

Members of the Family.

1. The housefather, 60 year old, doing all kinds of farm work.

2. His wife, of the same age, keeping the house.

3. Their son, aged 27.

4. Their daughter-in law, aged 26, and,

5-7. The son and daughter-in-law’s three children, between 3 and 8 years of age.

Schedule of Property Owned by the Family.

1. Wooden house, straw roof:

a. Length91
b. Breadth42
c. Height222

Add thereto sheds, etc., used for various farming purposes.

2. Land, 15 dessiatines (= 40 acres).

3. Stock:

a. Horses4
b. Cow1
c. Calf1


Income in Rubles.

Dr.Price.In Kind.In Money.Total.
1. Farm and house:
Rye, 40 Russian quarters, @4.0090.0070.00160.00
Oats, 60 Russian quarters, @2.0040.0080.00120.00
Millet, 5 Russian quarters, @5.0025.0025.00
Potatoes, 40 Russian measures, @
Flaxseed, 5 quarters, @10.0050.0050.00
Flax and hemp, fibre30.0030.00
Hemp seed, 2½ quarters, @8.0020.0020.00
Hay, 100 poods, @0.1010.0010.00
Two slaughtered pigs, @5.0010.0010.00
One calf, @20.0020.0020.00
Sold: ducks, @4.00
3 geese, @1.003.00
1 colt, @23.0023.0030.00
Total from farm and house291.00230.00521.00
II. Rented grass land: 3 dessiatines (8 acres):
Hay, 180 poods, @0.1018.0018.00
III. Odd jobs:
(Farm work and driving)52.0052.00
Grand total309.00282.00591.00


Expenses in Rubles.

Cr.Price.In Kind.In Money.Total.
I. Productive Consumption:
1. Forage for cattle[199]:
All to forage108.00108.00
2. Wages to the communal shepherd:
The family’s share3.00
3. Wear and tear of implements30.00
Total productive consumption108.0033.00141.00
II. Personal Consumption:
1. Food:
Rye flour, 15 poods a month @0.5090.00
Salt, 4½ poods a year @0.703.15
Hemp oil20.00
Wheat flour, 217 lbs. a year12.00
Meat and lard
a. On holidays 72 lbs.5.60
b. On workdays 430 lbs.30.00
Total meat 502 lbs.
Salted fish and herring5.00
Brandy, 4 pails (400 glasses)16.00
All to food[200]171.0041.75212.75
2. Shoes:
One pair a year to each member of the family13.00
Felt boots for all3.00
All for shoes16.0016.00
3. Clothing:
One fur to each father and son, once in 5 years @10.004.00
One coat to each, once in 2 years @5.005.00
One gird to each, once in 10 years @0.160.80
One cap to each, once in 5 years @2.0010.00
One holiday coat to each, once in 3 years @6.004.00
One overcoat for the son, once in 2 years @5.002.50
Dresses for two women16.00
Dresses for children10.00
Linen from own flax and seed30.00
All to clothing30.0042.4672.46
4. Sundries:
Lard candles, 10 lbs. a year1.60
Kerosene, 36 lbs. a year2.40
Expenses of worship5.50
Moulding of rye, etc.10.00
All to sundries33.5033.50
Total personal consumption201.00133.71334.71
III. Taxes37.5037.50
All to ordinary expenses309.00204.21513.21
IV. Rent for 3 dessiatines grass land, @5.0015.0015.00
Total expenditures309.00219.21528.21
1. Net income from farm and house7.79
2. Net income from rented land3.00
3. Income from sundry jobs52.00
Grand total591.00


II. Kosma Abramoff, village Michaïlovka, bailiwick Nicholo-Kabañ yevskaya.

The family counts as one of the “strong” economically.


3male workers.
3female workers.

Schedule of Property.

1. 1 house (with appurtenances):

a. Length68
b. Breadth68

2. Land, 3 dessiatines (8 acres).

3. Stock:

a. Horses5
b. Cow1
c. Calves2
d. Sheep11
e. Lambs7
f. Pigs2


Income in Rubles.

I. Farming on the allotted land (garden, house and appurtenances)181.00
II. Domestic industry for domestic use177.80
Total farm and house358.80358.80
Deficit to cover the expenses660.45
III. Farming on rented land:
Gross income640.00
Net product358.00
IV. Odd jobs:
Farm work, tailoring, carrying trade, wage work, etc.245.00
Total income1243.801243.80
Balance (deficit)57.45
Grand Total1301.25

Expenses[201] in Rubles.

Cr.In Kind.In Money.Total.
I. Productive consumption154.00127.00281.00
II. Personal Consumption:
Shoes and stockings7.8051.5059.30
All to personal consumption432.80289.45722.25
III. Taxes16.0016.00
Total ordinary expenditure586.80432.451019.25
IV. Rent: For 20 dessiatines282.00282.00
Grand total586.80714.451301.25


III. Capiton Popoff, village Pavlovka, bailiwick Pavlodarovka.

The family is considered one of the “powerless.”


1. Father.

2. Mother.

3. Son.

4. Daughter-in-law.

5. Girl of 16.

6. Girl of 13.

7-8. Two little boys.

Schedule of Property.

1. House, 14×14 square feet.

2. Land, 1½ dessiatines (4 acres).

3. Stock:

a. Horse1
b. Cow1
c. Sheep3


Yearly Income in Rubles.

Farm and house27.80
Rented land74.00
Wage labor74.80
Balance, deficit65.20
Grand total241.80

Yearly Expenses in Rubles.

I. Rent57.00
II. Taxes8.00
III. Food:
Meat at Easter, 11 pounds @ 9 copecks0.99
at St. Peter’s day, 10 pounds @ 8 cop.0.80
at Christmas, @ 5 cop. (of own produce)1.75
All to meat3.54
5 chickens and 50 eggs1.05
18 pounds very bad salted fish at the carnival, @ 4 cop.0.72
Rye bread, cabbage, potatoes, salt, butter, corn, pickles, and apples for the children106.61
All to food111.92
IV. Clothing[203]23.10
V. Shoes[203]27.00
VI. Sundries[204]15.78
Grand total241.80


TABLE VI.—Wages of the Peasant in Industrial Employment.

(Compiled from the Appendices to the Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Ryazañ, 1882.)


No. Trade. Season. Board. Wages in rubles. No.
Per day. Per week. Per month. Per term. Per year.
From To From To From To From To
1BrickmakersSpring and Summer.Without board.0.501.0050.0080.001
2Charcoal burning0.500.7040.002
3Clearing of the soil (from stumps)7.0012.00
a. Independent craftsmen.75.00100.00a
b. Working for contractors.35.0060.00b
8CarpentersWith board.55.0070.008
All through the year.100.00
Without board.7.0013.00
9Water flour millsWinter.5.009
Spring and Summer.8.0015.00
10Felt boot-makersFall.With board.0.400.6010
13Timber sawingWinter.1.0013
With board.0.500.70
14Coal miners0.300.5014
16Sugar Factories6.008.0016
a. Males0.300.45
All through the year.9.0012.00
b. Females0.200.40
18Steam flour mills0.400.5018
20Day laborers (in town)0.300.4020
In all: full workers, malesWith board.0.400.601.002.5055.0070.00100.00
Without board.



No. Trade. Gubernias. Season. Wages in rubles. No.
Per month. Per term. Per year.
With board. Without board. With board. Without board. With board.
From To From To From To From To From To
1DiggersMoscow.Spring and Summer.60751
3BrickmakersMoscow and Orel.40503
4Turf CuttersMoscow and Vladimir.4
May to July3050
May to August5070
6CabmenMoscow.All through the year.696
9Janitors, servants, etc.751009
10Flour mills507010
11Factory HandsMoscow and St. Petersburg.101811
In all, in Moscow and vicinity61210183070607550150


TABLE VII.—Average Yields of Wheat (District of Voronezh).

Estates of over 50 dessiatines. Period of experience (years). Dessiatines under wheat. Chetverts from 1 dessiatine.
Fertilized. Not fertilized (or mixed).
Series I.
No. 81193008.45.6
189 bis.7904.7
192 bis.71034
Average on 7 estates.12797
Series II.
13 estates5967.9
5 estates86.55.4
Total 18 estates682.5


[1] There are large villages composed of several distinct communities, something like Zurich until recently, or New York, Brooklyn, Jersey City, etc.; that is to say, municipally divided, though socially and geographically a unit.

[2] I plead for liberty to use this expression, which is to be found in Shakespeare.

[3] Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Ryazañ, District of Ryazañ, Vol. I., pp. 2-4.

[4] Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Voronezh, Vol. I., p. 2.

[5] “The Zemstvo and the national economy,” by I. P. Bielokonsky. Severny Vestnik (monthly magazine), May, 1892.

[6] As the investigation of the gubernia of Ryazañ had not been brought to an end, the gaps have been filled in most cases by referring to the Reports for the gubernias of Voronezh, Tamboff and Smolensk, which are now likewise among those affected by the famine.

[7] Prof. W. J. Ashley, in the introductory chapter of his translation of The Origin of Property in Land by Fustel de Coulanges, represents the Russian village community as “only a joint cultivation and not a joint ownership.” The Russian mir, he thinks, has always in historical times been a “village group in serfdom under a lord” (p. xx.). This opinion stands in direct contradiction to the results of Russian historical investigation, which are here presented in a condensed summary. The development of landlord property in Russia, on the contrary, is but a fact of modern centuries; there are vast provinces in Russia where there never was anything like a nobility and landlord property (e. g., the gubernias of Olonetz, Vyatka, Vologda, Archangelsk), save in a few exceptional cases. Serfdom was altogether unknown in these districts, and in all the rest of Russia a considerable part of the peasantry, though dependent upon the State, knew no landlord above them. Toward 1861 the total number of State peasants amounted to 29⅓ millions, while the former serfs numbered 22⅔ millions. (Prof. Janson, Essay of a Statistical Investigation on the Peasants’ Landed Property and Taxation, 2d ed., p. 1.) Thus, in so far at least as one-half of the Russian peasantry is concerned, the village community must be construed, in direct opposition to Prof. Ashley, as “joint ownership and not joint cultivation.”

[8] Most of the Russians were doubtless extremely surprised to learn that bond serfdom in Russia was in existence up to this very year of 1892. The Kalmyks, a semi-nomadic tribe of 150,000 men, in southeastern Russia, near the Caspian Sea, remained serfs of their chiefs, the zaisangs and noyons, until the ukase issued on the 8th (20th) of May, 1892, whereby bond serfdom of the common Kalmyks was at last abolished.

[9] The government did not act in consistence with the principles of the emancipation of the serfs when applying in 1866 the “Statute on peasants freed from bond serfdom” to those freed from dependence upon the State. While the former were declared “peasant proprietors,” the latter were regarded only as hereditary tenants. A new law was subsequently passed, granting the former State peasants the right of buying out their lots from the State. I have not the respective statutes at hand, and am not certain as to the year in which the law was passed. It was certainly later than 1882, the year of the census whose reports we use further on.

[10] The indirect taxes are figured in the budget for the current year as follows:


Sec. 4.From liquors242,570,981259,550,981
7. naphtha10,026,8009,528,500
8. matches4,720,0004,524,000
5. tobacco27,741,10228,213,102
6. sugar21,174,00020,161,000
9.Customs duties110,900,000110,929,000

(Cf. The Government Messenger, No. 1, 1892.) The taxes in Secs. 4, 7 and 8 are naturally paid chiefly by the peasants, who are the majority, and these items alone amount to from 62 to 63 per cent. of all indirect taxes.

[11] Essay of a Statistical Investigation on the Peasants’ Landed Property and Taxation.

[12] In the gubernia of Novgorod the former State peasants paid in taxes the entire net income of their land, and the former serfs from 61 to 465 per cent. above their net income. In the gubernia of St. Petersburg they paid 34, and in that of Moscow, upon an average, 105 per cent. in excess of their net income.


In the gubernias.Per cent. former State peasants.Per cent. former serfs.

In the “black soil” region the difference amounted to from 24 to 200 per cent. for the former serfs, while the former State peasants, more favorably situated, had to pay in taxes from 30 to 148 per cent. of their net income, etc. (Loc. cit., pp. 35-36, 86.)

[13] Corporal punishment for debts (pravyozh) is an institution of Russian law bearing the stamp of antiquity. It might perhaps flatter the Russian “national pride” to class this institution as one of the emanations of the “self-existent Russian spirit.” Unfortunately for the latter, this is a method of procedure common to many other nations at a certain stage of historical development.

[14] The rent is here no fictitious quantity, it being an every-day occurrence for peasants to lease their lots.

[15] Picture the condition of a New Jersey farmer who would have to await the permission of the Governor of New Jersey, the Secretary of State, and the Treasury Department, before moving to Minnesota. This is exactly the condition of the Russian peasant.

According to the recent law, more liberal than the original law of 1861, emigration is allowed by a special permission, in every single case, of the Ministers of the Interior and of Public Domains, which permission is issued upon the presentation of the local governor.


Districts. Land in peasants’ possession.
Total. Pure black soil.
Dessiatines. Dessiatines. Per cent.

1 dessiatine = 2.7 acres.

A word as to the way in which quotations are made from the Statistical Reports. Pages are cited whenever the data are found in the Tables or Appendices in such a shape as to be immediately available for the purposes of the discussion. Where, however, the raw material would have to be re-arranged, the pages of this essay would be needlessly encumbered with references to hundreds of paragraphs. No citations are given in such instances, but a general reference is made to the Reports in question.

[17] The term is derived from “quarter,” an old Muscovite measure in usage for estates granted in fee.

The numerical relation between these two forms is given in the following table:


Districts. Communities of former State peasants. Households. Land.
Number. Per cent. Number. Per cent. Dessiatines. Per cent.

Cf. Quarterly Possession, by Mr. K. Pankeyeff, in the Moscow review Russkaya Mysl, 1886, book 2, p. 50. The paper quoted was to have been published as a part of the Reports of the Ryazañ Statistical Bureau, but after the work was stopped (see above page 16) it appeared in one of our liberal magazines.

[18] Op. cit., book III., page 28.

[19] Op. cit., book III., page 33.

[20] Op. cit., page 27. The figures show the number of population in villages where the land is owned quarterly. The population of 1849 is given according to the ninth revision (of 1846), and the population of 1882 according to the tenth revision (of 1858). The extent of private property would be exaggerated were the comparison made with the census of 1882. By overlooking the increase of the population between the ninth and the tenth revisions, the results of the comparison are but emphasized.

[21] Cf. Mr. Greegoryeff’s Report to the XVII. Assembly of the Gubernia of Ryazañ, p. 5. Cf. also Emigration among the Peasants of the Gubernia of Ryazañ, by the same author, which I have not now at hand. In Eastern Russia the subdivision of the arable land is but of very recent date. In Siberia it cannot be traced farther back than two generations, and there are even now a great many districts in which no limitations are imposed by the community on the free use of land by every one of its members. Nevertheless the poll tax was applied to these districts also for about two centuries. It seems to prove that the imposition of the said tax did not necessitate subdivision except where land was scarce. It may consequently be inferred that it was not the poll tax, but the scarcity of land in the most crowded provinces, that prompted the subdivision. In this view the subdivision of the land appears to be a natural phase in the evolution of communal landholding. (With reference to this point cf. Prof. W. J. Ashley’s remarks in his introduction to Fustel de Coulanges’ The Origin of Property in Land, pp. xlvii-xlviii.)

[22] Mr. Pankeyeff makes in one passage an allusion to the analogy between the development of quarterly landholding into agrarian communism and the transformation of the right of first possession into communal ownership in New Russia and in the gubernia of Voronezh (Cf. op. cit., book III., p. 35). The analogy, however is not further worked out.

[23] The extent of the three forms of possession to-day is shown in the following table:

Forms of possession. Communities. Households. Inhabitants. Extent of land.
Communal proper. Quarterly.
Dessiatines. Per cent. Dessiatines. Per cent.
and Communistic121,63911,0379,2104511,21355
Communistic proper459,31962,11499,49399.54930.5

[24] Cf. Table of the Distribution of Land and Population, in the Appendix.

[25] The appendices to the Statistical Reports contain some figures for the comparison between the extent of land formerly held by the serf and now owned by the free “peasant-proprietor.” In 117 out of 562 communities of former serfs, there were held by the peasants:

Dessiatines.Per cent.
Before the emancipation53870100
After 4053775
Cut off for the nobles1333325

It must be remembered that besides these 25 per cent., the nobles cultivated, before 1861, large portions of land on their estates by means of forced labor.

[26] Uniformity and equality being the law of the distribution of land in these communities, the income of each share is controlled by everybody, which makes it easy for the statistician to estimate. Those communities of quarterly possession constitute but 8.4 per cent. of the entire population of the district of Ranenburg and 15.2 per cent. of that of Dankoff.

[27] 1 pood = 1 quarter, 11 pounds and 2 ounces avoirdupois.

[28] Small and young cattle (sheep, swine, calves, etc.) are also included in this total, with a computation of ten head of small cattle to one head of big cattle (ox or horse).


Classes. Households. Working horses. Cows. Average per household.
Horses. Big cattle.
I. Former serfs12,99916,1408,9241.22.6
II. Former State peasants—
a. Agrarian communism6,2378,2415,6871.32.9
b. Quarterly possession41583051424
c. Mixed1,2241,7811,1951.53.1
I. Former serfs9,98913,5766,4851.42.5
II. Former State peasants—
a. Agrarian communism3,0824,0922,1891.32.6
b. Quarterly possession1,7653,1261,4061.83.3
c. Mixed4156483181.62.9

(Former State peasants holding their land on the right of quarterly possession, are here noted separately in order to show that they enjoy about the same facilities for stock-breeding as do the rest of the peasantry).

[30] This is shown in the table below:

Communities. Ranenburg. Dankoff.
Former serfs. Former State peasants. Former serfs. Former State peasants.
Forest allotted to3261927

(Cf. Statistical Reports, Vol. II, pp. I-II., Appendices.)

[31] We read in the Appendix to the Statistical Reports for the Ranenburg District, p. 321: “Village Novoselki, former serfs of Barkoff. About 1877, pressed by the extreme need of daily bread, the peasants began sowing all the fields, without giving them rest for a single year (in Russia every field rests once in three years); the yield is now constantly going from bad to worse, and there is nothing to manure the soil with.”

[32] Statistical Reports for the District of Dankoff, p. 240.

[33] Moreover, a crying injustice was thereby created—an injustice peculiar to Russia alone. Enclosure is commonly considered the sign of private property. To this rule Russia is the sole exception. There the landlords do not care to enclose their estates, while the peasants lack the necessary means to do so, having no woods in their possession. Whenever the landlord’s estate adjoins the village, the peasants’ cattle, being innocent of the knowledge of geodesical distinctions, invariably cross the fatal line. Then, if caught, (which is the rule,) they are duly arrested and delivered to their owners only after compensation has been paid for the damages suffered by the landlord. The courts are overwhelmed with processes of this kind just when the farmer is most busy. The number of villages laboring under these unfavorable conditions is given in the following table:

Communes of former serfs.
by site.

(Cf. Statistical Reports, Vol. II., Appendices.)

[34] Cf. Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Voronezh, Vol. II., part II., pp. 166, 172; Report of the Secretary of Agriculture, 1890 (Washington, 1891), p. 335; Reports of the Bureau of Statistics of the Department of Agriculture, 1891, by J. R. Dodge, Statistician, pp. 277-280, 654-655.

[35] The yield in the district of Ostrogozhsk represents pretty nearly the average for Russia, as can be shown by the following figures:

Yield of Rye per Acre.Seed = 1.Per cent.
All over Russia4.5100
In Ostrogozhsk4.5100
In the U. S. (1890)6.1135

(Cf. Reports, etc., by J. A. Dodge, p. 480; Comparative Statistics of Russia, by Prof. J. E. Janson, p. 74).

[36] Cf. Statistical Reports, Vol. IV., part I., pp. 97, 98; Vol. V., part I., pp. 106-109; Vol. VI., part I., pp. 144-146.

[37] In reality, the deficit is far greater, inasmuch as a part of the receipts came from the produce raised on rented land. It must also be noticed that taxes are not included in the expenses.

[38] This can be inferred from the table on the next page:

Districts. Farmers buying rye and flour. To the amount of rubles. Deficit of farming in the district (rubles).
Number. Percentage to the population.

Ibid., Vol. V., part I., p. 107, columns 89, 92, 93; Vol. VI., part I., p. 145, col. 151, 154, 155. The quantity of bread consumed by a peasant family in a year amounting to 57 poods upon an average (l. c., vol. IV., part I., p. 97, col. 75-76, total), the deficit of bread in a year of ordinary crops figures as follows:

Districts.Households buying bread, per cent.Deficit of bread, per cent.

(Ibid., Vol. II., part I., p. 223, col. 58, 59; Vol. IV., part I., p. 97, col. 77-82.)

[39] Cf. Statistical Reports for Borisoglebsk District, Gubernia of Tamboff, Appendix, pp. 86-87. Every budget was made out upon the statement of the householder, in the presence of his neighbors, who were thoroughly cognizant of the income and expenses of the house; the data are therefore perfectly trustworthy. (Ibid., and also page 28.) The budgets are produced in full in the Appendix below.

[40] 1 ruble in gold = $0.80. Still there is no gold in circulation in Russia. The paper ruble, since the Turkish war of 1877-78, is worth only 60 per cent. of its nominal value, i. e., 1.00 paper ruble = $0.50. The purchasing power of one ruble is however equal to that of one dollar in New York.



Householders in the gubernia of Tamboff. Rubles. Per cent.
Own produce. Market produce. Own produce. Market produce.
Gabriel Trupoff309.00166.716535
Kosma Abramoff586.80416.455941

Taxes and rents are not included. Should we count all expenses, the figures would look as follows:


Householders. Rubles. Per cent.
Own produce. Market produce. Own produce. Market produce.
Gabriel Trupoff309.00219.215941
Kosma Abramoff586.80714.454555


Districts in the gubernia of Voronezh. Households buying in the market. Households selling produce. Households consuming their total produce.
Number. Per cent. Number. Per cent.

Those households which purchased in the market without selling produce, earned the necessary money by selling their own labor force, which is shown by figures in the same Reports. (L. c.)

[43] Taxes constitute but a minor part—though a very considerable one—of the money expenditure; and the receipts drawn from sale of produce exceed by far the sum paid in taxes. The respective items are contrasted in the following table:

Districts in the gubernia of Voronezh. Money expenditure for the needs of the farmer (rubles). Taxes (rubles). Receipts from sale of produce (rubles).

[44] Cf. Table II., in the Appendix. In this table, land and stock, the principal instruments of production in Russian agriculture, give the comparative standard of the peasant’s life.

[45] At the time of the reform it was ostentatiously declared by the government that the person of the serf would be freed without any compensation to the master.


Households, per cent.Land, per cent.

[47] Cf. the Table of the Distribution of Arrears, in the Appendix to this essay.

[48] In addition a tax assessed per capita is levied upon the lands of the peasants for the expenses of the State.

[49] Cf. Reports, Vol. II., part I., preface, p. 7.

[50] Cf. above page 16.

[51] The maximum of arrears reached, in three communities, the enormous sum of 65 rubles to an average household. This means complete destruction of independent farming. Let us quote some examples, by way of illustration:

1. The community of former serfs of Mr. Balk, village and bailiwick Karpofka, district of Ranenburg: The arrears amount to 67.90 rubles from each householder. Out of the total number of 51 householders there are but 24 who cultivate their lots personally. Only three among them have two horses, the rest must do with one, and 26 (one-half) have no working animals at all. One householder among these 26 has a cow; the rest have neither horse nor cow. There are likewise only 13 cows to be distributed among the 24 better-off householders who personally cultivate their farms. Only one pig is raised in the village, and 87 sheep—that is to say, less than two sheep, upon an average, to each household. This means that the peasants have no meat on their tables, and most of the children no milk. 10 “householders” (one-fifth of the village) have neither houses nor land; they lease their lots in order to pay their taxes, and, in all probability, seeing the coincidence of the figures, they have no cattle either. The yield of rye is to the seed as 3 to 1, and that of oats as 2 to 1 (loc. cit., Vol. II., tables, pp. 56-61). In 1864 many peasants’ chattels in this village were sold for arrears. The majority of the peasants go a-begging (App., pp. 286-287), and certainly are very little afraid of public sale for où il n’y a rien, le roi perd son droit. Neither is flogging endowed with any creative power. Yet, inasmuch as the community is responsible in solido for the payment of the taxes, it was the minority who had to pay, in addition to their own arrears, those of the beggars. Seeing the extent of their wealth, it is not perhaps too pessimistic to presume that in this year 1892 perfect equality reigns in place of the old distinction between minority and majority.

2. Community of former serfs of Mr. Novikoff, in the same village, in arrears for 46.30 rubles to each household, i. e., for about three terms of payment. Soon after the emancipation two great public sales of their chattels took place, the sales being to satisfy arrears in the payment of the taille. Year in and year out, from 20 to 30 householders have their cattle and buildings sold at public auction to satisfy arrears of taxes. 23 families out of the whole number of 245 (i. e., 9 per cent.) have lost their shanties; 105, or 43 per cent., have no horses; and 84 among them, or more than one-third of the village, have also no cows. 123 families, i. e., one half of the village, do not cultivate their lots themselves (or cultivate only a part), either hiring their neighbors to do the work, or leasing their lots for the mere payment of the taxes. The wealthier half numbers but 60 householders (i. e., one-fourth of the village), who own two or more horses, and can be regarded as belonging 10 to the type of bonus pater familias (hozyaïslvenniy mushik). The rest have but one horse, and some of them no cow. “They live but poorly,” explains the Appendix (l. c., p. 286).

3. Community of former serfs of Messrs. Muromtzeff, village Durofshtchino, bailiwick Vednofskaya, of the same district. The arrears amount in an average to 42.70 rubles to each householder. The community may serve as an example of the astounding capacity for growth of the Russian peasant’s wool after he has been shorn like a sheep, as the great Russian satirist has it (Playwork Manikins, by M. E. Saltykoff). Indeed, in 1881 all the cows in the village were sold for arrears by the mir; in 1882 the statisticians found 38 householders, each of whom was again in possession of a cow. However, notwithstanding this capacity of accommodation, in which the Russian peasant approaches the lowest zoölogical species, the village in question is still far from prosperous. Among the 64 families there are 12, i. e., about one-fifth, who own neither house nor cattle, and hold no land, having either returned their lots to the community or leased them for payment of the taxes, which comes to the same thing. On the other hand, there are but 27 households, i. e., 42 per cent., who maintain a normal standing, i. e., have not less than two horses and one cow, and cultivate all the land in their possession. (Cf. Tables, pp. 194-199. No. 29; App., p. 329.)

[52] Ibid., Vol. II., part I., p. 264; part II., p. 197. There are in both districts only ten communities in which the taxes absorb the entire rent, and only seven communities of former serfs (out of 562) in which the taxes exceed the rent. On the other hand, there are only 17 communities where the difference is above three rubles; and the maximum reaches 13 rubles in a community of former State peasants who own a tract of forest in the district of Dankoff (Ibid., pp. 31, 210, No. 8). The proportion of taxes to rent in this community is as 9.5 to 22.5, i. e., the taxes absorb 42 per cent. of the rent in the most favored community. What would the New York landlord or the American farmer say, to such a rate of taxation?


Percentage of families owning
Districts.No horse.Neither horse nor cow.

(Cf. Reports, Vol. II., part I., p. 255; part II., p. 189.)

[54] The numbers designate communities.

[55] In these transitional communities labor agreements for pasture are met with side by side with money contracts. In one case a very patriarchal form of relations was observed. The community was admitted to the pasture of the neighboring village for a reception yearly tendered to the latter. (Reports, Vol. II., part I., p. 328, No. 27.)

[56] Some cases of communal tenure are not included in the tables of the Reports, though mentioned in the Appendices; I have added the extent of this tenure, which makes the difference between my totals and those of the tables.

[57] The numbers of the two columns under this heading do not correspond, since land is besides rented individually in those communities where tenure by the mir or by partnerships is practiced.

[58] Cf. Forms of Agricultural Production in Russia, p. 43 et passim, by Mr. Euzhakoff, an admirer of Mr. Henry George. The paper was published in the magazine Otetchestvenniya Zapiski, 1882.

[59] In the district of Ryazañ, where communal tenure is by far more extended than in the districts under review, we find a few cases of communal tenure among the former State peasants; yet the extent of land so held is so small as to cut no figure at all:

Communal tenure.
Classes of tenants.Dessiatines.Per cent.
Former serfs992496
Former State peasants4564

(Cf. Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Ryazañ, Vol. I., sec. II., table 3, f.; p. 57.)

[60] Rented land is taken into account only in those communities in which the area cut off at the time of the emancipation could be ascertained by the statisticians. It may be further stated that only such land is here taken into account as is yearly cultivated.





Average rent paid for 1 dessiatine. Arable. Meadow.
Ranenburg. Dankoff. Ranenburg. Dankoff.
By the communityrubles13.119.7610.867.74
By individuals in the same communities19.8213.47....
By individuals throughout the district16.6212.7615.917.59


Districts and classes. Quantity of stock to one household. “Horseless,” per cent.
Working horses. All kinds of large cattle (horses inclusive).
In the communities in question1.63.227
Among former serfs at large1.22.637
Among former State peasants with agrarian communism1.32.933
In the communities in question1.52.933
Among former serfs at large1.32.535
Among former State peasants with agrarian communism1.32.633

[64] Altogether or partly, but without cultivating the rest personally.

[65] Indeed, we find the mir in some instances playing the part of land broker. The community of former serfs of Prince Shtchetinin, in the village of Sergievskee Borovok, Ranenburg, rented a field of 434 dessiatines (1172 acres), at 16 rubles the dessiatine, and re-rented one-third of the tract at a commission of from 3 to 4 rubles per dessiatine (i. e., from 20 to 25 per cent.), and even more. (Reports, part I., p. 316, No. 10. Cf. also p. 289, No. 15, etc.)

No doubt this business could be as successfully performed by any East Side New York real estate and land improvement agency, as by the Ryazañ peasant communists.

[66] Ibid., Vol. II., part I., p. 264.

[67] This is shown by the comparative data concerning tenure at will among the two main divisions of the peasantry:

Classes and Districts. Tenants. Land leased. Tenants to population, per cent. Land leased to land owned, per cent.
Households. Per cent. Dessiatines. Per cent.
Former serfs43928315337843420
Former State peasants89317301016113
Former serfs32058311078813217
Former State peasants67617276520134

[68] The table includes 62 per cent. of the total area of rented land, the data for the classification being furnished by the statements in the Appendices to the Reports for the districts in question.

[69] We find this tendency very pronounced in the gubernia of Voronezh:

Districts. Area rented.
For money rented, per cent. For share in crops, per cent. For labor and money, per cent. Total, per cent.

(Cf. Statistical Reports, Vol. IV., part I., Vol. V., part I.; Vol. VI., part I., Table of Rented Land.)

[70] Here are some instances:

1. Village Solntzevo, district of Ranenburg.—“Some five years ago, after one failure of the crops, 100 householders were 6000 rubles in arrears with their rent. Up to this date they have paid practically nothing, and live with the threat of being sold out hanging perpetually over their heads.” (Loc. cit. App., p. 308.) The result can be shown in figures:

Rent (in rubles) paid:
Number of tenants.By all tenants.By each one.
In 1877100600060
In 188275351447

(Cf. p. 123.)

2. Village Bahmetyevo, Ranenburg.—“Excessive rent, often not returned by the yields, has caused the heavy indebtedness of many a householder” (p. 331).

3. Village Blagueeya.—“The terms of tenure are very burdensome—above 20 rubles the dessiatine. One part of the rent must be discharged in labor, the rest is payable in advance. Leasing land is often direct loss. A good many are in debt, and not infrequently get ruined.” (Ibid.)

[71] Cf. Table IV. in the Appendix.

[72] Principles of Political Economy, eighth edition, Vol. I., p. 453.


Classes. Percentage to the total of the peasantry.
Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitzk.
Households taking to wage-labor6269
Of these are:
Regular farmers5063
Laborers proper126

[74] Detailed tables containing the rates of wages paid in different occupations are found in the Appendix.

[75] Optimism is inborn in the Russian; to whatever creed or party he may belong, things ever appear to him as he would like them to be. The Russian peasantist must not therefore be censured for his misconception of this most typical figure of the modern Russian village. The peasant who agrees to do the full work of cultivating and harvesting a tract of the landlord’s field appears to Mr. Euzhakoff as a tenant, with the only peculiarity that “the tenant takes his share in money, while leaving the landlord to take the crops” (loc. cit., pp. 26-27). This confusion reminds one to some extent of the attempts of certain economists to represent the workingman as capitalist, and the capitalist as workingman. There is, however, one extenuating circumstance that may be urged on behalf of the well-meaning author, in the hopelessness of the task he has undertaken with the best intentions, viz., to demonstrate that the debilitated Russian Capitalism, condemned before its birth by history, is unable to hold its ground in the contest with the triumphant small peasant culture.

[76] There are in all two statements to the effect that work is done for straw, flour, etc. (Loc. cit., part II., p. 198, No. 4; p. 206, No. 3.) Cases in which work is done for rented land, or for a share in the crop, have been counted as tenure.

[77] Loc. cit., part I., p. 264. Figures on the indebtedness of the peasantry with regard to farm labor for wages are found in the Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Voronezh (Vol. V., part 1.; Vol. VI., part I., Table G.). In the table that follows the figures are reduced to percentage rates:

Districts and classes. Rate to population, per cent. Rate to farm laborers, per cent. Rate to indebted, per cent. Average due by 1 householder, rubles.
District of Korotoyak.
Indebted: 1. All told50..10034.80
2. Farm laborers..523923.99
District of Nizhnedevitsk.
Indebted: 1. All told50..10044.38
2. Farm laborers..564623.46

[78] The mythical first Russian prince, to whom the élite of the aristocracy trace their ancestry.

[79] Carpenters, shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths, and others who supply by their work the local wants.

[80] Cf. Appendix, Table V.



Households.Adult workers.



Paid toFor the summer season.Per year.
Farm helpFrom 25.00 to 35.00From 35.00 to 60.00
Carpenters 55.00 to 70.00100.00


Concerns.Total.Average to concern.

Virtually, however, the average is less than this, since there are included only those industrial concerns belonging to peasants, and situated in the precincts of the villages, while peasant labor is also employed in those enterprises owned by the landlords and situated on their estates.

[84] This is the industry which is protected, through prohibitive tariffs and export premiums, from foreign competition.

[85] Twelve communities were found by the statisticians in which a considerable part of the membership consisted of regular beggars. As an example may be quoted the village Bratovka, bailiwick Naryshkinskaya, Ranenburg: “A good many go a-begging even when crops are good; in years of failure over half the village takes to begging.” (Loc. cit., p. 283.) Professional beggary has been of late very comprehensively described by some of the observers of peasant life. Late in the fall the huts are nailed up, and caravans of peasants—man, wife and child—start on a journey “for crumbs.” We read in the Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Tamboff:

“Everywhere the peasants report a great number of beggars; generally they are peasants from a strange district. It is only in a case of extreme necessity that a man able to work would force himself to ask alms in his own village. Usually, the needy families are supported through loans of bread from their neighbors, who divide with them their last provisions. The peasants of the district of Morshansk report, moreover, that they are haunted by a good many beggars from the district of Shatzk, as well as from the gubernias of Vladimir and Ryazañ.” (Vol. III., p. 277.)

Does it not exactly remind one of the historical picture drawn by Vauban, who reported that “one-tenth of the French peasants are beggars, and the remaining nine-tenths have nothing to give them?”

[86] The question of the degree to which they are successful in starting as farmers, is one that does not come within the scope of this essay. I have discussed this question in my previous publication, Peasant Emigration to Siberia, Moscow, 1888.

[87] The wandering population of the district of Voronezh was divided as follows, between the several branches of employment:

Workers.Per cent.
Handicraft46923} 38
Personal service894
City and railroad labourers21911

[88] The general statements made to this effect by the peasants, and reproduced in the Reports for the Gubernia of Ryazañ, could obviously not be presented in figures, for this would require at least two censuses.

[89] The co-relation existing between outside work and the decay of farming may be inferred from the following table for the districts Ranenburg and Dankoff:

Kind of employment.Communities.Households.Horseless,
per cent.
Local only, no outside workers90112427
Throughout the region6533612635

[90] Cf. loc. cit., part II., p. 233, No. 14.

[91] Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Smolensk, Vol. IV., pp. 296, 304, 350, 352: Vol. V., pp. 218, 226, 272, 274.

[92] It can be seen by contrasting the figures of families whose houses have been sold with those of other destitute peasant groups:

Percentage of families.
Houseless.Landless or leasing their total lots.Owning neither horse nor cow.

[93] This is confirmed by a great many statements in the Reports for the Gubernia of Ryazañ, as well as by the following table taken from the Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Smolensk:

Absent. Youkhnoff,
per cent.
per cent.
Houseless. Youkhnoff,
per cent.
per cent.
Rate to the population75Rate to the population96
Of these:Of these:
Owning houses1927Living in the village3641
Houseless8173Absent from the village6459

[94] “The Pillars” is the title of a very popular novel by Mr. Zlatovratsky, one of the leading peasantist writers.

[95] I must again plead for extenuating circumstances in the event of being mistaken as to the exact date.

[96] The “major” i. e. the head of the family, composed of married brothers and sisters, is not always the eldest brother. In case the eldest male member of the family shows himself not qualified for the management of the household, one of the younger brothers is occasionally entrusted with the office.

[97] To use the term adopted by Mr. Michaïlovsky, the renowned Russian writer on sociology.

[98] The number of workers included in the tenth census is not given in the reports, but the distribution of the population according to age is not likely to have changed very much in 25 years, the rates being determined to a great extent by biological influences, which are modified very slowly. The percentage of the total male population that by the census of the zemstvo had reached the age at which they are usually set to work is as follows:

Per cent.
Ranenburg (1882)47
Dankoff (1882)47
Korotoyak (1887)47
Nizhnedevitzk (1887)46

Taking these figures as co-efficients, we obtain the number of male workers to a family in 1858.

[99] The figures above given are rather too little expressive for the actual degree of the dissolution of the patriarchal family abroad. The following are the figures for the whole region covered by the statistical investigation of the zemstvo toward January 1, 1890 (cf. Introduction):

Males and females19,693,191
Average membership to 1 family5.95
To the do. of Ranenburg6.4

[100] The correlation between the number of workers and the size of the farm can be summed up as follows:

Number of Workers to 1 Family. Classes of Farms (per cent.).
Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitsk.
Below the average size. Average size. Above the average size. Below the average size. Average size. Above the average size.


Districts. Stopped working on their farms. Stopped tilling one part of their farms.
Horseless, per cent. In the district at large, per cent. With 1 horse. In the district at large, per cent.
All “stopped” etc. = 100. All with 1 horse = 100.

As shown by these figures, the percentage of householders who are unable to till the full size of their farms is twice as large among those with one horse as in the region at large; moreover, this transitional class of weak householders consists chiefly of those with one horse.


Districts.“Horseless,” per cent.With 1 horse, per cent.In all, per cent.
Gubernia of Voronezh
Gubernia of Ryazañ

[103] The following tables are fully conclusive as regards the rise and growth of this class:


Households. Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitsk.
Total lot tilled with the owner’s live stock, per cent. Stopped working on their farms, per cent. Total lot tilled with the owner’s live stock, per cent. Stopped working on their farms, per cent.
With 3 or more workers892882
With 2 workers866825
With 1 worker73196520
Without workers24723060
In all78157413
In the Gubernia of Ryazañ57365934


Households. Stopped working on their farms.
per cent.
per cent.
With 3 or more workers22
With 2 workers1214
With 1 worker6267
Without workers2417
In all100100


Districts. Families numbering All told.
No adult male workers. One adult male worker. Two adult male workers. Three or more adult male workers. Full workers. Half-workers. Total workers.
The farmer’s family01231.80.42.2
Hired laborers1.
Total workers1.
The farmer’s family01232.00.52.5
Hired laborers1.
Total workers1.


Districts. Villages in the district. Employing farmers.
Total households. To every 100 households. To 1 village.

[106] The farms of the average size (from 5 to 15 dessiatines), or those below the average size, are not available for the purposes of comparison, since the figures are influenced by yet another agent, viz., by the lack of land, leaving a narrow field for even the labor of the farmer himself.


Districts. Households separated within
The decennial periods The quinquennial periods
1868-77, per cent. 1878-87, per cent. 1878-82, per cent. 1883-87, per cent.


Districts. Households of yearly or season laborers. Tilling their plots with their own stock and implements.
Households. Per cent.


To 1 household upon an average. Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitzk.
Full-workers. Half-workers. Full-workers. Half-workers.
Total membership20.41.90.4
Employed outside10.10.90.3
Remain at home10.310.1


Total permanently employed100100100
Households with 1 full worker643338
Stopped working on their farms433317

[111] Kulak means “fist”; miroyed means “mir fretter.” These are nicknames for the village usurer and saloon keeper.

[112] Gleb Oospensky stood alone in his skepticism, opposing his ironical smile to the universal illusion. With his perfect knowledge of the peasantry, and his extraordinary artistic talent that penetrated to the very heart of the phenomena, he did not fail to see that individualism had become the basis of economic relations, not only as between the usurer and the debtor, but among the peasants at large.—Cf. his Casting in one mould (Ravnenie pod odno), Russkaya Mysl, January, 1882.

[113] In the Reports for the gubernia of Ryazañ, column 36 of the General Table, states “the area of land held in property by every 10 shareholders of the communal land,” and column 42, the respective data with regard to lease. The figures have no practical value unless it is assumed that all members of the community have their shares in the land acquired in property, or held under lease. In reality, however, the contrary is the case.


Classes. Zadonsk. Korotoyak. Nizhnedevitsk.
Households. Per cent. Households. Per cent. Households. Per cent.
Employees (farm laborers engaged yearly or per season)27331718919231312
Total peasant population157041002028210020072100

[115] Households with 2 and those with 3 horses are counted together in the tables; yet given the number of horses, the membership of every group, is found by solving two equations with two unknown quantities.

[116] There are, all told, 103 households of traders who do not work on their farm, i. e., 8 per cent. of all the traders, or 0.5 per cent. of the total peasant population of the district of Korotoyak.

[117] We find among the traders a large minority whose farms do not exceed the average; still the lack of communal land is made up by the greater development of tenure, as shown in the following table:

D. of Korotoyak. Total. Tenants. Rented
land to 1
upon an average
Households. Per cent. Households. Per cent.
Traders owning from 1 to 5 dessiatines59548815.9
5 to 15 44435311708.6
15 to 25 39231288739.7
above 25 370292717317.3


Households.Farmers merely.
Per cent.
Per cent.
Without adult male workers..3
With 1 adult male worker2924
With 2 adult male workers4033
With 3 or more adult male workers3140


Classes (in the District of Korotoyak). Employing farmers. Laborers employed.
Households. Rate within the class (per cent.). Per cent. To 1 household.
Traders2962243} 591.5
Mere farmers1618161
In all the rest of the district3722411.1


Households of trading farmers.Employing permanent laborers, per cent.
With 3 or more adult male workers16
With 2 or less adult male workers25


Stopped working on their plots. In the class. In the district at large.
Households. Per cent. Per cent.
With 1 horse2569} 1032} 87
With 2 horses or more33155

The class almost coincides on the whole with the so-called “horseless:”

Horseless.Households.Per cent.
Traders683} 8
Tilling their plots1435
Stopped tilling their plots247192

The 10 per cent. who stopped tilling their plots, though owning 1 horse or more, as well as the 8 per cent. who manage to till their plots without working horses, make (each of these sections) only about 1 per cent. of the peasantry of the district. Thus, in identifying the proletarians with the “horseless,” the error is of the kind to be neglected, to use the mathematical term.


Households. Stopped tilling
their plots.
“Horseless.” In the district
at large.
Per cent. Per cent. Per cent.
Landless11} 4811} 482} 16
Owning less than 5 dessiatines373714
Owning from 5 to 15 dessiatines424350
Owning from 15 to 25 dessiatines9} 108} 925} 34
Owning above 25 dessiatines119
Average plot:
To 1 household, dessiatines7.214.4
To 1 adult male worker, 7.98.3


Households. Stopped tilling
their plots.
“Horseless.” In the district
at large.
Per cent. Per cent. Per cent.
Without adult male workers24} 8617}  855}  51
With 1 adult male worker626846
With 2 adult male workers12}  1413}  1530}  49
With 3 or more adult male workers2219
To 1 household upon an average:
Adult male workers0.91.7
Males and females3.87.4


(Stopped tilling their plots).
Per cent.
Per cent.
Farm laborers4850
No steady employment1310


District of Korotoyak, “Horseless.”Rubles.Per cent.
Gross income from farming4061024
Odd jobs67194


“Horseless,” Korotoyak.Receipts.
Gross income from farming40610
Wages paid1144
Balance (2682 households)4682
Balance to 1 household (money revenue)1.75


District of Zadonsk.Horseless.
Households.Per cent.
Feeding on the bread produced on their farms:
All the year through77130
9 months53121} 44
From 6 to 9 months35814
From 1 to 6 months2209
Purchasing bread all through the year66526


by hired
Per cent.
Per cent.
Zadonsk (total proletarians = 100)6931
Korotoyak 6733
Nizhnedevitzk 7426
Ranenburg 6436
Dankoff 6436

[129] This is the rate of these avowed proletarians within the total peasant population:

Districts.Per cent.
Ranenburg (landless included)15
Dankoff 15

Of these, a greater percentage find employment in industry, as compared with the proletarians who cultivate their plots by means of hired labor:

Districts and classes.Industrial
Per cent.
Per cent.
Farming proletarians3453
Farming proletarians3753

Industrial proletarians are steadily carried away by the growing movement out of the rural districts. Thus it may be reasonably assumed that only one-half of the pure-blooded proletarians remain in the village. This constitutes from 2 to 8 per cent. of the population. Relative rates, however, are sometimes misleading without reference to the absolute numbers. 2 per cent. of a 100-million population convey the illusion of a two million strong rural proletariat with pronounced class interests. Still we know that they are dissipated in villages with an average inhabitancy of 62 households (cf. above page: 50,429 communes with 3,309,020 households). Now the maximum 8 per cent. of 62 households means only 5 proletarian families, and the minimum 2 per cent., only 1 proletarian of the European type to a village. It seems to show that there can be no proletarian class spirit (“proletarisches Klassen-bewusstsein”) in the Russian village of to-day.


Classes in the district of Korotoyak. Households. (Per cent.) Horses to 1 household upon an average.
Horseless. With 1 horse. With 2 horses. With 3 horses. With 4 horses or more.
Trading farmers122527363.2
Farmers merely4538172.8
Proletarian laborers90910.1


D. of Korotoyak.With net profit.
Per cent.
With deficit.
Per cent.
Male workers to 1 household—
None..3} 73
Two41} 7123} 27
Three or more304


D. of Korotoyak.With net profit.
Per cent.
With deficit.
Per cent.
Size of the farms—
Less than 5 dessiatines..15
From 5 to 15 dessiatines..79
From 15 to 25 dessiatines726
Above 25 dessiatines28..
Average to 1 household24.410.6
to 1 adult male worker11.58.3


D. of Korotoyak.Section A.
Per cent.
Section B.
Per cent.
Households owning
Less than 5 dessiatines1510
From 5 to 15 dessiatines7952
From 15 to 25 dessiatines628} 38
Above 25 dessiatines..10
Live stock
Without working horses..1} 40
With 1 working horse4939
With 2 working horses36} 5138} 60
With 3 working horses1316
With 4 or more working horses26


Gross income per worker.Rubles.
Section A66.17
Section B54.29


Households (D. of Korotoyak).Section A.
Per cent.
Section B.
Per cent.
Without adult male workers3} 731} 39
With 1 adult male worker7038
With 2 adult male workers23} 2737} 61
With 3 or more adult male workers424


Class II., Section B.
Workers and half-workers23110
Employed without their farms16299
Working exclusively on their farms6811
Total households10016

[137] In the table below the percentage of old men is contrasted in the several groups of landholders, with a view to the division of the peasantry into the classes above mentioned:

Households (D. of Korotoyak). Classes. Total in the district. Old men above 60.
Strong farmers.
Farmers laboring.
Total. Rate to the number of households.
Landless....11} 482} 161} 89
Owning from 1 to 5 dessiatines211371477
Owning from 5 to 15 dessiatines146042504111
Owning from 15 to 25 dessiatines56} 8422} 299} 1025} 3431} 5117
Owning above 25 dessiatines287192028

The relative number of old men above 60 is four times greater in the uppermost than in the lowest class of landholders (28:7). The absolute number of old householders belonging to the two lowest classes is the half of the average in the district (8:16), while the uppermost class numbers twice as many householders as the average, and in the two upper groups taken together the number of old householders exceeds the average by 50 per cent. (51:34). Now, the bulk of the class of strong farmers is made up of these two groups, and one-half of the old householders range among the very same groups, constituting there a very noticeable minority. On the contrary, one-half of the proletarians range among those groups in which old people cut no figure numerically.

[138] The above statements are based upon the following numerical data:

District of Zadonsk: Classes. One part leased. All cultivated.
Households. Land to 1 household (Dessiatines).
In all. Leased. Cultivated.
Owning above 25 dessiatines..20.79.910.817.6
Owning from 15 to 25 dessiatines..9.754.78.9
Owning from 5 to 15 dessiatines..
Owning less than 5 dessiatines..2.51.512
Having 4 horses or more1038.1929.110.7
Having from 2 to 3 horses22611.
Having 1 horse9096333.6
Having no horse8774.

If we consider the first series specified according to the size of the farms, we notice that the lessors, with their plots somewhat above the average, are falling into the next lower classes with regard to the extent of their farming. On the other hand, given the quantity of live stock, the extent of cultivated land remains constant. The lessors are those whose plots equal the standard of the higher class, while by the quantity of their live stock they are on a par with the lower class. The 10 households with 4 horses to each make an exception, the area cultivated by them considerably exceeding the average. There may be a few more households of the same kind, which are hidden in the average figures; on a whole, however, such households are only an exception to the rule.

As to the extent of the farms leased in toto, the following figures need no comment:

Average extent of cultured land to 1 household (dessiatines).
Total plot leased2.22.5
In the region at large4.65.8
Percentage of families to population.Percentage of leased land to the total communal land.
Leasing their plots—
1) Total12}10
2) Partly14
Leasing their plots—
1) Total11}8
2) Partly13

[139] Cf. Chapter III.

[140] It appears from the following table that among the higher classes of landholders, tenure of peasant plots is represented by a higher percentage than tenure from landlords, while the latter kind of tenure is stronger among the lower groups of landholders:

Classes and districts. Tenants.
Per cent.
Land in tenure.
Per cent.
Rented from landlords. Rented from peasants. Rented from landlords. Rented from peasants.
Owning less than 5 dessiatines38312821
Owning from 5 to 15 dessiatines52514848
Owning above 15 dessiatines10182431
Owning less than 5 dessiatines1313108
Owning from 5 to 15 dessiatines53483838
Owning above 15 dessiatines34395254
Owning less than 5 dessiatines2515239
Owning from 5 to 15 dessiatines52494142
Owning above 15 dessiatines23363649

[141] Peasant land held in lease for long terms:

Districts. Lessees. Land.
Households. Per cent. (total lessees = 100). Dessiatines. Per cent. (total in lease = 100).


Rental Prices per 1 Dessiatine.

Districts.In yearly lease.
For long terms.


Districts. Dessiatines. Per cent. Price per dessiatine, rubles. Net profit, per cent.
Rented for long terms40901005.81
Rented for long terms10611006.17

We find, however, some cases wherein communal land was used for the purposes of farming on a large scale. The community was bound to combine the plots annually into one tract for the use of the lessee, who was often a merchant and a stranger to the community (Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Ryazañ, Vol. II., Part I., p. 272, No. 6; p. 283, No. 5; p. 301, No. 5.)

In a few cases chronic arrears in taxes compelled the community itself to lease tracts of communal lands, usually pasture, to be converted into arable land. “The village ‘Dubki,’ Dankoff, was destroyed by fire in 1861, and the peasants delayed paying the tallage, which was levied through the sale of the rest of their chattels. Public sales continued at intervals until 1872, when they were stopped by the community through the lease of 50 dessiatines of meadow and pasture to be converted into arable.” (Loc. cit., Part II., p. 199, No. 4.)

“In the village Plemyannikovo, Dankoff, arrears in the tallage gave rise to repeated auction sales of the peasants’ chattels. In 1865 the community resolved to let out 150 dessiatines, and has since been unable to stop leasing.” (Loc. cit., p. 249, No. 6, Cf., also p. 210, No. 7.)

Exceptional as these cases are, they show nevertheless that the ownership of land by the village community does not preclude the possibility of capitalistic farming upon communal fields.

[144] In a series of articles which appeared first in the Otetchestvenniya Zapiski (monthly) subsequently published in book form under the heading “Community and Tax.”

[145] The poll-tax did not exceed 1.60 rubles, and constituted but a very small portion of the entire amount of taxes levied. It was replaced by indirect taxes upon articles of peasant consumption. Besides, though the capitation tax proper was repealed, the system of taxation per capita remained in force in the shape of the other direct taxes levied upon the peasant.

[146] Such was indeed the case in the village of Voskresenskoye, bailiwick Kochurofskaya, Dankoff, in which the plots of the emigrants were distributed in the subdivision among all the members of the community, notwithstanding the fact that the term of lease had not yet expired. (Loc. cit., part II., p. 236.)

[147] It is very questionable whether there is any action at law at all for the lessee in similar cases. The plot is held by the lessor under a precarious title, and the lessee may be supposed to have been cognizant of the risk.

[148] It is peculiar to find quite obsolete sentimentalism with regard to the Russian mir, among even Russian writers of reputation with the English public. We read in a recent issue of an English magazine: “Voting and ballot are unknown to Russian peasants, and every question is decided unanimously by means of mutual concessions and compromises, as in united families.”

Lost paradise!

A few concrete cases are produced here by way of elucidation:

1. Village Pokrovskove, bailiwick Yeropkinskaya, Dankoff: “About ⅓ of the householders are in good standing, the rest are destitute. The former deal in communal lots. The debate over subdivision is very warm; about 5 of the votes necessary to constitute the two-thirds majority are lacking.” (Loc. cit., Part I., p. 202, No. 15.)

Householders.Number.Per cent.Votes.
Total allotted140100Total.
In good standing (tilling their total plots)5237Against the subdivision.
Destitute8863In favor of the subdivision.
9366⅔Vote required.
93 - 88 = 5Votes deficient.

(Cf. ib., p. 16.)

2. Bailiwick Ostrokamenskaya, district of Dankoff: “The question of subdivision is brought up for discussion in only three communities. In none of the others does it attract serious attention. In all probability this is to be accounted for by the unsatisfactory quality of the soil, as well as by the great number of families who have at length fallen into destitution and lease their lots.” (Loc. cit., part II., p. 211.)

Let us now compare the figures:

Former serfs.Communities.Householders
Number.Per cent.
Bailiwick Ostrokamenskaya153727921
Throughout the districts (former serfs)25

It is evident that if the reason given by the statistician is true for the bailiwick in question, it holds good a fortiori for the region at large, where the average percentage of lessors is even greater.

The correctness of this explanation is strikingly proved by the figures for the adjacent bailiwick Znamenskaya, Dankoff.

Number.Per cent.
Subdivision out of order1537016745

(Loc. cit., pp. 248, 110-129.)

As the shares of about one-half of the village are held by the other half, the latter has no practical interest in the redivision. Were it not so, however, a unanimous vote of the farming half could not possibly effect the redivision.

3. Village Troitzkoye, the same bailiwick, Ranenburg, “There is some talk about subdivision, yet it is very hard to have it passed here. A good many are so impoverished that they show no interest in the question of increasing the amount of their land, for, in any event, it would have to be let out; while the redivision would bring prejudice to the lessees, and there are many of them.” (Loc. cit., part I., p. 310.)

Let us show it in figures:

Householders.Number.Per cent.
Total allotted187100
Vote required for redivision12566⅔
Indifferent to redivision (horseless, leasing their lots)4423
Opposition sufficient to stay the same1810
Having 2 horses or more3620

(Loc. cit., pp. 130, 131.)

4. Village Kunakovo, b. Zmievskaya, Dankoff, “The peasants live in great poverty. Redivision is talked about; it is much checkmated by the fact that many among the householders are permanently living outside.” (Loc. cit., p. 254.)

Out of the 28 householders holding a share in the communal land, 11 lease their lots in toto; 9 among them have no houses in the village; 23 adult males are working outside.

After deduction of the 11 lessors above mentioned, who obviously do not live in the village, the remaining 17 are insufficient for a majority even in case of unanimity. Yet they are divided as follows:

Householders.Personally.By hire.In all.
Tilling their lots—
In part (the rest leased)246

Nine workers among these are moreover employed outside. (Ib., pp. 128-132.)

If there is no antagonism to the redivision, then indifference on the part of some is but natural.

5. Village Sergievskoye, Ranenburg, “Most of the ‘horseless’ half of the village are working exclusively outside. A good many are in arrears for taxes. Their lots are taken from them by the community and given to the wealthiest householders. This tends greatly to still further enrich the few at the expense of the many. In 1863 about one sixth of the bailiwick (300 ‘revision males’) emigrated to the gubernia of Stavropol, Caucasus, leaving their lots to the community. The land was distributed among the best-situated householders. All of the emigrants, save 15 families, have now come back, but the mir refuses to return their lots. This is the case with the emigrants in all the communities of the district. It is very difficult to settle the matter of the redivision, for the people are always away at work, and the redivision is opposed by the most influential householders, who keep in their hands the lots of the former emigrants and delinquent tax-payers.” (Loc. cit., part I., p. 305,)

These are the figures connected with the above statement:

Per cent.
Outside workers56

(Ibid., pp. 116-120.)

Apart from the opposition of the lessees, it is hardly ever possible to get even a simple majority to vote upon the redivision.

[149] Bailiwicks Naryshkinskaya, Karpovskaya, Nikolskaya, Vednovskaya, and Zimarovskaya, district of Ranenburg; b. Spasskaya, Loshkovskaya, and Yagodnovskaya, district of Dankoff, and some scattered communities all over the region.

[150] Cf. loc. cit., Part I, p. 288, No. 4; p. 310, No. 2.

[151] So far as I am aware from the newspapers, the land was afterward redistributed in the communities of a number of gubernias of Middle Russia.

[152] These views were expounded by Mr. V. V. in a series of articles which appeared in the Otetchestvenniya Zapiski, in 1880 and 1881, and were published in 1882, in book form, under the title: The Destinies of Capitalism in Russia.

[153] This question was put by Mr. Michaïloffsky, a very renowned Russian publicist, in his article: “Karl Marx on trial before Mr. J. Zhukoffsky,” which appeared in the Otetchestvenniya Zapiski, 1877. An answer to this criticism, in letter form, was found in the posthumous papers of Karl Marx, and was published in Russian, first by the revolutionary press, and subsequently in the Juridichesky Vestnik (Juridical Herald, monthly), Moscow, 1888.

[154] Mr. V. V. himself, in the preface to his book, placed his confidence in Russian autocracy, which appeared to him particularly adapted to the carrying out of social reforms in favor of the masses. The Russian bicephalous eagle soars in his majesty high above the classes, whereas constitutional government is avowedly a class rule promoting the interests of the bourgeoisie. This was a correct translation from the Prussian into the Muscovite of Rodbertus’ motto: “Christlich, monarchisch, sozial!” Whether this declaration of allegiance was not inspired to the peasantist author rather by the reading of the Statute of Censorship, is open to question. It is sure, however, that the adherents of the doctrine within the ranks of the “party of the Narodnaya Volya” (“The Will of the People”) did not share in this enthusiasm for the blessing of autocracy bestowed by history upon the chosen Russian nation.

[155] With regard to the condition of agriculture on a large scale, reference will be made in this chapter to the Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Voronezh, vol. I., district of Voronezh. The tables contain detailed data, (62 columns) on each of the 279 estates of the district, which exceed in size 50 dessiatines (135 acres).


Division of the fields on large estates. Farmed by the landlord. In small tenure for money rental. Tilled for share in crops. In all.
Dessiatines. Dessiatines. Dessiatines. Dessiatines. Per cent.
I. Winter seed—
II. Spring seed19995678711942797636
III. Left unsown242922429231

This classification bears upon 89.5 per cent. of the total area of ploughland; the deficient 10.5 per cent. concern the land which is held in large tenure, but yearly re-rented in small plots to the peasants.

[157] This is the comparative development of stock breeding on large estates and on peasant farms, in the district of Voronezh:

To 1 head of big cattle.Dessiatines of tillage land.
On peasant farms2.0
On estates over 50 dessiatines7.9

We know that the fields of the peasants are very insufficiently manured. The opportunities for large estates do not appear more favorable. The extent to which land is fertilized on the estates is shown by the following figures:

Arable land.Dessiatines.Per cent.
Yearly under culture61882100
Yearly manured34315.5

The fertilizing of 1 dessiatine requires 6 heads of big cattle (op. cit., p. 92.) Thus we have:

Used to manure the fields on the estates.Head of big cattle.Per cent.
Total, 3431 dessiatines × 6 heads20586100
Total stock of the landlords1101053
Stock of the peasants957647

In a word, nearly one half of the manure used on large estates is procured by the small farmers who are compelled to neglect their own fields. Quite a number of statements to this effect are produced in the Appendices to the Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Ryazañ.

[158] Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Voronezh, vol. I., p. 234.

[159] The total of this table exceeds the total of plough land in large estates by 1119 dessiatines, which amounts to 2 per cent. of the whole area, and could by no means influence the inferences drawn from the table. The difference concerns small tenure, on which the statements are slightly at variance with those of the large landholders.

Peasant tenure in the district is represented by the following figures:

Rented for money rental.Dessiatines.
In all25992
Tenements over 50 dessiatines474
Small tenure25518
Held from small estates (of under 50 dessiatines)1292
Held from large estates (of over 50 dessiatines)24226

(Cf. op. cit., p. 251, column 18; p. 273, col. 65. Upon tenure for share in crops, p. 251, col. 14, and cols. 55-56 on pp. 276-335.)


Ploughland in small tenure.Dessiatines.
In all25309

This topic was very fully discussed by Prof. Engelhardt in his Letters from the Village.


Estates with large agriculture. Number. Average size, dessiatines. Arable yearly under cultivation.
Dessiatines. Per cent.
The fields fertilized1466863380991
The fields not fertilized4421533739
Estates in small tenure64244

[162] As for peasant agriculture; Cf. loc. cit., p. 101.


Estates. Planted with wheat. Fertilized.
Dessiatines. Per cent. Dessiatines. Percentage to the area under wheat.
With culture of wheat:
a) land not fertilized1363
b) land fertilized443797221650
Without culture of wheat1164


Estates with large agriculture. Number. Dessiatines. Per cent. Average
Without working horses481310312273
With working horses1429651288680

[165] Wherever ploughs are in use, we find from two to three horses to one plough upon an average; it shows that the horses are raised with the avowed purpose of driving the plough. Such is the case with most of the horses found on large estates. Ploughs without horses are kept only in exceptional cases. Furthermore, we notice that those estates on which ploughs are used are the largest. The smaller estates are tilled with the primeval peasant sohá, ploughs being only too seldom used by the peasantry. The figures are found in the following tables:

A. Estates with large agriculture. Number. Total extent. Average (Dessiatines). Ploughs. Horses (or oxen).
Dessiatines. Per cent. Number. To 1 estate. To one plough.
I. Without ploughs
Still with working horses7033672334815447.8
II. With ploughs
a) with working horses726284063} 67873454108715.12.4
b) with oxen23966419833734170.9
B. Ploughs furnished. Average estate.
Ploughs. Ploughland tilled by the owner.
In all. To 1 plough.
By the landlord9034914476491
By the laborer (l. c. p. 97.)36911516710145

[166] Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Ryazañ, vol. I., pp. 17-18. By “property of the capitalistic class,” is understood all estates belonging to merchants, whatever may be the size of the holding, as well as every estate above 50 dessiatines, whatever may be the legal status of its owner (merchant, burgher or peasant). All holdings below this size, except those owned by the noblemen and merchants, are included in the class of small property. The idea of this classification is to divide historical landed property of the nobility from landholding for mercantile purposes, as well as from that in which the owner may be supposed to be himself the tiller of his land.

[167] Ibid., pp. 28-29.

[168] “Honorable citizenship” is awarded, under certain provisions, to merchants in old standing. Others than merchants cut no figure in this class.

[169] The socialistic aversion of the Russian peasantists to the “exploiters” was somewhat tainted with the patrician prejudices against the merchant. The Russian magazines were crammed with touching descriptions of how the poetry of a shadowy oak alley in the old garden of the noble slave-owner was ruthlessly sacrificed in favor of prosaic timber by the boorish parvenu (tchoomáziy). It was universally believed that the merchant who engaged in land tenure was something of a dynamiter, whose element was destruction for the mere devilish voluptuousness of destruction. To devastate the forests while re-renting the land to the peasant at an exorbitant interest—this appeared to be the only aim of the merchant. Statistical investigations did away with these naive conceptions. Here are some of the facts brought to light by the Ryazañ census:

1. Bailiwick Naryshkinskaya, d. Ranenburg. “The lack of land to rent is keenly felt. The condition of the communities under discussion has grown much worse as compared with former years. The main reason thereof is the considerable decrease in the area leased by landlords and the rise of rental prices, which is closely connected with the passage of the estates of the nobility into the hands of merchants through either sale or lease.” (L. c., vol. II., part I., p. 282. No. 3-4, 6-9.)

2. Village Prosech’ye, same district. “Since their former master sold his estate to the merchant, neither land nor easements are to be got anywhere. The new owner cultivates everything for himself.” (L. c., p. 305, No. 13.)

3. Village Cheglokovo, b. Vednovskaya. “The condition of the peasants grew much worse after their former master sold his estate, about 1870, to a merchant, who has almost entirely stopped leasing land. The master, on the contrary, used to lease much of his land, and the peasants assert that they then made a pretty good living.” (Ib., p. 325, No. 5. Cf., also, Nos. 6, 7.)

4. B. Troitskaya. “Tenure is a rare exception, since the landlords either carry on their own farming or have leased their estates to big farmers, who cultivate everything for themselves.” (Ib., p. 309.)

5. B. Hrushchovskaya, Dankoff. “All the landlords in the neighborhood either carry on their own farming, or have leased their estates to merchants, who cultivate solely for themselves. The peasants can positively get no land for rent, except a small tract of meadow.” (L. c., part II., p. 208. Cf., also bailiwick Ostrokamenskaya, p. 211, and b. Odoevskaya, p. 230.)

[170] More particulars as to the availability of these averages for purposes of comparison are produced in the Appendix, Table VII.

[171] 1 chetvert = 5.9 Winchester bushels.

[172] Cf. Report of the Secretary of Agriculture, 1890, p. 335.

[173] Cf. Le commerce de grains dans l’Amérique du Nord, par Paul Lafargue.

[174] The inference is drawn from the figures below:

Estates with large agriculture.Number.Average.
To 1 plough.
Property of the nobility:
Estates with ploughs54104491
Estates without ploughs79428..
Property of the capitalist class:
Estates with ploughs2052093
Estates without ploughs47191..

With the nobility the average estate tilled exclusively with the peasant sohá is more than twice as large as the corresponding average with the capitalist class.

On the other hand, the capitalist provides his farm with ploughs when the same is only half as large as that on which the noble could afford to have improved implements.

[175] The following is a synopsis of the results of the above comparison between capitalist ownership of land and property of the nobility:

Negative qualifications. Average estate (dessiatines). Positive qualifications. Average estate (dessiatines).
Capitalist property. Property of the nobility. Capitalist property. Property of the nobility.
Small tenure exclusively128273Large farming289734
Tilled by farmers only108233Proletarian labor employed351783
No fertilizing138280Fertilizing363816
Tilled with the peasant’s stock138326Working horses raised326896
No wheat197501Wheat grown478898
Tilled with the peasant’s sohá191428Ploughs5201044

Backward management by capitalists is found only within the average limits from 108 to 197 dessiatines (292-532 acres), while the same methods are still practiced by noblemen so long as the estate averages from 233 to 501 dessiatines (629-1353 acres). Progress begins on capitalistic farms as soon as they reach the average of from 289 to 520 dessiatines (780-1404 acres), while on those owned by the nobility, improvement is observed only within the average limits of from 734 to 1044 dessiatines (1892-2819 acres). This plainly points to the lack of money as the only reason which prevents the petty nobleman from practicing the same methods as those applied by the capitalist as soon as he takes possession of the same estate.



[177] A sweeping criticism of the policy of the Russian government with regard to agriculture is to be found in Prof. Issaiew’s article, La Famine en Russie, in the Revue d’Economie Politique, 1892, No. 7. The apologists of the “historical friendship” pattern, should carefully read Chapter III.: Qu’est ce qui a été fait pour relever l’agriculture en Russie? One can there get the knowledge of some very conclusive facts which it is, of course, impossible to come across during a rapid trip through a vast country like Russia. The paper referred to should gain in authority by the fact that it was read before a meeting held at Emperor Alexander’s Lyceum of St. Petersburg, (to which only the sons of the highest dignitaries of the State or the offspring of the most aristocratic families are admitted,) and—last, not least—by the fact that it was published in France, which is now plus Tzariste que le Tzar.


Loans granted.Rubles.
By the nobility’s Crédit Foncier, to January 1, 1892328,000,000
By the Peasant’s Bank, to January 1, 189156,140,438

[179] “On small crédit foncier.” Otechstvenniya Zapiski (monthly), 1883.

[180] “The operations of the Peasant’s Crédit Foncier,” p. 105—Russkaya Mysl (monthly), February, 1892.

[181] Ibid., pp. 107, 108.

[182] In some of the gubernias failures were even more extensive:

Percentage to the total in the gubernia.
Gubernias.Land forfeited.Loans failed.

These are moreover the very gubernias in which the Bank operated most extensively. (Ibid., p. 100.)

[183] Loans granted by the Bank:

In 18849,529,368
 ” 188513,761,978
 ” 188611,148,850
 ” 18877,495,197
 ” 18885,133,539
 ” 18893,692,133
 ” 18904,519,209

(Ibid., p. 103.)

[184] The normal size of a peasant farm, which is above referred to, was calculated in Chapters II. and X. These are the respective figures:

Normal extent of landholding, Dessiatines.Actual average, Dessiatines.Excess of the normal over the average, per cent.
Ranenburg and Dankoff:
(Communities of which all the members are farmers taken as the normal.) To 1 “revision” male5.03.4+47
(Farms with net profit taken as the normal.) To 1 adult male worker11.58.3+39

The extent of landholding in the gubernia of Ryazañ (districts of Ranenburg and Dankoff) may be considered as characteristic of the central and most crowded part of the black soil zone, while the gubernia of Voronezh (d. of Korotoyak) partakes of the character of the more thinly populated border districts adjoining the southeastern prairies.—(Cf., Prof. Janson’s Essay of a Statistical Investigation, etc., App., pp. 12, 13, Table II. [bis]). Should we fix the increase of landholding needed by the peasants at 40 per cent. in the gubernias of the famine stricken sections of Middle Russia (Voronezh, Kazañ, Kursk, Orel, Penza, Ryazañ, Samara, Saratoff, Simbirsk, Tamboff, Tula), the area lacking would compare as follows with that purchased through the Peasant’s Bank (Cf., Herzenstein, l. c., p. 104):

Dessiatines.Per cent.
Land wanting12,070,484100
Land purchased through the Bank (from April, 1883, up to January 1, 1890)1,579,39113

Mr. Lobachevsky, in his article above referred to, estimated the need of land in 8 gubernias of the same section, at 17,124,321 dessiatines (l. c., April, 1883, p. 178), which is about ten times as much as the land acquired through the Peasant’s Bank.

[185] “Russian famines and the measures of the Government against them,” by Prof. Romanovitch-Slavatinsky, University Records, Jan., 1892, pp. 40, 61 (monthly publication of St. Vladimir University, Kieff.)

[186] The war of 1877 caused a depreciation of the paper ruble from 80 per cent. to 60 per cent. It never got above that figure until 1890, when the enormous harvest unexpectedly raised its exchange value to 80 per cent., the rate that had prevailed before the war.

[187] The first chapters of this essay were written when the famine of 1891-92 had reached its climax. Now, while these concluding lines are being printed, the Russian papers have brought official reports of a failure in 11 gubernias, of which 5 are of the number of those affected by the last famine (Voronezh, Kursk, Orel, Samara, Tula). The Zemstvos have applied to the government for appropriations for the next seed.

[188] A delay in the payments was lately granted to the debtors of the Nobility’s Bank in the famine stricken region, for the purpose of saving numerous estates from being sacrificed at forced sale.

[189] In the tables that follow we have availed ourselves of some of the figures produced in a very interesting article, in which the consequences of the famine are discussed on the ground of the data recently published by the Statistical Bureau of the gubernia of Samara. (Cf. “The consequences of the failure of the crops in the gubernia of Samara,” by Vasili Vodovozoff in the Russkaya Zhizñ [daily], nos. 248 and 249, September 25 and 26, 1892).

The loss of working cattle toward January, 1892, figured as follows:

Per cent.
Per cent.


The heavy losses suffered by the peasantry have enormously accentuated the existing inequalities of distribution of live stock. This is evidenced in the village Dergoonofka, d. of Nicholayeff, which figured in 1887 among the wealthiest villages, 3.5 working horses being the average to a household (nearly twice as much as in the districts above examined). These are the comparative data for 1887 and 1891:

Households (total: 745). 1887. October, 1891. Increase or Decrease.
Per cent. Per cent. Per cent.
“Horseless”5} 1929} 58+480} +205
With 1 horse1429+107
from 2 to 3 horses32} 8128} 42-12} -48
4 horses147-50
5 or more horses357-80

Such was the condition of the peasantry as early as in October, when the famine was still at its very beginning. Concentration of communal land in the hands of a few wealthy lessees is reported by the Bureau as an immediate result of the famine, but the respective figures are not cited in Mr. Vodovozoff’s paper.

[190] We read in a communication from the district of Voronezh that “there is hardly one-fourth of the live stock left.… Thanks to the enfeebled condition, as well as to the complete loss of the peasants’ horses, many among the landlords, and larger tenants, have secured live stock of their own.” The Agriculturist (St. Petersburg), No. 26, April 24 (May 6), 1892.

Says another correspondent, also a landlord: “This year the greatest part of the farm work was to be done with the landlord’s live stock, it being impossible to get peasants for the purpose, as they had suffered a heavy loss of horses.” (Ib., No. 33, June 12 (24), 1892.)

[191] Fertilizing and irrigation have become a necessity in Russian agriculture. Let us figure the expenses entailed by these improvements.

We know that manure is procured for the landlord’s fields by the decaying small farmer. The ruin of the latter necessitates an outlay of capital by the landlord for the purchase of live stock. Now, to fertilize the fields once in three years, 2 heads of big cattle are required per dessiatine of arable land, which would cause an expense of 78.96 rubles per dessiatine. (Cf., Statistical Reports for the Gubernia of Voronezh, Vol. II., Number II., App., pp. 44-45.) Here we have the Achilles heel of the Russian landed nobility. The land acquired by the peasants with the aid of the Peasants’ Bank sold at an average price of rubles 43.41 the dessiatine. (Herzenstein, l. c., p. 104). The cost of fertilizing alone exceeds the total value of the land; it could consequently not be conducted on a large scale by means of funded loans.

The conditions are similar in the case of irrigation. Mr. Vladimir Biriukowicz, a writer in the Russkaya Mysl, quotes a few instances of how artificial irrigation has increased the rental value of the estates from 3 rubles to 15, and even 25 rubles yearly per dessiatine. Moreover, and this is of greater importance, amidst the surrounding failure, the irrigated estates were blessed by excellent crops. According to Mr. Daniloff, a civil engineer, irrigation had raised the productivity of ploughland by from 15 to 20 per cent., and of meadow by 100 per cent., while the cost of construction did not exceed 60 rubles per dessiatine. (l. c., April 1, 1892, Protection and Agriculture, pp. 2, 3.) Certainly there is nothing exorbitant in the expense; still it likewise requires an outlay of capital exceeding the value of the land, and this, in the opinion of a practical agriculturalist, must be accounted for as the chief reason of the indifference of the landlords in the matter of irrigation. (Cf., “Topographical Surveying for irrigation works,” by V. Kasyanenko. The Agriculturist, St. Petersburg, No. 47, 1892). Thus the progress of artificial irrigation means the ruin of the nobleman.

[192] I am glad to know that this is the opinion advanced by so high an authority in political economy as Mr. Frederick Engels, one of the few Western students familiar with the Russian language. (Die Neue Zeit, 1892.) So far, however, as my case is concerned, I claim independence of judgment. I wrote in an editorial, dated December 20, 1891: “The consequences of this famine are equivalent to a revolution in the social organization of the Russian village.… The development of capitalism in agriculture, the dissolution of the peasantry into two distinct groups: a rural petite bourgeoisie, and a rural proletariat—these are the characteristics of a new epoch in Russia’s social life.” (Cf., Progress, No. 3, a Russian weekly published at the time in New York.)

[193] This economic revolution seems to be one of more than merely national import. Up to the present day the American farmer has met the Russian peasant on the international market, either as small farmer, or as cultivator of the greater part of the landlords’ property. In this competition the greater economy of labor and the cheaper methods of transportation secured the prize to the American producer. From now on the mortgaged American farmer will have to stand the competition of the Russian capitalist. It hardly needs a prophet to foretell that the breakdown of the Russian peasantry will hasten the decay of small agriculture in America.

[194] Landless households and members thereof are not counted here.

[195] Here are included those possessing their land partly on the basis of communism, and partly quarterly.

[196] This group was formed from the serfs who had belonged to petty gentlemen; this small class of serfs was reduced in 1861 from private serfdom to state serfdom, or, as it was called, to the class of state peasants. In 1866 it shared the lot of the emancipated state peasants. Thus, by its historical origin, this group should be classed among former serfs, while by title of possession its members were hereditary tenants like the rest of the former state peasants. Nowadays they likewise enjoy the right of purchasing their land in property.

[197] Redemption tax, corvée, taille, or rent paid to the state by the former state peasants.

[198] The translation differs from the original in the systematic arrangement of the entries, which has been adapted to the purposes of the present discussion.

[199] In the winter, cows as well as horses are fed mostly with straw mixed with flour. Oats is given to horses only in the season of farm work or in case of carrying.

[200] Milk, butter, cheese, as well as cabbage and cucumbers, which are produced exclusively for domestic consumption, are not included in the debits or in the credits.

[201] The single items are not quoted in detail, since they are very similar to those already produced in Budget I.

[202] Among the entries of which this sum is made up, we notice a yearly expense of 1.80 rubles for 1 pound of tea, and 1.00 ruble for 5 pounds of sugar a year.

[203] The boys go barefoot, and have no clothing but shirts; no pants, nor overcoats.

[204] It is peculiar to read among the entries “For horseshoeing (only the fore feet), 0.60.”

[205] Note.—Series I contains the results of many years’ experience on a few farms. Series II comprises such estates, on the one hand, on which the area planted with wheat coincides with that manured, so as to justify the inference that the fields are manured precisely for the wheat crop; on the other hand, it includes such estates on which no fertilizing is practiced at all. Series II, as well as the great majority of the average yields which could be ascertained by one census, is distinguished from Series I in that it refers to no stated term of observation. The slight difference between, or rather the identity of, the averages in both series guarantees the validity of all the averages, though the period of observation be not stated.



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