The urban population in eighteenth-century Russia was notoriously small, constituting only about three percent of the population and confirming foreigners' impression that the Russian Empire was still overwhelmingly rural and backward. With the exception of Moscow and a few other urban areas, most "cities" were more administrative than economic in function and configuration, with few of the corporate and industrial characteristics of contemporary cities in Western Europe. Indeed, even the largest cities of Russia retained a distinct semi-rural appearance, as some inhabitants not only plied commerce and crafts but relied partly upon agriculture for their sustenance. It was no accident that instructions from towns refer to inhabitants' livestock and express concern about the availability of agricultural land; over two-thirds of the towns in Moscow province, for example, raised the issue of land in their instructions to the Legislative Commission. Nothing so distressed the enlightened autocrat and enlightened bureaucrats in St. Petersburg, who were keenly interested in commercial development and in the formation of the "third estate" that seemed so characteristic and vital to the strength of the other great powers of contemporary Europe.
Like the instructions from the nobility, those from the urban population have been the subject of considerable research. That from Moscow-the largest city in the empire-has understandably received particular attention, for no other Russian city came close in size, economic vitality and social composition. Its instruction of 1767 (doc. 13), although partially influenced by the participation of nobles, nonetheless presents a rich mosaic of the city's profile, problems and needs. It is a long, complex, and pointedly contradictory document-with materials appropriate to a semi-agrarian village (e.g., art. 17 on urban pastures) and others more pertinent to a
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Publication information: Book title: From Supplication to Revolution:A Documentary Social History of Imperial Russia. Contributors: Gregory L. Freeze - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1988. Page number: 52.
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