The Empire of the Tsars and the Russians

By Anatole L. Leroy-Beaulieu; Zaenaefde A. Ragozin | Go to book overview

BOOK VII. CHAPTER III.

Manner and Conditions of Redeeming the Lands--Advances Made by the
Exchequer--Actual State of the Operation--Slackening in the Last
Years of Alexander II.--How there still Subsisted, in the Form of
Labor Dues, a Sort of Half Servitude, which was Abolished only
Under Alexander III.--Why Landed Property is often a Burden to the
Freedmen--Unequal Treatment of the Peasants in the Different Regions
--The Gratuitous "Quarter Lot"--The Peasant's Disappointment--In
what Manner he Understood Liberty.

So vast a liquidation could not be accomplished in a day. It was important to avoid too abrupt a transformation, which would have landed the country into the midst of a most dangerous crisis. During the two years which followed the Emancipation Act, all the landlords and their tenants had to draw up by mutual agreement an instrument, called "Regulation Charter," which exactly determined the lands to be ceded by the landlords, and the annual payment, in money or labor, to be effected by the peasants for the same. These things were to be arranged, as much as possible, amicably; but as the clashing of interests, and, still more, the peasants' distrust, gave little hope of such a solution, the decision, in case of conflict, was left to certain magistrates created on purpose, under the title of Arbiters of Peace. During the first years, men the most independent and superior, such as Prince Tcherkàssky, Yùri Samárin, and others, made it a point to take on themselves these wearisome and delicate duties. These judges, elected by the nobility, were commissioned to approve the contracts for both sides, and, if need were, to settle the difficulties, subject to ratification by a provincial court. One would think that these arbiters, appointed by the landlords out of their own

-436-

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