The Empire of the Tsars and the Russians

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

BOOK VIII. CHAPTER IV.

The Mir in Theory and Practice--The Material Equality of the Lots does not Always Imply Equitable Distribution--Division according to the Working Capacity or Resources of the Laborers--Story of One Commune--"Soulless" Families; Strong, "Half-Power", Weak Families --The Mir as a Providence--Arbitrariness and Injustice--Usury--The Vampires or "Mir-Eaters"--Rural Oligarchy--Landless Peasants and Rural Proletariate.

THE system of strict material equality is far from implying invariable equity in the distribution of the lands. As a rule, there is nothing fixed and regular about the proceeding, certainly nothing mathematical. The mir deals with its members more paternally, i.e., more arbitrarily: it does not consider merely the number of persons that dwell in a house, but also their ages, their state of health, their resources; it takes into account natural or accidental inequalities, weighs the strength and capacity of each member, and treats each according to his needs or faculties.

It would be a great mistake to see in this effort at compensation only a humanitarian instinct or an unconscious socialism, bent on levelling everything in despite of nature. No; the peasants obey very different promptings, more positive, more practical, as is their nature.

Community of lands stands, as already indicated, in closest relation to solidarity before the fisc. For centuries the two things have been so intimately connected, that it was very possible for a certain school to consider collective property as simply a consequence of that solidarity. In a country where taxes of all kinds have always been very heavy, where the possession of the soil might always have been regarded more as a burden than

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