An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
THE AGRARIAN DISTURBANCES IN THE FIRST THREE QUARTERS OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

THE legislation of Peter the Great had placed the estates of the serving people and the votchini of the nobles upon equal footing as heritable property; the Manifesto of 18th February 1762 had liberated nobility and serving people alike from obligatory service;1 nothing had been done for the peasants. Yet these incidents seemed to suggest that the peasants' case was not hopeless. The autocracy was no longer quite as it was. Freedom had been given to the superior classes; it might even extend below them to the mass of the people. Nothing could be more logical or inevitable. Rumours began to circulate among the peasants that something concerning them was going to happen. The obligations of the nobles having been abolished, the next step must be the abolition of the obligations of the peasants. The Manifesto inevitably aroused such hopes. The existence of rumours about liberation soon became evident to the Government, and fearful of the consequences of precipitate anticipation of freedom on the part of the peasantry, it issued on 19th June of the same year an ukase calling upon the peasants to render their customary obedience to the pomyetschēkē. But the movement among the peasants had already begun. It began in the districts of Klin and Tver, among the peasants of two pomyetschēkē, Tatishev and Khlopov. The Government determined to act sharply, without delay. A command of 400 infantry with four guns, and a regiment of cuirassiers was sent under Witten to put down the disturbance.2 On Tatishev's estate the peasants had levelled his house to the ground; at Khlopov's they had pillaged the house, carried off his money, which had been paid for obròk, and plundered his granaries. On Tatishev's estate seven hundred peasants were

____________________
1
Cf. supra, p. 179.
2
Semevsky, op. cit., i. p. 419.
2

F.C.L., xv., No. 11,577; cited by Semevsky, ibid.

-301-

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