An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XI
THE PEASANT QUESTION AND THE COMMITTEES OF 1844-1847

THE discussions of the peasant question in the earlier committees have been described in a previous chapter.1 Little had come, after all, of numerous investigations, reports, projects of law, and even ukases. Bondage right still remained, and abuses of it were notorious. Meanwhile the Tsar, impatient at the long-delayed reform of bondage conditions, demanded that some decisive measures should be taken to check the abuses of their powers by pomyetschēkē. The Minister of the Interior, Bibikov, decided to make an experiment in one large region. With this in view, the committees of the western guberni2 were instructed to obtain from the landowners inventories of their estates, drawn up in accordance with definite instructions. These instructions required a statement of the obligations due to the landowners by the peasants. Where this information was not given in the inventories, the committees were empowered to take evidence on the subject themselves, and to fix the obligations of the peasants for six years at the amount which they found to be that of the existing practice.3 This experiment had important ulterior effects, for some of the landowners, rather than submit to have the relations between them and their peasants regulated in this formal manner, began to think of liberating them altogether. Yet the compulsory inventories afforded little definite guidance in settling the peasant question. The labours of the committees were finished in 1846, and in that year Bibikov informed the Government that, owing to the great variety of conditions and of obligations, it was impossible to formulate definite regulations of a general character. He said, moreover, that the inventories were frequently inaccurate

____________________
1
Book II chap. viii.
2
Vilenskaya, Grodinskaya, Kovinskaya, Minskaya, Kievskaya, Volinskaya, Podolskaya, Vitebskaya, and Mohilevskaya.
3
Semevsky, op cit., ii. p. 491.

-366-

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