An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
GOVERNMENTAL POLICY AND ECONOMIC DISCUSSIONS PRIOR TO EMANCIPATION

THE development of intensive industry was retarded, as was also the development of intensive agriculture in Russia, by the scantiness of the population in relation to the natural resources and the area of the country, and by the absence of concentration of population in great centres. In the first half of the nineteenth century the population increased rapidly, and the reactions of this increase brought progressively into relief many problems which had previously been lightly regarded. The exhaustion of available resources by the crude methods of exploitation which were in vogue led eventually to the need for technical improvements, but intermediately to demands for governmental assistance to keep down costs of manufacture or to sustain prices.

The most obvious feature of the discussions in official spheres in the early part of the nineteenth century is the influence of Adam Smith. The official organ of the Government at that time was The St. Petersburg Journal. Writers in that newspaper referred to Adam Smith as "a great man, who had seized an important truth." "The duty of the Government," they said, "is a very easy one. It should not act--it is only necessary for it to refrain from interfering. It should only encourage the natural freedom of industry." . . . "Let the Government drop all systems of prohibition and control, let it not bind industry by its regulations, and it shall not have to reinforce it by its rewards."1

Kochubey, the Minister of Interior, apparently impressed with

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1
Account of the Teachings of Adam Smith in The St. Petersburg Journal ( August, 1804), pp. 133-6; cited by Tugan-Baranovsky, op. cit., p. 266.

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