Rural Unrest during the First Russian Revolution: Kursk Province, 1905-1906

Rural Unrest during the First Russian Revolution: Kursk Province, 1905-1906

Rural Unrest during the First Russian Revolution: Kursk Province, 1905-1906

Rural Unrest during the First Russian Revolution: Kursk Province, 1905-1906

Synopsis

What was the general character and scale of revolutionary processes at work in the outbreak of peasant unrest in the localities themselves? How can we more closely identify the milieux from which unrest first emerged? Were there identifiable actors who played key roles, who served as initiators or catalysts for larger events, whether from within, from outside or from some-where astride criteria usual to definitions of "peasantries?" Is it possible, on a level of aggregation closer to events themselves, to approximate more precisely specific local factors that distinguished village involved in peasant unrest-by the nature of their interaction with nearby landowners or of their particular occupational orientations? One best approaches answers to such questions by close analysis of peasant unrest in the narrow confines of the localities in which they occur, and by an effort to acquaint oneself, as far as the sources permit, with the character of the villages identified with incidents of disorder. Such an approach, it seemed to me, could shed further light on the nature and scale of the peasant movement during 1905-1906, on its intensity and typological and chronological "architecture," but already in local contexts.

Excerpt

The events to which I shall devote my attention in this study, even at the remove of a century, retain immense interest for historians of revolutionary processes that shook the ancien régime in Russia in the first decade of the twentieth century. The “dress rehearsal” for the larger cataclysms of 1917 from which Soviet power emerged triumphant, the First Russian Revolution of 1905–1907 occupies a significant place in this historiography. Among the tumultuous events of these years, the waves of unrest that engulfed many rural districts of the Empire during 1905–1907, particularly in the Baltic, Central Agricultural and Mid-Volga Regions, have rightly attracted special attention. Indeed, these events are now often viewed as the opening phase in a period of rural unrest that, prefigured already in the disturbances in Poltava and Khar’kov Provinces in 1902, ended only with the Red Army’s ultimately successful campaign to put down peasant revolts against Soviet power during 1920–1922.

Parallels drawn between the intensification of the “peasant movement” during 1905–1906 and again in 1917–1918 derive in part from larger historical contexts: disastrous military defeats suffered by Russian armies in wartime, acute political turmoil and economic dislocation, and a paralysis of the ruling elites in the face of the ensuing crises, leading—although only for a short interval in 1905—to an eclipse of state authority. In both periods, a political crisis forced to the surface increasingly bitter conflicts between the autocratic state and those powerful cross-currents of opposi-

T. Shanin and V. Danilov, “Nauchno-issledovatel’nyi proekt… (Vmesto vvedeniia),” in Danilov and Shanin, eds., Krest’ianskaia, 5–6; V. V. Kondrashin, “Krest’ianskaia revoliutsiia na Povol’zhe,” Istoricheskie zapiski (Penza), 179–186.

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