An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
THE AGRICULTURAL PEASANTS IN THE EIGTHTEENTH CENTURY

4. THE AGRICULTURAL PEASANTS OF THE STATE

WE have seen that under Peter the Great large numbers of the peasants on the domains of the State were ascribed to the various industrial enterprises of the Treasury, and that large numbers of them were ascribed to the similar enterprises of private persons and of joint-stock companies. The peasants ascribed to the works, of the State, as well as those ascribed to other works, are the subject of subsequent treatment.1 At the present moment we shall confine ourselves to an examination of the condition of those peasants who were engaged in agriculture upon the State domains, from which class, indeed, the industrial peasants were chiefly drawn into the State enterprises, and to a considerable extent also into private industrial establishments. The agricultural peasants of the State were known as Black Ploughing Peasants--that is to say, peasants cultivating the Black, or the soil.2

Had the Black Ploughing Peasants been suffered to continue upon the State domains, and had their obligations to the State been converted into rents or into rents and taxes, payable by them to the State, provided these rents had not been too burdensome, had they been given sufficient land and had they been allowed to divide this land among themselves in groups of sufficient but not of too great dimensions, it might be held, from the point of view of the national ownership of the land, as an ideal system, that the Russian form of land ownership as applied to these peasants was as near perfection as human legislation might be expected to accomplish. But the mania for change, which we have recognized as an element under-

____________________
1
See Book III.
2
Although many of them were in the Black Soil Region, they were not confined to that part of Russia.

-267-

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