An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE PEASANT QUESTION BETWEEN 1825 AND 1844

Although the movement of the Dekabristi in 1825 was primarily a political and aristocrat movement, some at least of its adherents advocate the complete abolition of serfdom, and all of them advocated the foundation of "constitutional guarantees" against absolute monarchy.1 The relation of the movement to the peasant question consists, however, rather in the circumstance that its defeat led to a period of reaction, in which agrarian as well as general political reform was almost submerged for more than a quarter of a century. While this condition successfully prevented any movement from beneath, it did not prevent the ripening of the elements which ultimately rendered emancipation inevitable, nor did it prevent discussions of the agrarian question in the "higher spheres." Prominent among these discussions is the treatment of the subject of bondage right by M. M. Speransky.2 During the reign of Alexander I, Speransky had formulated his views3 without being able to carry them into effect. Speransky's first important relation to the peasant question arose in 1826, when he became a member of the newly appointed committee upon peasants' affairs. the expression

____________________
1
On the Dakabrist movement, see infra, Book IV, chap. iii. Baron von Vijzin , e.g., one of the Dekabrists, advocated the emancipation of the peasants, with land, and also the preservation of communal ownership. Cf. Semevsky, ii. p. 386.
2
count Mikhael Mikhaelovich Speransky ( 1772- 1839). Son of a priest, professor of mathematics and physics 1797, afterwards private secretary to Prince Kurakin. victim of intrigue and banished to the provinces in 1812. Recalled to the serve of the State in 1816. Served in Penza and in Siberia. Appointed Member of the Council of State in 1821.
3
These views have never been fully published. They are to be found partly in N. E. Turgueniev La Russie et les Russes ( Paris, 1847), iii. pp. 292-328. The account there given is supplemented by V. E. Semevsky (in his Peasant Question in Russia in the Eighteenth and First Half of the Nineteenth Century, i. pp. 340-351 and ii. pp. 5-10), from documents in the Imperial Public Library at St. Petersburg. An abstract in French of Speransky's views was edited by Tsayer and published at Paris.

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