An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

THE self-contained character of the estates populated by bonded peasants hindered the growth of towns, because the proprietors purchased little and the peasants almost nothing. The richer proprietors patronized the town merchants, but almost exclusively for goods imported from abroad. The development of miscellaneous manufacture for consumption within the country is thus in Russia a comparatively modern affair. Yet in the manufacture of certain commodities there was a considerable development. This development took two directions. In the first place, there was the antique village industrial system, by means of which metals, flax, wool, and silk were produced as raw materials, and worked into consumable goods by the same persons or by near neighbours. The commodities so produced were in part used on the spot of production and in part sold to merchants for transportation elsewhere. In the second place, there began in the second quarter of the seventeenth century, the exploitation of minerals, and especially of iron, by enterprising foreigners, who rented lands, and who secured from the Government permission to ascribe to the works established upon these lands, peasants of the class known as Tsar's Peasants, an account of which has been given in a preceding chapter. The military policy of Peter the Great, which has also already been described, led to a great expansion of iron manufacture, and to the wider adoption of the system of ascription of bonded peasants, involving not only peasants of the State, but also peasants belonging to private proprietors and to ecclesiastical estates. So also the reorganization of the army, involving the formation of regiments and the adoption of uniforms, led to the erection of clothing factories, and the ascrip-

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