THE POSSESSIONAL FACTORIES
AN account has been given in previous pages of the State peasants and of the Black Ploughing peasants who had been ascribed to factories, by Peter the Great and by his successors. These ascribed peasants, together with those who had been purchased by noble factory-owners who had the right to possess peasants, or by merchants who had been permitted to acquire them, came, in the time of Peter III, to be called Possessional peasants. Those peasants who worked in the factories of noble owners, and who belonged to the votchini of these, were known as votchinal peasants. Both classes of peasantry existed for about a century before they came to be distinguished by these names.
After the death of Peter the Great, the factory owners no longer enjoyed the immunities and privileges with which, in his enthusiasm for industrial enterprise, Peter had endowed them. Under an ukase of the Empress Anna in 1740, the factory-owners were forbidden to buy peasants with land,1 although they were permitted to buy peasants without land, while factories which were "not properly managed" were ordered to be closed, and the peasants ascribed to them to be transferred to the Empress, the artisans being given to those factories which might require them.2 In 1744 the leading factory-owners protested against the withdrawal of the privileges they had formerly enjoyed, and they were again permitted to acquire peasants with land.3
The contest between the land and serf-owning nobles and the factory-owners, of which the vacillating policy of the Government____________________