An Economic History of Russia - Vol. 1

By James Mavor | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
KUSTARNAYA ĒZBA, OR HOME WORK

ALTHOUGH probably in Western Europe purely natural economy began to be complicated by the development of exchange relations of a pecuniary character about a thousand years ago,1 natural economy of a more or less pure order was very general throughout Europe during the past century, and it still exists in villages remote from modern means of communication.2 Under natural economy, the house of the peasant was built by himself, or with the aid of his neighbours to whom he rendered, on similar occasion, similar services. If opportunity offered, he might obtain the assistance of an itinerant carpenter or glazier, whose services were probably paid in butter, eggs, fish, or some portable commodity, which he in turn might readily exchange. The scanty furniture of the peasant's house was made wholly by the members of the family, often in their spare moments in the winter.3 Clothing under such a system was wholly made at home. The sheep were shorn, the wool was prepared, spun by the women, woven by the men or the women, and made into clothes by the women. If the cloth was woven by the village weaver, who was also a farmer, it was often paid for otherwise than in money. In the first half of the nineteenth century, natural economy was still prevalent in Russia. The following is an account of a pomyetschēk household in Ryazanskaya gub. at that time: "The labouring forces of the bonded inhabitants were divided into two parts, the field peasants and the dvorovie lyudē. The task of the peasants

____________________
1
As suggested by V. V. (Vasili Vorontsev) in The Destiny of Capitalistic Russia ( St. Petersburg, 1907), p. 7.
2
Forty years ago there were many villages in the north of Scotland where there was very little exchange of any kind, and where tea, sugar, and other imported commodities were paid for to the "merchant" periodically by a "stirk" (a yearling bullock or heifer) or by a pig. In many villages the actual amount of coin in circulation was very small.
3
As, for example, chairs are still made in the province of Quebec.

-542-

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