Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
States of Obligation

States of Obligation: Taxes and Citizenship in the Russian Empire and Early Soviet Republic

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 504
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    States of Obligation
    Book Description:

    Beginning in the 1860s, the Russian Empire replaced a poll tax system that originated with Peter the Great with a modern system of income and excise taxes. Russia began a transformation of state fiscal power that was also underway across Western Europe and North America.States of Obligationis the first sustained study of the Russian taxation system, the first to study its European and transatlantic context, and the first to expose the essential continuities between the fiscal practices of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.

    Using a wealth of materials from provincial and local archives across Russia, Yanni Kotsonis examines how taxation was simultaneously a revenue-raising and a state-building tool, a claim on the person and a way to produce a new kind of citizenship. During successive political, wartime, and revolutionary crises between 1855 and 1928, state fiscal power was used to forge social and financial unity and fairness and a direct relationship with individual Russians. State power eventually overwhelmed both the private sector economy and the fragile realm of personal privacy.States of Obligationis at once a study in Russian economic history and a reflection on the modern state and the modern citizen.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9632-7
    Subjects: Economics, History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. List of Russian Terms
    (pp. xvii-2)
  6. Introduction. A Short History of Taxes: Russia and the World from the Eighteenth to the Twenty-First Centuries
    (pp. 3-24)

    To say that taxes reflect forms of rule and government is to miss an opportunity; taxesareforms of rule and government. By studying them we can see the workings and evolutions of an entire regime. Taxation is one thing that a state does and always does. It does this with all people, be it by taxing them or by deciding not to tax them. By exploring taxes the historian or any critical observer can explore the evolution of the key categories we often take for granted – a state, an economy, and a person – and come a long...

  7. Part 1. People, Places, Things:: The Old Regime, Economic Knowledge, and the Coming of the New Order

    • 1 The Fiscal Instruments of Regime Change from the Eighteenth to the Nineteenth Centuries
      (pp. 27-54)

      Finance ministers and many fiscal experts were traditionally outsiders to the Russian landed nobility, and they were well poised in the 1860s to cultivate a discrete state interest that stood above particular interests. They confronted a legacy of inequality and exemption from liabilities that they redressed in the language of taxation and political economy: a polity of separate and unequal estates should be rearranged as a single population of taxpayers, liable according to their means and regardless of their birth. In the first instance, fiscal reformers sought ways to shift burdens from the peasants who paid most of the direct...

    • 2 Three Tax Reforms, Three Visions of the Polity
      (pp. 55-84)

      In the 1860s and 1870s the central government concluded that reform would have to be different for different populations and economic functions. In urban and commercial Russia the government laid the groundwork for a modern system of revenue that was based on wealth and possibly income. That method was not applied to rural Russia where a system of collective responsibility and sparse government administration allowed for the perpetuation of much older practices disguised as new measures like the land tax. There would be no encounter of the peasant person with the state, and peasants across the board would administer their...

  8. Part 2. The Politics of Visibility, the Technologies of Intimacy:: Taxes and the Remaking of Urban and Commercial Russia

    • 3 Wealth in Motion: New Money, New Taxes, and a New Bureaucracy
      (pp. 87-125)

      Once again shielded by the arcane language of fiscal science, experts from the 1880s took aim at the new and enormous wealth that the capitalist economy was generating, as yet with little tax to burden it. The new wealth took the form of money sooner than land, and it was in motion as it passed from one enterprise or person to another. The new money lent itself to accurate assessment and progressive rates, and the gold standard of the new fiscal system was the personal, progressive income tax. The personal income tax was postponed across Europe and the United States,...

    • 4 Systematic Intimacy: Business Taxes and the Disciplining of Commercial Russia
      (pp. 126-150)

      Tax law from the 1880s established the conditions for locating and registering the existence of industrial and commercial enterprises, especially in the cities but potentially anywhere. It provided Russia with its first full-scale cadastre of businesses that gradually began to map the movement of money and goods as they passed from one entity to another. Profounder than the letter of the laws was the practice of the laws over the next thirty years. The business taxes, mixed with information from other taxes and from the expanding financial and insurance sector, spawned a veritable web of information and documentation. The data...

    • 5 Mass Taxation in the Age of the Individual: The New Personal Taxation in Russia and the World
      (pp. 151-173)

      The personal income tax in Europe and the United States brought the person back into focus after decades of taxes on lands, properties, and incomes, which had been designed to be impersonal. Objective taxes on things were joined by subjective taxes on persons and the aggregate of their incomes. This was part of a new concern with the person, though not so much with the person’s immunities; it had more to do with the person’s visibility, integration, and capacities. The approach required an erosion of personal autonomies in order to make assessment possible, and in Russia in particular the erosion...

    • 6 The Income Tax as Modern Government: Assessment, Self-Assessment, and Mutual Surveillance
      (pp. 174-204)

      The Russian income tax law of 1916 drew on a variety of national models and capitalized on decades of debate and theory that had destabilized the idea of the economy to make it more state centred and destabilized the idea of the person in order to make persons penetrable and partitive. These impulses were more pronounced in Russia than they were elsewhere because they were shaped by the successive crises of 1905–7 and 1914–17. The tax was viewed widely among officials, experts, journalists, and legislators as a locus in which a new kind of participatory state would be...

  9. Part 3. The Politics of Obscurity:: Peasant Taxes, Excises, and the Vodka Monopoly to 1917

    • 7 Everyone and No One: Indirect Taxes and the Vodka Monopoly to 1917
      (pp. 207-236)

      Indirect taxes were the largest source of imperial tax revenue, and when they were combined with the receipts from the state vodka monopoly of 1894, the reliance was overwhelming. The large revenue speaks to the development of a true money and exchange economy and of sophisticated methods of surveillance on the part of the state. The movement from excises on vodka to an outright monopoly suggests that the new proximity of state and economy could lead to a more encompassing state claim on whole sectors and the people who inhabited them. The temptation to use the fiscal tools to change...

    • 8 The Peasant and the Fisc: The State Budget and the Persistence of Collective Tax Apportionment
      (pp. 237-256)

      The Russian state budget on the eve of the Great War was remarkable for its size after having grown by a factor of sixteen since the 1850s. It was also remarkably new in character. Most revenue came from indirect sources and did not distinguish among legal statuses; most direct revenue was likewise derived from incomes and types of transactions that ignored legal status. In their ways these were all calculated taxes that depended on a documented commercial economy. By contrast, peasant direct taxation operated by separate rules, and the central government neither had nor sought control over how the tax...

    • 9 The Local Practices of Peasant Taxation
      (pp. 257-292)

      Collective responsibility was abolished in most of European Russia in 1903, and most of the empire followed suit,¹ but territorial apportionment remained in place. This made for local practices that changed very little. The repartition of the tax bill to the rural society and household remained a local peasant matter with little sustained involvement by the agents of the state. The latter complained that peasants were unable to grapple with finances and were unfamiliar with the law, but the evidence should direct our attention elsewhere. Peasants tended to grapple as well or as poorly as anyone else when it came...

  10. Part 4. The State and Revolution, the State and Evolution:: Fiscal Practices and a New Regime, 1917–30

    • 10 Soviet Russia and the Continuing History of the Russian State
      (pp. 295-305)

      Narrating the movement from one regime to another is fraught because the small practice that is familiar from an older time acquires a different meaning in the new. It will not do to focus on the details without explicating the larger framework of meaning and significance in which the details were produced. Many excellent studies of the way in which planning and allocation in the “unitary economy” fared in these years – foundational studies, really, that should be read – are less adept at examining the intellectual world in which the planning and allocation seemed reasonable, in which a “unitary...

    • 11 The Meanings of Utopia: Taxes, Urban Unities, and the Several Assaults on Peasant Separateness, 1917–21
      (pp. 306-332)

      Soviet Russia was founded on an existing urban-rural divide, and this made for two kinds of state. In the cities, in industry, and in commerce the Bolsheviks used the tools of the modern state and the transparencies of the modern economy to locate and nationalize wealth and create a system of state ownership, allocation, and unity – the miseries of the civil war economy notwithstanding. Their inexperience in rural government and economics was glaring, and they tried in 1918 to apply to agriculture the visions of unity and assimilation that had worked so quickly, if not particularly well, in industry....

    • 12 The Economy of Licences: Taxes and the New Economic Policy
      (pp. 333-346)

      The Soviet tax system of the 1920s was a deliberate effort to recreate what had existed to 1914, crafted by many of the same specialists who had built the prerevolutionary fiscal system. It aimed at urban incomes, using income assessment; it imposed apportioned levies on the countryside; and it relied most heavily on indirect revenue to an extent that was strikingly similar to the 1913 state budget. All of this was to recognize what the Soviet state could and could not accomplish, which was similar to what the imperial state could and could not accomplish. For all the similarities, this...

  11. Afterword. Russia, Socialism, and the Modern State
    (pp. 347-350)

    In 1930 private property had not been in existence for some thirteen years, and the Soviet system realized one of its potentials by becoming fully statized. The private sector of leased production and semi-tolerated trade had come to an end, and the (visible) economy had become fully planned and allocated. This was to be socialism, as it had been in 1919 and 1920, favoured over the many models of development and management that socialists and Marxists had put forward in Russia and abroad. Such were the circumstances of interwar Europe that this, and only this, was to be “existing socialism”...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 351-438)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 439-470)
  14. Index
    (pp. 471-483)