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Merchant Moscow: Images of Russia's Vanished Bourgeoisie

Merchant Moscow: Images of Russia's Vanished Bourgeoisie

James L. West
Iurii A. Petrov
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Merchant Moscow: Images of Russia's Vanished Bourgeoisie
    Book Description:

    With the collapse of the Soviet system, the long-neglected history of the early capitalists is being recovered and rewritten. Once regarded as the "losers" in the Russian Revolution, these merchants can now be seen as early pioneers in Russia's transformation to a free market economy. This book is the first joint Russian-American collaborative project on the history of Russian entrepreneurship.Merchant Moscowputs a human face on early Russian capitalism. It presents thematic groupings of historic photographs paired with commentaries by contemporary Russian and American historians. The pictures provide a stunning, wide-ranging visual portrait of Imperial Russia's most influential entrepreneurial elite, the Moscow merchantry, while the accompanying articles interpret the photographs and place them in the larger cultural context of prerevolutionary Russia. Here is a surprising new view of the bourgeoisie during the Silver Age, revealed for the first time in this fascinating volume.

    The fourteen contributing historians selected and ordered photographs that best illustrate their specialized knowledge of the period. They have framed their topics in a variety of ways. Some have chosen to pursue traditional topics, such as collective biography, institutional history, or the history of business practices. Others have approached the photographs in more experimental ways, emphasizing the semiotics of dress, discourses of identity, or the history of daily life. Together they offer fresh perspectives on the successes and failures of Russia's first experiment with entrepreneurial capitalism.

    Originally published in 1998.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6464-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)

    • Merchant Moscow in Historical Context
      (pp. 3-12)
      James L. West

      In the village with the prosaic Soviet name of “Railroad” (Zheleznodorozhnyi) just outside of Moscow, there is a curious hillside above the river Pekhorka, just behind the buildings of the once supersecret Moscow Aerodynamic Laboratory. At first glance the steep terrain appears wild and overgrown, but closer inspection reveals traces of extensive architectural structures beneath the tangle of vines and brambles: a marble esplanade, flanked by stairs and balustrades, leading down to a lower terrace emplaced with fountains and pools, all long dry and derelict. This finely carved wreckage was once the central adornment of the summer home of the...

    • A Note on Old Belief
      (pp. 13-18)
      James L. West

      The history of Russian entrepreneurship and the history of Russian religiosity are closely intertwined, as the numerous references to the Old Believers (Starovery, Staroobriadtsy) in this volume testify. As happened in certain other societies in the early stages of capitalist development, religious belief and economic circumstance intersected in powerful ways to produce a distinctive religious subculture conducive to entrepreneurship and enterprise. The Old Believers in Russia performed the role of economic pioneers fulfilled by the Dissenters in England, the Huguenots in France, and the Jews in other parts of Central and Eastern Europe. This variegated family of fundamentalist sects served...

    • A Note on Photography in Russia
      (pp. 19-24)
      Diane Neumaier

      The images in this volume date from, and in part illustrate, a remarkable period in the history of photography. During the decades that bracketed the turn of the century Russian photographers, like photographers everywhere, used their cameras with ever-increasing frequency to capture the people and objects around them on plate and film. Without realizing it, these photographic chroniclers were in fact gathering data for future historians, inadvertently providing visual access to their own time in a way not possible for any previous age.

      The historians in this book exploit a new corner of what is a long-neglected photographic heritage. Despite...

    • About the Photographs
      (pp. 25-26)
      Mikhail Zolotarev

      Most of the photographs in this volume are drawn from my collection, which now contains more than thirty thousand images. This photographic archive began modestly as a project to study the history of my hometown, Bogorodsk, on the Kliazma River about forty miles from Moscow. This village is dominated by the sprawling textile mills that once belonged to the Morozov family. My interest in the past of this area naturally led me toward the Morozov clan and everything connected with them: their numerous family branches, their other factories in the Moscow region, their city houses, their social world, art collections,...

    • Maps of Merchant Moscow
      (pp. None)
    • Plates
      (pp. None)

    • CHAPTER 1 Doing Business in Merchant Moscow
      (pp. 29-36)
      Thomas C. Owen

      Photographs of the central business district in Moscow under the last tsar suggest, at first glance, that European capitalist institutions—industrial corporations, banks, department stores, and commodity and stock exchanges—had become firmly rooted in the urban landscape. Moscow seemed transformed as it became the commercial and railroad hub of the Russian Empire and the center of its textile manufacturing industry, which ranked fourth in the world after that of the United States, Britain, and Germany. The proliferation of factories, the increase in the number of hired workers, the emergence of industrial cartels, and the financial involvement of the major...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 2 Moscow’s Commercial Mosaic
      (pp. 37-44)
      Irina V. Potkina

      At the turn of the century, Moscow’s commerce astonished visitors with its jostling profusion of forms, colors, and sounds, combining “the modern age and the age bygone.” This commercial mosaic included wholesale stores and warehouses, remnants of medieval bazaars, commodity exchanges and fashionable arcades, tiny shops and modern department stores, open-air markets, and ubiquitous street vendors. Such a capricious combination imparted a unique charm to Merchant Moscow, with both the fragrance of the past and the fresh air of modernity. Yet this hybrid commercial system managed to serve the varied social strata of a sprawling urban population surprisingly well.


    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 3 “Moscow City”: Financial Citadel of Merchant Moscow
      (pp. 45-50)
      Iurii A. Petrov

      There is a street in the Russian capital that was commonly known before the Revolution by an English-sounding name: “Moskva Siti” (Moscow City). During the Soviet period, it bore the name of the Bolshevik Valerian Kuibyshev. Only in 1991 was its authentic name—Ilinka—returned. Stretched between Red Square and New Square, it truly deserved comparison with its namesake, “The City of London,” England’s financial heart, or with Wall Street in New York (see map 2). The imposing and eminently respectable buildings that still adorn Ilinka were once occupied by large commercial banks, with the Moscow Exchange at the street’s...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)

    • CHAPTER 4 Caftan to Business Suit: The Semiotics of Russian Merchant Dress
      (pp. 53-60)
      Christine Ruane

      At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Peter the Great issued a series of imperial orders that were to have a profound impact not just on the Moscow merchantry but on all Russians. In his decrees Peter ordered his subjects, except for the clergy and peasants who worked the land, to dress “in the German style” or face stiff fines.¹ Like so many of Peter’s decrees, those dealing with dress had a dual purpose. First, Peter hoped to find another form of tax revenue with which to fill the empty government coffers. Second, and more important, Peter wanted his subjects...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 5 Old Believers and New Entrepreneurs: Religious Belief and Ritual in Merchant Moscow
      (pp. 61-72)
      Galina N. Ulianova

      Merchant Moscow was a city of churches; more than five hundred of them adorned the city in the beginning of the twentieth century. The church was the only type of public building that still symbolized in an urban setting the spiritual values surviving in Russian peasant culture. Many of these churches were erected by parishioners of the merchant estate (figure 5.1).

      “Moscow merchants are pious,” wrote an observer in the mid-nineteenth century; “they fast rigorously, and most of them live modestly with their families.”¹ Religion formed the bedrock of the merchants’ mental world. N. P. Vishniakov, descendent of an old...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 6 Daily Life among the Morozovs
      (pp. 73-82)
      Karen Pennar

      My grandmother, Vera Ivanovna Morozova, was born in 1900 in Moscow, the fourth child of the wealthy prerevolutionary industrialist Ivan Vikulovich Morozov and his wife, Varvara Aleksandrovna. Her youth, like that of all children born in Russia at that time, was rocked by war and revolution. But for my grandmother and her siblings—as for many of their contemporaries in the nascent merchant class—the contrasts that marked their lives as they approached adulthood were especially stark. Over a period of a few years, the Morozov children watched their privileged daily life disintegrate, and in its place an existence marked...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)

    • CHAPTER 7 Peasant Entrepreneurs and Worker Peasants: Labor Relations in Merchant Moscow
      (pp. 85-94)
      Mikhail K. Shatsillo

      The topic of social relations between employers and their workers in Merchant Moscow evokes associations with the old two-story houses of Moscow, some of which still survive. Sunk deep into the earth, they preserve the basements of ancestral boyar palaces of the seventeenth century. But above, they are overbuilt by more recent stories featuring nineteenth-century neoclassical facades. And behind these walls, modernist Art Nouveau interior styles predominate. Labor relations in the Moscow region were long shaped exclusively by custom and tradition, and these archaic patriarchal attitudes gave way only slowly, intermingling with newer forms of industrial partnership and conflict typical...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 8 Daughters, Wives, and Partners: Women of the Moscow Merchant Elite
      (pp. 95-108)
      Muriel Joffe and Adele Lindenmeyr

      Few social groups in Russian history were as invisible as the wives, mothers, and daughters of the merchant estate in the nineteenth century. Merchant women left few published writings about themselves. They are seldom mentioned in the rare histories of factories or merchant dynasties written in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the absence of other information, literary representations of merchant wives and daughters exerted significant influence on public opinion and colored later historians’ perceptions as well.

      The most influential creator of the merchant stereotype was Aleksandr Ostrovsky, whose plays achieved great popularity in the middle decades of the...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 9 Commercial Education and the Cultural Crisis of the Moscow Merchant Elite
      (pp. 109-116)
      Sergei V. Kalmykov

      Pavel A. Buryshkin, the author of the classic memoir on Moscow merchants, points out that although the roots of the most prominent families of traders and industrialists were often crudely rustic, it took only one or two generations before the merchants began to take an interest in things beyond selling calico: “[Kant’s] Categorical Imperative, Hegelianism, Steiner’s anthroposophy, and the art of Matisse, Van Gogh, and Picasso.”¹ What we see here is the fundamental shift in the mentality of the Russian bourgeoisie, particularly that of Moscow, which occurred when its cultural maturity and the degree of “Westernization” coincided with the quest...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)

    • CHAPTER 10 Aesthetics and Commerce: The Architecture of Merchant Moscow, 1890–1917
      (pp. 119-132)
      William Craft Brumfield

      Thus concludes a survey of Moscow’s latest architecture, published in four issues of the journalZodchii(Architect) in 1904. The pseudonymous author—presumably a prominent Petersburg critic—adopted a lightly ironic, bemused tone in describing the city’s architectural exuberance; yet this generally positive appraisal accurately noted not only the mixture of cultures and periods in Moscow’s buildings but also the economic force that gave rise to them.

      Moscow, with its position at the crossroads of a vast trading network, had long been renowned for its merchants. But at the turn of the twentieth century, the merchant community gained power and...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 11 Merchant Moscow After Hours: Voluntary Associations and Leisure
      (pp. 133-144)
      Joseph C. Bradley

      Conventional wisdom tells us that in the nineteenth century Moscow’s merchants shunned the public eye. They were reticent and absorbed in their businesses. Of course, we know that businesspeople everywhere were a reticent lot in those days, and in this, Russia’s were no exception. But there is something more to this in the Russian case: for the merchants an entire “kingdom of darkness” was constructed from the bricks of places and homes and the mortar of personal characteristics. Merchant life waszamknutyi—closed, walled off, particularistic. In the mid-nineteenth century merchants allegedly did not enter the civic realm. The impression...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)

    • CHAPTER 12 Merchants on Stage and in Life: Theatricality and Public Consciousness
      (pp. 147-160)
      Edith W. Clowes

      A consideration of the photographic inheritance of Russia’s merchantry suggests two vital observations about merchant culture and leads to a number of broader theoretical claims concerning the interrelationship between cultural self-expression and social status. The first point is that this culture was primarily oriented toward visual self-expression. The second is that merchants as a whole—and even the merchant elite that did much to spur the brilliant renaissance of Russian culture at the turn of the twentieth century—were generally hostile to the overwhelmingly verbal, secularized culture of Russia’s intelligentsia, a culture that had been dominant in Russia for almost...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • CHAPTER 13 Visions of Russia’s Entrepreneurial Future: Pavel Riabushinsky’s Utopian Capitalism
      (pp. 161-170)
      James L. West

      The political and ideological history of Merchant Moscow presents a disturbing counterpoint to the many positive images that appear in this volume. Whatever successes the merchants were having in adopting modern technologies, business practices, social behaviors, and styles of dress, they experienced considerable difficulty in translating their economic and cultural influence into political power. Entrepreneurial politics in Russia were characterized by late beginnings, false starts, and tragic endings.

      The weight of history rested heavily on the entrepreneur in Russia. Laboring in the shadow of the autocratic state, immersed in a primitive and precarious economy, and surrounded by hostile elites and...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)

    • The Fate of Merchant Moscow
      (pp. 173-178)
      James L. West

      Late in the summer of 1917, Pavel Riabushinsky was photographed in urgent consultation with the former president of the State Duma and former leader of the Provisional Government, Mikhail Rodzianko. This ghostly image, in which liberal industrialist converses on seemingly equal terms with liberal aristocrat, represents the high water mark of entrepreneurial influence in Russia. But whatever the subject of their hurried conversation, real power was rapidly slipping from the hands of both of them. Only a few short months separated the political “rise” of the Russian bourgeoisie from the total collapse of the nascent bourgeois order in Russia. Only...

  10. Suggestions for Further Reading
    (pp. 179-180)
  11. List of Contributors
    (pp. 181-182)
  12. Index
    (pp. 183-189)