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Peasant Economy, Culture, and Politics of European Russia, 1800-1921

Peasant Economy, Culture, and Politics of European Russia, 1800-1921

ESTHER KINGSTON-MANN
TIMOTHY MIXTER
With the Assistance of JEFFREY BURDS
Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 468
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvqc1
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  • Book Info
    Peasant Economy, Culture, and Politics of European Russia, 1800-1921
    Book Description:

    This collection of original essays provides a rare in-depth look at peasant life in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European Russia. It is the first English-language text to deal extensively with peasant women and patriarchy; the role of magic, healing, and medicine in village life; communal economic innovation; rural poverty and labor migration from the village perspective; the agricultural hiring market as workers' turf; and the regional components of the late nineteenth-century agrarian crisis.

    Originally published in 1991.

    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: 978-1-4008-6124-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. List of Maps and Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xv)
    E. K. M. and T. M.
  6. Geographic Regions
    (pp. xvii-2)
  7. Breaking the Silence: An Introduction
    (pp. 3-20)
    Esther Kingston-Mann

    From the mid-nineteenth century until the 1920s, educated Russians passionately and rancorously debated the “peasant question.” To policymakers, reformers, revolutionaries, and academics, painfully aware that the penalties that backwardness had imposed upon peasant societies from China to Ireland ranged from a loss of autonomy to national extinction, the realities of peasant life and its potential for change became a matter of urgent scholarly and practical concern.¹ It was important to determine, for example, whether peasants were tradition-bound and rigid. It was necessary to discover whether peasant institutions were strong or weak. And perhaps most important of all to the seldom...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  9. PART I. Peasant Economy

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 21-22)
      T. M. and E. K.-M.

      Although we have divided the book into three sections in order to provide helpful signposts, and to provide the reader with some idea of the way that the collected essays fit together, it is our belief that a major strength of this volume lies in its clear demonstration of the way that peasants linked and, at times, blurred the distinctions between economy, culture, and politics.

      Within this section, Esther Kingston-Mann provides a picture of the multiple roles played by the traditional peasant village community (mir, orobshchina). Drawing upon data from very different regions of the Russian empire, she describes...

    • CHAPTER 1 PEASANT COMMUNES AND ECONOMIC INNOVATION: A PRELIMINARY INQUIRY
      (pp. 23-51)
      Esther Kingston-Mann

      Long before widespread empirical investigations had been conducted on the subject, most educated Russians had come to believe that private economic effort was superior to any economic activity that individuals could carry out in common.¹ Sanctioned and supported by the most prestigious economic authorities of the day, journalists and experts celebrated what they called the “magic of property.”² In the words of Ivan Vernadskii, the leading Russian professional economist of the 1850s: It is stubborn to think that one must not imitate Europe but continually work out in everything one’s own independent principles, including the exchange of private for communal...

    • CHAPTER 2 THE SOCIAL CONTROL OF PEASANT LABOR IN RUSSIA: THE RESPONSE OF VILLAGE COMMUNITIES TO LABOR MIGRATION IN THE CENTRAL INDUSTRIAL REGION, 1861–1905
      (pp. 52-100)
      Jeffrey Burds

      This article is an investigation of the Russian peasant commune in the Central Industrial Region (see map 1) from the Emancipation of the serfs in 1861 to the dawn of the Stolypin reforms in 1906.¹ All over European Russia, the peasant commune served in varying degrees and permutations three distinct, yet often overlapping and conflicting, roles: (1) the commune functioned as an extension of the stateapparatus, responsible as a collective for the fulfillment of dues and obligations, and for the general maintenance of order according to the norms of peasant customary law; (2) the commune was amitigator, an...

    • CHAPTER 3 PEASANT POVERTY IN THEORY AND PRACTICE: A VIEW FROM RUSSIA’S “IMPOVERISHED CENTER” AT THE END OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY
      (pp. 101-127)
      Elvira M. Wilbur

      The contemporaries who studied the Russian agrarian crisis at the end of the nineteenth century were acutely aware of the many changes going on in the countryside, but their perspectives on the crisis varied significantly. In general, they were outsiders to the village who shared a common worldview that was, however empathetically expressed, fundamentally hostile to the village. They believed social and economic progress was necessary and inevitable; and they looked to Britain for their models.¹ Central to their perspective was the belief that the demise of the peasantry, as a peasantry, was a necessary first step toward progress. Thus...

    • CHAPTER 4 CRISES AND THE CONDITION OF THE PEASANTRY IN LATE IMPERIAL RUSSIA
      (pp. 128-173)
      Stephen G. Wheatcroft

      Peasants in late Imperial Russia were placed in an extremely difficult situation. The terms of the 1861 Emancipation had left them short of land and highly indebted to the government. Their rate of population growth was extremely high, and as Russia entered the demographic transition, it was increasing. The government was intent on a policy of rapid industrialization, which was ultimately to be paid for by large grain exports. This already strained situation was further complicated by three additional factors. Both the changing level of international grain prices and the weather-induced fluctuations in grain yields were external factors capable of...

  10. Part II. Peasant Culture

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 175-176)
      E. K.-M.

      As we have already seen, the behavior, values, and institutions that are fundamental to the culture of the peasantry of European Russia do not lend themselves to easy classification. In the Central Black Earth Zone, peasants supported themselves by their farming activities; in the Central Industrial Region, where the soil was less fertile and the growing season much shorter, they depended less on farming and more on proto-industrialization or on work as migrant laborers. Communal tenure prevailed in most regions of the empire, but not in the west and some regions of the south. The look of houses and villages...

    • CHAPTER 5 VICTIMS OR ACTORS? RUSSIAN PEASANT WOMEN AND PATRIARCHY
      (pp. 177-206)
      Christine D. Worobec

      A betrothed Russian peasant girl viewed her future life as wife, daughter-in-law, and mother with trepidation. She did not rejoice at the prospect of leaving her natural family and taking on the responsibilities that awaited her in a new home with a husband and, in many cases, in-laws. Rather, in the presence of girlfriends and married village women, she lamented the loss of her maidenly freedoms in exchange for a life in which it was said that ther father-in-law nor mother-in-law, / Neither brother-in-law nor sister-itr-Iaw . . .” would love her. Or worse still, “Your good-for-nothing husband will bring...

    • CHAPTER 6 TRADITIONAL HEALERS AND PEASANT CULTURE IN RUSSIA, 1861–1917
      (pp. 207-232)
      Samuel C. Ramer

      During the nineteenth century, most observers with a Western, secular education who ventured into the Russian countryside were struck by the peasantry’s belief in magic, or in what might be called the spiritual possession of the world. Nowhere was this belief more manifest than in peasant attitudes toward disease and healing. Physicians, ethnographers, and almost everyone else who took the trouble to record their impressions were unanimous in their observation that for the vast majority of the peasantry disease, injury, and misfortunes affecting one’s livestock, crops, or family relationships were all phenomena that could have their origin in some specifically...

  11. Part III. Peasant Politics

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 233-235)
      T. M.

      If the issue of politics is interpreted as the power relationships that prevail among different persons and different groups, then it can be said that many of the studies in this book confront the issue of politics—in patriarchal relations, in the role of kulaks and the behavior of peasant communes, and in the struggle among state officials, labor contractors, employers, communes, and household members over the information needed to appropriate a share of the income earned by migrant laborers. In the peasant world, where the division of labor was not very advanced, politics was most often local, personal, and...

    • CHAPTER 7 EVERYDAY FORMS OF RESISTANCE: SERF OPPOSITION TO GENTRY EXACTIONS, 1800–1861
      (pp. 236-260)
      Rodney Bohac

      Historians have long recognized that Russian peasants did not turn solely to rebellion to protest serfdom. Serfs also used dissimulation, petty theft, work slowdowns, and flight to counter the demands of their owners and overseers. Most scholars have not emphasized these practices, because they appeared to be ineffective or to lack political sophistication. Behavior of this sort has been characterized by Russianists as the “only way” to express discontent, as “primitive protest,” and as “hedonistic rather than political,”¹ But scholars who have studied peasant societies elsewhere have argued that these techniques of everyday resistance effectively counter pressures imposed by elites...

    • CHAPTER 8 THE BLACK AND THE GOLD SEALS: POPULAR PROTESTS AGAINST THE LIQUOR TRADE ON THE EVE OF EMANCIPATION
      (pp. 261-293)
      David Christian

      Historians are generally agreed that the abolition of serfdom in 1861 marks a major turning point in modern Russian history. But why did the government undertake a reform that was bound to undermine the economic position of its most reliable supporters—the landed gentry? For Soviet historians, who have long classified the 1861 reform as the point at which a whole mode of production (feudalism) was abandoned, the problem is particularly acute. And it has been a matter of slight embarrassment that so momentous a transition occurred in the absence of a revolution. However, Lenin’s writings offered a neat solution...

    • CHAPTER 9 THE HIRING MARKET AS WORKERS’ TURF: MIGRANT AGRICULTURAL LABORERS AND THE MOBILIZATION OF COLLECTIVE ACTION IN THE STEPPE GRAINBELT OF EUROPEAN RUSSIA, 1853–1913
      (pp. 294-340)
      Timothy Mixter

      Otkhozhie promysly (labor migration or literally “going-away trades”) in European Russia did not only occur when peasants of the Central Industrial Region sought work in factory districts or urban centers such as Moscow or St. Petersburg. An equally important but inadequately studied phenomenon was the seasonal migration of peasants from the Central Black Earth Zone and northern Ukraine to the south and southeast. While some went to mining and urban areas as well as to Black Sea ports such as Odessa, the vast majority of peasants leaving villages in the center were agricultural workers intent on hiring out in one...

    • CHAPTER 10 PEASANTS AND POLITICS: PEASANT UNIONS DURING THE 1905 REVOLUTION
      (pp. 341-377)
      Scott J. Seregny

      While recognizing the importance of revolutionary upheavals, scholarly debates on the patterns of Russian history have emphasized the fundamental continuities in Russia’s political culture and social relations. These include the famous isolation of the peasantry from the wider society and from national politics. From the Emancipation of the serfs through the Civil War and 1920s several features stand out. One is peasant particularism, or absorption with a singlepeasantissue, land. Related to this particularism is a second reality: Russian peasants seem to have evinced little interest in or comprehension of national politics or shared interests with other social groups....

    • CHAPTER 11 PEASANT FARMERS AND THE MINORITY GROUPS OF RURAL SOCIETY: PEASANT EGALITARIANISM AND VILLAGE SOCIAL RELATIONS DURING THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION (1917–1921)
      (pp. 378-402)
      Orlando Figes

      The peasant farmer was the principal figure in the nineteenth-century Russian village. Small-scale family farming supported the great majority of the rural inhabitants of Russia. The peasant commune (mir), which was governed by an assembly of household farm heads (khoziaieva), resolved most agrarian and social matters within the village. However, the peasant farmer was not the only figure in the village. There were others who were excluded from the assembly of household farm elders (mirskii skhod) because they lacked one of the essential qualifications of peasanthood, such as rural craftsmen, agricultural laborers, and immigrants without their own family farm (khoziaistvo),...

  12. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 403-406)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 407-412)
  14. Index
    (pp. 413-443)