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Russia's Factory Children

Russia's Factory Children: State, Society, and Law, 1800–1917

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    Russia's Factory Children
    Book Description:

    At the height of the Russian industrial revolution, legions of children toiled in factories, accounting for fifteen percent of the workforce. Yet, by the end of the nineteenth century, their numbers had been greatly reduced, thanks to legislation that sought to protect the welfare of children for the first time.Russia's Factory Childrenpresents the first English-language account of the changing role of children in the Russian workforce, from the onset of industrialization until the Communist Revolution of 1917, and profiles the laws that would establish children's labor rights.In this compelling study, Boris B. Gorshkov examines the daily lives, working conditions, hours, wages, physical risks, and health dangers to children who labored in Russian factories. He also chronicles the evolving cultural mores that initially welcomed child labor practices but later shunned them.Through extensive archival research, Gorshkov views the evolution of Russian child labor law as a reaction to the rise of industrialism and the increasing dangers of the workplace. Perhaps most remarkable is his revelation that activism, from the bourgeoisie, intellectuals, and children themselves, led to the conciliation of legislators and marked a progressive shift that would impact Russian society in the early twentieth century and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7364-5
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction: The Problem and the Context
    (pp. 1-11)

    The passage from Nekrasov’s poem captures the harsh realities of child labor in nineteenth-century Russian factories.¹ Child industrial labor outraged many great writers of the era, including Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorky, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.² A late nineteenth-century observer wrote that in order “to see the conditions of children in the mines, one needs to enter the machine plant, or the lamp workshop, where the atmosphere is suffused with the smell of gasoline used for lamps, which causes headache and nausea. Inside [the mine] one can see an entire chain of small boys, moving around the gasoline lamps, wiping and fueling...

  2. 1 Origins of Child Industrial Labor
    (pp. 12-45)

    Child labor in Russia was hardly a product of late nineteenth-century industrialization. Children’s engagement in productive activities had existed well before modernized factories began to appear in Russia’s primarily rural landscape. From time immemorial, children had worked in agriculture, as well as in cottage industries and all other types of domestic manufacturing. In addition, Russian children worked in manorial and state factories and mines. The principal goal of having children engage in productive labor during these earlier times seems to have been less economic than educational. Child labor had been a widely accepted and common practice, aimed at teaching children...

  3. 2 Children in Industry: Demographic and Social Context
    (pp. 46-86)

    Great changes occurred in the Russian economy during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. By 1850, a new capitalist mode of production had begun to challenge traditional manufacturing systems. Manorial and state factories showed signs of continued decline,¹ whereas free market enterprise began to expand rapidly.² The largest children’s employer, the cotton industry, experienced the most remarkable development of all the industrial segments. The mechanization of the industry during the 1840s and 1850s—the earliest stage of Russia’s industrialization—created a great need for unskilled and auxiliary workers.³ The rapid development of new capitalist forms of production also spurred...

  4. 3 Public Debates and Legislative Efforts
    (pp. 93-127)

    As noted earlier (see chapter 1), during the early nineteenth century, most state officials perceived child labor as a normal practice essential for the upbringing and education of children. Prominent statesmen and public figures, such as N. S. Mordvinov and P. S. Nakhimov, viewed child labor as morally justified and useful. During the 1860s, however, such attitudes began to languish and gradually gave way to voices that opposed child industrial labor. Unfavorable information about the impact of the new factory environment on children’s health induced contemporary commentators to question the moral aspects of employing children in industries. Many state officials...

  5. 4 Factory Children: Politics, Education, and the State
    (pp. 128-173)

    The long public discussion of the 1860s and 1870s about child labor in industry finally yielded the 1882 law, the first decisive act to restrict the industrial employment of children. The following years and decades witnessed the introduction of labor protection and welfare legislation concerning all industrial workers. Starting with the 1882 law, the government limited the employment of children in all private industries. The laws banned the nighttime labor of children and their labor in perilous industries, including underground work in mines. Simultaneously, the state introduced mandatory schooling for children hired for factory work. Again, it is worth emphasizing...

  6. Conclusion: Experience and Outcome
    (pp. 174-180)

    Child labor in imperial russia has been an obscure page in the nation’s history. Historians have usually failed to note the considerable number of children in the country’s industrial workforce and, consequently, the surprisingly large role they played in Russia’s industrialization. Youngsters had been involved in productive work long before modernized industries emerged in Russia. From time immemorial, children had been active in agriculture and cottage industries. They had also worked in state and manorial enterprises. Traditional societies everywhere perceived children’s involvement in production of all kinds not primarily as labor but as a form of apprenticeship, an approach that...