Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 979 pages of information about Russia.
very characteristic.  As soon as the question was raised a large number of them adopted the liberal ideas with enthusiasm; and as soon as it became evident that Emancipation was inevitable, all made a holocaust of their ancient rights and demanded to be liberated at once from all relations with their serfs.  Moreover, when the law was passed it was the proprietors who faithfully put it into execution.  Lastly, we should remember that praise is due to the peasantry for their patience under disappointment and for their orderly conduct as soon as they understood the law and recognised it to be the will of the Tsar.  Thus it may justly be said that the Emancipation was not the work of one man, or one party, or one class, but of the nation as a whole.*

* The names most commonly associated with the Emancipation are General Rostoftsef, Lanskoi (Minister of the Interior), Nicholas Milutin, Prince Tchererkassky, G. Samarin, Koshelef.  Many others, such as I. A. Solovief, Zhukofski, Domontovitch, Giers—­brother of M. Giers, afterwards Minister for Foreign Affairs—­are less known, but did valuable work.  To all of these, with the exception of the first two, who died before my arrival in Russia, I have to confess my obligations.  The late Nicholas Milutin rendered me special service by putting at my disposal not only all the official papers in his possession, but also many documents of a more private kind.  By his early and lamented death Russia lost one of the greatest statesmen she has yet produced.



Two Opposite Opinions—­Difficulties of Investigation—­The Problem Simplified—­Direct and Indirect Compensation—­The Direct Compensation Inadequate—­What the Proprietors Have Done with the Remainder of Their Estates—­Immediate Moral Effect of the Abolition of Serfage—­The Economic Problem—­The Ideal Solution and the Difficulty of Realising It—­More Primitive Arrangements—­The Northern Agricultural Zone—­The Black-earth Zone—­The Labour Difficulty—­The Impoverishment of the Noblesse Not a New Phenomenon—­Mortgaging of Estates—­Gradual Expropriation of the Noblesse-Rapid Increase in the Production and Export of Grain—­How Far this Has Benefited the Landed Proprietors.

When the Emancipation question was raised there was a considerable diversity of opinion as to the effect which the abolition of serfage would have on the material interests of the two classes directly concerned.  The Press and “the young generation” took an optimistic view, and endeavoured to prove that the proposed change would be beneficial alike to proprietors and to peasants.  Science, it was said, has long since decided that free labour is immensely more productive than slavery or serfage, and the principle has been already proved to demonstration in the countries of Western Europe.  In all those countries modern

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Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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