Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 979 pages of information about Russia.
increased inordinately the area of grain-producing land at the expense of pasturage and forests, with the result that the live stock and the manuring of the land were diminished, the fertility of the soil impaired, and the necessary quantity of moisture in the atmosphere greatly lessened.  There is some truth in this contention; but it would seem that the soil and climate have not been affected so much as the pessimists suppose, because in recent years there have been some very good harvests.

On the whole, then, I think it may be justly said that the efforts of the landed proprietors to work their estates without serf labour have not as yet been brilliantly successful.  Those who have failed are in the habit of complaining that they have not received sufficient support from the Government, which is accused of having systematically sacrificed the interests of agriculture, the mainstay of the national resources, to the creation of artificial and unnecessary manufacturing industries.  How far such complaints and accusations are well founded I shall not attempt to decide.  It is a complicated polemical question, into which the reader would probably decline to accompany me.  Let us examine rather what influence the above-mentioned changes have had on the peasantry.



The Effects of Liberty—­Difficulty of Obtaining Accurate Information—­Pessimist Testimony of the Proprietors—­Vague Replies of the Peasants—­My Conclusions in 1877—­Necessity of Revising Them—­My Investigations Renewed in 1903—­Recent Researches by Native Political Economists—­Peasant Impoverishment Universally Recognised—­Various Explanations Suggested—­Demoralisation of the Common People—­Peasant Self-government—­Communal System of Land Tenure—­Heavy Taxation—­Disruption of Peasant Families—­Natural Increase of Population—­Remedies Proposed—­Migration—­Reclamation of Waste Land—­Land-purchase by Peasantry—­Manufacturing Industry—­Improvement of Agricultural Methods—­Indications of Progress.

At the commencement of last chapter I pointed out in general terms the difficulty of describing clearly the immediate consequences of the Emancipation.  In beginning now to speak of the influence which the great reform has had on the peasantry, I feel that the difficulty has reached its climax.  The foreigner who desires merely to gain a general idea of the subject cannot be expected to take an interest in details, and even if he took the trouble to examine them attentively, he would derive from the labour little real information.  What he wishes is a clear, concise, and dogmatic statement of general results.  Has the material and moral condition of the peasantry improved since the Emancipation?  That is the simple question which he has to put, and he naturally expects a simple, categorical answer.

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Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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