Russia and its Rulers 1855-1964 (Peasant Economy and Society)

Covering the socio-economic aspects of the Russia course for OCR

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Alexander II (Problems and Measures)

  • There were 51 million serfs in Russia, classed as property not people. They worked in exchange for housing and food, but rarely had any money to pay heavy feudal dues.
  • All land and people belonged to the Tsar, and had restrictions imposed on movement and occuption by government departments.
  • As serfs were often deeply in debt to the crown over taxes and rent, the Tsar was missing out on funding.
  • The Crimean War saw a great increase in rural unrest.
  • Armed forces were deployed 185 between 185 and 1860 on peasant incidents, mainly as a result of landlords increasing rent and duties. 
  • Lack of faith in the monarchy after defeat in Crimean War.
  • Critics of serfdom as a medieval system that saw decline in Russia were proven right, a view shared by the Tsar but not the landowners.
  • July 1958 saw a Royal Decree, freeing the serfs owned by the Imperial family, followed by the Emancipation Act, abolishing private serfs in February 1861, in effect in 1863.
  • The Act did the following; allowed free peasants to become proprietors of land, allotted land to enable them to sustain themselves, compensation for landlords, put 'Redemption Payments' in place for the peasants.
  • Reforms came as a response to near crisis and provided a base for modernisation and industrialisation in the economy.
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Alexander II (Effects of Measures)

  • Allocation of land found the peasant families with less land, often of poorer quality than before. 
  • 700,000 private serfs received little or no land at all.
  • After the Emancipation Act, peasant farmers were hit with rapid population growth, putting greater pressure on farmers to produce more food.
  • Redemption Payments were heavy and only 55% of peasants managed to pay. The value of the land was grossly below what was charged by the government.
  • Tax collections became brutal and grain was sold quickly and cheaply to afford the payments, causing depression on money flow and in investment.
  • Industrial growth did not offer consumer goods until the 1880's, so the effects had a great lag.
  • A large sum of taxes were used to fund the military instead of economic investment.
  • The Mir was used to make collective decisions on the land in a community of peasants. They oversaw the cultivation of the land and collected the taxes and redemption payments. They used a passport system to restrict movement of the peasants too.
  • Land Captains were established to oversee the Mir during Alexander III's reign. 
  • Restrictive control and investment led to lack of modernisation on the land and eventually famine (1891, 1897 and 1901).
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Key Problems and Changes (1906-10)

  • Witte drafted a bill to abolish the Mir. This was carried out by his successor Count Stolypin. Stolypin hoped for an enterprising class of peasant farmers, and passed his ideas on to Krivoshein.
  • The plans were as follows; End to redemption payments (1905), end to passports, peasants classed as citizens, free passage of property to heirs, consolidation of land into holdings (duty of the Mir), head of household owned the land, land was privately owned 'titles'.
  • In addition, plans were extended, including; grants for new agricultural schools, research, loans for improvements, reduction of Land Captains powers, mass migration to new settlements, crop areas in Siberia doubled and peasant land bank was extended.
  • Effects generally helped the better off peasant who could take advantage of loans and urbanisation.
  • Migration lagged and new farms and settlements were small.
  • Private ownership peaked at 1908, falling thereafter. 
  • Large estates still provided the bulk of food.
  • Political power and increase in SR's was combated with the electoral changes to the Duma, so peasants were repressed.
  • However, positive things resulted; increase in production of some 27% between 1890's and 1909, Russia was the leading world grain exporter, agricultural prices rose, growing use of farm machinery, significant reduction of illiteracy (51% 1897, 82% 1920) and higher wages.
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The Revolution: Land Policy (1917-21)

  • War had lost 10% of Russia's land and external circumstances led to food shortages.
  • Lenin said that peasants should get on with their revolution in their own way, mainly by attacking the landlords and wholesale land seizures (Un-Marxist).
  • Land decree of 1917 stated that the private ownership of land was illegal and all land belongs to the people, and should be farmed by the people, for the people.
  • State kept 3-4% of the land, the rest was given to the people.
  • Most food supplies had been from large private estates, so the land decree was disastrous for the food supply. Many holdings had little or no livestock so could barely produce enough to feed themselves.
  • Class war was waged on the rich peasants by the poorer stealing their equipment. 
  • War Communism confiscated the seed grain to win the Civil War.
  • Lenin produced a more socialist policy of 'Kolkhoz' which were collective farms where farmers could combine all equipment to produce crops.
  • By 1921, crop area had fallen 20% of the 1917 level.
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Effects of the Land Policy (1917-21)

  • The results of these changes were; were equality, removal of large scale farming, peasants received their land they wanted, low productivity, tension between true Marxism and Russia, formation of 'Green' armies.
  • There was a need for further change, as disturbances increased. There needed to be an increase in food supply to the cities where workers were starving, yet productivity was low.
  • The agrarian sector could not cope with industrialisation, so Lenin had to make ideological allowances, something that was more difficult for him than his predecessors.
  • The New Economic Policy was a decree in 1921, which; stopped requisitioning of grain, produced a tax in kind (agreed proportion), lowered taxes, gave freedom of sale, legalised peasants title to land.
  • These ideas were put forward by the Mensheviks in 1920.
  • Lenin claimed that the changes were a path towards worldwide socialism laid down by Marx.
  • Statistics show positive economic results, with acreage sown increasing by 100 million between 1922 and 1929. Livestock increased too.
  • Peasant cooperatives grew and therefore greater efficiency was experienced in marketing.
  • Enterprising farmers were allowed to lease land and hire labour more freely. 
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Collectivisation (1928-41)

  • Stalin introduced collectivisation in 1928 to requisition any produce that went spare. This was coupled with dekulakisation (waging war on rich peasants).
  • Kulaks were blamed for famines and activists were send to destroy their properties and collectivise lands. 240,000 kulak households deported.
  • The scheme of collectivisation was introduced to feel the urban workers as a way of industrialisation, which was put in line with the 5 year plans in the 16th party congress. 
  • Stalin appears to have an irrational policy making initiative when waging war on rich peasants, discouraging investment in agriculture, yet increasing pressure on production.
  • This period created a man made famine and lack of productivity. There was a firm belief that lack of investment, would provide a large unit of productive farming.
  • The NEP farms lack machinery, and was supplied under collectivisation with larger units, with supplied tractors.
  • Focus was mainly on industrialisation, yet between 1928 and 1941, there was some recovery to 1927 standards in terms of production, and grain increased.
  • Procurement prices were low and discipline was severe.
  • Farmers faced heavy bureaucracy and freedom of movement and the likes was curtailed.
  • The Purges affected those who helped the peasants, and the peasants themselves.
  • Skilled managers were in short supply, and mechanisation lagged.
  • Sense of loss of land and freedom overwhelmed the peasants.
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Agricultural Change Under Khrushchev (1953-64)

  • Stalinist era had led to depressed farming prices and labour shortages. The recovery was slow and targets were failing to be met. 
  • Excessive resources were used to fund heavy industry, and high taxes funded new military equipment.
  • Stalin's plan to plants grasses and forests wasted resources.
  • Collective farms were made larger by means of a greater central management, thus helping to develop efficiency.
  • The collectives were given greater control of the Machine Tractor Stations.
  • The Virgin Lands scheme encouraged greater use of land in Siberia, Kazakhstan and Volga regions. 
  • Khrushchev sympathised with farmers and visited them regularly.
  • Consumer goods rose in sales, and the standard of living increased, although not at the rate he had hoped for.
  • He can be linked to Stalin in his big ideas, such as his Virgin Lands project, which saw central planning continuity.
  • 1956 saw an impressive harvest of 16 million tons of grain, but a failure of the crops in 1963 was seen as a failure on Khrushchev's part.
  • The difference in income between the urban and agricultural areas were huge, particularly in terms of pensions, social security, housing and travel.
  • The greater control of Collectives by the state was demoralising for the peasants and unsettled them.
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Russian Peasant's Position (1855-1964)

  • Land remained the defining factor in society.
  • The inhibiting factors to crop production still existed (short growing season, wet weather, arid conditions).
  • Individual enterprise was restricted by communal forms of agriculture.
  • Russia was still relatively backward.
  • Restrictions on economic, social and political freedoms still existed.
  • Supporting of a top-heavy civil service and military.
  • State was alien, oppressive and predatory.
  • Differences in the way serfs were bought and sold, a system not matched by the Soviet tyrannous regime.
  • More variation in rural life.
  • Bonds of religion were greater in 1855 than in 1964.
  • Electrification had improved communication and links with the urbanised areas, reducing the isolated peasant communities.
  • Hope
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Position of the Russian Orthodox Church

  • Was the states greatest support and key in rural life.
  • The state did not recognise any other religion.
  • The church was a major landowner, and therefore a class enemy under the Soviets. It stood in the way of modernisation and progress.
  • The Church supported the Whites, making it a political enemy of the Communists.
  • Lenin executed the Priests, excluded practising Orthodox Christians from the Communist Party and released educational campaigns against the church.
  • The OGPU (Secret Policy) was devoted to undermining religion.
  • Churches were requisitioned and either destroyed or used to store grain.
  • Traditional religion was replaced with a religion of industrial growth, with great new factories.
  • The Church accepted the regime in 1927, agreeing to cooperate with the state, and thus during World War Two, when the Germans invaded, priests were allowed to hold services as the state turned to the church for support.
  • The churches support for the state and people in time of war was a feature of Russian life.
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Your dates are wrong and confusing :( Kind of made me lost even more

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