190068 Saint Petersburg
123 Griboedov channel, Room 123
190068 Saint Petersburg
123 Griboedov channel
On the 29th of September the guest of the regular seminar "The boundaries of history" was David Darrow with the presentation "Ordering Economy: Managing Land Allotments for Fiscal and Moral Improvement". Dr. Darrow has taught Russian history, Western civilization and other European history courses at UD since 1997. His research related to the politics of census taking in the Russian Empire has received support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the International Research and Exchange Board. Dr. Darrow has served as director of the International Studies Program and is currently the director of the University Honors Program, located in Alumni Hall.
David Darrow stated that In the middle of the nineteenth century, governmental forces had developed a similar managerial perspective toward the peasantry. The military, political, and fiscal needs of the state, which were shaped by the populationist drive of cameralism and the paternalistic bent of Enlightened absolutism to create a moral basis for state policies aimed at promoting the maintenance and increase of the population as a state resource. Combined with proper guardianship, land norms and adjusting payments to what the land could produce ensured that the peasantry—the blood that coursed the arteries of state and fed its organs—had sufficient resources to serve this purpose. This was a patriarchal commonwealth, in which state and landed nobility relied on the maintenance and development of the human capital on which their livelihoods depended. The key to success, was the ability to provide peasants access to a sufficient allotment of land or other incomes to maximize the exploitation of the peasant household’s labor supply for the benefit of all parties involved. Given predispositions for seeing peasants as best occupied by farming, this meant providing them with more land—either by adjusting their current holdings or (increasingly) relocating them to open areas elsewhere. The land allotment and allotment sufficiency as determined according to norm were the established precedents that filled the toolbox of those charged with developing a plan for the serf emancipation of 1861.
This way of looking at and “improving” the peasant economy—essentially increasing productivity through extensification, or adding more land to production—was not the only conception of agrarian improvement and reform to be found in the growing number of printed reports and treatises on the topic. For example, examining a copy of the Ministry of State Domains’ Zhurnal Ministrstvo Gosudarstvennykh Imushchestv—published with the purpose of advancing agriculture in the empire—one finds regular submissions of articles detailing the great benefits of improved crop rotations, the introduction of clover, more concentrated manuring of plots, and better estate management. Thus an issue from 1843 contained an interview with a peasant who had himself introduced improved rotations, another on better record keeping practices, and a third on the need to occupy additional peasant labor by providing access to crafts and trades.
The same issue opened, however, with the publication of the decree entitled, “On supplementary rules for the relocation of land hungry state peasants to places with surplus land.” The purpose of the supplementary rules was to ensure that “rural societies in need of land are provided, upon the exit of the migrants, the requisite amount [of land] for the remaining souls,” and that “surplus hands in some places be directed toward the cultivation of spaces laying vacant.” From this juxtaposition we can see another bequest to future agrarian reformers: the extent to which the “sufficient allotment” perspective on increasing agricultural production and maintaining the arteries of state created not only the key to success, the sufficient allotment (equated with revenue and rural stability), but also the flip side of this agrarian coin, the category of land hunger and the land hungry peasant (equated with poverty and rural instability). The persistence of this “sufficient/land hungry” dichotomy, including the tension between its rationality and the rationality of intensive cultivation, haunted agrarian reformers through the end of the old regime and into the new one. Attempts to implement modern husbandry as a key to rural prosperity constantly butted up against the deeply ingrained habit of ensuring peasants access to sufficient land and lost, especially after the Emancipation of 1861 sanctified the land allotment in the public mind and the advent of technocratic measures of the efficacy and justice of state polices (statistics) were applied in and out of government. By 1861, the land allotment (nadel) that existed with no fixed legal (surveyed) boundaries on the ground, was permanently fixed as the category through which educated elites in society and policy makers in chanceries conceived of peasant agriculture. This was the state of sufficiency.
The paper led to a vivid discussion. Questions were about the limits of applicability of the "moral" component in the concept of new peasantry governmental system. Also professors of the history department discussed whether the morality can be discussed without religious part of the story.Report by Yana Kitaeva (BA student, Department of History)