The state peasants under Nicholas I
It is customary to look on mid-nineteenth-century Russia as a serf-owning country par excellence. About 40 per cent of the rural population, which still formed over 90 per cent of the total population in 1858, were the serfs of private landowners, and it cannot be denied that the persistence of serfdom, particularly in the harsh form which it took, had left an indelible imprint on ever aspect of Russian life. Nor can it be denied that serfdom was bound to some extent to affect agriculture, which remained the most important sector of the country’s economy, and with it in the last resort Russia’s ability to maintain her status as a great power.1 But it is very often overlooked that the state or Crown peasants were practically as numerous as the serfs of private landowners and that like the serfs they constituted approximately 40 per cent of the rural population and 37•5 per cent of the total population.2 Novelists and story writers have immortalised the master—serf relationship in the countryside under Nicholas I. But the state peasants by contrast received relatively little attention, and in so far as the history books have considered them, it has only been in the sense of recognising the formal distinction between serfs of private landowners and serfs of the state.
KeywordsState Forest State Land Private Landowner Story Writer State Village
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