Myths and facts about Imperial Russia

In contrast to the scientific world, the mass public consciousness lives myths. Every society has its own national historical myth, which plays a central role in the national consciousness. Society has lost this national myth, sooner or later doomed to decay. Everywhere in the world the national myth is inclined to see the history of their people better than what it is — remember the heroic age and forget about the facts, unpleasant for the society. Feature of modern Russia is the fact that here, on the contrary, the historical myth represents the past of our country in many ways worse than it was in reality …


In 1917, there was a gap of national identity. The main business of the cultural policy of the Bolsheviks was the creation of the Soviet myth, part of which was the creation of a negative image of the pre-revolutionary Russia. This Bolsheviks were the successors of the leftist intelligentsia, have spent decades preparing the revolution, destroying religious, national and monarchical foundations of Russian culture.

Now, in contrast to the Soviet period, freely out scientific work in which the objective to explore the world of the old Russia, but this information is for the most part remain the property of the scientists. Most of the modern school and university textbooks on Russian history is still written as if modeled on the "general line" of the party, slightly patched. And now the school and students will learn about the past of our country on the stories of loungers and bloodsuckers landowners, landless peasants, the poor workers, total illiteracy of the population and inept imperial generals, who lost all the battles.

The following are just some of the most common myths in our society of the past, as well as data contemporary memoirs and research — Russian, American, British, French, on these topics.


Myth 1. Russia, unlike the best of Europe has always been a feudal country.


Almost all European countries (except Norway and Sweden) have come a long period of serfdom. And for Western Europe is characterized by its earlier start and end, respectively, and early. In England, serfdom was established in the VII century. and ended for most of the population to the XIV century., although a small number of peasants was dependent before the middle of the XVII century. Most countries in Central and Eastern Europe including Russia at that time, most of the peasants were free. Serfdom came much later and ended later, respectively. Was no exception in this series, and Russia.

Of course, in serfdom was nothing good. Russian state had to establish this order at the end of the XVI century., So as to maintain the aristocratic army — the main military force of the state, without which it would have spread quickly shreds warlike neighbors of Russia. The great Russian historian Soloviev saw serfdom "cry of despair State in a desperate economic situation."

The era of serfdom in Russia has continued since the end of the XVI century. (In science is still debate about the exact date) and 1861, when the peasant association was abolished by decree of Emperor Alexander II. The release occurred shortly after the abolition of serfdom in Russia next to the Central European Prussia (50) and Austria (12).

Thus, the era lasted in Russia a little more than 2.5 centuries, while the history of the Russian state had more than one thousand years 862 — 1917. Serfdom took no more than one quarter of the history of old Russia.



In general, properly define history through one sign — serf Russia, bourgeois England, etc. For example, in the United States abolished slavery only 4 years after the abolition of serfdom in Russia and in 1.5 of a century after the abolition of slavery (slavery) by Peter I. But vestiges of slavery (unequal status blacks) have been eliminated in the U.S., in general, only 60 years. XX century, after the hard social struggle.

But it's clear that the country called the United States of slavery is wrong, although this was accompanied by American Institute for most of their history (by the way, the slaves were not only negros, and there were white slaves).

But with regard to Russia, many of our fellow citizens believe epithets slave, serf is appropriate. But in fact, these definitions do not say anything about Russia, but about our relationship to it. Americans seem more like their country.

Myth 2. Russian — slave people, not surprisingly, all the Russian peasants before 1861 were serfs.

In addition to the nobles and peasants in Russia, there are numerous other classes and groups. Were free Cossacks, whores people townspeople, merchants, yasak people servicemen foreigners, service people on the device and their descendants — single homesteaders, coachmen, monks, priests, etc.

In general, properly define history through one sign — serf Russia, bourgeois England, etc. For example, in the United States abolished slavery only 4 years after the abolition of serfdom in Russia and in 1.5 of a century after the abolition of slavery (slavery) by Peter I. But vestiges of slavery (unequal status blacks) have been eliminated in the U.S., in general, only 60 years. XX century, after the hard social struggle.

But it's clear that the country called the United States of slavery is wrong, although this was accompanied by American Institute for most of their history (by the way, the slaves were not only negros, and there were white slaves).

But with regard to Russia, many of our fellow citizens believe epithets slave, serf is appropriate. But in fact, these definitions do not say anything about Russia, but about our relationship to it. Americans seem more like their country.

Myth 2. Russian — slave people, not surprisingly, all the Russian peasants before 1861 were serfs.

In addition to the nobles and peasants in Russia, there are numerous other classes and groups. Were free Cossacks, whores people townspeople, merchants, yasak people servicemen foreigners, service people on the device and their descendants — single homesteaders, coachmen, monks, priests, etc.

In addition, Russia is not all peasants were serfs. According to the calculations of the Russian historian V. Gauthier to 2 revisions (1743) in Great Russia was 3,443,292 souls husband. sex serfs 53.7% of all farmers and 3,000,000 souls husband. sex state peasants. Revision 3 (1763), was at 3,786,771 souls husband. sex serfs (53%) and 3.4 million state peasants, 4 revision (1783) 5092869 shower husband. sex serfs (53%) and 4,470,600 of state, five audit (1796) 5700465 shower husband. sex serfs (53%) and 5 million state.

Thus, during the XVIII century. serfs were slightly more than half of the total mass of the Great Russian peasantry. There were whole provinces in Russia, on its entire territory superior to European states, where serfdom was not at all — Pomorie, Siberia. Characteristically, the newcomers to the Russian Empire the western territories of the serf population percentage was much higher. Since 85% of the Baltic peasants were serfs.

In the XIX century. of serfs rapidly decreased by switching to other classes. Only in 1816 — 1856 years. in other estates passed over 1 million souls husband. sex serfs. Last ne-ed peasant reforms 10 1857 found in the Empire 62.5 million inhabitants, of which the serfs were 23 million peasants only 34% of the population. Thus, by the time of the abolition of serfdom serfs were in the minority — one third of the population.



Myth 3. Russian peasants were the poorest in Europe.

This is very common in our society representation, with the Europeans, who have lived in Russia for a long time and have had the opportunity to compare the level of life of the Russian people of Europe to give completely different information about the life of the Russian people.

Catholic Croats and Yuri Krizhanich (1618 — 1683) lived in Russia for more than 15 years and is well studied Russian life at that time had more wealth and a higher standard of living in Moscow Russia XVII. compared with its immediate neighbors — "Russian land richer and better Lithuanian, Polish and Swedish."

At the same time, the countries of Western and Southern Europe — Spain, Italy, France, England excelled while Russia in wealth and living standards of the upper classes. However, with the lower classes — peasants and townspeople, according Krizhanich, "live in Russia is much better and more convenient than in those prebogatyh countries."

It is interesting that even the peasants and serfs in Russia at that time wore shirts decorated with gold and pearls. Krizhanich, are critical to many Russian traditions, at the same time, wrote that both poor and rich people in Russia, unlike in Western Europe, differ little in his desk "eat rye bread, fish and meat." As a result Krizhanich concludes — "in any realm ordinary people do not live as well, and never have such rights as here."

The reforms of Peter I broke cultural link between the higher and lower classes, the position of the common people has worsened. However, in the XVIII century. according to contemporary standards of living of the peasants of Russia was higher than in many Western European countries. According to observations of the French traveler Gilbert Roma, drive across Siberia in 1780. Siberian peasant lived better than its French counterpart. Englishman John Parkinson noted that the Russian peasants dressed much better than the common people in Italy. And while foreign campaigns of the Russian Army 1813 — 1814 years. Officers were surprised poverty Polish and French peasantry than Russian.

Pushkin, who had a profound intellect and who knew the Russian village, said: "Fonvizin in the late XVIII century. traveled in France, said that, in good conscience, the fate of the Russian peasant seemed to him good fortune French farmer. Trespass believe … no painful. Capitation paid world; corvee defined by law not Reaver dues (except in the vicinity of Moscow and St. Petersburg, where a variety of industry turnover increases and annoying self-interest owners) … To have a cow everywhere in Europe, is a sign of luxury, we do not have a cow is a sign of poverty. "

Pushkin evidence confirmed by foreigners. British Navy Captain Cochrane, who traveled to Russia four years, said in 1824, "the situation of the local peasantry much better state of this class in Ireland." Cochrane said in Russian, "an abundance of products, they are good and cheap" and "huge flock" in ordinary villages. Another English traveler in 1839, wrote that Russian men are much better than the lower classes not only in Ireland but also in England and in Scotland.



Myth 4. Serfs had no rights, landowners with impunity tortured and killed peasants.

The rights of the serfs were limited compared to the other groups, but a serf could sue and be a witness in court, the oath of allegiance to the king, had the right, with the consent of the landowner to move to another class.

As one of the leading contemporary historians Boris Mironov, "contrary to popular opinion in the literature, the peasants and legally and practically until 1861 had the right to complain about their landlords and actively use them." In 1767, Catherine II banned complain to her personally, "by established by the government."

Unlike many countries in Europe (eg, Poland, where the murder was not considered at all serf state crime and subject to church discipline only) Russian laws protecting the lives and property of the peasants from the landowners. "The murder of serfdom was considered as a serious criminal offense." Council Code of 1649 share a measure of responsibility for the landlord negligent and willful murder of a peasant.

In the case of manslaughter (in fight) nobleman been jailed until further order of the king. When the peasant-degree murder guilty executed, regardless of social background. During the reign of Elizabeth, when the death penalty in Russia was effectively abolished the nobility responsible for the death of his peasants, usually sent to prison.

Government closely monitor the relationship of landlords and peasants. Catherine II in 1775 authorized the Governor — General to prosecute landlords for cruelty to farmers, including the confiscation of estates and their transfer to the control of the Board of Trustees. Alexander I in 1817, have a tyranny of the landlords bring them to justice and to take care of the estate under the Treasury.

For the 1834 — 1845 years. Government taken to court in 2838 and sentenced the nobility of these 630 people. During the reign of Nicholas I was in custody each year about 200 names, taken for the mistreatment of the landowners to the peasants. Government constantly regulate the relationship of landlords and peasants. In 1834 — 1845 years. in Russia were convicted 0.13% peasants for disobedience landlords and 0.13% of the landlords for the excess power over the peasants.



Myth 5. Liberation from serfdom was conducted solely in the interests of the landowners.

That assessment is long established in our history books, thanks to Lenin, who wrote that the reform "carried out in the interests of the feudal serf." It is fair to say that a lawyer by education and party leader by calling Lenin never received historical education was neither a historian nor a simple objective researcher, and wrote the work is not scientific, but solely for political purposes.

This extreme form of engagement, when the Russian reality is simply fitted to the views of the leader, was amazing even the founder of Russian Marxism, Plekhanov.

In fact, the reform in 1861 led to massive ruin of landlords selling tens of thousands of estates, so to say, that the government, through the reform only in their interests, is clearly not necessary. According to well-informed contemporary events, the prince VP Meshchersky main leaders of the 1861 reform YI Rostovtsev, NA Milutin, Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, and other representatives of the interests of the St. Petersburg bureaucracy, not only guided by the interests of the landowners, but rather the contrary would destroy the foundations of the nobility of the land by creating a "critical and difficult situation." Of course, and this estimate is one-sided. The reform of 1861 the state tried to find a compromise between farmers, landowners and their interests.

Farmers took the reform in 1861 an average of 4, 8 acres per man. sex, or 14, 4 acres per household (1 tithe was approximately 1.1 hectares). Economists estimate YE Janson cost of living for the peasant family was in 1870. 10 — 11 acres per household. Thus, in general, obtained land enough. The main problems of the Russian countryside to the XX century. was rapid population growth (in 1858 — 1914. peasant population increased by 2, and 2 times, respectively, for the same decrease in average per capita allotment) and low culture farming (surviving after 1861 landed households received on the same land in crops several times higher than in most of the peasants).

According to French historian, "despite all the limitations, the Russian reform has been infinitely more generous than a similar reform in neighboring countries, Prussia and Austria, where the serfs were given freedom completely naked, without the slightest bit of land."



Myth 6. All the land until 1917 owned the landowners.

This is one of the saddest and long errors in national history. For several decades before the crash in 1917 of the Russian revolutionaries agitating farmers, trying to prove that all their economic problems caused solely by the dominance of the landed estates.

After the victory of the Bolsheviks such slander naturally found in every country's history textbooks, and so far played a part of modern teaching aids. Meanwhile, scientists working with archival and statistical materials, proved long ago that such views do not correspond to reality.

The facts. Only in European Russia had 381 million acres of land, of which up to the 1861 reform of the landlords (120,000 landowners) owned 121 million acres, ie less than 1/3. Almost all of the rest of the territory belonged to the state, which is land suitable for processing, to communities and government palace peasants. In addition, we must remember that tens of millions of acres of the natural conditions (tundra, taiga) could be involved in agriculture.

In 1861, the former landlord peasants received 34 million acres from their landlords, who left immediately after the reform of 87 million acres. The reform of 1861 dealt a heavy blow to the noble tenure, about half of the landowners were not able to run the economy in the new environment, and sold the land. A later sold annually around 1 million acres of landed estates, which were the main buyers exactly peasants.

As a result, by 1905 the landlords owned only 53 million acres and 42 million acres of landlords sold during this period the peasants (26 million) and traders (16 million). In addition to the purchased land from all farmers (former state, court and landlord) and the Cossacks had 139 million acres of allotment land. Thus, by 1905 with the purchased land from the peasants and Cossacks had 165 million acres to 53 million acres from landowners, but also much of the noble land was leased from farmers.

By 1916, as a result of sales of the landlords have only 40 million de syatin land, much of it was forest land. As a result, by 1916, according to the Zemstvo statistics farmers owned 90% Pashennaya land and cattle and 94% in European Russia and 100% in the Asian part of Russia (2). According to Russian historian SG Pushkarev "composition tenure Russia in 1905 was quite a peasant country (to a greater extent than any of the European countries)" (3). When in 1918 the peasants shared the 40 million acres of land of the landlords, it was found that the peasant holdings rose slightly and great value these lands are not played, one tenth of the nobility at that time accounted for 5.5 peasant.

At this time the Bolsheviks openly declared that the slogan of seizing the landed estates had no "significant economic value", and was raised to raise the peasants against the legitimate authority. In general, describing the beginning of XX century. Harvard professor Richard Pipes notes that, in contrast to the European countries of England, Spain, Italy, France, where the majority of the land was in the hands of large landowners, before the revolution in 1917, "Russia … was a classic example of a country of small farms."

The irony of history is that it was after the victory of revolutionary peasants forcibly herded into large farms — farms, through which the government exploited the people's work, making virtually all the peasants laborers. And those who resist — were killed or exiled. Modern historians estimate the number of victims of collectivization only about 10 million people.



Myth 7. Tsarist Russia was economically backward country.

By the beginning of XX century. Russia was among the top 5 in terms of economic development of the countries of the world: USA, Germany, Britain, France and Russia. According to the American explorer Robert Kennedy by 1900 Russia ranked 4th in the world in terms of global industrial production, its share was 9%. The growth rate of the Russian economy over a long period of 1890 — 1914 years. were the highest among all five of the leading industrial nations of the world.

By 1917, Russia had built 81 thousand km of railways, for the last 37 years from 1880 was built in the year of over 1.5 thousand km. Even during the war, Russian industry has continued to grow (now mainly due to military production.) After a small decline in 1914 — 1.3%, in 1915, an increase of 10.8%, and in 1916 10.2%. Only in 1917, after the revolution is a deep recession in the industry — 20.2%. As a result, only in the reign of Nicholas II Russian industry quadruple your productivity.

Accelerated development is not only in industry but also in agriculture. Traditionally, Russia was the largest agricultural country in the world and its products supplied European countries. Over 20 years of the reign of Nicholas II 1894 — 1914. harvesting crops doubled, increased from 2 billion to 4 billion pounds. In 1913, the grain harvest was one third higher than the three other major agricultural countries in Argentina, Canada and the U.S. combined. Russia gave a quarter of world production of bread and took 1st place in the world for total agricultural products.

During the reign of Emperor Nicholas II grew rapidly welfare. An indication of this was the demographic growth. For 20 years, the population increased by 50 million. (40%). Consumption of major products increased more than 2 times. Deposits in savings banks increased from 300 million in 1894 to 2.200 billion in 1913, a British writer, M. Bering, who was in Russia a few years, wrote: "The broad masses of the peasantry, economically better off than ever before."

In 1913 one of the greatest economists of the world on assignment Edmond Teri French government has studied the state of the Russian economy, and concluded: "If the case of the European nations will from 1912 to 1950 to go, just as they were from 1900 to 1912, Russia by mid-century will dominate Europe, both politically and economically and financially. "



Myth 8. Russian workers lived in poverty.

We can say that all states were characterized by cheap labor working in the early stages of the development of the enterprises of the capitalist type. Later, in spite of the Marxist doctrine of constant and steady impoverishment of the working class in the development of capitalism, wages gradually increased.

In Russia, the second half of the XIX century. become a time of mass construction of capitalist production, at this time, many entrepreneurs have attempted to obtain profits from the exploitation of the workers. Characteristically, the Imperial Government has taken a firm position on the labor question. During the reign of Alexander III and Nicholas II issued a number of laws that protect workers from arbitrary manufacturers, to oversee the implementation of the legislation established factory inspection.

Law of 1897 forbade work over 11.5 hours a day, and on Saturday, the holidays and night shifts over 10 hours. At this time, in most European countries do not yet exist legal restrictions of time male labor. Law in 1903 put on businesses responsible for accidents to workers in the workplace.

What were the Russian labor legislation against world experience? In 1912, President Taft said publicly that Nicholas II «has created such a perfect labor laws, which no democratic state can not boast." This fact is not surprising that the Russian government was independent of the influence of national and foreign capitalists, in contrast to England, France or the U.S., where these circles has a major impact on policy.

In 1896, at a meeting with the St. Petersburg industrialists Witte said: "Can you imagine the government more favorable to industry than the present … But you are mistaken, gentlemen, if you imagine that it is done for you, to make it easier for you the most profit, and the government is mainly meant business, that you gentlemen do not seem to understand. "

In Soviet times, the work on the history of the working class contains the mandatory provision for the workers is that poverty increased. Characteristically, the Russian revolutionaries themselves when they did not have to agitate the masses, wrote in his memoirs about a different level of working class life.

Founder of Russian Marxism, Plekhanov recalled working Petersburg of the second half of the XIX century — "the whole environment characterized by large intelligence and a high level of their everyday needs. I was surprised to see that these workers live at all or worse, and many of them are even better than the students. On average, they each earned 1 Rs. 25 kopecks. to 2 rubles. a day. "

According to Plekhanov, some workers have already removed at this time, "well-furnished rooms, bought the book and loved sometimes indulge a bottle of good wine." In addition, "all workers of this layer is much better dressed … our brother student." Each of them had a good suit and it looked "gentleman" is much larger than any of the student, and the students — while usually come from aristocratic and bourgeois families, often accused of working for the "bourgeois penchant for dandyism."

But, perhaps, that quality of life was only available in the capital? Wages of workers in Russia was less than in England and France, but you can buy it was more due to cheap products. American historian Blum found that in 1856, for example, the power of a blacksmith and carpenter in the Urals was healthier and more abundant than those of their contemporaries, the British and French workers in these professions, despite higher earnings last.



While in Russia in the XIX century. not all breeders are looking only for profit, there have been interesting experiments involving the workers to participate in the profits. Engineer NN Iznar in his memoirs about the Malcev factory district, located in Smolensk, Kursk and Orel. In this district there were 22 large factory for the production of locomotives and wagons, which worked a few tens of thousands of workers.

In 1875, the capitalist SI Maltsev has created a partnership with a capital of 6 million rubles, in which workers and employees were granted participation in the profits. On hard work was installed eight-hour day. Workers were built stone house on 3 — 4 rooms, with a large portion of a fruit and vegetable garden. Were also built schools, trade schools, and hospitals. Wage workers was already 170 rubles per year. Malcev plants were not an isolated example.

Russian economists of the early XX century. celebrated as one of the main reasons for the slow development of the Urals factories special relations existing between the old breeders and workers. Unlike the new capitalists, owners of older plants nazhivshie big capitals "were not at all interested in further development of the factories and were very routine matter, even without a shade of pure charity local working population, which is not factory work risked starving. Population, in turn, used to looking at what plants need to feed it and that otherwise could not be. "

By XX century. relatively high standard of living when it came to working provinces. Khrushchev recalled that until 1917, working as a mechanic at the Donetsk coal mine, he fared better financially than in 1930., When he was a high-ranking party officials in Moscow:

"… Working a simple mechanic, earned 45 rubles. with prices on black bread in 2 cop., on white — 4 cents, a pound of bacon — 22 kopecks., egg worth a penny, the shoes, the best "Skorohodovskie" — 7 rubles. That here compare. Party work as I was in Moscow, and half of this was not, although he held a rather high place. "

Khrushchev then frankly admits that in 1930. "Other people have been provided with even worse than me." It is clear that ordinary workers and employees receiving much less than the Secretary of the Moscow City Party Committee.

But, perhaps, Khrushchev belonged to highly labor aristocracy and its standard of living was quite different from the majority of the workers? By 1917, Khrushchev was only 22 years old and get a qualification, he just did not have time. In 1909, contemporary, demanding to add salary for young scientists, says — "just a bad mechanic gets 50 p. per month — pay candidate professors — and a good mechanic gets 80 — 90 rubles. a month. " Consequently, the young Khrushchev received not as a representative of the labor aristocracy, and as "bad mechanic." His quality of life was typical.

Bolsheviks raised the workers to revolution, promising them mountains of gold. But in reality, the policy of "war communism" of the Bolsheviks led Russia to the economic collapse. By 1921, the Russian industry has reduced its capacity by 7 times, and the standard of living of workers in recognition of the Bolshevik economist Kritsman reduced to 1/3 of 1914

During the NEP living working gradually began to rise to the level of 1914, but the policy of industrialization again threw it back. Only in 1950 — 1970 years. standard of living of workers gradually approached the level of life in Tsarist Russia, but in the era of "perestroika" and "liberal reforms" was his new fall.

The modern historian Hist. BN Mironov estimated that even in 1985, the Soviet Union standard of living of workers increased slightly relative to 1913, and for many products and by this time was not reached the level of imperial Russia. So in 1913, Carpenter was able to buy a monthly salary of 135 kg. beef, and in 1985 — only 75 kg.

But add, in 1985, in contrast to 1913, all the meat worker could buy only theoretically — in almost all of the product sold to the state for coupons — 1 kg. person for a month. As a result, in our time-name the majority of citizens of Russia (except for a few regions of Khanty-Mansiysk, Moscow), living on a salary, "may purchase a product is less than a skilled worker in 1913 and even in 1853 — in the days of serfdom"



Published in 1912 by Nicholas Rubakin book "Russia in Figures. Country. People. Estate. Classes "Contains more interesting statistics and wonderful specimens infographics.

Information on the number and composition of the population at the beginning of XX century illustrate not familiar to us and charts, and by now forgotten with attention to detail drawings.

The text itself Rubakin also deserves attention:

Comparison of the population in various states

"By January 1, 1910 the total population of the Empire reached fairly impressive tsyfry 163,778,800 of both sexes — the author writes.

— Absolute number of Russian citizens, of course, is very impressive. However, in order to judge its value, you need to compare it with the population of other countries. In this case, it turns out that the number of people in relation to the dorm Russia is only the third place. In the first place, China (about 430 million people), followed by the UK (with columns), whose population is 2.7 times more numerous than Russia. "

The comparative strength of different faiths in Russia.

"The population of Russia is about a third of the entire population of Europe. In other words, the three Europeans — one probably falls greatest happiness to be a Russian citizen and live in the shadow of the immutable laws of the Russian Empire, and enjoy all the benefits of what it gives to Russian accomplishment, "- said Nikolai Rubakin.

The comparative strength of the peoples living in Russia.

"How many in Russia Russian? — Asks the author of "Russia in Figures". — The answer to the question posed here, is particularly interesting, and it gives the official statistics, which is based primarily on the 1897 census Actually russkago in the Russian Empire at least two-thirds (65.5%, about 105 million), including Ukrainians and Byelorussians, holding in Russia (especially the first) position of the conquered peoples, and in some of their rights (eg, teaching in their native language in public schools) is more or less limited. "

Professional composition rossiyskago population. The relative number of professions.

And a few more examples of stunning infographic:

The comparative strength of the peasantry and sluzhilago class.



The relative number of estates in Russia.


PS You can note that the author does not release the Cossacks in a separate people, and considers them estate.


Photo 1909. Young Russian peasant woman with berries on a background of a traditional wooden house in a village along the river Sheksna near the small village of Kirillov Novgorod province. Early color photograph from Russia, obtained by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii as part of his work in the Russian Empire in the years 1909-1915.

Category: Mystery stories

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