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each part, so that, in eleven years, each sotni has occupied
all the lots. These sotnis recall the Rhodes of Appenzell.

From the facts collected by Von Eeussler, it would ap-
pear that in ancient Russia the right of every one to an
equal share of the communal domain was not as general as it

1 See Eiisskaja Besscda, 1860, v. u. p. 119, and N. Flerowski, Polojcnie
rahotchazvo klassa vi Jîossi. Petersburg, 1869, p. 75.


is to-day. The substitution of an individual poll-tax for the
old land-tax has given this right extension and increased
vigour. As every one had to pay the tax and the commune
was responsible for it, it was to the interest of the latter to
provide every one with sufficient land to enable him to pay
his share of the sum total due, and this share being the same
for all, the lot of land was also made equal.

When we find village communities among all Slav nations,
among the Germans, and the nations of antiquity, in America,
in China, India, Java, in all societies, in a word, when they
quit the nomadic and pastoral state and adopt the agricultural
system, it is impossible to admit the theory that in Russia this
institution, which survives to the present day, was introduced
simply in consequence of the laws of Fedor, of Boris Goduuof, or
of Peter I. The principle of collective property existed from the
first in Russia, as it did everywhere else. But the vast extent
of unoccupied land was favourable to the dispersion of families
and the establishment of several ownership. Periodic parti-
tion was not introduced generally, as we now see it, until the
growth of the population made it no longer possible for every
one to take at his will a vacant lot in the forest or the steppe.
The poll-tax and the joint responsibility of the commune
accelerated the movement, because every one, in order to be
able to pay his share of the tax, required his parcel of ground.



The advantages and inconveniences of collective communal
property bave been for twenty years tbe subject of deep dis-
cussions between the partisans and adversaries of tbe system.
M. Von Reussler, in bis book already often quoted, lias col-
lected, from Russian sources, all tbe arguments adduced on
citber side, as well as tbe discussions wbicb took place on tbe
subject at tbe Agricultural Congress at St Petersburg in 1865-
Tbe great agricultural enquiry in 1873, tbe results of wbicb
bave been collected by tbe Government in five volumes, also
contains mucli material for tbe study of tbis question \

Tbe Panslavists believe tbat tlie community of tbe mil'
will ensure tbe future greatness of Russia, Western nations,
tbey say, bave possessed similar institutions ; but, under tbe
influence of feudalism and tbe civil law, tbey bave allowed
tbem to perisb. Tbey will be punisbed for it by social struggles,
and by tbe implacable contest between tbe ricb and tbe poor.

It is contrary to justice, tbey add, tbat tbe soil, wbicli is tbe
common patrimony of all mankind, sbould be appropriated by a
few families. Labour may be a lawful title of owuersbip in tbe
product created by it ; but not in tbe soil, wbicb it does not

1 This commission, presided over by a person of great eminence, the "minis-
ter of Domains," P. Waluzef, received more tliau a tho;;sand reports and more
than two hnudred verbal depositions. Unfortunately, as M. A. Leroy Beaulieu
remarks, only persons of the higher classes were heard, who are generally hostile
to the system of communities. M. Von Ruussler sums up the opinions of the
writers, — A. Butowski, J. Ssolozew, Th. Von Thorner, Von Buschen, Hertzen,
Tschitscheriuo, Kawelin, Juriu, Ssawitsch, Koschelew, Ssamarin, Belazew,
Tschernuschewski, Besobrasow, Pauazew, &c.


create. In Russia, the commune recognizes in every individual
able to labour the right to claim a share in the soil, which
allows him to live on the fruits of his energy.

Pauperism, the bane of Western societies, is unknown in
the mir ; it cannot come into existence there, for every one
has the means of subsistence, and each family takes care of its
old and infirm members. In the West, a numerous offspring-
is an evil that is avoided by methods which certain economists
advocate, but which morality condemns. In Russia, the birth
of a child is always matter of rejoicing ; for it brings the family
new strength for the future, and entitles them to claim addi-
tional laud for cultivation. The population can increase.
There are vast territories in Europe to be colonised ; and, when
these are stocked, the immense plateaus of Asia will open for
the indefinite expansion of the great Slavonic race. So long
as the race preserves the venerable institution of the mir, it
will escape class struggles and social war, the most terrible of
all contests, for it caused the fall and subjection of ancient
societies, and at the present day is threatening modern societies
with the same dangers. The Russian nation will remain united
and therefore stronar : it will continue to increase on the basis
of the "primordial institution," which alone can guarantee
order, because it alone allows of the organisation of justice
among mankind.

Such is the language of the advocates of the mir; — it
assumes various shades. First, there are the conservatives,
such as the Baron von Haxthauseu, who would protect the
patriarchal system and the ancient institutions. Then come
the numerous group of Slavophiles, such as Aksakof, Byellyayef,
Koschelyef, Samarine, and Prince Tscherkasski, followed by
many persons in high society, and distinguished women who
take very exalted views of the great destiny reserved for the
Slavonic race. Finally, there are the socialist-democrats of the
school of Herzen and Bakunin, such as Tschernischewski and
Panaeff, who maintain that the agrarian organisation of the
mir contains the solution of the social problem, sought in vain
by Saint-Simon, Owen and Proudhon.

The institutions of the Russian commune are so coni[)lotcly
at variance with all our economic principles and witli the


sentiments of individual property developed in us by habit,
that we can with difficulty form a conception of their existence.
The viir seems to us a kind of social monstrosity, — a legacy
of barbarian ages, to which modern progress will not stay to do
justice. Yet a glance round us is sufficient to shew how the
principle of collectivity is invading us on different sides, and
threatening the independence of isolated individualism.

On the one hand joint-stock companies, a collective power
from which responsibility is entirely banished, not only mono-
polise all the large industries, but crush, under their irresistible
competition, even the artisans and small traders on a ground
where they seemed unassailable, — the making of garments,
of boots, furniture, and retail business. Joint-stock compa-
nies are formed for every purpose, and multiply continually.
Every one soon will be a shareholder or in receipt of a salary ;
there will be no room for the small independent tradesman, or
the independent workman belonging to no society.

On the other hand, Ave see increasing in number, with
alarming rapidity, societies in which the principle of com-
munity is applied even more rigorously than in the Russian
mir, and "Udiere all distinction of meum and tuum is strictly
proscribed. I refer to religious houses. Once gi'ant these
houses a civil personality and a right to take landed property
on the same title as individuals, and the struggle between
individualism and collectivity will not remain long undecided.
Within a hundred years religious houses will be temporal lords
of the land in everj catholic country ; and the whole soil will
be in their hands.

Under the old system, every sovereign, — even the most
devoted to the church, such as Philip II. and Maria Theresa, —
was constantly issuing law upon law to stop the encroachments
of mortmain. Modem laws forbid religious bodies to exist as civil
persons or to hold property as such : yet we see them multiply-
ing under our eyes in France, in Belgium, in Holland, Prussia
and England ; — in every country where violent revolutions have
not expelled them, as in Spain, Italy or Portugal. Their wealth
and power increase in proportion as the most firmly established
governments have recourse to exceptional measures for their
limitation. In Belgium they will soon be strong enough to


brave all opposition and to dictate their wishes to the legis-
lature and the sovereign. With a legislation such as that of
the United States on the subject of foundations and civil
persons, religious communities would eventually usurp the
whole soil.

The example of religious houses may help us to understand
the existence of village communities. Undoubtedly man always
pursues his own individual interest. He seeks happiness and
shuns pain; and the more perfect the organisation of respon-
sibility, the more will he be compelled to do well and to labour.
But as faith discloses to him the perspective of eternal felicity
in another life, it may be, that to become worthy of this, he
will work here below obediently and devotedly, as in certain

Custom and tradition also exercised, in primitive times, an
influence of which moderns can scarcely conceive. It is under
the influence of these motives that agricultural labour is carried
on in village communities. Besides, notwithstanding the
periodic partition of lands, it is always to the advantage of the
cultivator to till it well, as he alone takes the harvest, be it
good or bad. This practice, therefore, strange as it appears,
does not prevent the usufructuaries giving the soil good
manure and proper dressings. The Irish tenant at will, or even
the tenant who has only a short lease of three or six years,
a term unfortunately too common, has still less security for the
future than the Russian peasant, from whom the mir, every
nine or twelve years, takes the field which he cultivates, only
to give him others of at least equal value.

If the soil of Russia is badly cultivated by the peasants,
it is because, until lately bowed beneath the yoke of serfage,
they want instruction, motive, and energy. A visit to the
arable land of the allmends in Switzerland and the district of
Baden is sufficient to prove that the system of temporary
enjoyment is not the cause of the backward state of rural
economy. The allmends are also divided from time to time
among the usufructuaries, and yet they are in a perfect state
of cultivation, while, on the other hand, in Russia, the lands,
which are the private property of the nobles, are no better
. cultivated than the lands of the communes.


What periodic partiti(3n docs prevent, in great measure,
is permanent and costly improvement, which a temporary
possessor will not execute, as another would reap the profits.
It is in this respect that the village community is evidently
inferior to individual property. None but the hereditary pro-
prietor will make the sacrifice necessary for the permanent
improvement of sterile soil, and for sinking the capital necessary
for perfect, intensive cultivation. In all western Europe we
have to admire the marvels accomplished by private ownership ;
while, in Eussia, agriculture abides by the processes of two
thousand years ago.

Yet there would be nothing to prevent the commune itself
executing large permanent works, for irrigation, drainage or
roads, such as are carried out by the communal administration
of the towns and the Allmends in Switzerland. By the use of
collective resources and combined labour, much, more complete
results are obtained than by the isolated, intermittent, and
insufficient efforts of individuals. If nothing of the kind is
done in Russia it is for want of information, and not in con-
sequence of any incurable defect in the agrarian system.

The results of community and periodic partition are not at
all alike in the two great agricultural divisions of Russia.

In the circle of the " black " soil the land gives abundant
harvests without manure and almost without labour. So long
as the peasants are content with growing corn, there is no
necessity to sink a large capital in the land ; they need only
till it and gather in the harvest. The system of partition is,
therefore, no obstacle to works of improvement, which the
cultivator would not execute in any case. The alluvial lands
of the Banat in Hungary, and those of Moldavia, although
subject to private ownership, are no better cultivated than the
" black " soil of Russia under the system of community.

In the light soil of the centre and the north, which would
require copious manuring and works of permanent improve-
ment, too frequent periodic partition undoubtedly hinders the
progress of agriculture. Central Eussia is the country where
agricultural produce is the poorest in all Europe. It is estimated
that the cultivator only reaps three or four times what he has
sown. It is true that the laws of Von Thunen might be called


in to explain this fact. In a tliinly peopled country, where
there are no great centres of consumption, there is no advan-
tage in carrying on intensive agriculture. It is better to call
into action the natural forces, offered by the vast space still
undisposed of, than to accumulate a large capital on a small
area, as one is compelled to do when the population becomes
denser. Thus it is that the English in Australia, while prac-
tising a most perfect system of market-gardening in the neigh-
bourhood of Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, devote themselves,
in the interior of the country, to the pastoral system in all its
primitive simplicity.

The point in the organization of the mir, which is really
calculated to alarm economists, is that, contrary to the maxims
of Malthus, it removes every obstacle to the increase of popula-
tion, and even offers a premium for the multiplying of offspring.
In fact, every additional head gives a right to a new share
on the partition. It seems, therefore, that the population ought
to increase more rapidly than anywhere else. This is the chief
objection raised by Mill to every plan of reform in a com-
munistic sense. Yet, strange as it seems, Russia like France
is one of the countries where the population increases most
slowly. The period required for the doubling of the popula-
tion, which is about a hundred and twenty years for France,
is ninety years for Russia ; while in England and Prussia it is
only fifty years. What is the cause of this unexpected pheno-
menon, which seems to contradict all the previsions of political
economy ?

There are various circumstances contributing to produce
the result. The first is the large mortality among young
children. The fertility of marriages is a little greater in Russia
than in other European states. The eminent Russian statis-
tician. Von Buschen, makes the number of children for each
married couple 4"96 in Russia ; while in Prussia it is only
reckoned at 42.3 ; in Belgium at 4-72 ; and in England at
377 ^ According to M. Quételet^ the number of births is
relatively nearly twice as large in Russia as in France. The
number of children, however, is not highest among the peasants.

1 Aperçu statUtique des forces produetircs de hi Ilussie, Paris, 18G7,

2 Physique socinlç, Brussels, 1809.


Thus, in the province of Novgorod, which may serve as an
example for the rest, the number of children to each marriage
was 5*8 for the higher classes ; 5 '5 for the peasants ; 5 for the
bourgeois; 4'8 for the smaller class of traders; and 3'75 for
the floating population.

The mortality in Russia, compared with the number of
inhabitants, is in the proportion of 1 to 26 ; while in Prussia
it is 1 to 36 ; in France 1 to 39 ; in Belgium 1 to 43 ; and in
England 1 to 49. The average length of life in Russia is,
therefore, very much less than that given for other countries.
Instead of being about thirty-five years, as in the countries of
Western Europe, it is only from twenty-two to twenty-seven
years. In the agricultural region of the Volga it sinks to
twenty years, and in the provinces of Viatka, Perm and
Orenbourg, even to fifteen. This unsatisfactory average is due
especially to the great mortality among young children. M.
Buniakovski, a member of the Imperial Academy of St Peters-
burg, states, in his work on the Laws of Mortality in Russia,
that out of a thousand male children only five hundred and
ninety-three attain the age of five years. Nearly half die
before that time, and about one-third die within a year of their
birth. There is yet another fact, which is well known, to be
taken into account, namely, that children dying before they
arc baptized are not registered at all.

Thus the great mortality among infants is the principal
cause which prevents the increase of the population. It is
want of proper care that carries off so many people. According
to M. Giliarovski, who has made special researches as to infant
mortality in Russia, the mothers, overburdened with work,
are in many cases incapable of nursing their new-born chil-
dren. They give them with the bottle a kind of gruel of
bitter rye-meal, which produces diarrhoea. Custom requires
the mother, three days after her confinement, to take a vapour
bath ; and this bath, for want of proper precaution, has often
evil results. The baptism, which consists of a complete im-
mersion, is also in winter the cause of many diseases, and even
of deaths. In summer the labours of the harvest are even
more fatal : 75 per cent, of the children who die succumb
during the months of July and August, because the mothers,


being detained all day in the fields, are obliged to entirely
abandon tlieir nurslings.

The difference of age frequently existing between husband
and wife is also a check to the increase of the population. This
disparity is the result of the patriarchal system of the family.
The working hand is rare in Russia, and valuable in propor-
fion. It is, therefore, to the interest of each family to find
among its members the number of hand's necessary for the
cultivation of the portion of land belonging to it. The head
of the family, accordingly, is anxious to marry his sons as
early as possible, that the young woman may discharge the
-duties of the servant, to whom high wages would have to be
paid. In this way young boys of eight or ten are married
to women of five-and-twenty or thirty y^ars of age.

Two very mischievous consequences result from these ill-
assorted marriages. In the first place, the woman is approach-
ing the déclin:© .

Online LibraryEmile de LaveleyePrimitive property → online text (page 6 of 38)