Zemstvo Statistics

Zemstvo Statistics


statistical work by the zemstvos (local self-government bodies), primarily to examine the state of agriculture and its socioeconomic development.

Zemstvo statistics arose out of the zemstvos’ need to collect materials on the value of and the income produced by the land and other real estate, in order to assess the primary sources of zemstvo tax revenue in postreform Russia. The first studies were made in 1870–71 in Viatka Province by the statistician V. la. Zavolzhskii and in Tver’ Province by V. I. Pokrovskii, an economist and statistician. In 1874–75, zemstvo statistics bureaus appeared in Moscow, Chernigov, and Kherson. In 1882 a statistical division was formed in the Moscow Juridical Society to coordinate the work and theoretical development of zemstvo statistics; prominent economists and statistical scientists took part. The First Congress of Zemstvo Statisticians, held in 1887, worked out a program of research. By 1893 land statistical work was being done in 17 provinces.

In the 1890’s, when the so-called third element (the white-collar intelligentsia, among whom were liberals, Narodniki [populists], and social democrats) had acquired substantial influence in the zemstvo movement, the comprehensive economic and social study of the peasant economy became paramount. From this followed the primary tasks of zemstvo statistics: the narrowly practical financial purpose and the social-science aim. The tsarist government and the pomeshchiks (landlords) opposed the publication of figures on the poverty of the peasant farms and tried to subject zemstvo statistics to government monitoring. But zemstvo activity related to statistics did not stop: by 1913 the collection of material was completed for 305 of the total number of 3’59zemstvo districts, in 34 provinces.

Basic and ongoing statistics existed. Basic zemstvo statistics studied the economic condition of the peasants; ongoing statistics recorded the situation in agriculture for each report year. Originally, the entire rural commune was the unit of observation. In 1880 the household census became the primary method of zemstvo statistics. The descriptive program included questions on land use, methods of cultivation, rent, the hired labor force, livestock, and much more.

Zemstvo statistics included enormous amount of material on the condition and development of the peasant economy in Russia. The investigations encompassed almost all of European Russia, presenting a census of 4.5 million peasant households. Many investigations by historians, economists, and statisticians have been based on the zemstvo statistics. K. Marx and F. Engels used them to study the economy of Russian agriculture. V. I. Lenin investigated the development of capitalism in Russian agriculture on the basis of critically reworked zemstvo statistical data. Among the merits of the zemstvo statistics, Lenin noted the use of full household censuses. He pointed out the completeness and depth of the investigation and the careful processing of data collected. At the same time Lenin criticized the zemstvo statistics for infatuation with “average” figures and also for lack of a truly scientific grouping of peasant households, so that the process of class stratification in the countryside was blurred.


Lenin, V. I. “Interesnyi s”ezd.”Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. “K voprosu ozadachakh zemskoi statistiki.” Ibid., vol. 24.
Lenin, V. I. Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 3–5, 9–15, 224–25; vol. 2, pp. 319–22; vol. 3, pp. 93–96, 141–2, 632–34; vol. 5, pp. 213–14.
Grigor’ev, V. N. Predmetnyi ukazatel materialov v zemskostatisticheskikh trudakh s 1860-kh gg. po 1917 g., fascs. 1–2. Moscow, 1926–27.
Svavitskii, N. A. Zemskie podvornye perepisi. Moscow, 1961.
Buganov, V. I. “Zemskaia statistika kret’ianskogo khoziaistva v rabote V. I. Lenina Razvitie kapitalizma v Rossii.” In the collection Problemy istochnikovedeniia, vol. 10. Moscow, 1962.


References in periodicals archive ?
Zemstvo statistics compiled in 1911 list the city population at 70,711, at least 8 percent of whom were Jews (Kratkiia khoziaistvennostatisticheskiia svedeniia po Smolenskoi gubernii [Smolensk, 1912], 21, 30).