Provincial Committees

Provincial Committees

 

(Committees to Improve the Daily Life of the Peasants), during 1858–59, gentry committees to work out the conditions for the abolition of serfdom in Russia. The provincial committees included elected representatives of the dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry; one from each district) and two representatives from the province, who were appointed by the governor. The provincial marshals of the nobility were appointed chairmen of the provincial committees, which began their activity in 1858. The composition of the committees was not equally divided: the majority of the members were advocates of serfdom, and liberals were in the minority.

Plans for the abolition of serfdom were devised on the basis of several propositions. Under the first principle, the landlords would retain ownership of the land. The peasants would receive their plots of land for a redemption payment, and they would be granted the use of a certain amount of land in return for services. The second principle provided that the patrimonial police force would be retained by the landlords. In December 1858 this program was altered somewhat. Land allotments were to be granted to the peasants for their permanent use, and the allotments might be purchased by means of government credit. The patrimonial police would be replaced by agencies of peasant public administration, which would be somewhat dependent upon the landlord. In formulating these plans for the abolition of serfdom, serious differences of opinion occurred within the provincial committees, which involved essentially a conflict over the scope and form of concessions.

The principal problems centered on the determination of the size of the peasant allotments and the extent of obligations. The majority of the provincial committees, including Kursk, Tambov, Voronezh, Poltava, and Simbirsk, advocated a sharp curtailment of existing peasant allotments, by more than 50 percent. About one-half of the committees opposed granting the peasants lands for permanent use and endeavored to keep the peasants temporarily bound. Only two committees—Tver’ and Kharkov—as well as a minority of the Vladimir, Kaluga, Tula, and Simbirsk committees, favored a one-time redemption of allotments by the peasants. Although in the majority of provinces the size of the land allotments was reduced, the compulsory obligations were, as a rule, retained as before, and in some provinces they were even increased. The provincial committees finished their work at the beginning of 1859. A considerable part of their plans underwent changes in the editing commissions, which increased the norms of the field allotment and decreased the quitrent.

REFERENCES

Kornilov, A. A. “Gubernskie komitety po krest’ianskomu delu ν 1858–1859 gg.” In Ocherki po istorii obshchestvennogo dvizheniia i krest’ianskogo dela ν Rossii. St. Petersburg, 1905.
Zaionchkovskii, P. A. Otmena krepostnogo prava ν Rossii, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1968.

P. A. ZAIONCHKOVSKII

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