(village community; also mir), the lowest social-administrative unit in prerevolutionary Russia. The sel’skoe obshchestvo was instituted in 1837 in the villages of state peasants and, under the peasant reform of 1861, in the settlements of former serfs. It consisted of one settlement or of several small settlements that made common use of agricultural lands. It could also consist of a part of a settlement if the settlement had earlier been held by two or more pomeshchiki (gentry landowners). Several sel’skie obshchestva made up a volost.
The sel’skoe obshchestvo had its own administration, consisting of the village skhod (assembly) and the village starosta (headman). It could elect or appoint its own officials, such as tax collectors, clerks, custodians of grain storehouses, schools, and hospitals, and guards for forests and fields. From a socioeconomic standpoint, the sel’skoe obshchestvo was essentially indistinguishable from the village obshchina (peasant commune).
REFERENCESBrzheskii, N. K. Ocherki iuridicheskogo byta krest’ian. St. Petersburg, 1902.
Zaionchkovskii, P. A. Otmena krepostnogo prava v Rossii, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1968. Pages 144–48.