Stolypin Agrarian Reform

Stolypin Agrarian Reform

 

a bourgeois reform of peasant allotment landownership in Russia.

The Stolypin agrarian reform was initiated by the ukase of Nov. 9, 1906, and terminated by the Provisional Government’s decree of June 28 (July 11), 1917. It was named for P. A. Stolypin, chairman of the Council of Ministers, who conceived it and put it into effect. As V. I. Lenin defined the socioeconomic essence of the Stolypin agrarian reform, “Capitalist development in Russia has made such strides during the last half-century that the preservation of serfdom in agriculture has become absolutely impossible, and its abolition has assumed the forms of a violent crisis, of a nationwide revolution” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 16, p. 403).

With the defeat of the Revolution of 1905–07, the tsarist regime and large landowners could enact reform and thus attempt to eliminate the vestiges of serfdom, a move objectively ready. In doing so for peasant allotment land, they attempted to maintain large landownership, the bulwark of servitude and otrabotki (labor service). The extent of the peasantry’s revolutionary struggle in the period 1905–07 forced the tsarist regime to abandon its attempts “to appear in the eyes of the masses of the people as standing ‘above classes,’ safeguarding the interests of the peasant masses, safeguarding them from loss of land and from ruin” (ibid., vol. 23, p. 260); the tsarist regime now had to take steps to establish an economic and political alliance between itself and the large landowners, on one hand, and the peasant bourgeoisie, on the other.

The primary goals of the Stolypin agrarian reform were the breakup of the commune (obshchina) and the encouragement of private peasant landownership. By allowing allotments to be bought and sold, the government made it easier for poor peasants to leave the villages and for kulaks to amass land in increasing amounts. The changes in landownership brought about by the reform were designed primarily to create khutora (consolidated farms upon which the peasant actually lived) and otruba (consolidated farms cultivated by a peasant who still lived elsewhere) on peasant allotment land. The reform was carried out with crass disregard for the interests of the peasants remaining in the commune, since the better lands were allotted to the khutora and otruba.

The Bank of the Peasantry played a major role in the Stolypin agrarian reform. It made the largest loans for land purchase to individual heads of household, including—on very favorable terms—the owners of khutora and otruba. It sold three-fourths of its own land fund to the owners of khutora and otruba.

During the years of the Stolypin agrarian reform, peasant resettlement increased markedly. The government actively encouraged the resettlement of poor peasants from Russia’s central provinces to the borderlands, especially Siberia. However, the impoverished peasants lacked the means to exploit the new lands fully. Of the 3 million people who resettled in new areas between 1906 and 1916, 548,000, or 18 percent, returned to the villages from which they had come.

As the results indicate, the Stolypin agrarian reform was a failure. By Jan. 1, 1916, despite government pressure, only 2,478,000 heads of household, who owned a total of 16,919,000 desiatinas of land (one desiatina equals 1.09 hectares), had left the communes; this was only 26 percent of the number of households in the communes and approximately 15 percent of the land area held by the peasant communes.

Under the Stolypin agrarian reform, peasant allotment land was bought and sold more easily and with increasing frequency. As a result, class differentiation among the peasantry grew more pronounced. Between 1908 and 1915, 1,079,900 heads of household, or 53 percent of those who had left the communes, sold 3,776,200 desiatinas of allotment land, or 22.4 percent of all such land. The overwhelming majority of peasants who sold their land were ruined. The kulaks acquired more and more land.

The tsarist regime was also disappointed in its hopes of creating large numbers of khutora and otruba and making them the mainstay of a “strong” peasantry. Between 1907 and 1916, 1,317,000 households, with 12,777,000 desiatinas, had taken advantage of the reform to institute the new, consolidated land-ownership on allotment land; 339,000 households, with 4,137,000 desiatinas, had done so on land purchased with the assistance of the Bank of the Peasantry; and 13,000 households, with 224,000 desiatinas, had done so on state lands. In all, the new, consolidated landownership accounted for 1,670,000 households with 17,138,000 desiatinas of land. The organization of production on khutora and otruba required significant resources and was ruinous to the bulk of the peasantry. Few khutora and otruba were prosperous. A clear indicator of the failure of the Stolypin agrarian reform was the famine of 1911, which struck the major agricultural regions of Russia and affected more than 30 million people in the rural areas.

The Stolypin agrarian reform led to no fundamental socioeconomic changes and could not avert the onset of another bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia. It was contemporaneous with the growth of a mass peasant movement, one of whose leading features was opposition to the large landowners. It was also contemporaneous with widespread peasant clashes with the army and the police—the “land riots.” The poor peasants of the villages increased the struggle against the kulaks, notably against the “new landlords”—the owners of the khutora and otruba.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. “‘Krest’ianskaia reforma’ i proletarski-krest’ianskaia revoliutsiia.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 20.
Lenin, V. I. “Stolypin i revoliutsiia.” Ibid., vol. 20.
Lenin, V. I. “Poslednii klapan.” Ibid., vol. 22.
Lenin, V. I. “K voprosu ob agrarnoi politike (obshchei) sovremen-nogo pravitel’stva.” Ibid., vol. 23.
Lenin, V. I. “Mobilizatsiia nadel’nykh zemel’.” Ibid., vol. 23.
Simonova, M. S. “Ekonomicheskie itogi stolypinskoi agrarnoi poli-tiki v tsentral’no-chernozemnykh guberniiakh.” In the collection Istoricheskie zapiski, vol. 63. Moscow, 1958.
Dubrovskii, S. M. Stolypinskaia zemel’naia reforma. Moscow, 1963.
Skliarov, L. F. Pereselenie i zemleustroistvo v Sibiri v gody stolypinskoi agrarnoi reformy. Leningrad, 1962.
Pershin, P. N. Agrarnaia revoliutsiia v Rossii, book 1. Moscow, 1966.
Sidel’nikov, S. M. Agrarnaia reforma Stolypina. Moscow, 1973.

M. S. SIMONOVA

References in periodicals archive ?
Gaudin frames her discussion around two major rural reform efforts in post-Emancipation Russia: the 1889 land captain reform and the 1906 Stolypin agrarian reforms.