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(Russian, obrok), payments in produce or money by feudally dependent peasants to their lords constituting feudal ground rent in kind or in cash. Unlike corvée, called barshchina in Russia, the exaction of obrok entailed the feudal lord’s appropriation of the surplus produce (or its cash equivalent) produced by the peasant on his holding. Quitrent payments in kind could consist of various agricultural products (grain, wine, or vegetables) or of handicraft articles. The peasant paid cash quitrent out of the income he derived from selling part of his harvest. During the rise of feudalism, quitrent, chiefly in kind, was one of the most common primary forms of peasant exploitation. In the period of fully developed feudalism, quitrent was usually combined with corvée. As the landlords gradually gave up corvée, the exaction of quitrent in kind and especially cash quitrent became the chief form of feudal rent; in Western Europe this change began in the 14th and 15th centuries. Quitrent in cash and, to a lesser extent, in kind continued to be the primary form of feudal rent during the decline of feudalism, except in countries where “second serfdom” prevailed. In these countries quitrent was less important than corvée. In most Oriental countries, quit-rent in the form of centralized rent (state taxes) was the chief obligation imposed on the peasantry throughout the Middle Ages.
IU. L. BESSMERTNYI
Obrok in Russia. The rise of feudal relations in Kievan Rus’ between the ninth and 11th centuries led to the appearance of obrok in kind, initially collected as tribute, as one of the forms of exploitation of the peasantry. During the 13th and 14th centuries, obrok in kind became more important as the peasants’ economic independence increased and village property holders became more stratified. The amount of the obrok tended to become fixed, and the development of commodity and money relations led to an increasing reliance on cash obrok, especially in the Novgorod lands. With the enserfment of the peasantry, the development of the manorial system, and the rise of the lord’s demesne during the 16th and early 17th centuries, a combination of barshchina (corvée) and obrok in kind became the rule. While barshchina predominated among manorial peasants, the chief form of exploitation of court, monasterial, and state peasants from the 17th century was cash obrok. From the second half of the 18th century, obrok prevailed in the industrial provinces outside the black earth region. The development of crafts and commerce and the growth of market relations made cash obrok increasingly common among manorial peasants as well. During the second half of the 18th century, in 19 provinces of European Russia, 55 percent of the manorial peasants outside the black earth region paid obrok, as opposed to 26 percent in the black earth region. In the course of the second half of the 18th century, the obrok of manorial peasants increased three or four times, and the obrok of state and appanage peasants also rose. The amount of obrok became one of the primary issues in the peasantry’s class struggle. Cash obrok assured the peasant household of a measure of economic independence, and landlords’ attempts to replace obrok with barshchina provoked fierce resistance.
During the crisis in the feudal system in the first half of the 19th century, the obrok of manorial peasants roughly doubled, and the size of their holdings diminished. The increases in the amount of obrok caused many peasants to become seasonal laborers, and throughout the 19th century seasonal work was a main source of money for paying the obrok. In calculating the amount of obrok, landlords, particularly those in nonblack earth regions, attached greater importance to the peasants’ income from nonagricultural sources than to their income from farming. A system of mixed obligations emerged that included both cash obrok and barshchina. In the early 19th century, few landlords demanded obrok in kind, which was often replaced by cash
obrok. By the end of the 1850’s, 28.5 percent of the serfs paid obrok, and only in the nonblack earth regions of central Russia and in the north did these serfs predominate over barshchina peasants. In state and appanage villages obrok was the chief form of exploitation. Under the Peasant Reform of 1861, barshchina was replaced by obrok. When the compulsory redemption of peasant land was instituted on Jan. 1, 1883, obrok payments to landlords ceased. The obrok payments of state and appanage peasants were converted into redemption payments during the 1860’s.
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L. V. BELOVINSKII