Estates in the Russian Empire


In Russia, before Peter the Great, there were no estates in the proper sense of the word, and in the language of Muscovite Russia there are not even words to express such concepts as “estate system”, “estate institutions”, “estate prejudices”.

The estates of Russia are the creation of the last centuries of Russian history. The general provision, placed at the beginning of the IX volume of the “Code of Laws”, shows that all natural inhabitants of Russia are supposed to be divided into four main kinds of people:

  • Nobles.
  • The clergy.
  • City dwellers.
  • Rural inhabitants (peasants, Cossacks, foreigners).

The law gives them the name of the estates, but most of them are not at all a single whole, even the nobles are divided into hereditary and personal, clergy – by religion, the urban estate – by honorary citizens, merchants, burghers and guilds; among the peasantry there are also a number of varieties. Further, some of the “estate states” are not hereditary, not even lifelong, and are not closed at all.

According to Korkunov, estates in Russia can only be recognized as nobles, honorary citizens, petty bourgeois and peasants, but even in these “estates” life has broken large gaps.

  • Nobility. The largest percentage of it is observed in the Caucasus 2.4%, then in Poland 1.9%, in European Russia 1.5%, Siberia 0.8%, Central Asia 0.4%. The multi-noble provinces are as follows: Petersburg 7.2%, Kutaisi 6.8%, Kovenskaya 6.8%, Vilenskaya 4.9%, Warsaw 4.1%, Minsk 3.6%, Elizavetpolskaya 3.5%, Moscow 3.2%, i.e. all foreign, with the exception of St. Petersburg and Moscow, two central government.
  • Clergy. The largest percentage in the Caucasus is 0.6%, then in European Russia 0.5%, Siberia 0.3%, Poland 0.1%. The largest percentage of clergy in the provinces: Kutaisi 2.2%, Yaroslavl 1.4%, Arkhangelsk 1.2%, Kostroma, Moscow, Orenburg, 1.1%, Tver, Tiflis 1%.
  • Honorary citizens and merchants. This estate is even more sparse. Merchants and honorary citizens: in European Russia 0.6%, in the Caucasus 0.4%, in Siberia 0.3%, in Central Asia and Poland 0.1% each. These figures perfectly illustrate the antediluvian and absurdity of dividing the inhabitants into estates. It turns out that in such an industrial area as Poland, there are extremely few merchants. Obviously, trade is most interested only in other classes – in other words, the estate has nothing to do with it.
  • Philistines. This class is the most common in Poland 23.5%, then in European Russia 10.6%, in the Caucasus 8.1%, in Siberia 5.6%, Central Asia 2%. They are especially rich in persons of this estate of lips. Varshavskaya 33%, Petrokovskaya 31.6%, Khersonskaya 27.4%, Grodno 25%.

It is interesting to take a closer look at the distribution of persons of non-peasant class among cities and villages. It turns out that in 1897 more than half of the hereditary nobles (52.7%) lived outside the cities. After the events of 1905-1906 this distribution has changed significantly in many provinces, and many hereditary nobles have been evicted from their estates. Personal nobles and officials are fairly evenly distributed throughout the Empire, excluding Central Asia, where they make up only 0.2% of the population. Representatives of this estate live mainly in cities (75%), as well as merchants (of which 80% are urban residents). Most of the bourgeoisie are also townspeople (56%). As for the peasants, only 6.7% of their total number falls to cities, but there are many in large centers in rapidly developing centers: in 1897 there were 745 905 in St. Petersburg and 661 628 in Moscow. In recent years, thanks to the landlessness of peasants According to the law of November 9 1906 in a hunger strike of 1911–1912, in a lot of cities there was an unprecedented combination of villagers looking for work and food.

Let us now see which estates increase over time, which estates decrease

Official statistics give us the opportunity to partially judge this. Compared to 1870, the following changes occurred: the relative number of the nobility (hereditary and personal) became larger. In 1870, it accounted for 1.3%, and in 1897 it was already 1.5%. On the contrary, the clergy moved back from 0.9% in 1870 to 0.5% in 1897. The percentage of noblemen personal and office workers remained unchanged. The percentage of urban estates (merchants, philistines, honorary citizens) has grown significantly by 1897.

Good luck in finding.