Peasant estate


The vast majority of the population of Russia were peasants.

Peasants are the most noble class of Russian society. Despite the fact that the peasants were the lowest taxable class with a legislatively fixed poverty level (a ban on the ownership of more than 15 hectares of land), behind them in Russia was always the highest moral and historical rightness, which they were well aware of. Peasants mainly lived on land that their ancestors personally conquered and defended, and which their ancestors personally cultivated for centuries, feeding other classes so insignificant in percentage terms. Communicating with nature, being the guardians of centuries-old cultural traditions, they were the most organic part of society. It was a self-sufficient class, which was incomparably more giving than receiving. The peasants were inherent in all the vices common to all people – laziness, envy, etc. and probably because of this they allowed, a small group of their and not their compatriots, to drive themselves into wild slavery, though in the European part of Russia, in Siberia, serfdom never existed.

The main unit of organization of the peasant estate was the community. Being a living structure, the community carried in itself ancient traditions and a deep pagan worldview, for example, that air, water and earth as God’s creations cannot belong to one person, everyone should have the same land allotment, but no more than he could handle it with his own hands. Each member of the community has the right to allot the communal land, and even if he left, his children and even grandchildren, returning, could receive the allotment from the community. On the other hand, gaining full rights in a community by an alien race could last more than one generation. There was no clear concept of private and even personal property. It was not a simple organization, which acted on the basis of Concepts. Serfdom effectively used the community as a rolled back form of colonial self-government, which led to a perversion of natural law.

After reformatting serfdom in 1861, the community continued to fulfill the role of a serfman for the peasant, holding him in his strong arms not worse than the landowner. On the one hand, the company insured its member, guaranteed to help him in case of fire, crop failure or loss of a breadwinner, and on the other hand it continued to continue to be an incredibly effective instrument of operation and control, completely suppressed any initiative, did not give any chance for enterprise, manifestation talents, development, literally beat hands. That is why Russia smelled of wooden plow, as in the Stone Age right up to the next reformatting into collective farm serfdom in the first half of the 20th century, respectively, and on collective farms as to this day things are not going much better. In Soviet times, the theme of the community was, one might say, classified, and today few people imagine what it is and how much, our whole life today is riddled with communal heritage.

Documents of registration of peasants

The first documents for registering peasants were scribe and census books, in which peasants were written in half names, without nickname. Their main complex is stored in the RGADA, fund 1209. Local order. Recording a person in them as a peasant was considered a sufficient basis for ranking him in the corresponding group of the peasant population.

Peter I introduced a poll tax into the place of the land and courtyard tax, combining the peasantry and the serfdom in one tax and a class dependent on the landowner. There were several varieties of peasants.

Ownership (private ownership) peasants assigned to the landowner. Among them were distinguished arable, corvée, obrochny and domestic peasants. The transition from one group to another depended on the owner. The owner had the right to corporal punishment, without the right to death. Towards the end of the 18th century, serfdom reached its peak and began to fade. In 1797, a recommendatory law on three-day corvee was issued; in the first half of the 19th century restrictions were placed on the sale of serfs without a family, the purchase of peasants without land, etc.

  • The monastic peasants under Peter 1 were withdrawn and transferred to the treasury department, and then under the jurisdiction of the Synod, to the College of Savings, and therefore became known as economic. Not much different from the state.
  • The palace peasants were directly dependent on the monarch and members of his family, they were obliged by various duties to the department of the court. After 1797 they began to be called specific.
  • Peasants assigned to factories and plants. This category was created by decree of 1721, which allowed factory owners, nobles and non-nobles, to buy serfs for factories.
  • Black-sown (black peasants, personally free people, state villagers) lived on lands owned by the state. Along with the poll tax, they paid a special fee equal to the owner’s duties. These peasants had the right (in the presence of a dismissal certificate) to relocate when the land was low, move to the middle class and merchants, hire workers, and expose for themselves the recruits of the people they hired for this.

In the years 1718-1722 a census of the taxable population was made and its “revision” ie check. The rewritten souls began to be called “revision souls”. Every revision soul was taxed with the same tax, and the landowner was responsible for the correct receipt of the tax. Thus, all the peasants paid a capitation tax, sent natural duties, recruiting duties, were liable to corporal punishment, and were attached to their place of residence and their community.

With the introduction of censuses, the Audit Tales became the main accounting document. They brought in all taxable estates, the most numerous of which were peasants. The revision tales had a journal form in which all family members or individuals who lived in the described territory were listed sequentially. Their name, age, estate, permanent place of residence, location, residence in the family of relatives or employees. In total, ten revisions of 1719, 1743, 1762, 1782, 1795, 1811, 1815, 1833, 1850, 1858 were carried out. They can be partially found in the federal archives in the collections of audit tales and Landrat books, College of Economy (RGADA, f. 350); something may be in the fund of the Senate, Department of various taxes and fees of the Ministry of Finance (RGIA). In the regional archives in the funds of the governor’s boards, state chambers, petty bourgeois, county provisional revision commissions, as well as can be found in other funds). Revision tales are a very valuable source of genealogical information.

An additional important source is family-based lists, which are similar in form to revision tales. For peasants they were conducted by state chambers and volost boards since 1858. Lists were compiled every year, but were usually used for local needs. Family lists can be found in the regional archives in the funds of resettlement administrations, rural municipality administrations, estate estates, city administrations, state chambers, petty bourgeois elders, district zemstvo superiors.

The undetermined remnants of the questionnaires of the First General Census of 1897 can be found, for good luck, in the fund of the provincial statistical committees or in the funds of the census commissions for the census of 1897. A small part of them fell into the fund of the Central Statistical Committee.

In the regional archives you can find information in the documents of the county recruiting presence. Many men served in the army. From 1705 to 1855 they served for 20-25 years, i.e. the army was professional. Until 1874, the service lasted 10 years, and after it was reduced to 4 years, all fit men over the age of 21 should serve. The order of allocation of recruits was determined by the volost gathering of householders, on which a list of draftees was compiled. The 1868 manifesto ordered 4 recruits per 1000 souls. Family members over 31 years old were not drafted into the army.


Good luck in finding.