A History of Wealth and Poverty: Why a Few Nations are Rich and Many Poor, by John P. Powelson.

Appendixes for Chapter 14

Appendix 14.1: Historical References to the Abundance of Land Relative to Labor in Russia

  1. "Throughout the medieval period the relative abundance of all but the most suitable land, and the fact that agricultural implements could easily be made, combined to make peasant flight at least a possibility." [305]
  2. "In the age of Kiev life was primitive, but there was as yet land for all and the black earth was fruitful." [306]
  3. The peasants "who colonized the Northeast [about the thirteenth century] were confronted with a land of dense forests, great marshes, and many rivers and streams. So they sought out the high, dry places or the narrow open stretches that sometimes lay between forest edge and river land." [307]
  4. "In those days [fourteenth century], as again recently, many Russian monks worked the land to keep themselves alive, and their efforts to find ever more remote 'wildernesses' in which to cultivate the land and lead a godly life produced a great movement of colonization." [308]
  5. In the fourteenth century, "the worst tyrannies were abated by the acknowledged right of peasants to leave their masters." [309]
  6. ". . . that perpetual evil of the Russian land, the physical lack of people, the disproportion of the population to the area of the enormous state." [310]
  7. During the Livonian War under Ivan IV, hardships were so great that "in gradually increasing numbers, commoners had begun to 'flee the frontiers' into the wilds." [311]
  8. "Individual or group flights of the serfs from their lords [in the seventeenth century] was one of the most widespread forms of peasant protest. . . . The obligation to find and return fugitive serfs to their lawful owners was placed on the state (after 1649). Thus a continuous manhunt was under way on the territory of Russia, primarily in its eastern provinces, which attracted oppressed peasants from the more densely populated areas of central Russia." [312]
  9. In the seventeenth century, "Russia had some of the best land in the world waiting to be settled as soon as she could master the black earth steppe and Siberia." [313]
  10. "Driven to desperation by these exactions [of Peter the Great], many peasants fled across the borders of Muscovy and villages became empty, as they had a hundred years before." [314]

Appendix 14.2: Historical References to the Authoritarian Nature of the Russian State

The Sixteenth Century and Earlier

  1. The Mongol khan "ruled over many clans, and he demanded absolute and unqualified obedience from all his subjects." [315]
  2. Contradicting a tradition that already had been weakening — that servitors of tsar or nobility had a right to move to other masters — in the sixteenth century, both Ivan III and Vasilii III insisted that their servitors bind themselves for life. "If a member of the kniazhata [serving princes] tried to leave the service for that of another ruler he was arrested and charged with treason and apostasy." [316]
  3. Berman finds that religion did dampen the autocratic character of the tsar, but not significantly. Not, it would seem to me, as much as it leavened the power of monarchs in western Europe. "[T]he religious character of the empire had a certain limiting effect upon the activities of the tsar. This was manifest in a semi-legal conception of the right of high dignitaries of the church to intercede in behalf of the victims of the tsar's displeasure or to beg the tsar to reform that which was incompatible with the Christian religion. Such intervention by the church could be made only in the form of petitions. The decision lay with the tsar and nothing of a legal character could be done to alter that decision." [317]
  4. "The Muscovy tsardom established a State Orthodoxy, hostile to opposition and dissent in matters of belief." [318]
  5. Ivan IV convoked a National Assembly (Zemsky Sobor) in 1549 to gain support for his war objectives. "But it was not democratic. . . . All of its 374 members were Muscovite officials, selected by the crown, and obliged to deliberate on subjects of the sovereign's choice. They were not there so the tsar could learn their opinions. . . . They were expected to proclaim their support and transmit the will of the government to localities." [319]

The Seventeenth Century

  1. "The ease with which the extension of central authority overwhelmed all other political and social forces [in the seventeenth century] is to be explained by the frailty of local institutions and by the absence of independent ecclesiastical or social authority." [320]
  2. Under Peter the Great, "the influence of the administration over economic life was gradually extended to every sector of the economy and every region of the empire." [321]

The Eighteenth Century

  1. "Catherine [the Great] believed that the autocratic state had important functions; she had no intention of relinquishing or limiting her authority." Her agricultural settlements in newly conquered territories transported Russian political structures into areas of different cultures. To operate them, Russian officials had to be sent in, "strengthening uniformity and centralization in contradiction to the professed aim of furthering autonomy in local affairs." [322]
  2. In the eighteenth century, imperial restrictions were placed on the number of horses a person might have, which varied according to the individual's rank. [323]
  3. Government attempted to stop peasants from going into crafts, in the eighteenth century, by issuing decrees, or urban controls, or threats of punishment such as whipping. Usually these attempts did not succeed completely. [324]

The Nineteenth Century

  1. "Russian absolutism was able to withstand the years of the French Revolution and Napoleon relatively unscathed." [325]
  2. "The introduction of the peasantry into commercial-money relationships [was] by no means entirely welcome to the government [in the early nineteenth century], which attempted to keep them under its control, with the primacy of agriculture, and the maintenance of serfdom, or at least restriction of the pace of its dissolution, firmly in mind." [326]
  3. With reference to the Russian government in the early nineteenth century, "the well-ordered police state was most successful where the government was able to harmonize the activities of a centralized bureaucracy with the work of local institutions." [327]
  4. Again with reference to Russia in the early nineteenth century: "No longer is the sovereign merely a judge or ultimate arbiter. . . . He has become the active proponent of a deliberate, methodical policy, the purpose of which is to maximize his country's productive potential, increase its wealth and power, and promote its material well-being." [328]
  5. "Centralization of responsibility [under Alexander I and Nicholas I] meant slowness of decision, and delays of many years were not unusual; death often provided the answer." [329]
  6. "After putting down the Decembrist uprising, the government of the young Emperor, Nicholas I, energetically reasserted its control over the country. Every aspect of life in the empire was subject to close scrutiny." [330]

Appendix 14.3: Historical References to the Quest for and Concentration of Power in Russia

  1. In the twelfth century, Prince Vladimir Monomakh "admonishes his children to live dangerously, . . . not to delegate power but to rule and judge in person." [331] In this, he was not much different from Western kings and princes of that time. The difference is that this type of admonition continued much longer in the East than it did in the West.
  2. In the sixteenth century, the Muscovite rulers "knew that to reach their final goal they had to destroy the power of the princes and of the nobility in the lands they annexed." [332]
  3. "[A] mighty — and insane — drive by the tsar [Ivan IV] to wipe out all resistance to his bid for absolute power." [333]
  4. In the sixteenth century, the tsar had the power to declare disgrace (opala) on any of his subjects. Disgrace "could entail a variety of penalties: banishment from court, confinement to one's town residence or country estate, appointment to a distant and/or undesirable post, removal from service, loss of mestnichestvo standing, partial or complete confiscation of property, arrest, imprisonment, or exile, forced entry into a monastery, or execution, depending upon the person disgraced and the reasons for his disfavor." [334]
  5. "In Muscovy [in the sixteenth century], rulership by divine right had managed to combine the pious absolutism of the Byzantine aristocrat with the arbitrary despotism of the Mongol khan." [335]
  6. When Ivan IV wanted to marry an English aristocratic woman, he asked Elizabeth I to order the marriage. Elizabeth explained that she had no power to do so. Ivan found this incredible. [336]


Copyright © 1994 by the University of Michigan. First published in the USA by the University of Michigan Press, 1994.

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