Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 13.djvu/280

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RUSSIA


238


RUSSIA


Government seeks to encourage the home produc- tion of wine by very high duties on foreign wines. The cuhure of vegetables and fruit is not greatly developed; market gardens thrive in the neighbour- hood of the large cities, especially in the District of Rostofif, and in the Governments of Saratoflf and Samara. The production of fruit is abundant in Transcaucasia and the Crimea.

According to the statistics of 1908 there were in Russia 140,656,000 head of cattle, namely, 28,723,000 horses, 42,031,000 horned cattle. 57,466,000 sheep and goats, and 12,436,000 hogs. The horned cattle are scattered over the whole of European Russia: the cattle of Siberia are of a better class, on account of the abundance of forests. There are numerous breeds of horses in Russia, and special establishments are devoted to the improvement of these breeds in the Pro\'ince of the Don Cossacks and the Governments of Voronezh. Kherson, Tamboff, Pultowa, and Kharkoff. The annual product from the sheep is calculated at 120.000,000 roubles (1 rouble=52 cents U. S. A.). The best wool is produced by the flocks of the Governments of Novgorod and Voronezh, of the Volga, the Vistula, the Baltic, the Caucasus, and Turkestan. The raising of hogs is especially pursued in the Governments of Minsk and Volhynia. the chicken industry flourishes in Western and Central Russia; fowls and eggs are exported and yield an annual income of more than 70,000,000 roubles, of which 61,000,000 are for eggs. The yearly production of honey is nearlj' 26,000 tons, and wax 5000 tons, yielding an aggregate income of from 15,000,000 to 20,000,000 roubles. The culture of the silk-worm is being developed, chiefly in the Governments of Bessarabia, Kherson, and Taurida, and in Turkestan and the Caucasus. The 5'early production of silk amounts to about 1000 tons.

The condition of the peasants, although greatly im- proved, is far from being prosperous, and the agrarian question is one of the gravest with which Russian statesmen have to deal. Prior to 1861, or since 1592 according to some authorities, 1649 according to others, the peasants were legally reduced to servitude (kriepostnoe pravo). Thej^ were under serfdom to the landowners, were attached to the soil, and were not allowed to change their place of residence or dispose freely of their property; they were obliged to cultivate the lands of their employers and pay a tax to the State. The pomieshshiki, or landowners, became 80 many little tsars, and the peasants were reduced to the condition of slaves. As a consequence there occurred the revolts of the peasants, in the seven- teenth centur}^ under Stenko Razin, and in the eighteenth century, under PugatchefT. During the reign of Catherine II a Russian author, Radishsheff, in his "Voyage from St. Petersburg to Moscow", suggested the neces.sity of freeing the peasants from their servitude; the book was held to be dangerous, and its author was exiled to Siberia. Paul I in 1797 alleviated the condition of the peasants by decreeing that they should work only three days on the lands of their employers. Alexander I attempted in vain to free them : his humanitarian efforts were thwarted by the oppo.sition of the nobles. Nicholas I entertained the same purpo.se, but notwithstanding his abscjlutism was unable to realize it; he promul- gated various laws, however (1826, 1835, 1S39, 1845, 1846, 1847, and 1848), by which the right of the peasants and of their communities (mir) to acquire real estate was recognized; but these laws were not executed, and the pomieshshiki pretended to be unin- formed of them.

The European revolution of 1848 and the Crimean War brought an awakening of Liberal irleas in Russia, and Alexander II, a.s one of the first measures of his reign, abolished serfdom. The preparatory measure for this consummation were studied by a secret com-


mittee in 1857. In 1859 the committees of the nobil- ity and of the pomieshshiki in the various provinces discussed this question of the abolition of serfdom, and the Press dealt with it in an active way, showing Russia's moral and political need to solve it. An imperial commission, estabhshed in 1859, prepared a law which, after long dehberations and frequent modifications, received the signature of the tsar, 12 Feb., 1S61, and was promulgated on 5 March of the same year. The terms of this law made all peasants free, and secured to them, upon the payment of a tax established by law, the use of their habitations (dvor) and a grant of land, of which they could become own- ers in fee simple by pecuniary redemption. More- over, the pomieshshiki were obliged to grant to the peasants or to the 7nir the lands occupied by them, conformably wath a maximum or minimum estab- lished by law. On the other hand, the dvorovie, or servants, who numbered 1,500,000, in 1861 regained their freedom, with however the obligation of serving their masters for a further period of two j'ears.

The lands were so distributed that each peasant who was entitled to share in them received, on an average, fourteen acres; on an average, because the quality of the lands was taken into account in the distribu- tion; in the zone of the Tchernozom, the concessions were of eight acres. Moreover, the distribution of lands was very unequal, and 42-6 per cent of the peasants who participated in it received concessions that were insufficient for their needs; to this may be added that many millions of peasants were not benefited by the law, and that the annual tax to be paid to the Government by those who received portions of land became a burden. The Government therefore continued to enact laws to solve the agrarian question. The taxes were diminished in 1881, and in 1882 the Agrarian Bank was established, which helped the peasants to acquire possession of 19,000,000 acres in a few years. In 1885 the per capita tax paid by the peasants was abolished, by which the Government lost 50,000,000 roubles. Other laws, some of them pro- mulgated as late as 1900, are directed towards the protection of the rights of the peasants. These measures, however, are insufficient. The increase in the population has greatly reduced the average hold- ing of land, which in 1893 amounted to 6-5 acres for each peasant. The improvidence of the peasants, drink, backward methods in agriculture, and bad crops have on more than one occasion caused famine to be felt in the agricultural regions. The agrarian question, therefore, lies like an incubus on Russia, while the various parties of the Duma propose dilTeront so- lutions for it. The moderate parties advise directing the peasant emigration towards Siberia, dispersing the peasants in less poijulous governments, and im- parting to them agricultural instruction; while the more advanced parties demand that the crown lands and the lands of the churclics and the monasteries be divided among the peasants, or again that the great landowners be deprived of their rural possessions (socialization of lands). Until now, however, the debates that have taken place in the various dumas on this subject have led to no practical results.

Statistics of Commerce. — According to the sta- tistics of 1908 Russia occupies the ninth place among nations as regards her merchant fleet, which including that of Finland has 6250 ships, with a gross tonnage of 1,046,195; this includes 1240 steamers with a tonnage of 500,000. Finland has 2800 ships, with a tonnage of 346,195. The ships of more than 1000 tons burden in the Russian merchant fleet niiinher 114. Of Russian vessels, 1129 belong to tlie Black Sea ports and the Sea of AzofT, and 1104 to the Baltic ports. According to the statistics of the same year, there arrived at Hu.ssian ports during 1908 11,011 ships, of which 1 777 were Ru.ssian, with an aggregate tonnage of 1,241,000, and 9519 foreign, aggregate