Peasants and agricultural growth in the Late Tsarist Empire
Agricultural value chains
According to the conventional wisdom, Russia’s agriculture presents an exception to the pan-European picture of dynamic agricultural development during the era of industrialization. The institutional setting of the Russian peasant economy has often been made responsible for "Russian backwardness". This is especially true for the ongoing dominance of communal land tenure and the decisive role of the land commune in organizing agricultural production even after the agrarian reforms of 1861 ("peasants’ liberalization"). However, the peasant economy and the commons in Western Europe have been recently shown to be consistent with dynamic agricultural growth and market-oriented farming in the period 1400-1800. This evidence casts doubts on the superiority of private farming over other property regimes. Nor is it clear that the introduction of full private property rights in land has been essential to induce market-oriented agricultural growth. New data allow to analyze these questions for Russian farming during the Late Tsarist period. First results published in the Journal of Peasant Studies in 2015 clearly indicate that private farming was not superior in Russia c. 1880-1913.