Russian Peasants

Improved Essays
How far do you agree that life for peasants was uniformly bleak during the period from 1855 to 1956? By 1956, the Russian peasantry had finally been liberated by Khrushchev as he had introduced passports and finally given them identification. This was a massive step from what peasant life was like in the 1850’s – where serfdom was the most dominant form of relation between the peasants and the nobility, meaning that peasants in Russia were bound under the rules and regulations of the higher classes and their freedom of movement was restricted. It is clear, however, that for the majority of this period, living conditions for an average Russian peasant did remain somewhat austere regardless of how important Peasants were seen to be. The peasants …show more content…
Direct evidence of this is under the NEP, introduced by Lenin, grain requisitioning was ended and a tax was introduced onto peasants, thereby allowing them to keep and trade part of their produce. This therefore increased the peasants’ incentive to produce, and in the response to this production increased by 40 %. Even with the introduction of industrialisation, the majority of Russians were peasants working the land. Therefore, it was clear that in order to remain in power, Russian rulers and leaders had to keep peasants on their side. Before 1861, serfs owned no land. However, this partly changed after 1861 when the serfs were emancipated by Alexander II. Whilst the serfs still had to work for their landlords for two years, the Manifesto stated that peasants were able to buy their own land away from their landlords. The proposal of land ownership given to the Serfs by the Emancipation Manifesto was extremely advantageous to many of them as therefore a large number of serfs benefitted from, as gentry land holdings fell from 80% to 50% whilst peasant holdings grew from 5% to 20%. Some historians, such as Sheila Fitzpatrick, argue that although the Emancipation of the serfs did change peasant life, it had ultimately been framed with great caution as to minimize the change to spread it over time whilst others, such as Orlando Figes, argue that the emancipation came so quickly it was a ‘rude shock’ to the whole of the gentry and left them immediately deprived of serfs.

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