Sivut kuvina

reviewing that essay,* he believes in the original distribution even in this country of the arable area into exactly equal portions, corresponding with the number of families in the township; and he holds that the proprietary equality of the families composing the group was at first still further secured by a periodical re-distribution of the several assignments. A vast deal of curious evidence has been collected to show that traces of this ancientó arable mark ’may still be discovered in the land tenures, not only of the Sclavonic, but of the Teutonic race, though, as we have before bad occasion to remark, cultivation does not necessarily imply ownership. But if this theory be accepted, it proves that the system of village joint tenures is not at all peculiar to Russia. Far from having the importance which has been ascribed to it by the Russian economists, as a guide to the future of the world, it must rather be regarded as one of the earliest and least perfect forms of social life, buried in the night of the past, and appropriate only to man in his least civilised condition.t As the ideas of law, property, and freedom advanced these customs fell into desuetude ; and they only now exist in communities in which the ideas of law, property, and freedom are still wanting. If the whole question rested on the evidence of antiquity and tradition, we should say that these village communities only continue to exist in Russia, because the Russian peasantry is still the most

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Edinburgh Review, vol. cxxxiv. p. 467.

† So in a well-known passage of the De Moribus Germanorum' (cap. xxvi.) Tacitus says, ' Agri, pro numero cultorum ab universis in vices

occupantur, quos mox inter se, secundum dignationem, partiuntur: • facilitatem partiendi camporum spatia præstant. Arva per annos mu• tant, et superest ager.' The arva are the cornlands which were divided; the ager is the land about the homestead, gardens, or meadows. These peasants remind one of the campestres scythæ' and rigidi Getæ,' of whom Horace says

"Nec cultura placet longior annua; Defunctumque laboribus

Æquali recreat sorte vicarius.' For, as Professor Stubbs describes this Germanic tenure in his very learned Constitutional History' (p. 75), the original gift comes ' from the community of which the receiver is a member. The gift is

of itself mainly of the character of usufruct, the hold is ideal • rather than actual ; except in his own homestead the freeman can but

set foot on the soil and say, " This is mine this year; next year it will « " be another's, and that which is another's will be mine then!”' But at the opening of Anglo-Saxon history, absolute ownership of land in severalty was established and becoming the rule.


barbarous in Europe, not having risen even to the conception and practice of individual property and the undisturbed possession of land for agricultural purposes. British statesmen have some experience of the village communal system as it exists in India, where in some places lands have been held in commonalty from time immemorial by the villagers, and certain village officers exist whose duty it is to protect the interests of the community, more especially by the distribution of water, that essential of tropical cultivation and life. The hereditary headman and Punchayet of an Indian village is a far more rational system of local government than the Russian Mir. But it is only in very few parts of India (if at all) that the periodical mutation of land exists as in Russia ; and no one ever supposed that the system of the Indian village communities was adapted to an advanced state of civilisation.

But we dismiss these archæological considerations, which rest on very faint historical evidence, and certainly would not suffice to explain the continuance of this singular tenure of land in Russia to the present day. For this important social fact a far more practical cause may be assigned, though it is one which does not appear to have attracted the attention of Mr. Wallace. In a word, the common tenure of land has, we believe, been perpetuated in Russia mainly for fiscal purposes. As a large portion of the revenue of the Empire is drawn from a poll-tax and a tax on land, it was far more convenient to the State to deal with the village communities collectively, than to levy these taxes on the peasant individually—the more so as all the members of a village community thus became jointly and severally liable for the fiscal dues of one another. Viewed in this light the Russian Mir is not an embryo of democratic freedom and self-government, but an instrument of fiscal oppression. The State calls upon the Mir for a certain amount of taxation. The Mir apportions this taxation by the very act of apportioning the land of the community, because, as Mr. Wallace points out, the burden and the land are inseparably connected, and sometimes the burden exceeds the advantage. This liability affects all alike—those present and those absent, the industrious and the idle, the sober and the drunken, the widow and orphan who have the misfortune to hold a share of land which they cannot till, as well as the robust husbandman with half a dozen sons to cultivate it. It acts therefore with extreme inequality and injustice; but no one can change or shake off the ation; and the common interest of the Mir is constantly exercised to enforce payment of the taxes by the direct collective action of the village community on


[ocr errors]

reviewing that essay even in this country portions, correspondi township; and he he families composing t by a periodical re-dis vast deal of curious traces of this ancien the land tenures, not race, though, as we vation does not neces be accepted, it prov not at all peculiar to which has been asci guide to the future one of the earliest in the night of the least civilised condi freedom advanced t only now exist in c perty, and freedom rested on the evid say that these vil Russia, because

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

• Edinburgh Revi

† So in a well-kno xxvi.) Tacitus says, occupantur, quos

facilitatem partien * tant, et superest divided; the ager i dows. These peas

rigidi Getæ,' of

For, as Professor learned Constitu .

from the commu of itself mainly (rather than actu

set foot " " be another's, a at the opening of severalty was est:

. Ime s I migmtory, and it is JE 7 DE Dea in jumuie life who have visitet siste TASS Impus But go witere they may, the need The Mr & pre jen mi cannot be shaken et les the guarantee d' ser indicatie Sexte. It is said that the power of the over the peasantry has been greatly increased by the act or emancipation.

Mr. Wallace appears to have studied the system of village communities chiefly in the province of Norgorod, where it papusils But Ilerr Eckardt states that there are many pro Vi in Northern Russia, such as Archangel, Olone,' Wfull and Perm, where neither serfdom nor the the beauty tinke of land were general

. In the Northern proses parprit in land existed from of old, and

valente antities was first established there mer people in the FedT 1829—a fact which

mine samad Utilire & the institution for

[ocr errors]

on the


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The opinion that the Russian Mir is a real element of selfvernment by the people is, we believe, equally unfounded. i no country in the world is the entire administration so ntralised and so bureaucratic as in Russia. M. Schédoerroti speaks of 188,000 civil officers of the State, who ive to interpret and apply to every conceivable relation of te, some 50,000 rules and ordinances, emanating from the preme power of the Czar. In spite of the increased preonderance of the rural population, the government centres ntirely in the towns, which are the seat of official life and

The peasantry, says Eckardt, are a “rudis indigestaque moles,' whose leaden weight arrests all progress in the ife of the nation. “As long as the autocratic power exists, ays Mr. Wallace, 'no kind of administration can be exempted from Imperial control.'

It has been asserted that the distribution of land amongst the peasantry and the authority of the village communities are permanent barriers against the revolutionary doctrines which threaten the existence of some other States. In France, we have no doubt that the great subdivision of land is such a barrier, because every man holds his field or his vineyard in fec-simple, and would die to defend his property.

The conservative instinct of the country holds in check the revolutionary passions of the great towns. But in Russia, where no property really exists, but merely temporary possession, Herr Eckardt says positively “the spread of revolutionary ideas in • all classes of the Russian nation is an officially recognised • fact, which cannot be contested ;' and we ourselves have cognisance of a despatch issued by the Minister of the Interior to the Governor of a great province, in which he deplores the frightful extension of the secret revolutionary societies, which permcate the country. Far from believing the social state of Russia based upon these village communities to be more secure than that of the countries where the full rights of private property are recognised and protected by law, there is great reason to believe that this vast Empire contains within it illregulated forces and desires, which may lead to violent changes and convulsions. Mr. Wallace has drawn as pleasing a picture as he can of the country and the people amongst whom he has spent some agreeable years. His book has been so generally read that it would be superfluous to load our own pages by quoting the scenes he describes with so much spirit and, we have no doubt, truth. But there is another side to the question, and by way of showing what it is, we shall cite a part of a letter from a Russian country gentleman, published in 1865 VOL. CXLV. NO CCXCVIII.




the individual. The introduction and legislation of the system in its present form appears to be coeval with the establishment of serfdom in the sixteenth century. Before that time, the Russian peasant belonging to a village where land was pre-occupied, could migrate to other lands; afterwards, those peasants only became adscripti glebæ who held a certain portion of land, the Tjäglo, measured by 12-15 tchetwerts. But the peasants holding under the church, the monasteries, and the princes, held their land strictly as a private possession, analogous to copy hold. During the period of serfdom, the power of the nobles and landowners increased, but as they were responsible for the dues and service of the peasants under them, it became their interest that as population increased and migration was impossible, no peasant on whom the poll-tax was levied, should be without a portion of land, and for this purpose the periodical distribution of the village lands was encouraged. The fisc can only take cognisance of a landless peasantry through some person or association, whom the law can touch, and they are therefore compelled to put themselves in dependence on some with whom it can deal as answerable for their forthcoming. When in Russia the lord ceased to be responsible for his serfs and they became free men, as regards him, this dependence and liability was transferred to the Mir or village community, to which each peasant was bound by the obligation to hold land under it and at its pleasure. Since the abolition of serfdom, the peasant is free to seek work elsewhere ; the Sclavonic races are migratory, and it is not uncommon to meet men in humble life who have visited remote parts of the Empire. But go where they may, the power of the Mir is over them, and cannot be shaken off. It is the guarantee of their liability to the State. It is admitted that the power of the Mir over the peasantry has been greatly increased by the act of emancipation.

Mr. Wallace appears to have studied the system of village communities chiefly in the province of Novgorod, where it prevails. But Herr Eckardt states that there are many provinces in Northern Russia, such as Archangel, Olonez, Wologda, Wjatka, and Perm, where neither serfdom nor the concomitant tenure of land were general. In the Northern Dwina private property in land existed from of old, and the system of village communities was first established there by a government circular in the year 1829-a fact which throws light on the nature and utility of the institution for

fiscal purposes.

« EdellinenJatka »