Obshchina (Russian: общи́на, IPA: [ɐpˈɕːinə], literally "commune") or mir (Russian: мир, literally "society", among other meanings), or selskoye obshchestvo (Russian: сельское общество, "rural community", official term in the 19th and 20th century; Ukrainian: сільське товариство, romanizedsil's'ké tovarystvo), were peasant village communities as opposed to individual farmsteads, or khutors, in Imperial Russia. The term derives from the word obshchiy (Russian: о́бщий, literally "common").

The vast majority of Russian peasants held their land in communal ownership within a mir community which acted as a village government and a cooperative. Arable land was divided in sections based on soil quality and distance from the village. Each household had the right to claim one or more strips from each section depending on the number of adults in the household. The purpose of this allocation was not so much social (to each according to his needs) as it was practical (that each person pay his taxes). Strips were periodically re-allocated on the basis of a census to ensure equitable share of the land. This was enforced by the state which had an interest in the ability of households to pay their taxes.


A detailed statistical description of the Russian village commune was provided by Alexander Ivanovich Chuprov. Communal land ownership of the mir predated serfdom, surviving emancipation and the Russian Revolution). Until the abolition of serfdom in 1861, the mir could either contain serfs or free peasants. In the first case, lands reserved for serf use were assigned to the mir for allocation by the proprietor.

Even after the 1861 emancipation of the serfs, a peasant in his everyday work normally had little independence from obshchina, governed at the village level (mir) by the full assembly of the community (skhod). Among its duties were control and redistribution of the common land and forest (if such existed), levying recruits for military service and imposing punishments for minor crimes. Obshchina was also held responsible for taxes underpaid by members. This type of shared responsibility was known as krugovaya poruka, although the exact meaning of this expression has changed over time and now in Russian it has a negative meaning of mutual cover-up.

In 1905, repartitional tenure did not exist in the Baltic provinces, but it was used by a quarter of western and southwestern (i.e. Ukrainian) peasants, two thirds of steppe peasants and 96.9% elsewhere.[1]

The institution was effectively destroyed by the Stolypin agrarian reforms (1906–1914), the implementation of which would lead to the Russian Revolution and subsequent collectivization in the Soviet Union.


KorovinS NaMiru
Obshchina Gathering by Sergei Korovin

The organization of the peasant mode of production is the primary cause for the type of social structure found in the obshchina. The relationship between the individual peasant, the family and the community leads to a specific social structure categorized by the creation of familial alliances to apportion risks between members of the community. In the obshchina, alliances were formed primarily through marriage and common descent of kin. Usually, the eldest members of the household made up the mir to govern the redistribution of land. The families came together to form a community that depended on making taxes more equitable and the concept of mutual help. Jovan E. Howe writes: "The economic relations so established are essentially distributive: through various categories of exchanges of both products and labor, temporary imbalances such as those occasioned by insufficient labor power of a newly-established family unit or a catastrophic loss, which places one unit at an unfair reproductive disadvantage in relation to its allies, are evened out".[2] In addition, the alliance system had residual communal rights, sharing exchanges during shortages as well as certain distributive exchanges. Furthermore, the structure defined by these alliances and risk-sharing measures were regulated by scheduling and the ritualization of time. Howe writes that "the traditional calendar of the Russian peasants was a guide for day-to-day living. The names attached to calendar dates, the calendrical periods into which they were grouped, the day on the week on which each fell, and the sayings connected with them encoded information about when to undertake tasks, but also about when not to work, when it was necessary to perform symbolic actions, take part in rituals and compulsory celebrations".[3]

Peasants (i.e. three-quarters of the population of Russia) formed a class apart,[4] largely excepted from the incidence of the ordinary law and governed in accordance with their local customs. The mir itself, with its customs, is of immemorial antiquity, but it was not until the 1861 emancipation of the serfs that the village community was withdrawn from the patrimonial jurisdiction of the landowning nobility and endowed with self-government. The assembly of the mir consists of all the peasant householders of the village.[5] These elect a Village Elder (starosta) and a collector of taxes who was responsible, at least until the ukaz of October 1906 which abolished communal responsibility for the payment of taxes, for the repartition among individuals of the taxes imposed on the commune. A number of mirs are united into a volost which has an assembly consisting of elected delegates from the mirs.

The mir was protected from insolvency by the rule that the families cannot be deprived of their houses or implements necessary for agriculture; nor can the mir be deprived of its land.

View on obshchinas

The mir or obshchina became a topic in political philosophy with the publication of August von Haxthausen's book in 1847. It was in the mid-19th century that Slavophiles discovered the mir. Romantic nationalists and the Slavophiles hailed the mir as a purely Russian collective, both ancient and venerable; free from what they considered the stain of the bourgeois mindset found in western Europe. Not surprisingly, it was but a short step from this to the mir being used as a basis for Slavophilic idealist theories concerning communism, communalism, communal lands, history, progress and the nature of mankind itself.[6]

By the second half of the 19th century, the Slavophiles were challenged by the opposing Western faction. Boris Chicherin, a leading spokesman for the Western school, argued that the mir was neither ancient nor particular to Russia. The mir, the Western school argued, had arisen in the late 17th to early 18th century and was not based on some sort of social contract or communal instinct. Rather, it was a monarchical creation, created and enforced for the purpose of tax collection. Whatever the merits of either case, both schools agreed that the landlord and the state both played a vital role in the development (if not the origin of) the mir:

Where (arable) land is scarce, the communal form of tenure tends to prevail, but where ever it (arable land) is abundant it is replaced by household or even family tenue.[7]

The 19th-century Russian philosophers attached signal importance to obshchina as a unique feature distinguishing Russia from other countries. Alexander Herzen, for example, hailed this pre-capitalist institution as a germ of the future socialist society. His Slavophile opponent Aleksey Khomyakov regarded obshchina as symbolic of the spiritual unity and internal co-operation of Russian society and worked out a sophisticated "Philosophy of Obshchina" which he called sobornost.

The European socialist movement looked to this arrangement as evidence that Russian peasants had a history of socialization of property and lacked bourgeois impulses toward ownership:

Russia is the sole European country where the "agricultural commune" has kept going on a nationwide scale up to the present day. It is not the prey of a foreign conqueror, as the East Indies, and neither does it lead a life cut off from the modern world. On the one hand, the common ownership of land allows it to transform individualist farming in parcels directly and gradually into collective farming, and the Russian peasants are already practising it in the undivided grasslands; the physical lie of the land invites mechanical cultivation on a large scale; the peasant’s familiarity with the contract of artel facilitates the transition from parcel labour to cooperative labour; and, finally, Russian society, which has so long lived at his expense, owes him the necessary advances for such a transition. On the other hand, the contemporaneity of western production, which dominates the world market, allows Russia to incorporate in the commune all the positive acquisitions devised by the capitalist system without passing through its Caudine Forks [i.e. undergo humiliation in defeat].[8]

See also


  1. ^ Robinson, Geroid T. (1932). Rural Russia Under the Old Regime: A History of the Landlord-Peasant World and a Prologue to the Peasant Revolution of 1917. p. 120.
  2. ^ Howe, Jovan E. (1991). The Peasant Mode of Production. University of Tampere. p. 25.
  3. ^ Howe, Jovan E. (1991). The Peasant Mode of Production. University of Tampere. p. 40.
  4. ^ Until the ukaz of 18 October 1906, the peasant class was stereotyped under the electoral law. No peasant, however rich, could qualify for a vote in any but the peasants' electoral colleges. The ukaz allowed peasants with the requisite qualifications to vote as landowners. At the same time, the Senate interpreted the law so as to exclude all but heads of families actually engaged in farming from the vote for the Duma.
  5. ^ None but peasants—not even the noble-landowner—has a voice in the assembly of the mir.
  6. ^ Brodskii, N. L.; Rannie Slavianofily, Rannie (ed.) (1910). Moscow. p. LIII.
  7. ^ Pipes, Richard (1974). Russia Under the Old Regime. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 18.
  8. ^ Marx, Karl (1881). First Draft of Letter to Vera Zasulich.


External links

Alexander Ivanovich Chuprov

Alexander Ivanovich Chuprov (Александр Иванович Чупров; 1841–1908) was a professor of political economy and statistics at Moscow University whose lectures provided the standard introduction to economics for late 19th-century Russian students.

Chuprov's father was an Orthodox priest based in Mosalsk. Alexander attended the Law Department of the Moscow University where he became interested in Wilhelm Roscher's research. He founded the Moscow Society to Disseminate Technical Knowledge in 1869 and was elected into the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1887.

Chuprov has been described as the founder of transport economics and the multiple-factor analysis of economic regions. In his landmark work The Railway Economy (1875–78) he analyzed statistics on railway traffic. He distinguished one region from another according to "the value of the market, the cost of transportation, and demographic indicators".Chuprov became known as "the heart and soul" of zemstvo statistical investigations and sample surveys in the Russian Empire. His researchers are said to have interviewed 4.5 million Russian muzhiks. Their mission was to provide a modern statistical description of the Russian peasant commune, or obschina. Chuprov viewed the Russian obshchina as a valuable social institution which should be preserved.

Chuprov was a lifelong friend of another prominent statistician, Ivan Yanzhul. One of his students at the Moscow University was Wassily Kandinsky. His son Alexander A. Chuprov (1874–1926) is said to have given "much impetus to statistics in pre-revolutionary Russia".

Alexander Koshelev

Alexander Ivanovich Koshelev (Russian: Александр Иванович Кошелев, 21 May 1806, – 24 November 1883) was a Russian journalist, publicist, publisher and state official.

A staunch Slavophile, Koshelyov published numerous essays, mostly on economics. In the late 1850s he authored one of the several alternative land reform projects which the Russian government had to consider before embarking upon the Emancipation reform of 1861.

In 1856 Koshelev started publishing the magazine Russkaya Beseda and two years later became its editor. Later he published the Moscow journals Beseda (1871—1872, edited by Sergey Yuriev) and (in 1880—1882) Zemstvo (edited by Vasily Skalon), both projecting the Slavophile views upon the agricultural issues and supporting the concept of obshchina as a true foundation for the Russian rural community.Koshelev worked for several governmental offices, in the Moscow and Ryazan Governorates, but also in Poland (then part of the Russian Empire), specializing in finances, bank systems and economics. He was the President of the Moscow Agricultural Society and was regularly (in 1863—1865; 1869—1872; 1873—1876; 1881—1884) elected a glasnyy for the Moscow City Duma.Koshelev's memoirs came out posthumously in Berlin, his widow Olga Fyodorovna being wary of the possibility of the Russian censors mangling the text.

Carl Andreas Koefoed

Carl Andreas Koefoed (known in Russian as Андре́й Андре́евич Кофо́д, Andrey Andreyevich Kofod; 16 October 1855, Skanderborg, Denmark – 7 February 1948, Copenhagen) was a Danish agronomist active in the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. He was the brother of Danish chemist Emil Koefoed.

Koefoed emigrated to Russia at the age of 23, where he used his training in agronomy to work on agrarian reform. He came to play an important role in the Stolypin reform, an attempt to overhaul the traditional obshchina form of agriculture.When the October Revolution and the subsequent Russian Civil War broke out in 1917, Koefoed fled via the Trans-Siberian Railroad, eventually returning to Denmark.In 1909, he was made a knight in the Danish Order of the Dannebrog. In 1925, he was awarded the Order's Cross of Honor, and in 1932, he was named Commander Second Class in the Order. In 1946, he published his memoir under the title 50 Aar i Rusland (Fifty Years in Russia).

He is buried in Solbjerg Park Cemetery in Copenhagen.


A commune (the French word appearing in the 12th century from Medieval Latin communia, meaning a large gathering of people sharing a common life; from Latin communis, things held in common) is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, often having common values and beliefs, as well as shared property, possessions, resources, and, in some communes, work, income or assets.

In addition to the communal economy, consensus decision-making, non-hierarchical structures and ecological living have become important core principles for many communes. There are many contemporary intentional communities all over the world, a list of which can be found at the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC).

Community of the Lippovan Russians in Romania

The Community of the Lippovan Russians in Romania (Romanian: Comunitatea Rușilor Lipoveni din România, CRL; Russian: Община русских-липован Румынии, Obshchina Russkikh-Lipovan Rumynii) is an ethnic minority political party in Romania representing the Lipovan community.

Free Economic Society

Free Economic Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture and Husbandry (Russian: Вольное экономическое общество) was Russia's first learned society which formally did not depend on the government and as such came to be regarded as a bulwark of Russian liberalism.


A khutor (Russian: ху́тор, IPA: [ˈxutər]) or khutir (Ukrainian: ху́тiр, khutir, pl. ху́тори, khutory) is a type of rural locality in some countries of Eastern Europe; in the past the term mostly referred to a single-homestead settlement. The term can be translated as "hamlet".They existed in Cossack-settled lands that encompassed today's Ukraine, Kuban, and the lower Don river basin while in Kuban and Don region the word khutor was also used to describe new settlements (irrespective of the number of homesteads) which had detached themselves from stanitsas. In some Cossack communities, these types of settlements were referred to as posyólok or sélyshche. In Russia the term "выселки" (vyselki, literally, "those who moved away") was also used. Khutor remains the official designation of many Russian villages in these regions.

During the Stolypin reforms in the Russian empire, Peter Stolypin envisaged rich peasants "privatising" their share of the community (obshchina or tovarystvo) lands, leaving the obshchinas, and settling in khutors on their now individually owned land. A less radical concept was that of an otrub (отруб) or vidrub: a section of formerly obshchina land, whose owner has left the obshchina but still continued to live in the village and to "commute" to his land. By 1910 the share of khutors and otrubs among all rural households in the European part of Russia was estimated at 10.5%. These were practically eliminated during the collectivisation in the USSR.

Ludwig Slonimsky

Ludwig Zinovievich Slonimsky (Polish: Leonid Ludwik Słonimski, Russian: Леонид-Людвиг Зиновьевич Слонимский, 1 November 1849 —1918) was a Warsaw-born Jewish Russian journalist, publicist, economist and lawyer, the son of Hebrew scientist and publisher Hayyim Selig Slonimski.

Nikolay Mikhaylovsky

Nikolay Konstantinovich Mikhaylovsky (Russian: Никола́й Константи́нович Михайло́вский) (27 November [O.S. 15 November] 1842, Meshchovsk–10 February [O.S. 28 January] 1904, Saint Petersburg) was a Russian literary critic, sociologist, writer on public affairs, and one of the theoreticians of the Narodniki movement.


In the Russian Empire, snokhachestvo (Russian: снохачество, lit. 'daughter-in-law privileges') referred to sexual relations between a pater familias (bolshak) of a Russian peasant household (dvor) and his daughter-in-law (snokha) during the minority or absence of his son.

With a view to attracting additional workers to the household, marriages in rural Russia were frequently contracted when the groom was six or seven years old. During her husband's minority, the bride often had to tolerate advances of her assertive father-in-law. For example, in the middle of the 19th century in Tambov Governorate 12-13 year old boys were often married to 16-17 year old girls. The boys' fathers used to arrange such marriages to take advantage of their sons' lack of experience. Snokhachestvo entailed conflicts in the family and put moral pressure on the mother-in-law, who usually treated her son's wife as a rival for her own husband's affections.

Snokachestvo was considered incestuous by the Russian Orthodox Church and unseemly by the obshchina, the rural community. Legally it was considered a form of rape and was punished with fifteen to twenty lashes. Understandably, cases of snokhachestvo were not publicized and the crime remained latent, making it difficult to assess its true extent in the Russian Empire.

One of the first Russian writers to decry snokhachestvo, describing it as a form of "sexual debasement," was Alexander Radishchev, who saw it as an outgrowth of Russian serfdom. In the 19th century, its resurgence was fueled by obligatory conscription and "the seasonal departure of young men for work outside the village."Snokhachestvo remained relatively widespread even after the abolition of serfdom in 1861. Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, a jurist, resented the fact that "nowhere it seems, except Russia, has at least one form of incest assumed the character of an almost normal everyday occurrence, designated by the appropriate technical term." The Narodnik writer Gleb Uspensky, while deploring the plight of young peasant women, sympathized with "the emotional and physical needs of the mature peasant man."


Sobornost (Russian: Собо́рность, IPA: [sɐˈbornəstʲ] "Spiritual community of many jointly living people") is a term coined by the early Slavophiles, Ivan Kireyevsky and Aleksey Khomyakov, to underline the need for co-operation between people, at the expense of individualism, on the basis that the opposing groups focus on what is common between them. Khomyakov believed the West was progressively losing its unity because it was embracing Aristotle and his defining individualism. Kireyevsky believed that Hegel and Aristotle represented the same ideal of unity.

Khomyakov and Kireyevsky originally used the term sobor to designate co-operation within the Russian obshchina, united by a set of common convictions and Eastern Orthodox values, as opposed to the cult of individualism in the West. The term "sobor" in Russian has multiple co-related meanings: a "sobor" is the diocesan bishop's "cathedral church"; a "sobor" is also a churchly "gathering" or "assemblage" or "council" reflecting the concept of the Church as an "ecclesium" (ἐκκλησία); in secular civil Russian historical usage is the national "Zemsky Sobor" and various "local/местное" landed or urban "sobors". Khomyakov's concept of the "catholicity" of the Church as "universality", in contrast to that of Rome, reflects the perspective from the root-meaning of the word "liturgy" (λειτουργία), meaning "work of the gathered people".

Spontaneous order

Spontaneous order, also named self-organization in the hard sciences, is the spontaneous emergence of order out of seeming chaos. It is a process in social networks including economics, though the term "self-organization" is more often used for physical changes and biological processes, while "spontaneous order" is typically used to describe the emergence of various kinds of social orders from a combination of self-interested individuals who are not intentionally trying to create order through planning. The evolution of life on Earth, language, crystal structure, the Internet and a free market economy have all been proposed as examples of systems which evolved through spontaneous order.Spontaneous orders are to be distinguished from organizations. Spontaneous orders are distinguished by being scale-free networks, while organizations are hierarchical networks. Further, organizations can be and often are a part of spontaneous social orders, but the reverse is not true. Further, while organizations are created and controlled by humans, spontaneous orders are created, controlled, and controllable by no one. In economics and the social sciences, spontaneous order is defined as "the result of human actions, not of human design".Spontaneous order is an equilibrium behavior between self-interested individuals, which is most likely to evolve and survive, obeying the natural selection process "survival of the likeliest".


The starost or starosta (Cyrillic: старост/а, Latin: capitaneus, German: Starost, Hauptmann) is a Slavic term denoting a community elder whose role was to administer the assets of a clan or family estates. The Slavic root of starost translates as "senior". Since the Middle Ages, it has meant an official in a leadership position in a range of civic and social contexts throughout the Slavic world. In terms of a municipality, a starosta was historically a senior royal administrative official, equivalent to the County Sheriff or the outdated Seneschal, and analogous to a gubernator. In Poland, a starosta would administer crown territory or a delineated district called a starostwo.In the early Middle Ages, the starosta could head a settled urban or rural community or other communities, such as a church starosta, or a artel starosta, etc. The starosta also functioned as the master of ceremonies in traditional Carpatho-Rusyn, Ukrainian, and Polish weddings, similar to the stari svat (стари сват) at Serbian weddings.


Starshina (Russian: старшина, IPA: [stərʂɨˈna] (listen)) is a senior non-commissioned rank or designation in the military forces of some Slavic states. In army terminology, a Starshina is either an appointment roughly equivalent to "Company Sergeant Major" or a rank equal to a NATO OR-8. In naval terminology, Starshina is a general term for junior and middle-ranking non-commissioned officers, similar in usage to "Petty Officer".

The word originates from the Slavic word старший, starshij ("STAR-shee"), (lit. "older, more senior", from старый staryj "old")

Stolypin reform

The Stolypin agrarian reforms were a series of changes to Imperial Russia's agricultural sector instituted during the tenure of Pyotr Stolypin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister). Most, if not all, of these reforms were based on recommendations from a committee known as the "Needs of Agricultural Industry Special Conference," which was held in Russia between 1901–1903 during the tenure of Minister of Finance Sergei Witte.

Two-stage theory

The two-stage theory, or stagism, is a Marxist–Leninist political theory which argues that underdeveloped countries such as Tsarist Russia must first pass through a stage of capitalism before moving to a socialist stage.Stagism was applied to countries worldwide which had not passed through the capitalist stage. In the Soviet Union, the two-stage theory was opposed by the Trotskyist theory of permanent revolution.

While the discussion on stagism focuses on the Russian Revolution, Maoist theories such as New Democracy tend to apply a two-stage theory to struggles elsewhere.


A zadruga (Cyrillic: Задруга, pronounced [ˈzâːdruɡa]) refers to a type of rural community historically common among South Slavs. The term has been used by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia to designate their attempt at collective farming after World War II.

Originally, generally formed of one extended family or a clan of related families, the zadruga held its property, herds and money in common, with usually the oldest (patriarch) member ruling and making decisions for the family, though at times he would delegate this right at an old age to one of his sons.

Because the zadruga was based on a patrilocal system, when a girl married, she left her parents' zadruga and joined that of her husband. Within the zadruga, all of the family members worked to ensure that the needs of every other member were met.

The zadruga eventually went into decline beginning in the late 19th century, as the largest started to become unmanageable and broke into smaller zadrugas or formed villages. However, the zadruga system continues to color life in the Balkans; the typically intense concern for family found among South Slavs even today is partly due to centuries of living in the zadruga system. Many modern-day villages in the Balkans have their roots in a zadruga, a large number of them carrying the name of the one that founded them.

Villages and neighbourhoods that originated from zadrugas can often be recognized by the patronymic suffixes, such as -ivci, -evci, -ovci, -inci, -ci, -ane, -ene, etc., on their names.

This type of traditional, village style cooperation is very similar to a late 19th-century Russian system called obshchina.

Today, in Croatia word "zadruga" is the name for legal subject which can be registered by any person over 18 years of age.It has been debated whether the zadruga was actually as common historically as once assumed. Recent works have pointed out that the word zadruga itself originated only in 1818 and the scarcity of evidence for historical zadrugas.


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