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Text 7B

Changes in Russian Cadastre


An epoch of Peter I is a turning point in the Russian history. But the character of the changes is more difficult to be defined. The well-known view of Petеr's reign as westernization, the turn from Asian, stagnant, introspective Moscow Rus towards the Europe of the New Ages does not reflect the whole picture. The European influence was great indeed, but something in the nature of the Russian state the Great Reformer left does not allow considering it European in full sense of the word.

The historical studies at the beginning of the XXI st century showed that there had been much in common between the social institutions of Middle Ages Moscow Rus and Western Europe, especially in the social organization of rural parish. Russian philosophers of the XIX th century stated that a totally original character of pre-Petrine Russian culture, society and state had greatly differed from the European ones. The reasons for it can be seen either in endless forestry plains of ancient Russia or in specific character of Orthodox faith.

The first Emperor of Russia had been responsible for the start of magnificent projects of state building, imperial ideology and merciless way of bringing all this into practice. Some authors tried to justify the cruel methods, which were too well known to him. Such interpretation of the history was more or less appreciated by the official ideology.

One could understand the desire to reexamine the epoch of Peter the Great today, when the same facts could be seen as different in the mirror of current changes in Russia. Certainly, the historical facts of this period had been already carefully studied, though important archival documents and facts could be discovered yet.

Comparing the Russian cadastral surveys of the XVI-XVII th centuries with those of the XVIII th century one can follow the changes in the nature and purposes of the cadastre. The XVI-XVII th centuries "pistsovye knigi" have changed into documents and maps of land and forest cadastres and few other geographical surveys of cadastral character in the XVIII-th century.

Land tax had been replaced with poll tax. Despite this old feudal system remained untouched and the Moscow government continued to collect statistical descriptions of its principality in order to check the fulfillment of vassals dues and for distribution of empty lands. The last important action of the Administration of Estates of that period had been the Total Bordering (Valovoie Mezhevanie) which examined all administrative units of contemporary Moscow tsardom. For the first time the aim was set of state bordering and not only of measuring. It was connected with transformation of farming system with the stable borders of parcels and estates. At the same time this aim showed the new level of geographical knowledge and demand.

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Text 7C

Peter's reforms


Before Peter the Great land relations in the Moscow state did not lose its feudal nature. It means tight mutual dependence of central government, peasantry, aristocracy, nobility, dependence of Moscow from the economic development of the territories and prosperity of all estates, elements of self-governing of administrative units. A kind of legal treaty between the tsar and landlords formed the basement of the civil and military service and financial system. All this is an indirect evidence of classes representative system – a kind of feudal "democracy". This was the system replaced by the tsar-reformer.

Peter's reforms meant the end of the old order. State building projects of Peter I, his political and economic projects, building of navy and re-organization of the army, mining and industry development, studying of the natural waterways and projects of channels – all this caused the centralization of power, unknown before. The old order of state and military service were unable to satisfy the growing demands for qualified and numerous authorities corresponding to the complexity of the aims of the reign. But one of the main things was the impossibility of feudal system to answer the increasing demand for civil and military staff due to the decreasing land resources, which served as the "payment" for state service earlier. Politically weak vassal and tax classes were unable to resist the energy of the tsar.

The state economy, pressed by necessity of urgent changes, increased day by day. Practically all economic projects (including military) had been based on the rich resources belonging to the state or quasi-state enterprises with forests, mines and slaves enclosed to them, such as baron Stroganov's tremendous estate in Siberia or - some time later – Demidov's iron plants in Ural mountains. The demand for natural resources was growing constantly. The forests were to satisfy the needs of navy and metallurgic industry, peasantry should also serve as a resource for magnificent state building. Peter's conception of modernization did not care about the majority of Russians. The rights of the classes had been strongly restricted, the basement of common rights regulating the relations between vassals and supreme power decreased. The development of serfdom and growing pressure of peasant commons against the individuals is often seen as the result of Peter's reform.

It is obvious that Peter's reforms have raised from the urgent demands of state management during the war. Peter I had no definite concept of "westernization". One can hardly believe that this practically-minded man could be interested in the largely abstract ideas of introducing the foreign culture as well as different social, administrative and management methods.


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