Taxes throughout Russian history

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Taxes throughout Russian history

Government regulations against the monasteries



Vydubitsky monastery at Kyev

In the first centuries of its existence, the Church needed state support, and therefore the state did not levy any taxes on the Church, but, on the contrary, financed it. The church was exempt from various kinds of state taxes, but the situation changed with the beginning of the reign of Peter I.

Strict regulations were immediately made and enforced against the monasteries, which at that time were numerous and very rich. There were then in Russia 557 monasteries and convents, three of which — the Abramief at Rostov, the Vydubitsky at Kyev, and the Peryn at Novgorod — were founded at the end of the tenth century. Their number increased rapidly, as both princes, nobles and rich merchants vied in giving privileges or granting lands to monasteries, for the welfare of their souls. In the seventeenth century as many as 220 had been founded. As a consequence of possessing landed property, the monasteries owned very many peasants as well. In some cases, the rights of the monasteries over their lands and serfs seemed anterior to any known laws and charters. They were part of the common law, and in many cases were exceptions to the general laws of the land. The richest of all the monasteries - the Troitsa near Moscow - possessed 20,394 peasant houses. The Patriarch had as his own official property 8,842 peasant houses. The Metropolitan of Rostof had about four thousand four hundred houses. In general, the monastic clergy in 1700 owned as many as 130,000 peasant houses, and on an inquiry made in 1723 it was found that 151 monasteries in and near Moscow possessed 242,198 male serfs. By successive decrees, the Department of Monasteries was empowered to take possession of and manage all the property of the monasteries, and "in order to enable the monks and nuns better to fulfil their religious duties", it was decided to give a fixed sum for their support to the inmates of each monastery, and to devote the remainder to the support of the poor monasteries which had no property, and to general works of charity. This was therefore practically a measure of confiscation. The annual amount for the support of the monks was fixed at ten rubles and ten quarters of grain for each person, with an indefinite supply of wood for fuel. In 1705, after an inquiry into the old account books of the monasteries, this amount was reduced to five rubles and five quarters of grain.



Make up the summary of the text using the questions to organize your answer:

1. Were Russian monasteries really rich?

2. Why were strict regulations made and enforced against the monasteries?

3. With which purpose did princes, nobles and rich merchants give privileges or lands to monasteries?

4. Which government body confiscated all the property of the monasteries?

5. What measures were provided to support the monks?


Vocabulary notes

enforce                               обеспечивать соблюдение

convent                              монастырь

nobles                                дворяне

vie                                     соперничать

welfare of their souls         спасение их душ

serfs                                   крепостные

common law                      общее право

inquiry                               расследование

inmate                               обитатель

works of charity                акты благотворительности


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