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ages) possesses usually two thousand acres of productive land. The crown, or imperial acre, which is employed in all public transactions, contains two thousand four hundred square sagines,* or thirteen thousand and sixty-six square yards. The common acre, which, as more convenient, is in ordinary use, contains three thousand two hundred square sagines, or seventeen thousand four hundred and twenty-two square yards. Two hundred souls are usually reckoned to furnish eighty labourers, women and men, for the wives † toil as well as their husbands. These work three days in the week for their master, who gives up to them, in return, the half of his land.
The system of agriculture is triennial, with fallows; that is to say, the land bears two crops
Each married couple receives two acres in each of the three portions; i. e. winter corn, spring crop, and fallow, into which, by this system, the arable land is divided ; so that they have in all six acres, in addition to an acre of meadow and an acre of pasture. Besides this, they have the ground for a house, garden, and outbuildings; and, by way of rent for their allotment, the peasant and his wife are required to cultivate as much for their master as they occupy themselves. The quantity of land thus apportioned to each peasant would appear enormous in any other country of Europe ; but with us it is not too much, for we do not manure our land, † and our only agricultural instruments consist in very light plough and a wooden harrow, either of them drawn with ease by a single horse. The fine season being very short, the operations of husbandry are performed with surprising activity. The vast tracts covered by abundant crops are quickly bared, and the produce is heaped up in open barns. In winter, the grain, consisting of rye (the staple food of the country), wheat, barley, oats, pease, millet, and buckwheat, is threshed, usually with the flail, but sometimes with a Scotch threshing machine; and it is then transported into the towns, sometimes to a distance of one or two hundred versts. The straw is consumed by the cattle, and is also used in the steppes, where wood is scarce, for heating the stoves. There is, however, often a surplus, which is employed to make fences for gardens, or embankments for ponds and marshes. Our roads and highways not being stoned, the immense transports of produce can, generally speaking, only be made in winter on sledges. If the transport ever takes place in summer, it is effecied by means of oxen, the keep of which costs nothing, since the road itself supplies them with pasture; for it is no less than two hundred and ten feet, or thirty sagines, wide, and all as green as a meadow. These oxen, which are seldom employed in tilling the land, but always in transporting goods, come to us from the vast steppes of the Volga and the Don, and from the Caucasus; and this periodical influx of horned beasts, which are brought in great numbers from all the confines of the empire, is the source of frequent plagues and distempers, which destroy our cattle and frustrate all our endeavours to improve the breed. Some amateur agriculturists of large fortune possess fine cattle, imported at a great expense from England and Holland; but all the profit, hitherto at least, has been absorbed by the expense and precautions * necessary
* 1 sagine
= 9 feet; and therefore, as the statute acre = 4840 yards or 43,560 feet,
1 Imperial acre (Russian) 2•7 statute acres nearly.
1 Common acre (Russian) 3.7 statute acres nearly. † Possessing bodies, though not counted as souls.
| That is to say, in the Government of Tamboff, and some other southern districts. In Russia, in general, manure is highly necessary.
for the preservation of these animals-precautions indeed which, for the generality of proprietors, and still more for the peasants, are totally out of the question. This is the reason why, with our fine pastures and apparently with all the means of having an excellent breed of horned cattle, we have nothing but poor
and miserable animals. With Merino sheep the case is
different; our wools, indeed, are not first-rate, because at present quantity is found more profitable than quality, and our cloth factories are not yet adapted for manufacturing the fine sorts of wool. The consequence is, that, while coarse wool affords to the grower an immense profit, fine wool fetches less than prime cost, and the owners of flocks of superior breeds are only paid by the sale of rams. This is an excellent state of things for extending the Merino blood and improving the breed of sheep by degrees. The ram trade is at present a very flourishing business.
* Precautions, that is to say, against the effects of the Russian climate, to which they are not mortgagee.
Now as to our horses, we must divide them into two classes —those of the gentry and those of the peasants. The gentry occupy themselves zealously and successfully with their breeding studs, upon which they spare neither expense nor trouble. The studs of the province of Tamboff are chiefly supplied by the fine stallions bred by Countess Orloff. The grand object is to produce fine powerful trotters, and in this we meet with great success. With the peasants' horses the case is quite different. They are small, of a bad breed, ill fed, and worse cared for. There is no legislative measure in existence for their improvement; the habits of the people in no way supply this deficiency, and the breed of horses of this description is utterly neglected, and is visibly growing worse. In this case, as in many others, our system of husbandry is passing through a crisis. Formerly the immense tracts of arable and pasture, and the superabundance of grain, permitted the keeping of great numbers of horses, half wild, but strong and hardy; and the remains of this stock are still to be seen in the hands of our peasants. The people, however, have not yet learned to accommodate themselves to the present state of things, now that land is scarcer and forage dearer; so that they ought to be more careful, and to bestow more attention on the breed and on the keep of their stock. Habit, and the recollec. tion of the time when they might wander for pasture far and wide, have hitherto interfered to prevent the adoption of an improved system among our peasants; but it is to be hoped that, when the origin and progress of this evil are once fairly perceived, the landed gentry and the Government will take measures to remedy it. This is the more probable, since society in Russia was never so much occupied as at present in promoting all kinds of industry, and everything connected with agriculture in particular. A movement has been lately produced which is active enough, and which may resolve itself into satisfactory results.
A few ordinary sheep, pigs, poultry of all kinds, and one or two cows, in addition to the horse, the sorry description of which we have just lamented, complete the live stock of the
peasant, and help to consume the produce of his land, which he cannot sell at any price, however low, on account of the distance of the markets. In a year of plenty, the different kinds of corn become exceedingly cheap, and are consumed with reckless improvidence, since no one thinks of laying by. And this will explain the terrible dearths which sometimes
But we will return to this subject, and treat it more at length. These dearths arise from numerous causes. With the triennial system our manner of
very simple. In the month of August we sow our winter com, viz. rye, and a small patch of wheat, having ploughed the ground twice in the course of the summer. In September, after the harvest, we prepare the ground for the spring by a light ploughing, and in the month of April, after a second ploughing, we sow it with oats, barley, pease, and millet, and a little later with buckwheat. In June we prepare the ground for the winter
crop, and begin to mow the grass, and the corn harvest begins in the middle of July, thus completing the annual routine of our husbandry.*
I must inform you that the twentieth part of our population lives in towns, and is engaged in various trades; the remainder is wholly agricultural. Every peasant, as you have seen above, cultivates for his master and himself, in addition to the fallow, eight acres of arable land, and mows two acres of meadow. Every acre in a plentiful year gives not less than ten measures called chetverts † of grain. You can judge, therefore, of the immense quantity of our produce, of which more than half remains on our hands, owing to the lowness of the price and the prodi. gality of consumption. Two or three successive years of good crops overload us to the greatest possible degree. No human force can dispose of the produce, and our storehouses are not capacious enough to contain the corn; the more so, that buildings of all kinds are very expensive with us. The natural
* It must be remembered that the seasons are reckoned in Russia according to the old style, twelve days, or nearly half a month, later than the new; so that the hay harvest does not really begin till July, or the corn harvest till August.
+ The chetvert of rye weighs six Russian poods, or 216 lbs. As a measure, 1 chetvert = 5•77 imperial bushels.
I From the scarcity of stone and wood in this part of Russia.
question then is,-why do we produce so much, and why do we not vary our productions ?-a question easy to ask, but not perhaps so easy to answer. Our peasants being once provided for by the allotment of land, being unable to read or write, and ignorant of every art but that of husbandry, time and money would be requisite to teach them and to habituate them to any other branch of industry. Now time and money are generally the very things of which landed proprietors in this country have least at their disposal. They must live, educate their children, and pay the debt to the crown. * They are always forced to dispose of their annual produce in a hurry, in order to realize the necessary sum of money; and they seldom have in any degree the means of attempting to reform their system of management. I am speaking here of people of moderate fortune. Where the property is on a great scale, the case is often still worse, and the revenue is entirely absorbed by the luxury and expenses of the capital, without any benefit to the provinces, or to agriculture.
However full of grain of all kinds our storehouses may be, it is clearly impossible, as you see, to check the production. We cannot dismiss our people when we do not want them, as if they were hired labourers; and in spite of the superabundance on hand, they must continue to produce, were it only for the sake of occupation. But since our hopes rest less on our mode of cultivation than on the fertility of the soil, and the rain from heaven, let the rain, as is not unfrequently the case, fail, or a frost in the very height of summer utterly ruin our crops ; then prices suddenly rise, and every one is in a hurry to empty his barns, and to dispose of the stock on hand. Since the case is out of the common way, no one calculates on its recurrence; but, on the contrary, the chances are always in favour of the
But suppose a second year like the former, then prices become extraordinarily high, and the most prudent profit by it, and hasten to sell their produce. Under these circumstances, let there be a third year such as the two preceding it, and you have a complete famine, the more likely to be general, since our system of husbandry and the want of
* When, as is generally the case, there is a mortgage on the estate, the Crown is the mortgagee.