Ivanovo: The Case of Ivan Baburin, Part I

The massive 1839 fire clearly caused upset among the local manufacturers of Ivanovo. They hoped to get greater recognition of their important role in the local economy, but found their proposals shut down by Sheremetev. Most seem to have accepted this, perhaps with some bad feeling, and rebuilt either locally or on purchased lands outside the village.

One of the merchants, however, continued to fight.

Ivan Aleksandrov Baburin was freed in late 1833 along with his wife, Anna Ivanova. This made him one of the last of the serfs freed during the initial burst of manumissions made by Sheremetev at the end of the 1820s and beginning of the 1830s. According to the notice sent from the St. Petersburg chancellery of the Sheremetev estates to the Ivanovo estate administration, Baburin was allowed to continue to live in Ivanovo for twenty years (counting from the beginning of 1834), and also agreed to pay “five hundred paper rubles for the lord’s income, and the same amount to the village to help the poor.”

This was a fairly standard agreement for the time, but it was unusual in one important way: Baburin agreed to pay much more than others freed around the same time. An 1843 register of freed serfs with agreements to continue living in the village makes this absolutely clear. Twenty former serfs were listed (actually slightly more than twenty, as several pairs of brothers had been freed together and were still running their business as a partnership). One, Anton Nikolaev Shodchin, was paying 300 rubles to Sheremetev and 100 to the village. Another, Nikandr Ivanov Posnikov, was paying 150 rubles to Sheremetev and 50 to the village. One pair, Petr and Nikon Mefod’ev Garelin, were paying 25 rubles to Sheremetev and the same to the village. Everyone else on the list was paying either 50 or 60 rubles to the village.

Why was Baburin stuck paying twenty times more than most of his fellow former serfs? One answer might be that his holdings were seen as more valuable—the archival files aren’t clear on that. He did promptly register as a merchant in Moscow, in the third guild, which suggests a certain ambition on his part. Ten years later, at the time the 1843 table was drawn up, he had moved up to the first guild, so he was successful, too. A person by the last name of Baburin, a Moscow first guild merchant, applied for honored citizen status in 1846. In order to claim that status, a merchant had to have maintained his position in the first guild for ten years (or in the second guild for twenty years) without any untoward legal entanglements. This was definitely our Ivan Aleksandrov Baburin–records from the ninth census revision (1851) show him listed as an hereditary honored citizen of Moscow, still paying for trading rights as a first guild merchant, age 53, widowed (his wife Anna Ivanova died in 1843) with a daughter, Anna, aged 14. This move also reflected his consistent success.

Clip of Baburin's entry in the 1851 census records later compiled as a history of the Moscow Merchantry.

Clip of Baburin’s entry in the 1851 census records later compiled as a history of the Moscow Merchantry.

It may also be a question of timing. The other nineteen names or pairs listed on the register were all freed between 1828 and 1831. Baburin alone was freed in late 1833. It is very clear that Ivanovo’s serfs were not happy to have lost a large number of their wealthiest members. At some point after the first burst of manumissions, they produced a list of the recently freed serfs along with an accounting of how much money they had been contributing to communal obrok payments. (I write they, and it is unclear who exactly that “they” is–the Ivanovo administration? Serfs meeting at the skhod?) The amount was staggering—because each of the individuals paid for multiple tiagla (work units) worth of obrok payments, ranging from 3 tiagla up to 40, the serfs now had to come up with 6615 rubles a year in obrok payments that had formerly been covered by these wealthy former serfs. The list ended with a final note: “these 6,615 rubles fell on the poor peasants who have been harshly punished for non-payment by the society, and they, finding themselves insolvent, and from time to time with arrears, fall into despair, and even into thievery and drunkenness.”

That file is undated, but it almost certainly was produced between the mass of manumissions in 1828-31 and the time I. A. Baburin was freed in 1833—because although his name is not on the list, nearly all of the other names on the 1843 list do appear. Or, if they do not, someone who could clearly be the father or in one case husband of one of the 1843 merchants is on the other list. Perhaps this list and this lament caused real change in the way Sheremetev handled manumission? If so, then perhaps Baburin was forced to agree to much larger payments to the village (and, while he was at it, to Sheremetev) than those freed just two years before? That would certainly make sense of another part of the 1843 register: no one was manumitted after Baburin until 1837 and 1838, when another thirteen serfs were freed and continued to run factories in the village. These men and one woman all had a different arrangement, one that likely only partially assuaged the demands of the Ivanovo serfs: they were to pay “for two bodies, on par with the peasants.”

There, then, was Baburin at the end of the 1830s. He had been freed and was running an apparently successful business. But he was stuck with an agreement with Sheremetev that must have seemed distinctly worse than those of his fellow former serfs, now local businessmen. That must have rankled, at least on some level. And so, the fire and the costs of recovery became the spark, as it were, for a low-key, but effective, protest.

Sources: RGADA f. 1287, op. 6, d. 343, l. 1, Baburin’s 1833 manumission; RGADA f. 1287, op. 5, d. 6577, ll. 5-6, the 1843 register of former serfs in the village; TsIAM f. 2, op. 1, d. 2709, probably his registry as a Moscow merchant; RGIA f. 1343, op. 39, d. 256, his registry as an honored citizen; Materialy dlia istorii Moskovskogo kupechestva, vol. 8 (Moscow: M. G. Volchaninov, 1889), 303, for his 1851 census records; PSZ II, vol. 7, no. 5284 (April 10, 1832), the law establishing honored citizenship; RGADA f. 1287, op. 5, d. 5674, the undated list of freed serfs along with their former dues.

About Alison Smith

Professor, University of Toronto, Department of History; Author of For the Common Good and Their Own Well-Being: Social Estates in Imperial Russia (Oxford University Press, 2014)
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