Ivanovo: Ivan Baburin, IV

Ivan Baburin’s intransigence completely puzzled the Ivanovo estate administration. In the archival files he comes off as completely unconcerned with the fact that he had just decided to stop paying rent, and was therefore maintaining a presence in Ivanovo totally illegally. In reports from the administration, Baburin seems to have believed—or at least claimed—that he was totally justified in his actions. He had faithfully paid rent while using the buildings. Now that they no longer existed, he felt no need to pay for them. He also told the estate administration multiple times that he was planning on going to St. Petersburg in person to talk to Sheremetev, implying that they could work something out man to man. Of course, he told the estate administration this in 1842, claiming that he would go as soon as he got back from the Makar’ev market… and then told them the same thing in 1844, when he had not gone. Clearly, he had no intention of doing anything other than staying in Ivanovo, not paying rent, and rebuilding.

In response, the administration sent reports. And occasionally petitions. And mostly didn’t know what to do about him.

One reason for their confusion was that although the Ivanovo and central Sheremetev administrations could turn to outside authorities, those authorities themselves did not always agree, leading to even more difficulties in getting anything done. A report from 1843 claims that the administration had turned to the Provincial administration; in 1844, an agent of the main Sheremetev offices petitioned the Vladimir Governor directly. Those offices seemed sympathetic to Sheremetev and the Ivanovo administration. But they also had to turn to other offices to make things happen, and those were not as easily brought to their side. The Shuia district court and town magistracy were the nearest local bodies with jurisdiction over Ivanovo. They were much more pro-business than the provincial authorities, and were inclined to side with Baburin.

In particular, they focused on one specific development: Baburin had started to rebuild, a fact that then brought up a whole additional layer of complications. The Shuia officials believed that if Ivanovo wanted to force Baburin to leave, the village would then have to pay him back construction costs for the new buildings. This then prompted an inquiry as to how Baburin had received permission to build on the land—surely he ought not have been allowed to do so, given the arrears in his rent that had been building up? In response to this turn of events, Baburin provided witnesses to the general declaration circulated after the fire allowing those who had been burned out to rebuild. (I picture him doing so gleefully, but that probably says something about me more than Baburin.)

Eventually, Sheremetev even turned to the Senate itself for resolution of the matter, and the Senate sided with him. But even here, the larger concerns of fairness were still at play: Baburin was in the wrong, for he had reneged on his contract with Sheremetev. However, he did still own property in buildings, if not in real estate, and he had to be recompensed for that. Valuing his properties dragged on and on until the early 1850s.

And then, Baburin pulled out. In May 1852 Baburin turned to the Shuia district court, announcing that he no longer wished to live in Ivanovo (he moved to Voznesenskaia sloboda, which would be confirmed as a town the following year). He asked the court to inform Sheremetev, and to continue the process of valuing his properties so that he could be properly reimbursed. In 1854, when his initial contract ran out, he formally stated that he would not be renewing it.

It’s a bit of an anticlimactic end to the story, but then there’s one more turn of events—in 1855 Baburin again petitioned Sheremetev to purchase a piece of land in Ivanovo. And the response was… no, but I’ll rent it to you. And so he signed a new rental agreement, on a new piece of land. He did not live long enough to see that contract through, but I’m still struck by it, and by what it seems to say about the way business was done in Ivanovo. Were memories really that short, that someone who caused so much trouble only a few years before could be considered a fair person to sign a new contract with? It’s true that Sheremetev’s property was vast, and maybe there was enough turnover in his St. Petersburg office to make that possible. You’d think, though, that the Ivanovo administration would have put a warning on the request.

But I’m most struck by Baburin himself, and his complete lack of concern over what Sheremetev, or for that matter, what his fellow manufacturers, might think about him. He did what he wanted, he pushed for an interpretation of the situation that most benefitted him. And why not? He was prominent enough that he became the first mayor of Voznesenskii posad, so his intransigence didn’t bother his fellow merchants. Were they, in fact, a little jealous of his bravery, at his willingness to stand up to Sheremetev?

Sources: RGADA f. 1287, op. 5, d. 6454; d. 6577, ll. 5-6; d. 7299, ll. 1-2ob; op. 6, d. 343, ll. 4-ob; op. 5, d. 7488, ll. 1-5, 40.

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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