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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

Ivanovo: Manumission

As I’ve spent time reading files and writing about Ivanovo, one of the things I’ve wondered about is how exactly the spate of manumissions that first created this odd part-serf/part-industrial society happened. Obviously it happened when a group of serfs gained their manumission, but that’s not actually a simple thing. Manumission was not in general an unknown part of serf life, and a number of accounts of Ivanovo note that the Ivanovo serf E. I. Grachev had received his freedom back in 1802. But that had been a single instance of manumission, and since then Ivanovo had been developing into a major textile center without additional cases over the next two decades. Then, suddenly, in the middle of the 1820s, something changed, as a dozen or so serfs gained their freedom over the course of just a couple of years. The short time period in which this number of serfs gained their freedom is still a clear sign of some specific event.

Part of the answer to this question almost certainly has to do with something that has nothing to do with Ivanovo itself: Sheremetev’s age. Born in 1803, and orphaned just a couple of years later, he only gained control of his estates from his guardians in the middle of the 1820s. Before then, he had just barely begun to think of manumitting serfs. In 1819, his former wetnurse, Anna Danilova, and her family, were granted freedom through Sheremetev’s personal desire. This was an isolated incident, though, and because at that point he was still a minor, Emperor Alexander himself had to approve the manumission.

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Historiography Imperial Russia Ivanovo Research & Practice

Motivations

I have a memory from graduate school of driving up to Northwestern University to hear a talk by Sheila Fitzpatrick. This is a little bit odd because I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, and therefore had ample opportunity to hear Sheila speak. I know I went with my friend and fellow graduate student Jenifer Stenfors, and I think it was the lure of a day, or at least an afternoon, away from school playing hooky, or so it felt, that was the real pull. I remember stopping in at the Bahai temple on the way, still the only time I’ve been in that space, and being struck by the contrast between its opulent exterior and the very ordinary chairs scattered about its interior. Even there, I’m not sure of why we stopped—had we planned it, or were we running ahead of time and decided to stop, on a whim? (And, in fact, I now realize, looking it up to give a link, that it is not on the way, but past Northwestern, and so we had to have made some decision about going there.)

At the talk Sheila said something—or at least, I remember her saying something—that has stuck with me ever since. This would have been sometime between 1995 and 1997, and so Stalin’s Peasants had recently come out and Sheila must have been working on Everyday Stalinism. My memory is that Sheila mentioned that she was thinking of writing a book that looked at the relationship between Stalin and Molotov—clearly an early version of the project that became On Stalin’s Team—and that one of the reasons the idea appealed to her was that as a social historian she was constantly seeing little bits of people’s lives, but only little bits, never a full story, never people you could really know. In contrast, focusing on just a couple of figures, and well documented figures, to boot, would let her get to know these people in a way that writing social history didn’t allow.

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

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.

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

Ivanovo: Ivan Baburin, III

The story I’ve set up so far has three elements: first, a huge fire that caused massive damage to the village, and perhaps particularly to the merchant entrepreneurs and their economic interests; second, a lingering issue over land tenure based in the terms of most of the local merchants’ manumission; and third, the specific ways one particular merchant, Ivan Baburin, interacted with his former owner and his former fellow serfs.

At first, in the aftermath of the fire, Baburin tried to use the good relationship he had built with the larger village community to his advantage. In early 1840 (so, the year after the fire), he petitioned Sheremetev asking to have his rental agreement renegotiated. As he put it, ever since his manumission he had been faithfully paying 1,000 rubles each year for use of the factories he had built.  Now, though, after the fire, he was faced with a problem: he had to rebuild, and this was going to be extremely expensive. Given that he had even gone beyond the requirements of his manumission agreement, acting in the best interests of the local community by doing things like building a bridge for general use, he asked, could Sheremetev and the estate management see fit to reduce his yearly dues until he had rebuilt and was once again manufacturing at full capacity.

Baburin hoped that the good relationship he had built with the local peasants would stand him in good stead, and lead them to recommend leniency. He was soon disappointed. The peasants of Ivanovo met at a skhod to discuss his case, but although they claimed to sympathize with Baburin, they argued that the fire hadn’t hurt his trade enough to warrant a reduction in his annual payments to the estate. As a result, they reported to the Sheremetev administration that Baburin ought to be held to the terms of his original agreement, and the administration agreed.

If that had been where the matter ended, this wouldn’t be much of a story. But instead, a couple of things happened that make this case interesting: first, how Baburin reacted, and second, what the Sheremetev estate was then able to do in response. First, Baburin engaged in what was essentially an act of civil disobedience: he stopped paying his dues. And second, despite the vaunted power of Russia’s serf-owners over their own serfs, the Sheremetev estate found itself unable to do anything about it.

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

Ivanovo: Ivan Baburin, II

In my first post about Ivan Baburin, I concentrated on the ways that he likely felt at odds with the estate administration or with Sheremetev—he was a prosperous man by nearly any measure, having purchased his freedom and entered the Moscow merchant society, apparently quickly moving into the first guild. His consistent success allowed him access to the status of honored citizen, as well. At the same time, however, he paid dearly to continue to manufacture in Ivanovo. And more troubling, he paid more dearly than his fellow former serfs by a considerable amount. Given his success, some extra payment might have seemed acceptable, but it’s hard to imagine that he did not feel some resentment at the degree to which he was burdened by payments to his former owner in comparison to others.

The Church of Christ's Birth in Ivanovo; Ivan Baburin contributed to its construction. Source: Фотосайт Владимира Побединского.
The Church of Christ’s Birth in Ivanovo; Ivan Baburin contributed to its construction. (I think.) Source: Фотосайт Владимира Побединского.

There is, however, another way to view the story of Ivan Baburin’s experience after his manumission, one that focuses not on sources of resentment, but instead on a much more positive view of his relationships in Ivanovo. This vision of Baburin’s later role in the village focuses not on his relationship with Sheremetev and the administration, but on his relationship with the Ivanovo serfs, with his own workers, and with his fellow factory owners.

When looked at from this point of view, Ivan Baburin seems to have been both well respected and well liked in Ivanovo after his manumission. Although his decision to join the Moscow merchant society as opposed to one of the more local merchant societies of Shuia or Vladimir might have marked him as someone with hopes of social advancement and therefore separation from his former society, in the middle of the 1830s he was instead described as a model factory owner in the village.

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

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.

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

Ivanovo: A Modest Proposal

The fire in 1839 was hugely destructive, and after it the peasants and industrialists of Ivanovo were faced with a major task of rebuilding. One group, the industrialists, also saw this fire and the task of rebuilding as a possible chance to alter their current economic position by changing their relationship with the owner of Ivanovo, Count Dmitri Nikolaevich Sheremetev.

Portrait of Dmitry Nikolaevich Sheremetev
Dmitri Nikolaevich Sheremetev (1803-1871), 1824. From kuskovo.ru, the website of one of his major estates.

Most of the industrialists in Ivanovo—that is, most of those who ran factories there—had themselves been serfs of the village. Around 1830, Sheremetev freed twenty serfs along with their families. They all took on merchant status in a town (most in nearby Shuia or Iurevets, a few as far away as Moscow) but continued to live in or near Ivanovo, running various sorts of businesses. Most were manufacturers, and a few engaged in trade, bringing the raw materials Ivanovo needed to the village for future processing. All of those who were still running factories in the village did so based on lease arrangements with Sheremetev. They owned and were responsible for the buildings they had built, but Sheremetev owned the land.

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

Ivanovo: Fire

Oil painting of peasants fleeing a burning village
N. D. Dmitriev-Orenburgskii, Fire in the Village, 1885, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

One of the first things I did when I started archival research back in the mid 1990s was look at the annual reports sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs by provincial governors in the 1830s and 1840s. I was reading them looking for anything about food, but I remember being struck by the fact that they always included reports on local fire preparedness. I apparently didn’t take any notes about them, but I distinctly remember things like a report of the fire department of some district town being armed with two buckets and an axe, or something incredibly modest like that.

It made me think about fire and its possible destructive role in a new way. In fact, at one point I thought I might do a whole research project on fire, and then Cathy Frierson’s All Russia Is Burning! came out. So that was out (even if the pre-reform period could still use some (any) work). But fire appears in so many different places in the eighteenth and nineteenth century that it’s hard not to notice it.

Looking at reports and files on Ivanovo, the role of fire is thrown into even greater prominence, in ways both specific and general. On the specific side, there are accounts like those that the Vladimir Provincial News at times included as part of its regular column “news from the province.” I suspect these were only the most dire cases, and so when Ivanovo appears in the newspaper in 1855, it is for a rather terrible reason:

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

Ivanovo: Vagrants and beggars

Vagrancy was a nearly constant background issue throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It shows up all over, in legislation about internal passports, in newspaper notices announcing arrested vagrants, in state concerns about what people are doing. I particularly like Simon Franklin’s description of why vagrancy was seen as such a problem: in his words, “vagrancy was abhorrent, dangerous, and wasteful,” as vagrants were at best lazy, and at worst were criminals.

Postcard of four woman beggars
From http://www.rusfond.ru/encyclopedia/2860

In 1842, there was a crackdown on vagrancy. According to one account, in September of that year Nicholas I was traveling in Tver’ Province and “happened to notice, that on the main road many mendicants (nishchie) were wandering” despite the fact that laws strictly forbid vagrancy. As a result, he ordered the Minister of Internal Affairs to see to this problem, the Minister wrote to provincial governors telling them to take steps against vagrancy, the provincial governors wrote to town and district police agencies, and those agencies wrote to large settlements. And so by November, the order to crack down on vagrancy had made its way to Ivanovo. The Ivanovo Estate Administration received a notice from the Provincial Chief ordering them to pay attention to vagrancy. The Ivanovo Estate Administration then wrote to the sotskie (the peasant hundredmen, a kind of village policeman) of Ivanovo (the village was so large it had eight of them) to bring in anyone they found begging in the village. A second notice asked all villagers to turn in beggars, as well. Over the next year, several more calls repeated the call to crack down on vagrancy and begging.

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

Ivanovo: Surprise

Unexpected stories emerge when you poke around in archives. The best laid plans often lead away from where you originally thought they’d go. Sometimes it’s because a letter that is mostly about one thing veers away to discuss a totally different issue (something that is all too familiar when I look at my own email inbox and try to find important materials by looking only at subject lines). Sometimes it’s because files themselves are opaque in their names—the document I’m going to talk about today is from a file simply labeled “current correspondence for 1843.” And of course it’s almost always because people, historical and otherwise, are themselves surprising.

From Russkii narodnyi lubok 1860-kh-1870-kh gg
From Russkii narodnyi lubok 1860-kh-1870-kh gg

That’s how I felt about a petition that showed up in the Ivanovo estate records. I started reading it and then found it turned into a place I did not at all expect. At the start, I thought it was one version of a mother/daughter story, and then quickly realized it was not.

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

Ivanovo: Property

When Kirill Ermolaevich Gandurin died in May 1820, he left behind a wife, a daughter, and a long list of property. A one-story stone house, a list of sixty four icons, a second list of twenty seven additional icons, two clocks, silver, jewelry, seven books, all on religious topics. And, of course, extensive lists of clothing and cloth. The last is the least surprising, because Gandurin was not a nobleman, nor was he a merchant. He was wealthy—no one looking at the long list of property could doubt that—but he was wealthy in a most unusual context. He was one of the wealthy serf industrialists of the village of Ivanovo, the major textile center of early-nineteenth-century Russia.

Because Gandurin was a serf, the settlement of his property was overseen by the Ivanovo estate administration, which represented the interests of the village’s owner, Count Dmitrii Nikolaevich Sheremetev. It operated according to strict regulation—a set of domovye postanovleniia that had established regular practices regarding serf property. As a result of that regulation, “Ivanovo represented its own little self-contained state [gosudarstvo] within Russia” as the former serf Ia. P. Garelin put it in his history of the village (and eventually town).

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

Ivanovo: Energy Crisis

Firewood showed up in my last post in what was for me a rather unexpected way, as the source of artistic inspiration. It also showed up in other accounts of Ivanovo in the 1830s-1860s in a very different way: as fuel for industry. More than that, though, its absence showed up as an industrial energy crisis.

A path through the forest near Abramtsevo. Photo from July 4, 2015.
A path through the forest near Abramtsevo. Photo from July 4, 2015.

By most accounts of Ivanovo, the textile industry was already of long standing by the early 1800s, but growth really took off around 1820. One story claimed that refugees from the Napoleonic burning of Moscow settled in or near the village and helped drive a new round of growth. A second story claimed that the greatest period of growth occurred between 1825 and 1840—this vision was presented without explanation, but it may well be that it reflected a surge of manumission at the end of the 1820s (the village owner, Count Sheremetev, freed twenty households between 1828 and 1831, most headed by local manufacturers who then continued to run factories in the village). Or it reflected the fact that at nearly the same time, something else happened—machines came into the village.  The first machines appeared in Ivanovo factories in 1832, causing worry for the local peasants, and also introducing a new problem: finding fuel to keep them running.

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Imperial Russia Ivanovo

Ivanovo: Patterns (literally)

Ivanovo textiles, from Ивановские ситцы
Ivanovo textiles, from Ивановские ситцы

One of the things that’s a bit tricky about working primarily with written texts about old Ivanovo is that the major work of the village/town is obscured. Ivanovo was not just a center of textiles in the sense that it was a place in which linen or cotton fabric was produced. Although linen or cotton manufacture was at times a major part of the industrial world of Ivanovo, the village and then the town was particularly known for one particular kind of textile production: printed calico. That meant that it produced colors and patterns. (It also means that it came to be home to some chemical works that produced dyes and maybe caused some other problems, but that’s another story.)

Categories
Archives Imperial Russia Ivanovo

The Russian Manchester

I’ve been following a thread from my work on soslovie that has led me to do some reading on the then village of Ivanovo in the early parts of the nineteenth century. I came across references to a number of serfs freed by Count D. N. Sheremetev who became merchants of Moscow in the 1820s, and they led me back to Ivanovo, where a number of them continued to live as factory owners in the area. I’ve been trying to trace out some issues with the social world of the village, where former serfs turned merchant factory masters lived in very close contact with their workers—who were of course mostly still serfs—and what that meant for life in the “Russian Manchester.”

On the side, though, I’ve also come across a whole slew of interesting little stories about other aspects of life in the region, and so I’m going to do a mini-series of posts about Ivanovo, mostly from the time of serfdom, but a few moving later into the nineteenth century.