Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter II. The Differentiation of the Peasantry

X. Summary Of Zemstvo Statistics And Army-Horse Census Returns[5]

We have shown that the relation of the top to the bottom group of the peasantry bears the very features that characterise the relation of the rural bourgeoisie to the rural proletariat; that these relationships are remarkably similar in the most varied localities with the most varied conditions; that even their numerical expression (i.e., percentages of the groups in the total area under crops, number of animals, etc.) fluctuates within limits that, comparatively speaking, are very small. The question naturally arises: how far can these data on the relationships between the groups in the different localities be utilised for forming an idea of the groups into which the entire Russian peasantry is divided? In other words, what returns can enable us to judge the composition of, and the interrelation between, the top and the bottom groups of the entire Russian peasantry?

There are very few of these returns, for no agricultural censuses are taken in Russia that register all the crop raising farms in the country. The only material by which we can judge into which economic groups our peasantry is divided is the combined Zemstvo statistics and the army horse census. returns showing the distribution of draught animals (or horses) among the peasant households. Meagre as this material is, one can nevertheless draw from it conclusions (certainly very general, approximate, aggregate) that are not without interest, particularly since the ratio of peasants with many horses to those with few has already been analysed and found to be remarkably similar in the most varied localities.

According to the data in Mr. Blagoveshchensky’s Combined Zemstvo House-to-House Census Economic Returns (Vol. I, Peasant Farming, Moscow, 1893),[6] the Zemstvo censuses covered 123 uyezds in 22 gubernias, having 2,983,733 peasant households and a population of 17,996,317 persons of both sexes. But the data on the distribution of households according to draught animals are not everywhere of the same kind. Thus, in three gubernias we have to omit 11 uyezds[1] where the households are classified not in four, but in only three groups. For the remaining 112 uyezds in 21 gubernias we get the following combined figures covering nearly 2 1/2 million households with a population of 15 million:

Draught animals.


These data cover slightly less than one-fourth of the total peasant households in European Russia (the Combined Statistical Material on the Economic Position of the Rural Population in European Russia, published by the Chancellery of the Committee of Ministers, St. Petersburg, 1894, considers that in the 50 gubernias of European Russia there are 11,223,962 households in the volosts, including 10,589,967 peasant households). For the whole of Russia we have data on the distribution of horses among the peasants in Statistics of the Russian Empire. XX. Army-Horse Census of 1888 (St. Petersburg, 1891), and Statistics of the Russian Empire. XXXI. Army-Horse Census of 1891 (St. Petersburg, 1894). The first publication contains an analysis of the data collected in 1888 for 41 gubernias (including the 10 gubernias in the Kingdom of Poland), and the second for 18 gubernias in European Russia, plus the Caucasus, the Kalmyk Steppe and the Don Military Region.

Singling out 49 gubernias in European Russia (the returns for Don Region are not complete) and combining the data for 1888 and 1891, we get the following picture of the distribution of the total number of horses belonging to the peasants in village communities.

Distribution of total number of horses.

Thus, all over Russia the distribution of draught horses among the peasantry is very close to the “average” degree of differentiation we have depicted in our chart. Actually, the disintegration is even somewhat deeper: in the hands of 22 per cent of the households (2.2 million out of 10.2 million) are concentrated 9 1/2 million horses out of 17 million, i.e., 56.3% of the total number. A vast mass of 2.8 million households has none at all, while 2.9 million one-horse households have only 17.2% of the total number of horses.[3]

Chart Illusrating Tables A and B.

Taking as our basis the above-established regularities in the relationship between the groups, we can now ascertain the real significance of these data. If a fifth of the households possesses a half of the total number of horses, one may unerringly conclude that no less (and probably more) than half the total peasant agricultural production is in their hands. Such a concentration of production is possible only where this well-to-do peasantry concentrates in its hands the major part of the purchased lands and of peasant-rented land, both non-allotment and allotment. It is this well-to-do minority who mainly do the buying and renting of land, despite the fact that in all probability they are best supplied with allotment land. While the “average” Russian peasant in the very best of times barely makes ends meet (and it is doubtful whether he does), the well-to-do minority, whose circumstances are considerably above the average, not only cover all their expenditure by independent farming, but also obtain a surplus. And this means that they are commodity producers, that they grow agricultural produce for sale. More, they turn into a rural bourgeoisie, combining with relatively large-scale crop farms commercial and industrial enterprises,—we have seen that it is precisely “industries” of this kind that are most typical of the Russian “enterprising” muzhik. Despite the fact that their families are the largest, that they have the largest number of family workers (these features have always been characteristic of the well-to-do peasantry, and the 1/5 of the households should account for a large share of the population, approximately 3/10 ), the well-to-do minority employ permanent farm labourers and day labourers on the biggest scale. Of the total number of Russian peasant farms that resort to the hiring of labourers, a considerable majority should be those of this well-to-do minority. We are justified in drawing this conclusion both on the basis of the preceding analysis and from a comparison between the proportion of the population represented by this group and the share it has of the total number of draught animals, and hence of the cultivated area, of farming in general. Lastly, only this well-to-do minority can take a steady part in the “progressive trends in peasant farming.”[7] Such should be the relation between this minority and the rest of the peasantry; but it goes without saying that this relation assumes different forms and manifests itself in other ways depending on differences in agrarian conditions, systems of farming and forms of commercial agriculture.[4] The main trends of peasant differentiation are one thing; the forms it assumes, depending on the different local conditions, are another.

The position of the horseless and one-horse peasants is the very opposite. We have seen above that the Zemstvo statisticians put even the latter (to say nothing of the former) in the category of the rural proletariat. Thus, we hardly exaggerate in our approximate calculation, which places in the category of the rural proletariat all the horseless and up to 3/4 of the one-horse peasants (about half the total households). These peasants, who are worst provided with allotment land, often lease out their allotments because of lack of implements, seed, etc. Of the total peasant-rented and purchased land theirs are but miserable scraps. Their farms will never yield enough for subsistence, and their main source of livelihood is “industries” or “employments,” i.e., the sale of their labour-power. These are a class of wage-workers with allotments, permanent farm labourers, day labourers, unskilled labourers, building workers, etc., etc.


[1] 5 uyezds in Saratov Gubernia, 5 in Samara Gubernia, and 1 in Bessarabia Gubernia.—Lenin

[2] To horses are added oxen, calculated at a pair for one horse.—Lenin

[3] The way the distribution of horses among the peasantry has been changing latterly can be judged from the following data of the army horse census of 1893-1894 (Statistics of the Russian Empire, XXXVII). In 38 gubernias of European Russia there were in 1893-1894: 8,288,987 peasant households; of these, horseless were 2,641,754, or 31.9%; one-horse—31.4%; 2-horse—20.2%; 3-horse—8.7%; 4-horse and over—7.8%. The horses owned by the peasants numbered 11,560,358 of which 22.5% belonged to the one-horse peasants, 28.9% to the 2-horse; 18.8% to the 3-horse and 29.8% to those with many horses. Thus, 16.5% of the peasants, the well-to-do, owned 48.6% of the total number of horses.—Lenin

[4] It is quite possible, for example, that in dairy-farming districts it would be much more correct to classify according to the number of cows held and not according to the number of horses. Where market gardening prevails, neither index can be satisfactory, etc.—Lenin

[5] Army-horse censuses—a register of the number of horses fit for army service in case of mobilisation, was, as a rule, taken in tsarist Russia every six years. The first census was taken in 1876 in 33 gubernias in the west of Russia. The second census was taken in 1882 and covered the whole of European Russia, the results being published in 1884 under the title Horse Census of 1882. In 1888 a census was taken in 41 gubernias, and in 1891 in the remaining 18 gubernias and in the Caucasus. The examination of the data gathered was undertaken by the Central Statistical Committee, which published them in the abstracts: Statistics of the Russian Empire. XX. Army-Horse Census of 1888 (St. Petersburg, 1891) and Statistics of the Russian Empire. XXXI. Army-Horse Census of 1891 (St. Petersburg 1894). The next census was taken in the years 1893-1894 and covered 38 gubernias of European Russia, the results being published under the title Statistics of the Russian Empire. XXXVII. Army-Horse Census of 1893 and 1894 (St. Petersburg, 1896). Data of the army-horse census for the years 1899-1901, covering 43 gubernias of European Russia, one Caucasian gubernia and the Kalmyk steppe of the Astrakhan Gubernia made up Vol. LV of the Statistics of the Russian Empire (St. Petersburg, 1902).

The army-horse censuses were investigations that covered all the peasant farms. In his book, Lenin utilised the census material when examining the process of the differentiation of the peasantry.

[6] Lenin made a detailed analysis of the material contained in Blagoveshchensky’s compilation in a special notebook and in the remarks he wrote in the margins. These have been published in Lenin Miscellany XXXIII, pp. 89-99.

[7] Lenin refers here to the title of the previously mentioned essay by the Liberal Narodnik, Vorontsov (V. V.), that appeared in 1892.

  IX. Summary Of The Above Zemstvo Statistics On The Differentiation Of The Peasantry | XI. A Comparison of the Army-Horse Censuses of 1888-1891 and 1896-1900  

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