Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter III. The Landowners’ Transition from CorvĂ©e to Capitalist Economy

VII. The Employment of Machinery in Agriculture

The post-Reform epoch is divided into four periods as regards the development of agricultural machinery production and the employment of machinery in agriculture.[1] The first period covers the years immediately preceding the peasant Reform and the years immediately following it. The landlords at first rushed to purchase foreign machinery so as to get along without the “unpaid” labour of the serfs and to avoid the difficulties connected with the hiring of free workers. This attempt ended, of course, in failure; the fever soon died down, and beginning with 1863-1864 the demand for foreign machinery dropped. The end of the 70s saw the beginning of the second period, which continued until 1885. It was marked by an extremely steady and extremely rapid increase in machinery imports from abroad; home production also grew steadily, but more slowly than imports. From 1881 to 1884 there was a particularly rapid increase in imports of agricultural machinery, due partly to the abolition, in 1881, of the duty-free import of pig-iron and cast-iron for the needs of factories producing agricultural machinery. The third period extended from 1885 to the beginning of the 90s. Agricultural machinery, hitherto imported duty-free, now had an import duty imposed (of 50 kopeks gold per pood) . The high duty caused an enormous drop in machinery imports, while home production developed slowly owing to the agricultural crisis which set in at that time. Finally, the beginning of the 90s evidently saw the opening of a fourth period, marked by a fresh rise in the import of agricultural machinery, and by a particularly rapid increase of its home production.

Let us cite statistics to illustrate these points. Average annual imports of agricultural machinery at various periods were as follows:

Average annual imports of agricultural machinery.

There are, unfortunately, no such complete and precise data on the production of agricultural machinery and implements in Russia. The unsatisfactory state of our factory and-works statistics, the confusing of the production of machinery in general with the production of specifically agricultural machinery, and the absence of any firmly established rules for distinguishing between “factory” and “handicraft” production of agricultural machinery – all this prevents a complete picture of the development of agricultural machinery production in Russia being obtained. Combining all the data available from the above-mentioned sources, we get the following picture of the development of agricultural machinery production in Russia:

Production, imports and employment of agricultural machinery and implements.

These data show the vigorousness of the process in which primitive agricultural implements are giving way to improved ones (and, consequently, primitive forms of farming to capitalism). In 18 years the employment of agricultural machinery increased more than 3.5-fold, and this was mainly because of the expansion of home production, which more than quadrupled. Noteworthy, too, was the shifting of the main centre of such production from the Vistula and Baltic gubernias to the south-Russian steppe gubernias. Whereas in the 70s the main centre of agricultural capitalism in Russia was the western outer gubernias, in the 1890s still more outstanding areas of agricultural capitalism were created in the purely Russian gubernias.[2]

It is necessary to add, regarding the data just cited, that although they are based on official (and, as far as we know, the only) information on the subject under examination, they are far from complete and are not fully comparable for the different years. For the years 1876-1879 returns are available that were specially compiled for the 1882 exhibition; they are the most comprehensive, covering not only “factory” but also “handicraft” production of agricultural implements; it was estimated that in 1876-1879 there were, on the average, 340 establishments in European Russia and the Kingdom of Poland, whereas according to “factory” statistical data there were in 1879 not more than 66 factories in European Russia producing agricultural machinery and implements (computed from Orlov’s Directory of Factories and Works for 1879). The enormous difference in these figures is explained by the fact that of the 340 establishments less than one-third (100) were counted as possessing steam power, and more than half (196) as being operated by hand labour; 236 establishments of the 340 had no foundries of their own and had their castings made outside (Historico-Statistical Survey, loc. cit.). The data for 1890 and 1894, on the other hand, are from Collections of Data on Factory Industry in Russia (published by Department of Commerce and Industry).[3] These data do not fully cover even the “factory” production of agricultural machinery and implements; for example, in 1890, according to the Collection, there were in European Russia 149 works engaged in this industry, whereas Orlov’s Directory mentions more than 163 works producing agricultural machinery and implements; in 1894, according to the first-mentioned returns, there were in European Russia 164 works of this kind (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 21, p. 544), but according to the List of Factories and Works there were in 1894-95 over 173 factories producing agricultural machinery and implements. As for the small scale, “handicraft” production of agricultural machinery and implements, this is not included in these data at all.[4] That is why there can be no doubt that the data for 1890 and 1894 greatly understate the actual facts; this is confirmed by the opinion of experts, who considered that in the beginning of the 1890s agricultural machinery and implements were manufactured in Russia to a sum of about 10 million rubles (Agriculture and Forestry, 359), and in 1895 to a sum of nearly 20 million rubles (Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 51).

Let us quote somewhat more detailed data on the types and quantity of agricultural machinery and implements manufactured in Russia. It is considered that in 1876 there were produced 25,835 implements; in 1877 – 29,590; in 1878 – 35,226; in 1879 – 47,892 agricultural machines and implements. How far these figures are exceeded at the present time may be seen from the following: in 1879 about 14,500 iron ploughs were manufactured, and in 1894 – 75,500 (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 21). “Whereas five years ago the problem of the measures to be taken to bring about the wider use of iron ploughs on peasant farms was one awaiting solution, today it has solved itself. It is no longer a rarity for a peasant to buy an iron plough; it has become a common thing, and the number of iron ploughs now acquired by peasants every year runs into thousands.”[5] The mass of primitive agricultural implements employed in Russia still leaves a wide field for the production and sale of iron ploughs.[6] The progress made in the use of ploughs has even raised the issue of the employment of electricity. According to a report in the Torgovo-Promyshlennaya Gazeta [Commercial and Industrial News ] (1902, No. 6), at the Second Congress of Electrical Engineers “considerable interest was aroused by a paper read by V. A. Rzhevsky on ‘Electricity in Agriculture.’” The lecturer illustrated by means of some excellent drawings the tillage of fields in Germany with the aid of electric ploughs, and, from the plan and estimates he had drawn up at a landowner’s request for his estate in one of 3 the southern gubernias, cited figures showing the economies to be effected by this method of tilling the land. According to this plan, it was proposed to plough 540 dess. annually, and a part of this twice a year. The depth of furrow was to be from 4 1/2 to 5 vershoks.[7] The soil was pure black earth. In addition to ploughs, the plan provided for machinery for other field-work, and also for a threshing machine and a mill, the latter of 25 h.p., calculated to operate 2,000 hours per annum. The cost of completely equipping the estate, including six versts of overhead cable of 50-mm. thickness, was estimated at 41,000 rubles. The cost of ploughing one dessiatine would be 7 rubles 40 kopeks if the mill were put up, and 8 rubles 70 kopeks with no mill. It was shown that at the local costs of labour, draught animals, etc., the use of electrical equipment would in the first case effect a saving of 1,013 rubles, while in the second case, less power being used without a mill, the saving would be 966 rubles.

No such sharp change is to be noted in the output of threshing and winnowing machines, because their production was relatively well established long ago.[8] In fact, a special centre for the “handicraft” production of these machines was established in the town of Sapozhok, Ryazan Gubernia, and the surrounding villages, and the local members of the peasant bourgeoisie made plenty of money at this “industry” (cf. Reports and Investigations, I, pp. 208-210). A particularly rapid expansion is observed in the production of reaping machines. In 1879, about 780 of these machines were produced; in 1893 it was estimated that 7,000 to 8,000 were sold a year, and in 1894-95 about 27,000. In 1895, for example, the works belonging to J. Greaves in the town of Berdyansk, Taurida Gubernia, “the largest works in Europe in this line of production” (Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 51) i.e., in the production of reaping machines, turned out 4,464 reapers. Among the peasants in Taurida Gubernia reaping machines have become so widespread that a special occupation has arisen, namely, the mechanical reaping of other people’s grain.[9]

Similar data are available for other, less widespread, agricultural implements. Broadcast seeders, for example, are now being turned out at dozens of works, and the more perfect row drills, which were produced at only two works in 1893 (Agriculture and Forestry, 360), are now turned out at seven works (Productive Forces, I, 51), whose output has again a particularly wide sale in the south of Russia. Machinery is employed in all branches of agriculture and in all operations connected with the production of some kinds of produce: in special reviews reference is made to the extended use of winnowing machines, seed-sorters, seed-cleaners (trieurs), seed-driers, hay presses, flax-scutchers, etc. In the Addendum to the Report on Agriculture for 1898, published by the Pskov Gubernia Zemstvo Administration (Severny Kurier [Northern Courier ], 1899, No. 32), the in creasing use of machinery is noted, particularly of flax scutchers, in connection with the transition from flax production for home use to that for commercial purposes. There is an increase in the number of iron ploughs. Reference is made to the influence of migration in augmenting the number of agricultural machines and in raising wages. In Stavropol Gubernia (ibid., No. 33), agricultural machinery is being employed on an increasing scale in connection with the growing immigration into this gubernia. In 1882, there were 908 machines: in 1891-1893, an average of 29,275; in 1894-1896, an average of 54,874; and in 1895, as many as 64,000 agricultural implements and machines.

The growing employment of machines naturally gives rise to a demand for engines: along with steam-engines, “oil engines have latterly begun to spread rapidly on our farms” (Productive Forces, I, 56), and although the first engine of this type appeared abroad only seven years ago, there are already 7 factories in Russia manufacturing them. In Kherson Gubernia in the 70s only 134 steam-engines were registered in agriculture (Material for the Statistics of Steam-Engines in the Russian Empire, St. Petersburg, 1882), and in 1881 about 500 (Historico-Statistical Survey, Vol. II, section on agricultural implements). In 1884-1886, in three uyezds of the gubernia (out of six), 435 steam threshing machines were registered. “At the present time (1895) there must be at least twice as many” (Tezyakov, Agricultural Workers and the Organisation of Sanitary Supervision over Them, in Kherson Gubernia, Kherson, 1896, p. 71). The Vestnik Finansov (1897, No. 21) states that in Kherson Gubernia, “there are about 1,150 steam-threshers, and in the Kuban Region the number is about the same, etc. . . . Latterly the acquisition of steam-threshers has assumed an industrial character. . . . There have been cases of a five thousand-ruble threshing machine with steam-engine fully covering its cost in two or three good harvest years, and of the owner immediately getting another on the same terms. Thus, 5 and even 10 such machines are often to be met with on small farms in the Kuban Region. There they have become an essential accessory of every farm that is at all well organised.” “Generally speaking, in the south of Russia today, more than ten thousand steam-engines are in use for agricultural purposes” (Productive Forces, IX, 151).[10]

If we remember that the number of steam-engines in use in agriculture throughout European Russia in 1875 1878 was only 1,351 and that in 1901, according to incomplete returns (Collection of Factory Inspectors’ Reports for 1903 ), the number was 12,091, in 1902 – 14,609, in 1903 – 16,021 and in 1904 – 17,287, the gigantic revolution brought about by capitalism in agriculture in this country during the last two or three decades will be clear to us. Great service in accelerating this process has been rendered by the Zemstvos. By the beginning of 1897, Zemstvo agricultural machinery and implement depots “existed under the auspices of 11 gubernia and 203 uyezd Zemstvo boards, with a total working capital of about a million rubles” (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 21). In Poltava Gubernia, the turnover of the Zemstvo depots increased from 22,600 rubles in 1890 to 94,900 rubles in 1892 and 210,100 rubles in 1895. In the six years, 12,600 iron ploughs, 500 winnowing machines and seed-sorters, 300 reaping machines, and 200 horse-threshers were sold. “The principal buyers of implements at the Zemstvo depots are Cossacks and peasants; they account for 70% of the total number of iron ploughs and horse-threshers sold. The purchasers of seeding and reaping machines were mainly landowners, and large ones at that, possessing over 100 dessiatines” (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 4).

According to the report of the Ekaterinoslav Gubernia Zemstvo Board for 1895, “the use of improved agricultural implements in the gubernia is spreading very rapidly.” For example, in the Verkhne-Dnieper Uyezd there were:

Numbers of improved agricultural implements.

According to the data of the Moscow Gubernia Zemstvo Board, peasants in Moscow Gubernia in 1895 owned 41,210 iron ploughs; 20.2% of all householders owned such ploughs (Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 31). In Tver Gubernia, according to a special record made in 1896, there were 51,266 iron ploughs, owned by 16.5% of the total number of householders. In Tver Uyezd there were only 290 iron ploughs in 1890, and 5,581 in 1896 (Statistical Returns for Tver Gubernia, Vol. XIII, Pt. 2, pp. 91, 94). One can judge, therefore, how rapid is the consolidation and improvement of the farms of the peasant bourgeoisie.


[1] See Historico-Statistical Survey of Russian Industry, Vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1883 (published for 1882 exhibition), article by V. Chernyayev: “Agricultural Machinery Production.” – Ditto, Vol. II, St. Petersburg, 1886, in group IX. – Agriculture and Forestry in Russia (St. Petersburg, 1893, published for Chicago Exhibition), article by V. Chernyayev: “Agricultural Implements and Machines.” – Productive Forces of Russia (St. Petersburg, 1896, published for 1896 exhibition), article by Mr. Lenin: “Agricultural Implements and Machines” (sect. 1). – Vestnik Finansov [Financial Messenger ], 1896, No 51 and 1897 No. 21. – V. Raspopin, article cited. Only the last mentioned article puts the question on a political-economic basis; all the previous ones were written by agricultural experts.—Lenin

[2] To make possible a judgment of the way the situation has changed in recent years, we quote data from the Yearbook of Russia (published by Central Statistical Committee, St. Petersburg, 1906), for 1900-1903. The value of the output of agricultural machinery in the Empire is estimated at 12,058,000 rubles, and of imports in 1902 at 15,240,000 rubles, and in 1903 at 20,615,000 rubles. (Note to 2nd edition.)—Lenin

[3] In the Vestnik Finansov, No. 21, for 1897, comparative data are given for 1888-1894, but their source is not given specifically.—Lenin

[4] The total number of workshops engaged in the manufacture and repair of agricultural implements was given. for 1864 as 64; for 1871 as 112; for 1874 as 203; for 1879 as 340; for 1885 as 435; for 1892 as 400; and for 1895 as approximately 400 (Agriculture and Forestry in Russia, p. 358, and Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 51). The Collections, on the other hand, estimated that in 1888-1894 there were only from 157 to 217 factories of this kind (average of 183 for the 7 years). Here is an example illustrating the ratio of “factory” production of agricultural machinery to “handicraft” production: it was estimated that in Perm Gubernia in 1894 there were only 4 “factories,” with a combined output of 28,000 rubles, whereas for this branch of industry the 1894-95 census showed 94 “handicraft establishments,” with a combined output of 50,000 rubles, and what is more, the number of “handicraft” establishments included such as employed 6 wage-workers and had an output of over 8,000 rubles. (A Sketch of the Condition of Handicraft Industry in Perm Gubernia, Perm, 1896.)—Lenin

[5] Reports and Investigations of Handicraft Industry in Russia. Published by Ministry of State Properties, Vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1892, p. 202. The production of ploughs by peasants is simultaneously declining, being forced out by factory production.—Lenin

[6] Agriculture and Forestry in Russia, p. 360.—Lenin

[7] 7.8 to 8.7 inches. –Ed.—Lenin

[8] In 1879 about 4,500 threshing machines were produced, and in 1894-1895 about 3,500. The latter figure, however, does not include output by handicraft industry.—Lenin

[9] In 1893, for example, “700 peasants gathered with their machines on the Uspensky estate belonging to Falz-Fein (who owned 200,000 dessiatines) and offered their services, but half of them went away empty-handed, as only 350 were engaged” (Shakhovskoi, Agricultural Outside Employments, Moscow, 1896, p. 161). In the other steppe gubernias, however, especially the Transvolga gubernias, reaping machines are not widely used as yet. Still, in recent years these gubernias too have been trying very hard to overtake Novorossia. Thus, the Syzran-Vyazma railway carried agricultural machinery, traction-engines and parts weighing 75,000 poods in 1890, 62,000 poods in 1891, 88,000 poods in 1892, 120,000 poods in 1893, and 212,000 poods in 1894; in other words, in a matter of five years the quantities carried almost trebled. Ukholovo railway station dispatched agricultural machinery of local manufacture to the extent of about 30,000 poods in 1893, and about 82,000 poods in 1894, whereas up to and including 1892 the weight of agricultural machinery dispatched from that station was even less than 10,000 poods per annum. “Ukholovo station dispatches mainly threshing machines produced in the villages of Kanino and Smykovo, and partly in the uyezd town of Sapozhok, Ryazan Gubernia. In the village of Kanino there are three foundries, belonging to Yermakov, Karev and Golikov, mainly engaged on agricultural-machinery parts. The work of finishing and assembling the machines is done in the above-mentioned two villages (Kanino and Smykovo), of which almost the entire populations are thus employed” (Brief Review of the Commercial Activity of the Syzran-Vyazma Railway in 1894, Pt. IV, Kaluga, 1896, pp. 62-63). Interesting in this example are, first, the fact of the enormous increase in production precisely in recent years, which have been years of low grain prices; and, second, the fact of the connection between “factory” and so called “handicraft” production. The latter is nothing more nor less than an “annex” to the factory,—Lenin

[10] Cf. an item from Perekop Uyezd, Taurida Gubernia, in Russkiye Vedomosti [Russian Gazette ] of August 19, 1898 (No. 167). “Owing to the widespread use of reaping machines and steam- and horse-threshing machines among our farmers . . . field-work is proceeding very rapidly. The old-fashioned method of the threshing with ‘rollers’ is a thing of the past. . . . Every year the Crimean farmer increases his crop area and therefore has willy-nilly to resort to the aid of improved agricultural implements and machines. While it is not possible with rollers to thresh more than 150 to 200 poods of grain per day, a 10-h.p. steam-thresher will do from 2,000 to 2,500 poods, and a horse-thresher from 700 to 800 poods. That is why the demand for agricultural implements, reapers and threshers is growing so rapidly from year to year that the factories and works producing agricultural implements exhaust their stocks, as has happened this year, and are unable to satisfy the farmers’ demand.” The drop in grain prices, which compels farmers to reduce production costs, must be regarded as one of the most important causes of the increased use of improved implements.—Lenin

  VI. The Story of Engelhardt’s Farm | VIII. The Significance of Machinery in Agriculture  

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