Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter IV. The Growth of Commercial Agriculture

II. The Commercial Grain-Farming Area

This area covers the outer region in the south and the east of European Russia, the steppe gubernias of Novorossia and the Transvolga. Agriculture is distinguished here for its extensive character and the enormous scale of the production of grain for sale. If we take the eight gubernias of Kherson, Bessarabia, Taurida, Don, Ekaterinoslav, Saratov, Samara and Orenburg, we shall find that in 1883-1887 the net crop of cereals (not including oats) for a population of 13,877,000 amounted to 41.3 million chetverts, i.e., more than one-fourth of the total net yield of the 50 gubernias of European Russia. The crop most commonly sown here is wheat—the principal export grain.[1] Agriculture develops here fastest of all (by comparison with the other areas of Russia), and these gubernias relegate the central black-earth gubernias, formerly in the lead, to the background:

Net per-capita cereal crop.


Thus there is a shifting of the principal centre of grain production: in the 1860s and 1870s the central black-earth gubernias were ahead of all the rest, but in the 1880s they yielded priority to the steppe and Lower Volga gubernias: their production of grain began to diminish.

This interesting fact of the enormous growth of agricultural production in the area described is to be explained by the circumstance that in the post-Reform period the outer steppe regions have been colonies of the central, long-settled part of European Russia. The abundance of free land has attracted an enormous stream of settlers, who have quickly increased the area under crops.[3] The extensive development of commercial crops was possible only because of the close economic ties of these colonies with central Russia, on the one hand, and the European grain importing countries, on the other. The development of industry in central Russia and the development of commercial farming in the outer regions are inseparably connected and create a market for each other. The industrial gubernias received grain from the South, selling there the products of their factories and supplying the colonies with labour, artisans (see Chapter V, § III on the migration of small industrialists to the outer regions), and means of production (timber, building materials, tools, etc.). Only because of this social division of labour could the settlers in the steppe localities engage exclusively in agriculture and sell huge quantities of grain in the home and particularly in the foreign market. Only because of their close connection with the home and foreign markets could the economic development of these localities proceed so rapidly; and it was precisely capitalist development, for along with the growth of commercial farming there was an equally rapid process of the diversion of the population into industry, the process of the growth of towns and of the formation of new centres of large-scale industry (see below, Chapters VII and VIII).[4]

As to the question of whether the growth of commercial farming in this area is bound up with technical progress in agriculture and with the creation of capitalist relations, that has been dealt with above. In Chapter II we saw how large the areas cultivated by peasants in these localities are and how sharply capitalist relations manifest themselves there even within the village community. In the preceding chapter we saw that in this area there has been a particularly rapid development in the use of machinery, that the capitalist farms in the outer regions attract hundreds of thousands and millions of wage-workers, with huge farms created on a scale unprecedented in agriculture, on which there is extensive co-operation of wage-workers, etc. We have little left now to add in completion of this picture.

In the outer steppe regions the privately-owned estates are not only distinguished occasionally for their enormous size, but are also the scene of farming on a very big scale. Above we made reference to crop areas of 8, 10 and 15 thousand dessiatines in Samara Gubernia. In Taurida Gubernia, Falz-Fein owns 200,000 dess., Mordvinov 80,000 dess.; two individuals own 60,000 dess. each, “and many proprietors have from 10,000 to 25,000 dessiatines” (Shakhovskoi, 42). An idea of the scale of farming can be obtained, for example, from the fact that in 1893 there were 1,100 machines (of which 1,000 belonged to the peasantry) haymaking for Falz-Fein. In Kherson Gubernia there were 3.3 million dessiatines under cultivation in 1893, of which 1.3 million dess. belonged to private owners; in five uyezds of the gubernia (without Odessa Uyezd) there were 1,237 medium-sized farms (250 to 1,000 dess. of land), 405 big farms(1,000 to 2,500 dess.) and 226 farms each of over 2,500 dess. According to data gathered in 1890 on 526 farms, they employed 35,514 workers, i.e., an average of 67 workers per farm, of whom from 16 to 30 were annual labourers. In 1893, 100 more or less big farms in Elisavetgrad Uyezd employed 11,197 workers (an average of 112 per farm!), of whom 17.4% were annual, 39.5% seasonal, and 43.1% day labourers.[5] Here are data on the distribution of crop area among all the agricultural undertakings in the uyezd, both of private landowners and of peasants.[6]

Approximate area under crop.

Thus, a little over 3 per cent of the peasants (and if we count only those who cultivated, 4 per cent) concentrate in their hands more than a third of the total area under crops, for the tilling and harvesting of which masses of seasonal and day labourers are required.

Lastly, here are the data for Novouzensk Uyezd, Samara Gubernia. In Chapter II we took only Russian peasants farming community allotments; now we add Germans and farmstead peasants (those farming non-community holdings). Unfortunately no data are available for the farms of private landowners.[7]

Farm data.

There is no need, apparently, to comment on these data. We have had occasion to observe that the area described is the most typical of agricultural capitalism in Russia—typical not in the agricultural sense, of course, but in the social-economic sense. These colonies, having developed with the greatest freedom, show us what relations could and should have developed in the rest of Russia, had not the numerous survivals of pre-Reform life retarded the development of capitalism. The forms, however, of agricultural capitalism, as will be seen from what follows, are extremely varied.


[1] Except for Saratov Gubernia, with 14.3% under wheat, in the rest of the gubernias mentioned we find 37.6% to 57.8% under wheat.—Lenin

[2] Sources given above. Areas of gubernias according to Historico-Statistical Survey. The “Lower Volga and Transvolga” area is badly constituted, for to the steppe gubernias, with their enormous production of grain, have been added that of Astrakhan (lacking grain for its food requirements) and of Kazan and of Simbirsk, which should more appropriately be included in the central black-earth belt.—Lenin

[3] See Mr. V. Mikhailovsky’s material (Novoye Slovo, [New Word ], June 1897) on the enormous increase in the population of the outer regions and on the migration to these parts, from 1885 to 1897, of hundreds of thousands of peasants from the interior gubernias. On the increase in the area under crops, see the above-mentioned work by V. Postnikov, the Zemstvo statistical returns for Samara Gubernia; Grigoryev’s Peasant Migration from Ryazan Gubernia. On Ufa Gubernia, see Remezov’s Sketches of the Life of Wild Bashkiria—a vivid description of how the “colonisers” felled timber for shipbuilding and transformed the fields “cleared” of “wild” Bashkirs into “wheat factories.” This is a sample of colonial policy that bears comparison with any of the Germans’ exploits in a place like Africa.—Lenin

[4] Cf. Marx, Das Kapital, III, 2, 289,—one of the basic features of the capitalist colony is abundance of free land easily accessible to settlers (the Russian translation of this passage, p.623, is quite wrong).[8] Also see III, 2, 210. Russ. trans., p. 553,—the enormous grain surplus in the agricultural colonies is to be explained by the fact that their entire population is at first “almost exclusively engaged in farming, and particularly in producing agricultural mass products,” which are exchanged for industrial products “They [the colonial states] receive through the world market finished products . . . which they would have to produce themselves under other circumstances.”[9]Lenin

[5] Tezyakov, loc. cit.—Lenin

[6] Material for Evaluating the Lands of Kherson Gubernia, Vol. II, Kherson 1886. The number of dessiatines cultivated by each group was determined by multiplying the average area under crops by the number of farms. The number of groups has been reduced.—Lenin

[7] Returns for Novouzensk Uyezd.—All rented land, state, privately-owned and allotment, has been taken. Here is a list of the improved implements owned by the Russian farmstead peasants: 609 iron ploughs, 16 steam threshers, 89 horse-threshers, 110 mowers 64 horse-drawn rakes, 61 winnowers and 64 reaping machines. The number of employed workers did not include day labourers.—Lenin

[8] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, pp. 738-39.

[9] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 655.

  I. General Data on Agricultural Production in Post-Reform Russia and on The Types of Commercial Agriculture | III. The Commercial Stock-Farming Area. General Data on the Development of Dairy Farming  

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