V. I.   Lenin

The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905-1907


The two years of revolution, from the autumn of 1905 to the autumn of 1907, have furnished a vast amount of experience of historical value concerning the peasant movement in Russia and the character and significance of the peasants’ struggle for land. Decades of so-called “peaceful” evolution (i. e., when millions of people peacefully allow themselves to be fleeced by the upper ten thousand) can never furnish such a wealth of material for explaining the inner workings of our social system as has been furnished in these two years both by the direct struggle of the peasant masses against the landlords and by the demands of the peasants, expressed with at least some degree of freedom, at assemblies of representatives of the people. There fore, the revision of the agrarian programme of the Russian Social-Democrats in the light of the experience of these two years is absolutely necessary, particularly in view of the fact that the present agrarian programme of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party was adopted at the Stockholm Congress in April 1906, i. e., on the eve of the first public appearance of representatives of the peasantry from all over Russia with a peasant agrarian programme, in opposition to the programme of the government and to that of the liberal bourgeoisie.

The revision of the Social-Democratic agrarian programme must be based on the latest data on landed property in Russia in order to ascertain with the utmost precision what actually is the economic background of all the agrarian programmes of our epoch, and what precisely are the issues in the great historic struggle. This economic basis of the real struggle must be compared with the ideological political reflection of this basis that is found in the programmes, declarations, demands, and theories of the   spokesmen of the different classes. This is the course, and the only course, that a Marxist should take, unlike the petty-bourgeois socialist who proceeds from “abstract” justice, from the theory of the “labour principle”, etc., and unlike the liberal bureaucrat who, in connection with every re form, covers up his defence of the interests of the exploiters by arguments about whether the reform is practicable and about the “state” point of view.

Chapter I

The Economic Basis and Nature of the Agrarian Revolution in Russia

1. Landownership in European Russia

The Landed Property Statistics for 19O5, published by the Central Statistical Committee in 1907, enables us to ascertain precisely the comparative size of the peasant and landlord holdings in the fifty gubernias in European Russia. First of all we will give the general data. The whole territory of European Russia (50 gubernias) is given (see census of January 28, 1897) as 4,230,500 square versts, i. e., 440,800,000 dessiatins. The landed property statistics for 1905 register a total of 395,200,000 dessiatins under the following three main headings:

  Million dessiatins
A. Privately owned land 101.7
B. Allotment land[3] 138.8
C. Land owned by state, church, and various institutions 154.7
Total land in European Russia 395.2

From these general figures it is necessary to deduct, first of all, state lands situated in the far north and consisting partly of tundra and partly of such forest land as cannot be expected to be used for agriculture in the near future. There are 107,900,000 dessiatins of such land in the “northern   region” (in the Arkhangelsk, Olonets and Vologda gubernias). Of course, by deducting all these lands we considerably overestimate the area of land unsuitable for agriculture. It suffices to point out that such a cautious statistician as Mr. A. A. Kaufman calculates that in the Vologda and Olonets gubernias 25,7Q0,000 dessiatins of forest land (with over 25 per cent of forest) could be utilised for additional allotment to the peasants.[1] However, since we are dealing with general data about the land area, without giving separate figures for forest land, it will be more correct to take a more cautious estimate of the land area suit able for agriculture. After deducting 107,900,000 dessiatins, there will be left 287,300,000 dessiatins, or in round figures, 280,000,000 dessiatins, leaving out a portion of urban land (the total of which is 2,000,000 dessiatins) and a portion of the state lands in the Vyatka and Perm gubernias (the total area of state land in these two gubernias is 16,300,000 dessiatins).

Thus, the aggregate amount of land suitable for agriculture in European Russia is distributed as follows:

A. Privately owned land 101.7 million dessiatins
B. Allotment land 138.8 “ “
C. State land and land owned by various institutions 39.5 “ “
Total in European Russia 280.0 “ “

Now we must give separate figures for small and large (particularly very large) holdings in order to obtain a concrete idea of the conditions of the peasant struggle for land in the Russian revolution. Such figures, however, are incomplete. Of the 138,800,000 dessiatins of peasant allotment land 136,900,000 dessiatins are classified according to size of holdings. Of the 101,700,000 dessiatins of privately owned land, 85,900,000 dessiatins are so classified; the remaining 15,800,000 dessiatins are recorded as belonging to “societies and associations”. Examining the latter we find that 11,300,000 dessiatins are owned by peasant   societies and associations, which means that on the whole they are small holdings, unfortunately not classified according to size. Further, 3,700,000 dessiatins belong to “industrial and commercial, manufacturing and other” associations, of which there are 1,042. Of these, 272 own more than 1,000 dessiatins each, the total for the 272 being 3,600,000 dessiatins. These are, evidently, landlord latifundia. The bulk of this land is concentrated in Perm Gubernia, where nine such associations own 1,448,902 dessiatins! It is known that the Urals factories own many thou sand dessiatins of land—a direct survival in bourgeois Russia of the feudal, seigniorial latifundia.

We therefore single out 3,600,000 dessiatins from the land owned by societies and associations as the biggest landed estates. The remainder has not been classified, but generally it consists of small holdings.

Out of the 39,500,000 dessiatins of state and other lands, only the crown lands[4] (5,100,000 dessiatins) lend themselves to classification according to size. These, too, are very large semi-medieval landed estates. We thus get a total area of land, both classified and not classified according to size of holdings, as follows:

according to
not classified
size of holdings
(million dessiatins)
A. Privately owned land 89.5[2] 12.2
B. Allotment land 136.9 1.9
C. State land and land owned by various institutions 5.1 34.4
Total 231.5 48.5
Grand total } 280.0 {

Let us now classify the allotment land according to size of holdings. By rearranging the data obtained from our source of information into somewhat larger groups, we get:

Allotment Land
Groups of households Number of households Total areas of land (dess.) Average des-
siatins per household
Up to 5 dess. inclusive 2,857,650 } 9,030,333 } 3.1 }
5 to 8 " " 3,317,601 } 21,706,550 } 6.5 }
Total up to 8 dess. incl. 6,175,251 30,736,883 4.9
8 to 15 " " 3,932,485 42,182,923 10.7
15 to 30 " " 1,551,904 31,271,922 20.1
Over 30 " " 617,715 32,695,510 52.9
Total in European Russia 12,277,355 136,887,238 11.1

From these data it is evident that more than half of the households (6,200,000 out of 12,300,000) have up to 8 dessiatins each, i. e., in general and on the average, an area of land that is absolutely insufficient to support a family. Ten million one hundred thousand households possess up to 15 dessiatins each (making a total of 72,900,000 dessiatins), i. e., over four-fifths of the total number of house holds are, at the present level of peasant agricultural technique, on the brink of semi-starvation.Middle and well-to-do households—according to amount of land owned— umber only 2,200,000 out of 12,300,000, owning altogether 63,900,000 dessiatins out of 136,900,000 dessiatins. Only households having more than 30 dessiatins each can be regarded as rich; of these there are only 600,000, i. e., one-twentieth of the total number of households. They possess nearly one-fourth of the total land area: 32,700,000 out of 136,900,000 dessiatins. To give an idea as to which categories of peasants constitute this group of rich households, we shall point out that first place among them is held by the Cossacks. In the over-30-dessiatins-per-household group, the Cossack households number 266,929 having a total of 14,426,403 dessiatins, i. e., the overwhelming majority of the Cossacks (in European Russia: 278,650 households having a total of 14,689,498 dessiatins of land, i. e., an aver age of 52.7 dessiatins per household).

The only data available for the whole of Russia enabling us to judge how all the peasant households are approximately   classified according to scale of farming and not according to area of allotments, are those about the number of horses owned. According to the last army horse censuses of 1888-91, the peasant households in 48 gubernias of European Russia are classified as follows:

Poor { Without horses 2,765,970
{ Owning 1 horse 2,885,192
Middle { " 2 horses 2,240,574
{ " 3 " 1,070,250
Well-to-do " 4 " or more 1,154,674
Total 10,116,660

Broadly speaking, this means that over one-half are poor (5,600,000 out of 10,100,000), about one-third are middle households (3,300,000 with 2 or 3 horses), and slightly over one-tenth are well-to-do (1,100,000 out of 10,100,000).

Let us now examine the distribution of individual private landed property. The statistics do not give a clear enough idea of the smallest holdings, but they give extremely detailed data on the biggest latifundia.

Individual Private Landed Property in European Russia
Groups of holdings Number of
Total area of
land (dess.)
Average dess.
per holding
10 dess. and less 409,864 1,625,226 3.9
10-50 dess. incl. 209,119 4,891,031 23.4
50-500 " " 106,065 17,326,495 163.3
{ 500-2,000 " " 21,748 } 20,590,708 } 947 }
{ 2,000-10,000 " " 5,386 } 20,602,109 } 3,825 }
{ Over 10,000 " " 699 } 20,798,504 } 29,754 }
Total over 500 dess. 27,833 61,991,321 2,227
Grand total for European Russia 752,881 85,834,073 114

We see here, first, the enormous preponderance of large landownership: 619,000 small holders (up to 50 dessiatins) own only 6,500,000 dessiatins. Secondly, we see vast latifundia: 699 owners have almost 30,000 dessiatins each!   28,000 owners have a total of 62,000,000 dessiatins, I. e., 2,227 dessiatins each. The overwhelming majority of these latifundia are owned by the nobility, namely, 18,102 estates (out of 27,833) and 44,471,994 dessiatins of land, i.e., over 70 per cent of the entire latifundia area. The medieval character of landlordism is very strikingly revealed by these data.


[1] The Agrarian Question, a collection of articles published by Dolgorukov and Petrunkevich, Vol. II, Moscow, 1907, p. 305. —Lenin

[2] 85,900,000 dessiatins of privately owned land plus 3,600,000 dessiatins of latifundia owned by industrial and commercial associations and societies. —Lenin

[3] Allotment land—the plots of land allotted to the peasants after the abolition of serfdom in Russia in 1861; they belonged to the village commune and were periodically reallotted. among the peasants for their use.

[4] Crown lands—land made over in 1797 out of the total of state lands to the members of the tsarist household as their private property together with the peasants who worked it; by a ukase of Paul I. The revenue from the exploitation of the crown-land peasants was used for the upkeep of the imperial family (including the grand dukes, their wives, daughters, etc.). These sums were not included in the state budget and were not subject to control by the state.

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