V. I.   Lenin

Significance of the Resettlement Scheme

Published: Pravda Nos. 98 and 99, April 27 and May 1, 1913. Signed: V. I.. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 66-71.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

We know that since 1905, the government, in connection with its “new” agrarian policy in European Russia, has been making particular efforts to promote peasant resettlement to Siberia. The landowners regarded these resettlement schemes as a sort of opening of the safety valve, and as a “blunting” of the agrarian contradictions in the centre of Russia.

What has happened as a result? Has there been a blunting or a sharpening of contradictions following their transfer to a wider arena?

First of all let us cite some general figures on the resettlement of peasants to Siberia.

From 1861 to 1885 about 300,000 peasants migrated, that is, 12,000 a year; from 1886 to 1905 the number was about 1,520,000, that is, about 76,000 a year; from 1906 to 1910 it was about 2,516,075 or about 500,000 a year.

The growth in the number of peasants resettled in the counter-revolutionary period is enormous. Undoubtedly a temporary “rarefaction” of the atmosphere in Central Russia was bound to take place as a result.

But for how long and at what cost?

The answer to this is provided by the figures showing the drop in the wave of settlers that began in 1909 and the amazing growth in the number of those returning. Here are the figures:

Year Number of
1905 39 10
1906 141 4
1907 427 6
1908 665 6
1909 619 13
1910 316 36
1911[1] 183 60

Thus the official promoters of resettlement succeeded in rarefying the atmosphere for something like four years (1906–09). Then a new crisis began, because the huge drop in the number of settlers and the incredible increase in the number of “returnees”—36 per cent and 60 per cent—without any doubt mean a crisis, and an extremely serious one at that, one that covers an immeasurably wider arena.

Thirty-six and 60 per cent of settlers returning means a sharpening of the crisis in Russia and in Siberia. It is the poorest who return to Russia, the most unfortunate, who have lost everything and are bitterly angry. The land question must have become very acute in Siberia for it to have become impossible, despite the efforts of the government, to accommodate hundreds of thousands of settlers.

The figures quoted show without doubt, therefore, that the struggle against the 1905 agrarian crisis in Russia by means of resettlement has brought about a postponement of the crisis for only a very short period and at the cost of an incomparably greater sharpening and extension of the crisis, as at present.

An interesting confirmation of this conclusion drawn from dry government statistical data is a book by Mr. A. I. Komarov, a former official of the Forestry Department who was twenty-seven years in the service and took a special interest in the Siberian resettlement scheme. His book is called The Truth About the Resettlement Scheme (St. Petersburg, 1913. Price 60 kopeks).

It consists mainly of newspaper articles written by the author under a pseudonym for the newspaper Novaya Rus[2] between 1908 and 1910 in which, in a “jovial” manner, he tells a story “of state spoliation or, rather, devastation of Siberian lands and forests that makes the plunder of the Bashkirian lands that once took place seem trivial indeed”.

The author’s position is that of the well-intentioned official reduced to despair by the “resettlement muddle” (his newspaper articles bore that title), the plunder, ruin and Impoverishment of the old inhabitants and the settlers, “the complete disorganisation of all that is called rational forestry”, the flight of the settlers back to Russia and the formation of an army, “hundreds of thousands strong”, of   “vagrant Russia” and, finally, the impenetrable wall of stupidity and officialdom, the system of secret informers, the embezzling and incompetence in the organisation of the whole business.

Despite the fact that the articles are written in a “jovial” manner, or rather because they are, their cumulative effect is to produce a very strong impression of the fumes, the fug, the suffocation that surround the old feudal officialdom. Nothing but disaster can come of a new bourgeois agrarian policy that is carried out by such means and methods and under such circumstances and is guided by such social elements.

Here is a picture of the journey to Siberia made in August 1910 by Prime Minister Stolypin and Mr. Krivoshein, the Chief Administrator of Agriculture and Land Settlement. A speech was made from the platform of the minister’s rail way coach at the Taiga station ... “everything is magnificent and therefore satisfactory”.

This clownish tour,” writes the old civil servant, “this journey so similar to that made by Catherine the Great to the south of Russia, with Mr. Schumann, the Resettlement and Land Administrator of Tomsk Gubernia, playing the role of Potyomkin on instructions from St. Petersburg ... was the last straw that made me abandon the service and publish this pamphlet.”

Poor, well-intentioned official—it was too much for him!

Here is a picture of the resettlement muddle at the time of the greatest wave of settlers.

The lands allotted were not ready, the roads to them had not been laid, the resettlement centres were only just being built.... Then people began settling of their own accord in surveyed forest areas that took their fancy, and seizing plots leased from the state, reserve plots that had at some earlier date been set aside for the Siberian estates of the nobility, etc.; and then, of course, began the expulsion of these illegal settlers, accompanied by a series of sad and often cruel scenes that it would be superfluous to describe.” The resettlement officers were compelled to “tear to pieces areas of state forest that had been surveyed only the day before”. “They seized the land piecemeal, took whatever they first laid eyes on, anything so long as they could accommodate, get rid of, the scores of emaciated exhausted people hanging around the resettlement centre and standing for long hours outside the resettlement office, people who for some unknown reason invade the gubernia municipal offices in crowds and, in general, do not leave a single government office in peace.”

Many millions of rubles” are being embezzled and wasted. “One conclusion that suggests itself”, writes the author, “is the need to transfer the resettlement scheme to the future Siberian Zemstvo.” This na\"ive, “honest-minded” Russian official believes that this threadbare cloak can be patched up ... with a Zemstvo.

Here is a picture of the way the forests are being looked after. Settlers “upon whom fortune had smiled” were permitted to sell timber; they sold 300 dessiatines of mature building timber at 17 rubles per dessiatine. Even by Siberian standards a dessiatine of mature building timber is worth, at the very least, about 200 rubles. Another picture: settlers sold the contractor Zhogolyov 25,000 railway sleepers at four kopeks each. He paid 5 kopeks for felling, 25 kopeks for removal from the forest and 10 kopeks each for transport by steamer, and received 80 kopeks a sleeper from the treasury.... There you have Octobrist capitalism in the epoch of primitive accumulation, and it lives comfortably side by side with the Purishkeviches and the Purishkevichism of Russian life!

Here is a series of pictures of land settlement. Minusinsk Uyezd, the “Siberian Italy”. The old inhabitants of Minusinsk received four dessiatines each and “came to know the sacred rights of property”. At the same time they were banned from using tens of thousands of dessiatines of the best land.

In recent times, this Italy, because of the general organisation of state economy, has been very regularly visited by, to use the official expression, ‘crop failures’ ....”

“... In Yeniseisk Uyezd there is the famous Ob-Yenisei Canal, that has for a number of years duly devoured a good many millions from the treasury, but has not thereby got itself into a decent condition fitting it for the transport of goods, since it was dug in a place where it should not have been dug

Kurinsky resettlement area ... is made up of lands that belong ed to non-Russians around the Altai Salt Refinery. The non-Russians had a tough time of it after their land had been taken away from them, but the settlers had a worse time—the local water was quite unsuitable for drinking. Nor did well-digging produce any results. Then the resettlement administration started drilling and drilled down to water that was saltier still. The settlers now drive seven or eight versts to the Yenisei from the village for water, so everything is satisfactory’....”

... A very valuable stand of pine had been completely eaten away by the pine moth. When the trouble began the forest warden had to send a written application asking for credit. While the correspondence and negotiations with St. Petersburg proceeded, the timber was ruined.... “Every thing that is usually called forestry,” writes the old warden, “has been totally abandoned.”

People of any integrity are squeezed out of the civil service world by informers (p. 118) and the “higher authorities” cut short foresters who have thirty-five years’ service behind them with roars of “Silence!” if they dare to tell the truth (p. 121). “A base and sordid period,” says the good Mr. Komarov, indignantly, who suggests this “period” began when a “good” boss was changed for a bad one.

The author summarises his illustrations as follows:

If all I have said sounds like so many anecdotes, then they are anecdotes from a reality that Russian constitutional—save the mark!—life has accustomed us to; and is not the whole of our present-day Russian life one long and rather unpleasant anecdote?”

With regard to the settlers that are returning, Mr. Komarov ridicules the assertion of some “bold” medical man that they constitute no more than 6 per cent. We have quoted exact figures on this question above.

The Russian landowners, more than anybody, are very, very interested in this [in the number of settlers returning],” writes Mr. Komarov. “This is understandable: those returning are the sort that are destined to play a terrible role in the future. The man who is returning is not the one who all his life has been a farm labourer and is no longer accustomed to that which gave him, like Antaeus of old, gigantic, incredible strength. The man who is returning is the one who, until recently, was a property-owner, a man who never dreamed that he and the land could exist apart. This man is justifiably indignant, to him it is a mortal offence that he has not been provided for, but, on the contrary, that he and his family have been ruined and transformed from farmers and growers of corn into people of no consequence; this man is a menace to any political system, no matter what it be. And the best minds, those that have seen the light since 1905, are paying due consideration to this.”

In the spring of 1910, the author visited a Marshal of the Nobility[3] in European Russia; he was a man of conservative convictions who enjoyed the author’s trust and esteem.

“‘We are considering it, indeed we are,’ he told me. ‘It is not for nothing that we have fled from the country into the town. The   muzhik glowers at us like a wild beast. The young people are almost all hooligans, and now there are these people coming back from you in Siberia who have nothing to lose.’

I understood dear Pyotr Fyodorovich best of all,” continues kindly Mr. Komarov, “when among others who came to me for information ‘about the lands in Siberia’ was one of the forgotten friends of my childhood, one with whom I had played tip-cat and other games and with whom I had later taken part in fist-fights. Alas, he was no longer my former companion in the village fist-fights but a respect able-looking muzhik with a big beard with silver threads in it and a bald patch exposing half his pate. We had a talk, recalled old times and I mentioned 1905. I must mention that our uyezd was one of those that had been particularly brightly illuminated by the ruddy glow of burning landowners’ mansions and ruined estates, and I for my part made a quite natural reproach to my friend, as far as I remember in the following terms:

“‘Thedevil alone knows what you people got up to in 1905! You could have got much better conditions....’

When I said this, I did not have in mind the theory of the agrarian question as propounded by the Social-Democrats and Socialist-Revolutionaries which, to anybody in any degree acquainted with political economy, somehow sounds completely inacceptable; I was given this answer:

“‘Howtrue your words are.... You’re quite right.... That was not what we should have done....’

“‘There you are, I said soothingly, glad that we had understood each other.

“‘Yes, it’s true enough.... We made a fine blunder.... We shouldn’t have let anyone go....’

“‘What do you mean by that?’

“‘I mean we should have gone through with it, ... given all of them short shrift....’

And as he spoke his face was smiling and kindly, there were attractive wrinkles around his bright, gentle, childishly naive and smiling eyes

But I admit quite frankly that a cold shiver ran down my back and the hair on my head must have stood on end; if that was how the gentle ones felt about it, what could we expect from those who were coming back, those who had sold their land and were ruined for ever?

Yes, indeed, the ‘banking on the strong’ that was presented to Russia by the late Prime Minister and the Octobrists, may, as time goes on and the full effect of the resettlement muddle is felt, bring many horrors into our lives” (p. 75).

We will stop here, at this conversation between a kindly, peaceable intellectual and a gentle, mild, na\"ive, respect able-looking, bald-headed muzhik.


[1] Eleven months. —Lenin

[2] Rus (Russia) (Molva [Tidings], Novaya Rus [New Russia], Oko [The Eye])—the various names under which a bourgeois-liberal newspaper was published in St. Petersburg from 1903 to 1910.

[3] Marshal of the Nobility—the elected representative of the nobility of a gubernia or uyezd. He was in charge of all the affairs of the nobility, occupied an influential position in the administration and took the chair at meetings of the Zemstvo.

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