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But if the role of the Jews as tradesmen and craftsmen in a rural economy was problematical in the Pale of Settlement, how were these obviously necessary roles fulfilled in 'Great Russia' itself? Solzhenitsyn does not discuss the question but we might get some idea from his old enemy, Richard Pipes. Describing the consequences of reforms introduced in the eighteenth century under Peter III and in the early years of Catherine II:

'Peasants throughout Russia began to trade on an unprecedented scale, cornering much of the market in foodstuffs (cereals, garden produce and cattle) and implements for the home and farm ... By the beginning of the nineteenth century the bulk of the trade in Russia was controlled by peasants who could trade openly without paying the onerous annual certificate fee imposed by the government on merchants belonging to the urban guilds ... (4)

(4) Richard Pipes: Russia under the old régime, Penguin 1995 (first published 1974).

'In industry too the law [regulating the merchant class, in particular forbidding them from using serf labour - PB] produced dramatic results. Dvoriane (the landlord class) now proceeded to take away from the merchants some of the most profitable branches of manufacture and mining in which the latter had established a strong presence between 1730 and 1762 ... Statistics compiled in 1813-14 indicate that, in addition to all the distilleries, they owned 64 per cent of the mines, 78 per cent of the woollen mills, 60 per cent of the paper mills, 66 per cent of the glass and crystal manufactures and 80 per cent of the potash works. The merchants now had to watch helplessly as some of the most profitable branches of industry were taken over by classes based in the countryside and rooted in agriculture ...

'No less serious competition came from peasants. A remarkable by-product of Catherine's economic legislation was the emergence of large-scale serf industry. Although not unique to Russia - a similar phenomenon has been observed in eighteenth century Silesia - in no other country has it attained comparative economic importance ...

'Peasant entrepreneurs from the beginning concentrated on the mass consumer market which state and dvoriane manufacturers largely ignored. Cotton textiles were their most important product, but they also played a leading role in the manufacture of pottery, linen cloth, hardware, leather goods and furniture.'

However 'Peasant entrepreneurs living on private properties remained serfs even after having amassed vast fortunes. Such bonded magnates paid rents running into thousands of rubles a year. If the landlord consented to give them their freedom - which, for obvious reasons, he was loth to do - they were required to pay enormous sums. The serfs of Sheremetev paid for their redemption 17,000-20,000 rubles; on occasion the price could rise as high as 160,000 rubles. Some had serfs of their own, and lived in truly seigneurial style.' (pp.212-3)

So where in Ukraine we had three classes, Polish landlords, Ukrainian peasants and Jewish middlemen, in Russia, if we accept Pipes's view, the landlords and peasants, both of them Russian and Orthodox, divided up the middleman function between themselves.  

Pipes' central argument about about the development of Russia and its intrinsic inferiority to Western Europe, is summed up in the title of one of the chapters of Russia under the old régime - 'The missing bourgeoisie.' The term 'bourgeoisie' of course implies a city- or town-dweller, but in Russia 'the centre of trade and manufacture lay not in the city but in the country; the commercial and industrial classes did not constitute the bulk of the urban population; and residence in the city guaranteed neither security nor freedom, even in the limited sense in which these terms were applicable to Russia ...

'Moscow could not tolerate privileged sanctuaries from which a genuine urban civilisation might have developed because they violated the kingdom's patrimonial constitution. Moscow deprived Novgorod and Pskov of their liberties as soon as it  had conquered them, and it promptly curtailed the guarantees of the burghers of Poland-Lithuania when this area fell under Russian control'

Traders and artisans were formed into legally defined communities called posads: 'The status of a person belonging to a posad was hereditary and he and his descendants were forbidden to leave it. As noted, the land on which urban residences stood belonged to the Tsar and could not be sold. Except that they plied trades and crafts as their vocation and agriculture as their avocation, whereas the black peasants did the opposite, the two groups were barely distinguishable.'

But the posads had to pay a tax - the tiaglo - for the privilege of living in their designated areas belonging to the crown and they had to compete with other groups who were free of the tax. These included some categories of full time military personnel in between campaigns but also 'Peasants living on 'white' properties of lay and clerical landlords set up in most cities and in many rural localities regular markets known as slobody (a corruption of svoboda, meaning freedom) where they traded without bearing their share of tiaglo.' As a result 'posad people in droves fled their communities. The best chance of making good their escape lay in finding a landlord or a monastery willing to take them under its wings and thus enable them to trade without bearing tiaglo.' (pp.198-202)

'Under such conditions' Pipes continues 'capitalism could hardly take root. And indeed Russian commerce tended towards natural forms of exchange. In terms of money and credit, it remained until the middle of the nineteenth century at a level which western Europe had left behind in the late Middle Ages. Trade in Muscovite Russia and in considerable measure in Russia of the imperial period was mainly carried out by barter; money was employed mostly for small=scale cash-and-carry transactions ...

'The primitive, pre-capitalist character of Russian commerce is demonstrated by the importance of fairs ... Nizhnii Novgorod's was the largest fair in the world; but beside it there were in the middle of the nineteenth century several thousand fairs of medium and small size scattered throughout Russia. Their decline set in only in the 1880s with the spread of railways [meaning presumably ease of transfer of goods - PB].

'Given the extreme scarcity of money in circulation, it is not surprising that until modern times Russia had virtually no commercial credit or banking. Nothing so dispels the deceptive panoramas of a flourishing Russian capitalism painted by communist historians ... than the fact that the first successful commercial banks in Russia were founded only in the 1860s; until then, the country got along with two banks owned and operated by the state. Capitalism without credit is a contradiction in terms; and business ignorant of credit is no more capitalist than urban inhabitants without self government are bourgeois.

'The Russian merchant ... usually had no idea how to keep account books, preferring to rely on memory. Ignorance of book-keeping was a major cause of business failures in Russia ... Risk capital, the sinew of capitalist development, was absent; what there was of it came either from the state treasury or from foreign investors. As late as the early twentieth century, the Russian middle class regarded the investor as the lowest species of businessman, far below the manufacturer and merchant in prestige.' (pp.206-7)

The position in the Pale of Settlement on the other hand could be described as a collapsed capitalism. Capitalism had been much more highly developed in Poland than in Russia prior to the seventeenth century, mainly through the activities of Jews. In a previous article in this series, 'A Polish prologue', I said, following Léon Poliakov's History of Antisemitism, that Poland had been like a promised land to Jews escaping persecution in Germany. The Polish nobility were primarily concerned with being noble and were happy to leave the Jews free to develop the sordid necessities of trade and manufacture. To quote Poliakov: 'In general, then. it is quite correct to say that in Poland they formed a whole social class - that urban middle class that, in this country, had for so long failed to take shape' (p.392). 'The lot of the Polish Jews was at that time considered so favourable that, in the spirit of those alphabet games of which they had the habit, 'Polonia' could be read as Po-lan-ia (God lives here).' (p.395)

But as we have seen, this had been wrecked by the Khelmnitsky rising which had largely destroyed the sources of Jewish wealth while leaving the landed wealth of the great Polish Catholic monasteries intact, so that the Jewish Kahal, trying to restore their financial position, had to turn to the monasteries for credit. The area East of the Dnieper, including Kiev, was soon incorporated into the Russian Empire, followed at the end of the eighteenth century, by the rest of what became the Pale of Settlement. By the nineteenth century the situation of most Jews had become desperate. To quote Hans Rogger: 'According to a report published in 1850 in the Journal of the Ministry of the Interior only three out of a hundred Jews disposed of a more or less substantial capital and were not public charges upon their brethren, while the majority were doomed to a life of destitution and beggary. A relative scarcity of capital among Jews was one reason for seeing them more often as claimants upon the country's resources than as contributors to their growth. Another was an occupational structure with a preponderance of non-specialised general services, unspecified trading activities and a huge supply of unskilled labour. Since the bulk of Jewish employment was concentrated in the production and distribution of consumer goods, the slow growth of the internal market did little to reduce the high rate of underemployment or to improve the incomes of the majority.' (5)

(5) Hans Rogger: 'The Question of Jewish emancipation in Russia in the mirror of Europe' in ibid: Jewish policies and right-wing politics in imperial Russia, University of California Press, 1986, p.17

In another essay, Rogger says, referring to two of Alexander II's ministers in 1861, the year of the emancipation of the serfs:

'Reports from the Pale had convinced the two ministers that if the Jews were sunk in poverty and prejudice and given to sharp or shady practices, this was because of factors over which they had little control. The chief barrier to their ethical and economic regeneration, which the government had so far pursued in vain, was that the number of traders among them was abnormally large in relation to the number of peasants in whose midst the Jews had to gain their livelihood. With the Christian peasant as destitute as the Jewish trader, it was unavoidable that the latter victimised the former, the more so since intense competition among the Jews made it nearly impossible for them to remain within the bounds of legality and survive ...' (6)

(6)  'Government, Jews, Peasants, and Land in Post-Emancipation Russia: The Pre-emancipation Background; Stirrings and Limits of Reform',  Cahiers du Monde russe et soviétique, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Jan. - Mar., 1976), p.13.

They went on to recommend, unsuccessfully, that the situation in the Pale would be relieved if these poorer Jews were allowed to spread out into neighbouring Russia.