chapter  7
Tsarist Agrarian Reform and Industrialization
Pages 10

Modem economic development started in Russia in 1861, when serfdom was abolished. Russia at that time was a huge sprawling empire, a bigger area than any other country in the world, a medieval backwater isolated politically and socially from Western Europe. It was a feudal country with the mass of the people living as serfs who could be flogged and sold, an autocratic ruler, and an aristocracy living in ostentatious splendour in St Petersburg-a Versailles on the scale of Paris. The bourgeoisie in the Western sense hardly existed. The limited group of industrial workers were serfs and their employers usually had to be of a social condition to permit them to be serf owners. Industry was dominated by state factories or private monopolies. Intellectually there was contact with the Western world. Some of the aristocracy had a cosmopolitan education. There were universities, an Academy of Science and libraries. There had been some distinguished Russian scientists like Lomonosov. But the masses were illiterate, and the technological level of the country was very low. However, it was not as backward or as isolated as Japan, and there was a cotton textile industry of significant size.