chapter  5
23 Pages

Class Structures and Tensions before 1917

We propose here to sketch, with broad brush strokes, the multiple, interde-pendent class structures that existed in Russia before the 1917 revolution. We will explore the tensions within as well as the contradictory interactions among these systems of producing, appropriating, and distributing surpluses. By examining how these particular class structures shaped and were shaped by the individuals who lived within them, we aim to show how the multiple class dimensions of their lives contributed to the history that culminated in the revolutionary conjuncture of 1917.1 To our knowledge, no class analysis of this kind exists for pre-1917 Russia. We acknowledge that the available primary evidence and secondary analyses enable only a rather impressionistic account of how surplus was organized and its fruits distributed before 1917. This might have troubled us more had not analysts of the period with very different conceptual approaches qualified their arguments similarly (Figes 1989).