The fact that Russia was divided into two main areas as regards food-stuffs, the producing area of the south, and the consuming area of the north, lent peculiar significance to the question of communication. Railways were late in being developed, therefore for long the northern and southern regions could only exchange their timber and wheat by means of roads and waterways. The formation of the Zemstvos in 1864 marked the beginning of the transition from a system of road construction and maintenance based on the forced labour of the now emancipated serfs, to one based on compulsorily levied rates in money. The rivers of Russia lend themselves particularly well to canal connections, since the head waters of the main rivers are comparatively close to each other and can be easily linked up. In spite of generous Government assistance in the shape of subsidies and premiums, the ship-building industry made very little progress in Russia.