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A Mainly Agrarian Country


The social and economic backwardness of the countryside was a feature of Russian capitalism which arguably was to have most fatal consequences. The pace of the development of capitalist relations in agriculture lagged far behind the rapid growth of industrial production. The survivals of serfdom, untouched by the reform of 1861, considerably slowed down its development. Village communes tended to perpetuate backward and archaic agricultural production methods. They persisted in their traditional, ignorant ways, including the partitioning of land into small strips which discouraged the use of modern agricultural techniques. Above all, they lacked capital, education and initiative for modernization. Russia still remained an overwhelmingly agrarian country. 

Russian peasants 

At the turn of the century capitalist development was beginning to transform the country, but its effect on different branches of national economy was uneven, resulting in marked disproportions within its overall structure. The accelerated construction of the railway network across the whole country was drawing vast remote regions into a single domestic market, but this process was far from complete. Despite Russias impressive economic growth, its per capita industrial production and per capita national income were still far behind the leading group of industrialized nations. 

The newly-built huge modern industrial plants coexisted with thousands of small archaic mills. The agrarian sector remained dominant, and capitalist relations in agriculture developed  at a slower pace due to the numerous survivals of the old serfdom system. According to the general census of the population of 1897, about five sixths of the total population were still engaged in agriculture, and only about one sixth in large and small industry, trade, on the railways, in building work and so on. Even a decade and a half later, in 1913, only 18 per cent of the population lived in the towns, and industry still produced only 20 per cent of national income. This shows that although capitalism was making rapid progress in Russia, she was still a mainly agricultural, underdeveloped country.

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