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The land question at country and Cossack congresses of the South of Russia (1917)



The country people of Russia apprehended overthrow of autocracy as the end of the existing land relations. Thoughts of peasants were concentrated on the forthcoming elimination of landowner land tenure. In the south of the country from March to May there took place regional and regional congresses of all population groups interested in the solution of an agrarian question.

Issues of the relation to Provisional government, of war and of the earth were discussed at these congresses. Full support was everywhere expressed to Provisional government. Defense resolutions were adopted. Discussion of the land question had the most rough character.

Congresses were quite representative: thousands of delegates participated in their work. So, at the I Don regional country congress there were more than 1,000 delegates, on Stavropol - 377, on Astrakhan - more than 300, at congresses of the Ossetian people and the I mountain congress at Vladikavkaz - about 200. The Cossack congresses and circles which and thoughts did not allow about any changes concerning the Cossack land tenure were not less representative.

In the Tersky region the Cossacks, the main holders of the earth, though were provided with the earth much better, than peasants, however with they had enough next-to-skin share only for satisfaction of economic requirements. Therefore they it is attentive and with alarm watched the events which were taking place in the country environment, in country villages and sharply reacted to them. Already in the middle of for March about I an army circle of Tersky Cossack army in "Order" to delegates the position of terets clearly was defined on the all-Cossack constituent congress: to defend the property and, whenever possible, to increase it. Originators firmly specified: "any span of the army earth cannot be alienated without solution of an army circle", and earlier aloof lands have to be returned to army on the beginnings established Constituent sobraniyem1.

On March 23 in Petrograd the all-Cossack congress got to work. Within nine days he discussed the major issues: the organization of Cossacks in the all-Russian scale, training of the Cossacks for elections to the Constituent assembly, serving of a compulsory military service, local government, support to Provisional government. The land question was most actively discussed. The acting delegates insisted on inviolability of the Cossack lands and an order of land use.

It was specified in the adopted resolution that all lands of the Cossack troops, the woods, subsoil, fishing waters and other grounds, being "historical property of the Cossacks", make the integral and inviolable property of each Cossack army. Taking into account that the next-to-skin share approaches the lowest limit and additional lands which would provide the further growth of productive forces of the village are necessary, it was supposed to increase army land stocks by buying up of all estimated to sale of land at the expense of the available army funds and loans obtained from pravitelstva2.

The resolution insisted on the right of each Cossack army independently and independently to dispose of the lands. And all privately owned lands (landowner, official, officer sites and others) allocated by the highest commands, awards, etc. and also lands to a gos - donative, specific, kabinetsky, monastic and church, raspolo-

zhenny in army territories, have to, to be returned in the property of the Cossack army on the basis of that general principle of alienation of such lands in favor of workers of masses which will be accepted Constituent sobraniyem3.

Under the resolution also representatives of the Cossack troops of the South of Russia - Don, Kuban, tersky and Astrakhan signed.

The South living in the Cossack areas peasants, radical and nonresident, hoped to improve the situation at the expense of the Cossack lands. Therefore they watched closely work of the all-Cossack congress. However about any redistribution the speech did not stand on a congress, also the principles of "alienation of lands" with repayment or without it were not considered. At the same time it was declared that lands country next-to-skin, country associations and small owners, located in the territory of the Cossack troops, have to remain for them sobstvennikami4.

Thus, the all-Cossack congress stood up for the Cossack land use, having opposed agrarian transformations and having separated the Cossacks from the all-country movement.

Further, being guided by the resolution of the all-Cossack congress, circles are also glad the Cossack areas of the South amicably made decisions according to which the existing land use remained invariable.

The Cossack congress of Area of army of Donskoy which took place in April in Novocherkassk adopted the resolution "About use of the earth and all its grounds". Appeared in it about alienation of privately owned lands by the state of different names on the bases which will be developed by the Constituent assembly, and that at the expense of fund of aloof lands the land-poor radical peasantry will be allocated that distribution of land in the Cossack community has to be based on the leveling beginnings. The statement of a congress for desire to allocate with the earth of radical peasants was designed to calm several the peasantry of area and to show readiness of the Cossacks for the solution of a land problem. However position of nonresident peasants did not interest delegates of a congress at all, and investment with their earth was not provided in the resolution. It was noted also that the depths of the earth, salt in lakes, the woods and fishing grounds belong to army, "which only possesses the right of trade operation" 5. The resolution adopted by an April Cossack congress to Dona did not contradict decisions of the Petrograd all-Cossack congress and kept firmness of the Cossack order of land use.

However at congresses of those districts where the country population prevailed, around the land question the bitter political struggle was started. So it happened, for example, on April 16 to Aleksandrovsk Grushevsky to the Don region where the congress of elective representatives from settlements and farms of the Cherkassk district for creation of the district country union took place. In the resolution it was said: "The earth has to pass to those who work it by own efforts, without repayment from grain-growers. Lands it is frequent -

ny owners have to be selected for repayment, at the expense of royal, monastic, princely and other capitals - a part without repayment, on conditions which have to be defined in the Constituent assembly. Monastery lands, church, specific and personally royal pass to grain-growers absolutely without repayment" 6. And representatives of peasants pinned hope for the solution of the land question in own interests on regional and All-Russian congresses of country deputies.

On April 23 at the village Kamensk at a congress of peasants of the Donetsk district there were 312 representatives of villages and farms. They accepted an order to a regional congress: to strive for transfer of the earth to those who process it, without any repayment from outside krestyanstva7.

Similar requirements in the Don region were accepted at many village assemblies.

Country congresses in Rostov, Taganrog and other districts of the Don region played an important role in formation of positions of the peasantry in all North Caucasus.

In May the I Don regional country congress took place. In 13 days of its work as one of the most difficult and hotly discussed there was a land question. In the "Basic provisions about the earth" accepted by a congress it was said: "1. Any land ownership within the Russian state is forever cancelled. 2. All lands which are a part of the Russian state are property of all people. 3. One and all lands proprietary personal, public and state, pass into the order of all people without repayment..." 8 Thus, the congress in an agrarian question accepted all basic provisions of socialization of the earth and supported decisions of local councils, rural, volost and district congresses of peasants on cancellation of a private property on the earth. However under the influence of the eserovsky management the resolution, in fact, declared that the solution of the land question in the Don region is considered as the requirement which needs to be defended in the Constituent assembly.

In the Kuban region the first congress of representatives of settlements opened on April 9. It K.L. Bardizh - the Cossack of the village of Bryukhovetskoy, the large land owner, the member of the State Duma whom the Provisional government appointed the commissioner in the Kuban region directed. To a congress there arrived more than one thousand people. The leading role was played by Social Revolutionaries, as predetermined the nature of the made decisions. The issue of land tenure and land use was most sharply discussed. The congress confirmed the rights of Cossacks for share lands and army property. Representatives of non-residents made the demand about cancellation of the put payment, but the majority rejected it. In the resolution it was only pointed out its complication and it was said that it "cannot be changed... a feather stroke", and it is necessary to solve together with the Cossack glad. The land question, in fact, was removed from the agenda, and the final decision is postponed until the Constituent assembly. The adopted resolution noted that "other -

the population of the area is more native than any claims to the Cossack regional lands and to the Cossack army property does not intend to show" 9.

Such decision could not suit the poorest part of the population - first of all nonresident peasants who made a half of the population of the rich area. The country organizations and congresses began to make more resolute demands. So, on April 18 the meeting of grain-growers representatives of the Kuban region adopted the resolution: "The earth has to become public property any worker for processing by a personal labor" 10 could receive it. The regional congress which took place on April 25 in Armavir decided to confiscate immediately landowners' and church estates and to transfer them country and Cossack bednote11. The country-Cossack congress in the village Khopyor adopted the resolution on transfer without repayment of all lands "in leveling use of the working people" 12.

In the Stavropol province in April the whole campaign for elections of delegates on the first provincial country congress was launched. Each rural society was offered to prepare orders on questions of the earth and the forms of government in Russia. These questions were so relevant that practically all volosts of the province presented orders and sent the delegates. The requirement of cancellation of a private property of the earth was one of points: "The earth with all waters and subsoil has to be property of the people, small and large the earth has to be taken by the state without repayment from present owners" 13. Besides, at discussion it was especially actively emphasized that the earth everyone gratuitously on condition of processing has to be allocated with its personal labor. In these orders the desire of peasants to resolve an agrarian question by elimination of a private property, equal distribution of land between inhabitants of rural societies or transfers of all earth to the order of communities which will use it at discretion was shown.

On April 30 there began work the Stavropol provincial country congress. It adopted the program offered by Social Revolutionaries which starting point was a socialization of the earth and leveling land use that met mass support from the land-poor peasantry and non-residents. In the resolution it was noted: "All lands turn into national property without repayment. The private property on the earth is forever destroyed and the land cannot be neither it is sold, nor bought. In use on the leveling labor beginning the one who can process it the work" 14 has to receive the earth. The orders of volost and village assemblies and district meetings made by preparation of a congress found reflection in the resolution.

Though in the spring of 1917 the agrarian movement was countrywide characterized by the greatest initiative in holding country congresses, in the Tersky region and the Astrakhan province the country congresses did not take place. The congress of representatives of all population of the Tersky region which was taking place in Vladikavkaz on May 18 - 20 did not begin to concern an agrarian question.

In spite of the fact that on April 21 there was a resolution of Provisional government on the organization of land committees and in a local press materials about their purposes and tasks appeared, at congresses the question of their organization was not considered and was not even mentioned in resolutions on them. Delegates proposed no transitional measures which committees in the field of the agrarian relations to the publication of land laws had to be guided by the Constituent assembly. So, at the I Don regional country congress the urgent local matters and misunderstanding because of the land relations, questions of rent, of sowing of the empty fields, of pastures, roads, watering places are, etc. decided to be transferred to permission of local executive committees "with participation of interested persons". Also, according to position of Provisional government, it was supposed to abolish the land management government commissions, and their means to use on the maintenance of the land commissions which were planned to be formed on places for settlement of the land questions.

In the North Caucasus the I All-Russian congress of country deputies sitting at Petrograd in May had a huge impact on the further country movement. The agrarian section of a congress worked more than a week. Delegates brought up, in particular, a question of the purposes and tasks of land committees. The Earth and Will newspaper noted: "The mood at a congress was very intense. A considerable part of deputies insisted on that immediately all earth was announced by public property" 15. In the resolution adopted on May 25 on an agrarian question it was claimed that to the Constituent assembly all lands without exception have to turn into maintaining land committees with granting the right of definition of an order of processing to them, an obsemeneniye, cleaning of fields, a hay crop of meadows, etc. 16 besides land committees had to exercise control of use of farm vehicles and distribution of working hands, to establish the rent prices and an order of introduction of payments.

The resolution on an agrarian question the congress showed that peasants understand land committees not as it was wanted by Provisional government. The main functions of committees, according to a congress, have to be reduced not by the guarding beginnings, and to the positive activity directed to permission of an agrarian question. After the congress when his delegates on places began to interpret this resolution as the law, and country congresses, Councils and committees to put it into practice, Social Revolutionaries on pages of the press tried to explain that it should be understood only as "wish" to Provisional government that it is impossible to put this resolution into practice, and it is necessary to wait when the Constituent assembly publishes corresponding zakony17. According to I.G. Tsereteli, the congress developed the resolution on an agrarian question which summarized requirements and desires of the huge most of peasants and was, in effect, than other as the plan of state regulation and control of agricultural life through land komitety18.

Resolutions of a congress were beyond far the rights of the land committees determined by the instruction of Provisional government. And after it in the south of the country the mass organization of land committees began. Thus, the resolution adopted at the time of the organization of land committees turned out so right expression of aspirations of the peasantry that most the local country organizations from the moment of emergence of committees recognized behind them authority in introduction of new land orders on the village.

the Medvezhensky district congress of Councils of country deputies which, having considered and having supported the decision of the Stavropol provincial country congress took place on June 4, urged peasants to unite in fight "with enemies of the labor peasantry, landowners, land owners, wordly fists, manufacturers, manufacturers". In each volost it was supposed to form land committees which had to start right after opening settlement of the agrarian relations and preparation of materials for carrying out reformy19.

4 - On June 12 the first Astrakhan provincial congress took place. From speeches of delegates it became clear that the attention of the country population is directed to adjacent lands of the Kalmyk and Kyrgyz steppes. Delegates insisted on joint use of lands and waters and also on equalizing of country and Cossack plots. But nevertheless under the influence of the management of a congress of a condition of land use of the Astrakhan Cossacks the delegates defined as "quite natural" 20. The resolution assuming to postpone the solution of the land question until the Constituent assembly was adopted.

On June 14 in Ekaterinodar the regional congress of Councils of country and Cossack deputies took place. S.V. Evmenev heading Ekaterinodarsky party committee of revolutionary socialists presided over it. On the land question offers for the Constituent assembly which essence came down to that "all lands, state, specific and other were developed... without repayment were transferred to leveling use of the working people", 21 and also to transfer of waters to the state, the woods, subsoil, that is grounds which the Cossack nobility sought to reserve. In Kuban this requirement made other sense, than in other regions of the country as it was directed against the Cossack system of land use, but at the same time did not infringe on the interests of the ordinary Cossack. Having discussed an issue of land committees, made the decision to start immediately their organization, on purpose "to hold rural and agricultural life from ruin and for the direction of fight to the correct course and also for preparation of materials on the land question in the Constituent assembly" 22. The solution of the land question was postponed, and land committees were considered as the bodies capable to constrain the country movement on places.

6 - On August 8, being guided by decisions I of the All-Russian congress of country deputies, the Stavropol provincial land committee accepted

resolution on account and distribution of lands. From it it is necessary that main objectives of committee were to stop agrarian disorders, to distribute the land for temporary use between the needy and needing peasants, and the most important is to start the solution of the land question before convocation of the Constituent assembly. In the resolution the committee noted that in the Stavropol province the "illegal" permission of agrarian contradictions actually began. Of course, it was difficult to prevent this process, but the issued resolution gave the chance to head it. Volost land committees had to register all agricultural land, "irrespectively whether they are processed by owners, are leased or are empty" 23. All lands which are not used by owners were transferred to the jurisdiction of committees and had to be distributed by them for one business year first of all between landless and land-poor residents of the volost, at the same time the decision of committee on distribution of lands between tenants could not be appealed. The tenant had to specify how many tithes he will be able to process and in what time to sow, and the committee had to monitor execution by the tenant of his obligations. The rent was determined by the "voluntary" agreement of the tenant with the land owner with mediation of committee. It was highlighted that any land lease serving not for own housekeeping, and for transfer to other persons (intermediary or speculative) is forbidden.

The peasantry in the bulk performed against a private property on the earth therefore it in resolutions of congresses was meant that land repartition has to be authorized by supreme authority that it - only a matter of time. Insisting on transfers of all lands to maintaining land committees, peasants put as a paramount task the solution of the land question, but not collecting materials for preparation of future agrarian reform. The system of transitional measures of land use by which committees before consideration of the land question by the Constituent assembly had to be guided was for this purpose defined. Land committees became managers of the earth within the volost. They were charged with the accounting of not used lands, leasing and establishment of the "acceptable" prices. Purchase and sale of the earth was forbidden that practically limited land use, without canceling the right of a private property at all groups of country people.

At congresses the party of Social Revolutionaries under the direction of which almost all of them also passed had considerable influence. The radicalism of decisions was caused by the general, very heated, a situation in the village and the procedure of elections: often delegates were elected on volost descents and represented resolutely adjusted part of the village.

At the II congress of peasants of Terek which took place in September the delegates said that far land committees are created not everywhere, explaining these what the agrarian relations did not undergo any to treason -

niya. So, the delegate of the Vladikavkaz district of Kanukov noted that "land committees and Councils of country deputies in the district are not organized" 24. At the same time attempts of their organization were made: the question of their creation was considered on July 29 at a regional conference of Social Revolutionaries in Vladikavkaz, and on August 3 the representative of the Main land committee A.A. Mamikonov through the Tersky Vestnik newspaper appealed to country people of area about the universal organization land komitetov25. For their organization on places special instructor groups were formed. For the short period in the territory of North Ossetia were created 26 land komitetov26.

In the resolution of the II congress of peasants of Terek the importance of the fastest formation of land committees and settlement through them the current agrarian relations was noted. On the land question it was declared accession to resolution I of the All-Russian congress of country deputies from May 25 on transfer of all earth to the working people on the basis of leveling labor use.

On September 8 at a country congress of the Taganrog district of the Don region upon the demand of delegates of volosts for discussion the agrarian question was raised. The report was made by the revolutionary socialist, the representative of the Main land committee S.P. Shvetsov. He recognized that Councils are the only wide revolutionary body of the labor peasantry, and peasants of Don, as well as in the center of the country, excited a rebellion. The resolution adopted by a congress condemned such actions and urged to use the instruction of the minister of agriculture V.M. Chernov offered Provisional government for the management land komitetami27 on places. That is local land committees were offered to register not used landowners' estates for maintaining on them public economy or for distribution under crops.

3 - On October 5 the meeting of the Stavropol district congress of country deputies took place. At it there were representatives of 11 villages of the county. Acting spoke about life of villages and villages during the period from March to October. It became clear that bodies of democracy in "familiarizing of villages with the benefits of gaining revolution" did not play in places and will not play any role that interest in public affairs considerably went down and volost descents became poorly populated. Interest in the events in the war decreased, the attitude towards her at many became indifferent. Villages, observing growth in the country of "food ruin" and anarchy, were interested in the fate of Russia less and tried to resolve independently the land question by means of activity land komitetov28.

In Kuban the public organizations issued decrees with the requirement to authorize activity of local committees. On October 11 in Armavir the regional congress of country and Cossack deputies took place. The question of land committees was one of items on the agenda. The delegates representing 82 Cossack villages discussed the telegram of the minister

S.L. Maslov's agriculture in which it was told about the universal organization of land committees including in the Kuban region, and made the decision to start their creation. However at the regular meeting of army Rada "the illegal introduction" of land committees was forbidden in view of their "harmful" influence on mood naseleniya29.

Arrival of Bolsheviks to the power and adoption of "The decree about the earth" sharply changed a situation with the solution of the land question in the North Caucasus and in general in the south of Russia.

Thus, after the February revolution the agrarian contradictions in the south of Russia became aggravated that first of all was expressed in relationship of the Cossacks, peasantry and "foreign" population. As the Provisional government in the solution of the land question actually stayed idle but only it declared intentions, without being tired to repeat that the land question will be resolved soon "on justice", the population of the region started development enough radical requirements. Various social groups and political forces offered the ways of the solution of the land question. Local congresses of the country and Cossack population became one of the main centers of fight around the land question and development of versions of its decision. If the aspiration to keep and army lands (and even to increase them) and a land use order was characteristic of Cossacks, then peasants actually sought for "black repartition". Congresses made serious impact on process of the organization of land committees and their activity.

1 Central state archive of the Republic Northern Ossetia-Alania (CGA RSO-A). T. 20. Op. 1. 3345. L. 123-124.
2 Works of the all-Cossack congress from March 23 to March 29, 1917 in Petrograd. Petrograd, 1917.

Page 58.

3 In the same place. Page 11-13.
4 In the same place.
5 Azov region (Rostov-on-Don). 1917. On Apr. 30
6 State Archive of the Rostov Region (SARR). T. 863. Op. 1. 79. L. 12, 58, 97.
7 Azov region. 1917. May 3.
8 GARO. T. 863. Op 1. 5. L. 38-42.
9 The resolutions adopted by a congress of representatives from settlements of the Kuban region, taken place on April 9 - 18, 1917 Ekaterinodar, 1917. Page 1.
10 State Archive of Krasnodar Krai (SAKK). F. R-411. Op. 2. 290. L. 75.
11 The peasantry of the North Caucasus and Don in the period of capitalism. Rostov N / D, 1990. Page 201.
12 Earth and will (Armavir). 1917. On Apr. 22
13 State Archive of Stavropol Krai (SASK). T. 2449. Op. 1. 3. L. 2-32.
14 North Caucasian word (Stavropol). 1917. May 3.
15 Earth and will (Petrograd). 1917. May 25.
16 Councils of deputies and other country organizations. T. 1. M, 1929. Page 146-148.
17 A.S. Smirnov. Bolsheviks and the peasantry in the October revolution. M, 1976. Page 152-153.
18 V.M. Chernov: Person and politician. Saratov, 2004. Page 175.
19 GASK. F. R-37. Op. 1. 9. L. 5.
20 Works of the II session of the Main land committee. Petrograd, 1917. Page 65.
21 Kuban (Ekaterinodar). 1917. May 30.
22 GAKK. F. R-411. Op. 2. 290. L. 120.
23 News of the Stavropol provincial committee of public organizations. 1917.

No. 47.

24 Tersky bulletin (Vladikavkaz). 1917. On Sep. 30
25 Tersky messenger. 1917. July 1; On Aug. 5
26 CGA RSO-A. T. 24. 88. L. 29-30.
27 Messenger of work (Novocherkassk). 1917. On Sep. 24
28 GASK. T. 65. Op. 1. 4. L. 146-148.
29 GASK. T. 1796. Op. 1. 49. L. 138.
Michael Brown
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