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Russia’s Factory Children

State, Society, and Law, 1800–1917

Boris B. Gorshkov

Publication Year: 2009

At the height of the Russian industrial revolution, legions of children toiled in factories, accounting for fifteen percent of the workforce. Yet, by the end of the nineteenth century, their numbers had been greatly reduced, thanks to legislation that sought to protect the welfare of children for the first time. Russia's Factory Children presents the first English-language account of the changing role of children in the Russian workforce, from the onset of industrialization until the Communist Revolution of 1917, and profiles the laws that would establish children's labor rights. In this compelling study, Boris B. Gorshkov examines the daily lives, working conditions, hours, wages, physical risks, and health dangers to children who labored in Russian factories. He also chronicles the evolving cultural mores that initially welcomed child labor practices but later shunned them. Through extensive archival research, Gorshkov views the evolution of Russian child labor law as a reaction to the rise of industrialism and the increasing dangers of the workplace. Perhaps most remarkable is his revelation that activism, from the bourgeoisie, intellectuals, and children themselves, led to the conciliation of legislators and marked a progressive shift that would impact Russian society in the early twentieth century and beyond.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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p. ix

This study was first undertaken at Auburn University. I am grateful to all members of the Auburn University History Department, who helped me enter the profession and gave me intellectual support and stimulus. I carried out preliminary research on the topic of child labor in Moscow and St. Petersburg with the help of generous travel grants...

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pp. 1-11

The passage from Nekrasov’s poem captures the harsh realities of child labor in nineteenth-century Russian factories.¹ Child industrial labor outraged many great writers of the era, including Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorky, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.² A late nineteenthcentury observer wrote that in order “to see the conditions of children in...

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1. Origins of Child Industrial Labor

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pp. 12-45

Child labor in Russia was hardly a product of late nineteenth-century industrialization. Children’s engagement in productive activities had existed well before modernized factories began to appear in Russia’s primarily rural landscape. From time immemorial, children had worked in agriculture, as well as in cottage industries and all other types of...

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2. Children in Industry: Demographic and Social Context [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 46-92

Great changes occurred in the Russian economy during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. By 1850, a new capitalist mode of production had begun to challenge traditional manufacturing systems. Manorial and state factories showed signs of continued decline,¹ whereas free market enterprise began to expand rapidly.² The largest children’s...

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3. Public Debates and Legislative Efforts

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pp. 93-127

As noted earlier (see chapter 1), during the early nineteenth century, most state officials perceived child labor as a normal practice essential for the upbringing and education of children. Prominent statesmen and public figures, such as N. S. Mordvinov and P. S. Nakhimov, viewed child labor as morally justified and useful. During the...

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4. Factory Children: Politics, Education, and the State

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pp. 128-173

The long public discussion of the 1860s and 1870s about child labor in industry finally yielded the 1882 law, the first decisive act to restrict the industrial employment of children. The following years and decades witnessed the introduction of labor protection and welfare legislation concerning all industrial workers. Starting with the 1882 law, the...

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pp. 174-180

Child labor in imperial Russia has been an obscure page in the nation’s history. Historians have usually failed to note the considerable number of children in the country’s industrial workforce and, consequently, the surprisingly large role they played in Russia’s industrialization. Youngsters had been involved in productive work long...

Appendix: Documents

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pp. 181-184


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pp. 185-200


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pp. 201-210


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pp. 211-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780822973645
E-ISBN-10: 0822973642
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822960485
Print-ISBN-10: 0822960486

Page Count: 228
Illustrations: 6 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 794702157
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Russia’s Factory Children

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Subject Headings

  • Children -- Russia -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Industrialization -- Russia -- History -- 19th century.
  • Manufacturing industries -- Employees -- Supply and demand -- Russia -- History -- 19th century.
  • Child labor -- Russia -- History -- 19th century.
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