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  • State Power and Community in Early Modern Russia: The Case of Kozlov, 1635–1649, and: Liudi Sankt-Peterburgskogo ostrova petrovskogo vremeni
  • Paul Bushkovitch
Brian Davies , State Power and Community in Early Modern Russia: The Case of Kozlov, 1635–1649. 308 pp. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. ISBN 1403932131. $85.00.
Ol’ga Kosheleva , Liudi Sankt-Peterburgskogo ostrova petrovskogo vremeni [The People of St. Petersburg Island in the Petrine Era]. 487 pp. Moscow: OGI, 2004. ISBN 594282263X.

Of all the major European countries Russia is perhaps most deficient in local history, whether of an antiquarian or a more scholarly type. In their infancy before the Revolution, local historical studies were cut off at the end of the 1920s and revived only with the political changes of the 1980s. Since then, numerous publications have appeared and begun to provide a more complex picture of the Russian state and society outside the capitals.

The operations of the Russian state in the provinces have been the subject of great generalizations since the pioneering work of the 19th-century historians Boris Nikolaevich Chicherin, Aleksandr Sergeevich Lappo-Danilevskii, and others.1 Almost all of them relied primarily on sources that reflected legal norms and created all-embracing studies that treated local areas merely as cases. In contrast, Brian Davies analyzes a particular district, the southern steppe town of Kozlov (Michurinsk on today's map) during a brief but important period of the 17th century. The years in question fall between the recovery from the Time of Troubles (1598–1613) and the mid-century riots and rebellions in the Russian towns and coincide with the extensive reinforcement of the southern frontier. Davies's primary aim is to reconstruct the relations of the state, both central authorities and the local voevoda (military governor), to the population of the town and its district, primarily consisting of odnodvortsy who were expected to perform military service as the town's garrison with the rank of deti boiarskie (the [End Page 651] rank of lower- to upper-middle landholders serving in the cavalry, usually owning serfs). The odnodvortsy did not own serfs and their land grants were modest, so that they were expected to farm them themselves. In this respect Kozlov was somewhat atypical, though otherwise it resembled the other southern frontier towns.

As a southern frontier town Kozlov was under the Military Chancellery, the razriad, whose abundant records form the basis of the study. Davies traces the process of recruitment and land allotment, as well as the interactions of the voevoda with the community, particularly the cases of resistance in the later 1640s. What emerges is a picture of state action constrained by objective factors and by its own contradictory policies. One such constraint was the need for defense of the frontier, and thus the razriad wanted the area settled but also had to try to satisfy owners of runaway serfs. In the second quarter of the century, the authorities made the return of runaways difficult, but after 1649 the policy changed to the advantage of the claimants. In the pre-1649 era, the officials connived in popular resistance, and not only in this case. Davies is particularly good in his discussion of the complexities of petition and redress as part of the resistance of the community to perceived malfeasance. He points out that the famous laws on lèse-majesté (gosudarevo delo) worked not only to punish "political" crimes but as a means of redress against malfeasance by local administrators.

The resulting picture is not that of the massive state crushing the provinces first found in Chicherin and popular among many historians until the present. The authorities had a predominance of power, but the local voevoda could function only if he retained the trust of both local society and the central administration, and both required a restraint on corruption and the avoidance of despotic behavior. In the course of routine administration, like the assignment of land allotments and military duties, the voevoda had a clear predominance of power as long as he behaved himself. This is an important conclusion, but it is not perfectly clear how far it can be generalized. The frontier towns were a different social...


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