- Sotsial′nyie konflikty i krest′ianskaia mental′nost′ v Rossiiskoi imperii nachala XX veka: Novye materialy, metody, rezul′taty, and: Peasant Dreams and Market Politics: Labor Migration and the Russian Village, 1861–1905
Peasants often participate in grand social transformations through actions noted in most elite records as resistance. Several generations of scholars have postulated how the peasantry actually understood social transformations and how peasant understanding in turn influenced popular reactions to such changes. Yet, as Oleg Grigor'evich Bukhovets and Jeffrey Burds note, until recently most scholars have shaped and molded the peasantry to fit their own political ideology or world outlook. Both authors therefore begin with a similar notion – that the Marxist class analysis of the countryside has provided an insufficient interpretation of peasant actions. They diverge in methodology. Bukhovets employs a statistical quantitative analysis to study peasant protest and petition writing from 1905–1914, while Burds embraces a socio-cultural approach in his study of peasant migration (otkhodnichestvo).
Bukhovets, a senior fellow at the Institute of History of the Belarussian Academy of Sciencess, Minsk, has published substantially on the peasantry's political consciousness during the 1905 Revolution and is a well-known figure in Russian peasant studies. The book under review is part of a series of ten historical monographs partially financed by Volkswagen. It has a significant print run (in comparison to other Russian monographs) and has received considerable attention by scholars in the West. The work is divided into three parts. The first section is an extended historiographical essay on social conflict and mass consciousness. The author actually uses the historiography as a backdrop for a more general exposition on the current "crisis of historical understanding and research agendas… theories, approaches, and methods" (14). In Russia, the crisis revolves around the place of Marxism in the post-Soviet age. Russian historians have been liberated from the dogmatic restrictions of Soviet Marxist analysis, only to replace these limitations with new blinders, as seen in their negative perception of [End Page 208] studies dealing with class and revolution (31–32). The western version of the crisis involves the rise of postmodernism and the resulting rejection of deterministic conceptions of history in favor of "objective nihilism." Historians therefore defend their arguments using only examples and illustrations, rather than analyzing data. Bukhovets' essay is a fascinating polemic by a skilled, traditional quantitative social historian uneasy with the rapidly changing academic field around him. His analysis of Russian historiography on peasant mentality is much stronger than his analysis of Western historiography. Bukhovets outlines not only the main arguments of prominent Soviet historians (most notably B. G. Litvak ), but he also surveys current archival holdings, noting that the central archives, especially the Russian State Historical Archive (RGIA) are surprisingly weak in their collection of petitions and resolutions. Western readers may be troubled by Bukhovets' almost total dismissal of the advantages of postmodernism and poststructuralism. Bukhovets believes that "marginal" areas of historical study (e.g., gender, nationality, and ethnicity) have invaded historical interpretation and threaten true historical scholarship. The author offers his antidote to the crisis with a massive quantitative analysis of mass peasant protests and the "resolution and petition movement" (prigovernoe dvizhenie) in parts two and three.
Part two, "Riot and 'Revolutionary Consciousness': Political Mentality and Activities of Participants in the Petition Movement, 1905–1907," is the heart of the monograph. Bukhovets divides the petition movement into four periods: January–October 1905, October–December 1905, the session of the First Duma, and the first half of 1907. The author argues that the peasantry became more politically developed in the last three months of 1905. Peasant petitions and resolutions...