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On Mir by Sergey Korovin

The Russian word mir (мир), besides its direct meanings of peace and world [1], had some other meanings related to social organization in Imperial Russia. The first meaning was to denote the secular ("worldly") part of the society organization, as opposed to church organization. The second meaning was used in Imperial Russia to denote local self-government of peasant communities, called obshchinas. More specifically, this word refers to a village or community with the idea that all members of a community must work together cooperatively to assure mutual survival (thus the sharing of work, food and, in the cold winter months, warmth).

Contents

Mir as a local elected administrative body

Peasants (i.e. three-quarters of the population of Russia) formed a class apart,[2] largely excepted from the incidence of the ordinary law, and governed in accordance with their local customs. The mir itself, with its customs, is of immemorial antiquity; it was not, however, until the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 that the village community was withdrawn from the patrimonial jurisdiction of the landowning nobility and endowed with self-government. The assembly of the mir consists of all the peasant householders of the village.[3] These elect a Village Elder (starosta) and a collector of taxes, who was responsible, at least until the ukaz of October 1906, which abolished communal responsibility for the payment of taxes, for the repartition among individuals of the taxes imposed on the commune. A number of mirs are united into a volost, which has an assembly consisting of elected delegates from the mirs.

The Mir was protected from insolvency by the rule that the families cannot be deprived of their houses or implements necessary for agriculture; nor can the Mir be deprived of its land.

Views on 'mir' as commune

It was in the mid-19th century that Slavophiles "discovered" the mir. Romantic nationalists, the Slavophiles hailed the mir as a purely Russian collective, both ancient and venerable; free from what they considered the stain of the "bourgeois" mindset found in western Europe. Not surprisingly, it was but a short step from this to the mir being used as a basis for Slavophilic idealist theories [4] concerning communism, communalism, communal lands, history, progress, and the nature of mankind itself.

By the second half of the 19th century the Slavophilies were challenged by the opposing "Western" faction. Boris Chicherin, a leading spokeman for the Western school, argued that the mir was neither ancient nor particular Russian. The mir, the Western school argued, had arisen in the late 17th to early 18th century, and was not based on some sort of social contract or communal instinct. Rather it was a monarchical creation, created and enforced for the purpose of tax collection. Whatever the merits of either case, both schools agreed that the landlord and the state both played a vital role in the development (if not the origin of) the mir.

"Where (arable) land is scarce, the communal form of tenue tends to prevail, but where ever it (arable land) is abundant it is replaced by household or even family tenue."[5]

See also

References

  1. ^ Until the 1918 reforms of the Russian alphabet, the letter decimal I, identical in pronunciation to <и> was used in the word міръ [mʲir] ('world') and its derivatives, to distinguish it from the word миръ [mʲir] ('peace') (the two words are actually etymologically cognate and not arbitrarily homonyms).
    (Russian) P. Smirnovskiy. A Textbook in Russian Grammar. Part I. Etymology 26th edition, ca. 1915. (In Russian. П. Смирновскій. Учебникъ русской грамматики. Часть І. Этимологія 26 изд. (A Djvu file.) — Rule 4 for writing і on p. 4.
    (Russian) Max Vasmer's Russian Etymological Dictionary — the etymology of the Russian word мир ("world", "peace"), found in the query result for мир at an online version of the Russian translation of the dictionary (retr. 16 October 2005).
  2. ^ Until the ukaz of October 18, 1906, the peasant class was stereotyped under the electoral law. No peasant, however rich, could qualify for a vote in any but the peasants' electoral colleges. The ukaz allowed peasants with the requisite qualifications to vote as landowners. At the same time the Senate interpreted the law so as to exclude all but heads of families actually engaged in farming from the vote for the Duma.
  3. ^ None but peasants—not even the noble-landowner—has a voice in the assembly of the mir.
  4. ^ Cited in N.L. Brodskii, ed. Rannie Slavianofily (Moscow, 1910) p. LIII
  5. ^ Pipes, Richard, Russia Under the Old Regime p.18 (Charles Scribner's Sons, NY 1974)
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