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Obshchina (Russian: о́бщина, literally: "commune") were peasant communities, as opposed to individual farmsteads, or khutors, in Imperial Russia. The term derives from the word о́бщий, obshchiy (common). This institution was effectively destroyed by the Stolypin agrarian reforms (1906–1914), the Russian Revolution and subsequent collectivization of the USSR.

Even after the emancipation of the serfs in 1861, a peasant in his everyday work normally had little independence from obshchina, governed at the village level (mir) by the full assembly of the community (skhod). Among its duties were control and redistribution of the common land and forest (if such existed), levying recruits for military service, and imposing punishments for minor crimes. Obshchina was also held responsible for taxes underpaid by members, as well as for their crimes. This type of shared responsibility was known as krugovaya poruka, although the exact meaning of this expression has changed over time.

The nineteenth-century Russian philosophers attached signal importance to obshchina as a unique feature distinguishing Russia from other countries. Alexander Herzen, for example, hailed this pre-capitalist institution as a germ of the future socialist society. His Slavophile opponent Aleksey Khomyakov regarded obshchina as symbolic of the spiritual unity and internal co-operation of Russian society and worked out a sophisticated "Philosophy of Obshchina" which he called sobornost.

References

This article incorporates material from the public domain 1906 Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary.

See also

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