1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 32

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 32

Chapter 12: Delays on the Volga

Ufa

September 1636

“Where am I going to put you?” Olga Petrovichna complained.

“I don’t see that you need to put us anywhere,” said Stefan. “Just point us to the land that Czar Mikhail has offered us and we will take care of ourselves.”

“Oh, you will, will you? What are you going to use for seed next year? For that matter, what are you going to eat this winter?”

“We brought grain with us!”

“What? How much?”

“However much, it’s ours. Not yours.”

“Perhaps this conversation might better take place some place other than a public dock,” offered Izabella.

That took a while. First they had to decide where everyone was going to stay for the moment, while they worked out the rest. After some argument, the fugitive villagers decided to stay on the boat . . . or at least on the dock. So the Ufa dock was full of running, laughing children. Two hundred people on a river boat the size of theirs were about a hundred too many. Add in several tons of grain, wagons and gear, and they had been living in each others laps since they loaded on the boat. The children went a little crazy with freedom.

Meanwhile, news of a boatload of people had reached the escaped serfs who had already arrived, and the dock where the boat was docked started drawing peasants like flies to honey.

Ufa kremlin

September, 1636

“What’s going on?” Mikhail asked, as he looked out the window at the activity on the docks.

“I don’t know, but I expect we will be finding out soon,” Evdokia said. A knock at her door indicated that she was probably right.

“Come in,” Mikhail shouted, and Anya came in, followed by Olga, a big blond man, an older dark-haired man wearing a priest’s cassock, and — was that Alexander Volkov? Mikhail thought it was, but wasn’t sure. He had seen the young man perhaps half a dozen times on visits to the officer academy at the Kremlin. There were also two smallish women, one of whom was obviously pregnant, but for the moment Mikhail paid them little attention. “Alexander? Has your family come over to my side?”

“Your Majesty,” Alexander said, bowing, “I don’t know. I was kidnapped.” The others stiffened, then Alexander continued. “It was done to keep me and my family out of trouble, but it still kept me out of touch with the family.”

“I take it then that these are your kidnapp — ah, rescuers?”

“Yes. This is Stefan Andreevich, the blacksmith from a village called Ruzuka and the leader of a large party of former serfs wishing to take advantage of your proclamation.”

“A whole village?”

“More than that. Others have been joining us since we left,” said the little pregnant blonde.

“How many?”

“Two hundred twenty-seven, including the children,” said the priest.

That was the largest group not led by a noble by a factor of four. “In that case, why don’t we gather up some chairs and you can tell me all about it.”

For the next hour and more Mikhail listened and asked the occasional question as he learned about the trip across Russia of the villagers of Ruzuka. It was mostly Father Yulian and Vera, the smith’s wife, who carried the conversation.

Finally, he said, “You’ve done a very impressive thing in bringing so many. I can use talent like that. Now, ever since we got here our cartographers, with the aid of the dirigible, have been mapping the area. I think we can find a suitable place for your people to set up your new village. We’ve set up several villages so far, and to the extent I can, I am trying to keep them fairly close to Ufa so that transport will be easier.”

They went over to the map table and found a place. It was about ten miles east of Ufa, in a lightly forested area. To get there, they would be taking the river boat about five miles up the Belaya River, to the mouth of the Ufa River, then follow the Ufa back north. The lands actually included a small stretch on one side of the Ufa River, though Stefan, looking at the map, thought they would want to put the village itself about a mile and a half from the river.

****

“We would like to know who will own the land,” Izabella said.

Mikhail grinned and said, “What we have been doing is providing all the new arrivals with a range of choices they can make. If they wish, they can be settled on a suitable — and suitably large — piece of land owned collectively by their village. Or, if they prefer, we will give each individual refugee a stake that they can use for land or sell to someone who wants land. In the up-time America, they offered forty acres and a mule to the freed slave families, at least according to Bernie.”

“What’s an acre?” Izabella asked.

“It’s an English measure the up-timers used. Forty acres make about fifteen desiatinas. We will be offering each adult a grant of five desiatinas. That will also be the standard we use to determine the amount of land given a village, if they choose to own the land collectively. So if we can’t give you a mule, your families should get something close to the forty acres, depending on how many adults in the family. A single man or woman gets five desiatinas, not really enough to farm. On the other hand, a married couple with their parents living with them might get twenty or even thirty desiatinas. More than a single man can farm without the new plows and reapers. But not everyone wants to farm. A young man or woman can bank or sell their grant.  For the most part, the grants are being combined into village corporations.”

“What’s a corporation?” Vera asked and Czar Mikhail could hear the suspicion in her voice.

“It’s not required, Vera. You and Stefan can set up your own little farm. But even with the improvements we have gotten from the up-timers and the research at the Dacha, it takes a lot of work to manage a farm. And a lot of it is better done in a group. There are the free villages –” The term Mikhail used was obshchina, which translated into “commune” and what it meant was a village that was held in common by the villagers themselves. The term had very little in common with the later idealistic communes where everyone owned everything in common, so no one owned anything. ” — but one of our scholars studying up-time law suggested corporate farms, where the villagers would pool their grants into one large grant and the land would be owned by the corporation. The people would own shares in the corporation, based on their contribution. As I said, you don’t have to do it that way, but it seems to work fairly well.”

“We’ll look into it,” Izabella said before Vera could ask another question. “What about members of the service nobility?”

“There has been some debate about that,” Mikhail acknowledged. “In fact, Bernie Zeppi and Tami Simmons suggested that members of the service nobility should be granted the same deal as everyone else. As you can imagine, the service nobility weren’t thrilled with that. What we finally came up with was somewhat larger land grants based on the rank your family held back west. But also with military or administrative duties attached. You will want to check with the land office. On the other hand, you won’t have any serfs to work your land unless you make some sort of arrangement with them.”

 

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3 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 32

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    ““Come in,” Mikhail shouted, and Anya came in, followed by Olga, a big blond man, an older dark-haired man wearing a priest’s cassock, and — was that Alexander Volkov?”

    This is not only absolutely unrealistic and blatant violation of the protocol (we know from the previous books that Huff&Goodlett can’t write an authentic audience scene with a royalty) but also a hue security risk. To allow that much unknown people in the presence of a monarch? Where is the guard? Btw – who are the royal bodyguards?

    “In that case, why don’t we gather up some chairs and you can tell me all about it.”

    *Sigh*. Sitting in the presence of the monarch? Really? Just talking to Bernie managed to break literally hundreds of years of tradition, protocols, customs and social mores? That easy?

    “It was mostly Father Yulian and Vera, the smith’s wife, who carried the conversation.”

    Then what was the point of them all appearing before the czar, hmm? Especially when one of you is pregnant. Just a few of villagers were enough for debrief – Volkov could be received separately.

    “If they wish, they can be settled on a suitable — and suitably large — piece of land owned collectively by their village.”

    Will any explanation of this uncharacteristic bout of charity be forthcoming? Because these are crown owned lands. To give away them just like that, for the village community (“mir”) to own, without some kind of recompense? And I’m not talking about taxes – just because they are no longer serfs doesn’t mean they now won’t pay them. No – what will they pay for the land itself?

    “Or, if they prefer, we will give each individual refugee a stake that they can use for land or sell to someone who wants land. In the up-time America, they offered forty acres and a mule to the freed slave families, at least according to Bernie.”

    Question – why the same thing should be done in Russia in 1636? Besides the fact, that the authors – just as I predicated – are simply recycling the “Great Trek West” and all of its tropes here? All peasants are members of the community. If they are not – then they will strive to join one or create it. What kind of talk about giving land to the individuals? Oh, and allowing it to be bought and sold freely – that is both too dangerous and too anachronistic. What is to prevent from the few rich noble followers in Mikhail’s camp for “encouraging” the peasants from selling their new lands for peanuts, and then “leasing” it back to them for, say, the portion of their harvest? Boom – and we have serfdom recreated in no time.

    “It’s an English measure the up-timers used. Forty acres make about fifteen desiatinas”

    Then why use the term “acre” in the first place?

    “We will be offering each adult a grant of five desiatinas. That will also be the standard we use to determine the amount of land given a village, if they choose to own the land collectively.”

    *IF* they choose? The authors knowledge (actually – complete lack of it) of the Russian peasantry is absolutely… stupefying. And having these knowledge is essential for understanding the serfdom and the situation as it was – as well as the potential methods to change it. What they are suggesting is just a bout of cargo cultism and up-timers worship, which, in reality, would not work.

    These whole system is lame. There was a reason for “mir’s” existence, first of all – the security and social safety. Yeah, okay – now you have enough adults to plow the land, but what if something happens to them? What if, over years, the number of adults (and the amount of mouths to feed) changes in these families? It was the mir’s job to re-allocate the land, which had been in the collective ownership – and surely the community was in to business of selling it.

    ““What’s a corporation?” Vera asked and Czar Mikhail could hear the suspicion in her voice.”

    Hush, now! The authors must show local primitive chieftain emulating rrrrracially superior up-timers in mannerism and language, in the hope of the Spirits of the Cargo to be appeased!

    “There are the free villages –” The term Mikhail used was obshchina, which translated into “commune” and what it meant was a village that was held in common by the villagers themselves.”

    No, obshchina does not mean that – it means only the societal organization within any such village. There were no specific term for the “free villages”. Or are the authors meaning sloboda or khutor?

    “…but one of our scholars studying up-time law suggested corporate farms, where the villagers would pool their grants into one large grant and the land would be owned by the corporation.”

    Bah, stupid primate downtimers! Need the rrrrrrracially superior up-timer knowledge for even the most obvious things! It is not like the peasant obshchina/mir already owned the land collectively, and re-distributed it according to the needs of the families which “pooled” their resources into it!

    Oh, wait… IT’S EXACTLY LIKE THIS!

    “What we finally came up with was somewhat larger land grants based on the rank your family held back west. But also with military or administrative duties attached.”

    “Somewhat larger”? Deti boyarskiye nobleman in order to have a yearly income just to support his ability to serve his liege ought to have 100-200 desyatinas of the land – 500 desyatinas ideally. If they to be offered less than that they would simply be impoverished pretty fast.

    And, once again – what’s with these bout of charity, when the crown land is given so freely to the crown’s subjects without recompense? This is simply idiotic.

  2. Obelix says:

    Lyttenburgh,
    don’t forget:
    A single person act differently than you expect from historical background. That includes a Czar who has lost his throne, has been freed by a group including an uptimer valued for his opinions by the nobility in his group, and was – according to story – not very “Czarish” beforehand anyway. Ok, there would still be limits, but … with behaviour of a key people in the story I would really give the authors a little bit more slack.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “…and was – according to story – not very “Czarish” beforehand anyway…”

      ^This. This is the main problem here. Who are they trying to portray here? A new cuddly, commoner/uptimer-friendly version of Nicholas II?

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