Thursday, September 13, 2007

That's, Grandma, the Yuri's Day!

The First All-Russian Sheep Breeding Exhibition and Congress
A. Komarov, 1912

That's, Grandma, the Yuri's Day
- a Russian proverb

Cultural Background: On St. Yuri(George)'s day (November 26th), peasants were allowed to move from one owner to another at their own will. In 1590s, this right was put on hold, and completely cancelled in 1649. Obviously, the peasants waiting for their freedom day, weren't quite happy when that was announced.

In 1910 Russian wheat constituted 36.4% of the total world export of wheat. At the same time the agricultural efficiency was low, due to the land property contradictions. At the beginning of 20th century almost 90% of the total Russian population were peasants. And de facto they had no land in their property whatsoever. The two main owners of land were pomezchiki (ground landlords and the Tsar) and the Church. According to the Emancipation Reform of 1861 peasants were not only freed from serfdom but also received the right to cultivate their own land, which was to be alienated from the land owners. Of course land owners did not like the idea, so the payment for the land was established extremely high, and no peasant could buy a plot himself. So the land became a property of peasants’ communities (obschinas) in order to secure the redemption payments for the land. Technically after the reform the land belonged to all peasants in general, but to no one in particular. The plots were distributed between the peasants in community according to the amount of family members and other factors, which were defined at peasants’ meetings. Peasants could not leave the communities in favor of working at a factory, as in this case their plot of land would be redistributed between other community members. Or he had to pay smart-money to leave for a certain period of time. The peasants’ communities were not only killing the industrial development of the country but the peasants' dreams of better living as well.

Before the Revolution Russia was an agricultural state where prosperous land owners were introducing new agricultural techniques, buying machines and tractors to intensify the cultivation. At the same time the majority of peasants were using sickles, wooden plows and a community horse to pull it.

The poster above advertises the First All-Russian Sheep Breeding Exhibition and Congress held in Moscow on September 12-25, 1912. It contained several sections: living exhibits, sheep products, scientific section and on. And although this event was not intended for peasants, a peasant woman in a traditional full dress acts as a central figure on the poster.