In 1861, Tsar Alexander II, Alexander the Liberator, had liberated the serfdom population of Russia. The once reigning feudal system had come to a halt and was replaced with the idea of equality. However, serfdom reform was not about a moral obligation but rather political gain. Alexander justifies his decision with a blunt statement, “It is better to begin abolishing serfdom from above than to wait for it to begin to abolish itself from below” (203).
Now free, the former serfs found themselves asking the redundant question, now what? Russia remained an agrarian state for their industrial revolution hadn’t quite peaked and was primarily found in largely populated areas, cities. While the peasantry, typically remained in a rural setting, they continued a life of sustained living and farm work.
In 1909, traveling the Russian countryside, photographer Sergia Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii brought color to a communal farming ground north of the city Cherepovets. A photograph titled Haying Near the Resting Place, most likely depicts former serfdom families working together to harvest hay for communal usage.
Setting the geographic scene for this photograph is challenging being that an exact location is unknown. However, it is believed to be photographed near the city Cherepovets, in Vologda Oblast, Russia. According to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), currently the exportation of wheat constitutes 15% of Russian exports. Wheat during the early 20th century was largely produced for its contribution to diet and for the production of hay.As depicted, the working individuals are in the process of “haying”, which is the process of harvesting dried grains or grasses (oat, barley, and wheat) to make hay. This activity took place in the autumn seasons, which provided favorable climate for the workers as well as the crop.
Just at a quick glance, the picture depicts a diversified workforce in terms of gender and age. Men, women and children are all pictured in this photo and are doing their part in order to complete the task at hand. A sense of community is conveyed within this photo, a rare sight in what is at the time a divided Russian state.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia A History. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2009), 203.
Prokudin-Gorskii, Sergia Mikhailovich, photographer. “[Haying Near the Resting Place.]” Photograph. Washington D.C.: From Library of Congress: The Empire that was Russia, 1909-1915. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire/work.html (accessed January 20, 2018).
Trueman, C.N. “Russia and Agriculture.” History Learning Site. March 5, 2015. Accessed January 20, 2018. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/modern-world-history-1918-to-1980/russia-1900-to-1939/russia-and-agriculture/.
Nafziger, Steven. “Russian Serfdom, Emancipation, and Land Equality: New Evidence.” Department of Economics, Williams College 24-25, (May 2013): accessed January 20, 2018. https://web.williams.edu/Economics/wp/SerfdomEmancipationInequality_Long_May2013_2.pdf.
Dennison, Tracy and Steven Nafziger. “Micro-Perspectives on 19th-century Russian Living Standards.” Williams College 1-50, (November 2007): accessed January 20, 2018. http://web.williams.edu/Economics/wp/nafzigerMicroLivingStandards_WilliamsWorkingPaper_Nov2007.pdf.