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arrangement has been made for a term of six years. Those who attain the age of seventeen during that period receive a portion of the land held in reserve. Widows receive an amount proportionate to the number of their young children those who have less than three receive half a share; those who have three receive a full share; and those who have more than three receive two shares. Each member, as soon as he receives his share, is free to do with it as he pleases; one cultivates it himself, another lets it for a yearly sum, and a third gives it to a neighbour on condition of receiving a certain portion of the produce. Some of the richer families cultivate a considerable area, for there are always many members willing to sell the usufruct of their portions. A family may buy a number of shares for the whole term before the distribution takes place, and receive all the shares in one lot. In consequence of this practice there are still a number of members who are practically landless; but they have no ground for complaint, for they voluntarily sold their right, and they will be duly re-instated at the next general re-distribution.

Let me now explain how these facts tend to throw light on some of the dark questions of social development in its early stages.

The investigations which have been recently made regarding primitive institutions by Sir Henry Maine, M. de Laveleye, and others,* raise a strong presump

* Among the latest contributions to this subject is a brochure, which ought to be studied by those who take an interest in the subject. It is by Mr. Kovalefski, and is entitled "Otcherk istorii raspadeniya obshtchinnago zemlevladêniya v kantonê Vaadt," London, 1876.

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tion that all peoples have, at some period of their history, possessed village communities similar to those which still exist in Russia. "We can now prove, says M. de Laveleye,* "that these communities have existed among the most diverse peoples-among the old Germans and in ancient Italy; in Peru and in China; in Mexico and in India; among the Scandinavians and among the Arabs-and that they have everywhere possessed the same characteristics. Thus finding the institution in all climates and among all peoples, we may regard it as a necessary phase in the development of society, and may perceive in it a kind of universal law governing the evolution of all forms of landed property." Now the facts which I have adduced, when taken in conjunction with what has been said in a previous chapter regarding the transition from pastoral to agricultural life, help us to understand, as it seems to me, this peculiar phase of social development and the "universal law" to which M. de Laveleye alludes.

So long as a village community leads a purely pastoral life, and possesses an abundance of land, there is no conceivable reason why the individuals or the families of which it is composed should divide the land into private lots, and there are very potent reasons why they should not adopt such a course. To give the division of the land any practical significance, it would be necessary to raise fences of some kind, and these fences, requiring

"De la Propriété et de ses Formes Primitives," Paris, 1874.

for their construction an enormous amount of labour, would prove merely a useless encumbrance, for it is much more convenient that all the sheep and cattle should graze together. If there is a scarcity of pasture, and consequently a conflict of interest among the families, the enjoyment of the common land will be regulated not by raising fences, but by simply limiting the number of sheep and cattle which each family is entitled to put upon the pasturage, as is done in many Russian villages at the present day. When any one desires to keep more sheep and cattle than the maximum to which he is entitled, he pays to the others a certain compensation. Thus, we see, in pastoral life the dividing of the common land is unnecessary and inexpedient, and consequently private property in land is not likely to come into existence.

With the introduction of agriculture appears a tendency to divide the land among the families composing the community, for each family living by husbandry requires a definite portion of the soil. If the land suitable for agricultural purposes be plentiful, each head of a family may be allowed to take possession of as much of it as he requires, as was formerly done in the Cossack stanitsas, and as is still done in some of the Russian colonies in Siberia; if, on the contrary, the area of arable land is small, as is the case in some Bashkir aouls, there will probably be a regular allotment of it among the families.

With the tendency to divide the land into definite portions arises a conflict between the principle of Com

munal and the principle of Private property. Those who obtain definite portions of the soil are in general likely to keep them and transmit them to their descendants. In a country, however, like the Steppeand it is only of such countries that I am at present speaking the nature of the soil and the system of agriculture militate against this conversion of simple possession into a right of property. A plot of land is commonly cultivated for only three or four years in succession. It is then abandoned for at least double that period, and the cultivators remove to some other portion of the communal territory. After a certain time, it is true, they return to the old portion, which has been in the meantime lying fallow; but as the soil is tolerably equal in quality, the families or individuals have no reason to desire the precise plots which they formerly possessed. Under such circumstances the principle of private property in the land is not likely to strike root; each family insists on possessing a certain quantity rather than a certain plot of land, and contents itself with a right of usufruct, whilst the right of property remains in the hands of the Commune; and it must not be forgotten that the difference between usufruct and property is here of great practical importance, for so long as the Commune retains the right of property it may re-allot the land in any way it thinks fit.

As the population increases and land becomes less plentiful, the primitive method of agriculture above alluded to gives place to a somewhat less primitive

method, commonly known as "the three-field system." According to this system the cultivators do not migrate periodically from one part of the communal territory to another, but till always the same fields, and are obliged to manure the plots which they occupy. The principle of communal property rarely survives this change, for by long possession the families acquire a prescriptive right to the portions which they cultivate, and those who manure their land well naturally object to exchange it for land which has been held by indolent, improvident neighbours. In Russia, however, this change has not destroyed the principle of communal property. Though the three-field system has been in use for many generations in the central provinces, the communal principle, with its periodical re-allotment of the land, still remains intact.

I would willingly enter here on an investigation of this singular phenomenon which distinguishes Russia from the countries of Western Europe, but it is a subject which can only be treated at considerable length, and I fear that the reader's patience has been already fully exhausted by the foregoing abstruse disquisition. Let us return, therefore, to the Don Cossacks.

For the student of social development, the past history and actual condition of the Don Cossacks present much that is interesting and instructive. He may there see, for instance, how an aristocracy can be created by military promotion, and how serfage may originate and become a recognised institution without any legislative enactment. If he takes an interest in peculiar manifes

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