On the Land, Territory, and Crisis Triad: Enclosure and Capitalist Appropriation of the Russian Land Commune

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Virginia Tech


My research provides a historical, geographical reading of land enclosure in the context of economic and agrarian crises in late imperial Russia. Using original records of Russian land deals that I obtained in the federal and provincial archives, I explore how the coalitions of landed nobility, land surveyors, landless serfs, and peasant proprietors used land enclosure as a conduit for coercive governance, accumulation of landed capital, or, in contrary, as a means of resistance. Through critical discourse analysis, I illustrate how the Russian imperial state and territories in the periphery were dialectically co-produced not only through institutional manipulations, resettlement plans, and husbandry manuals, but also through political and public discourses. I argue that land enclosure exploited practices of autonomous land management in the commune and furthered growing agrarian and economic crises in the countryside. The urban periphery became a strategic territory used for the accumulation of new wealth and displacement of two million peasant households, which accommodated capitalist development under the Russian Tsarist and, later, Soviet political regimes. Through this example, my research reexamines predominant assumptions about the land, territory, and crisis triad in Russia by positioning the rural politics of the late imperial period within the global context of land enclosure. At the same time, by focusing on the historical reading of territory from the Russian perspective, this study introduces a more nuanced alternative to the traditional colonial territory discourse often found in Western interpretations.



land, territory, property, land enclosure, Stolypin reforms, Russian land commune