Agricultural societies and the Ministry of agriculture of the Russian Empire: dependence or cooperation (second half of XIX – early XX centuries)

Lysenko M.S.



Abstract. The article analyses the relations of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Empire with agricultural societies of the Ukrainian provinces in the second half of the 19th – early 20th centuries. The structural reorganizations of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, to which agricultural societies were directly subordinated, are clarified.

Since the establishment of the Ministry of State Property, it was believed that agriculture could not be managed and had to be influenced by indirect methods. In our view, this position of the authorities to some extent prepared the ground for the spread of public associations that focused their activities on the agricultural sector. In our opinion, a certain change in the attitude of the Ministry of Agriculture to agricultural societies took place in the 1880s. In order to increase the efficiency of provincial work, the agricultural department decided to use agricultural societies more actively, not only for educational purposes but also for representative ones, informing etc.

During the studied period, the status of public associations was discussed by both city officials and local public. In fact, agricultural societies of the second half of the 19th century were intermediaries between government agencies and agricultural population of the Ukrainian provinces. At the turn of the 19th – 20th centuries the situation changed. We emphasize the quantitative increase of peasant agricultural societies, in particular, associated with the reforms of P.A. Stolypin. Public organizations were engaged not only in cultural work, but also in production and marketing, which became a new area of their activity.

Agricultural societies were characterised by a high degree of loyalty to the existing political system. Belief in the power of the state and in the possibility of attracting state support to solve their problems was an integral part of the public views of their members. Therefore, it was quite natural for the leaders of agricultural societies to establish constructive relations with local authorities. Officials were often honorary members of agricultural societies, and their initiatives received organizational and financial assistance from government agencies. The beginning of the First World War testified to the continuation of relations in the changed conditions. However, in our opinion, their public service was gradually transformed into public duty.

The article concludes that the credo of agricultural societies was to find the middle ground, an alternative to bureaucratic and revolutionary methods of solving the agrarian problem. Therefore, even in periods of growing political confrontation in society, the contradictions of these organisations with the government were not fundamental or protracted.

Keywords: Russian Empire, Ukrainian provinces, agriculture, agrarian societies, public organizations, modernization.