National Geographic : 1896 Jan
RUSSIA IN EUROPE affairs and business of the mir are regulated in a council, com posed of the adult men and of the adult women when heads of a family. This village assembly has power to try and punish criminals, and can even send them to Siberia. It is the only government of which .the vast majority of Russians have any experience or in which they take an interest. The peasant gov erning the world in which he lives does not concern himself with the unseen and far away. The mir, with the exception of community of property and judicial authority, is the counterpart of the New England town meeting, the corner-stone of our republican institutions. The brightest men leave the commune and go to the cities to work as artisans, but they must first obtain permission from the mir, return to it when ordered, and send a part of their earnings to the village treasury or forfeit all their interest in the com munal property and all connection with their ancestral home and kindred. The land and property being held in common affords little opportunity for that struggle for wealth and a better and higher life absolutely necessary for progress. It is indeed a communistic, socialistic system, which some, even in our day, propose to engraft upon our life. Within fifteen or twenty years the power of the mir has been greatly limited by the establishment of the provincial govern ment, with its police officer, the representative of provincial government, the police having much greater power in his vil lage than formerly. SERFDOM. Serfdom and slavery, unknown in Russia before the fifteenth century, originated from several peculiar causes. Prior to the conquest of Russia by the Tartars, in the thirteenth century, the condition of the peasants of Russia and western Europe was in many respects very dissimilar. Russia never felt the bene fits either of Roman law and civilization or of the Roman Cath olic church; neither the influence of large towns with municipal rights and privileges nor of the feudal system. The Teutons had a sturdy independence and asserted their rights, while the most enterprising of the Russians, having a predisposition to a vagrant life, preferred to seek independence by wandering away from their communes, forming Cossack bands. This vagrancy was in creased under the Tartar rule, when the present Asiatic dress of sheepskin was adopted and other Asiatic habits acquired.
1895 Oct 31