“. . . will challenge (and should transform) existing interpretations of late Imperial Russian governance, peasant studies, and Russian legal history.” —Cathy A. Frierson
“. . . a major contribution to our understanding both of the dynamic of change within the peasantry and of legal development in late Imperial Russia.” —William G. Wagner
Russian Peasants Go to Court brings into focus the legal practice of Russian peasants in the township courts of the Russian empire from 1905 through 1917. Contrary to prevailing conceptions of peasants as backward, drunken, and ignorant, and as mistrustful of the state, Jane Burbank’s study of court records reveals engaged rural citizens who valued order in their communities and made use of state courts to seek justice and to enforce and protect order. Through narrative studies of individual cases and statistical analysis of a large body of court records, Burbank demonstrates that Russian peasants made effective use of legal opportunities to settle disputes over economic resources, to assert personal dignity, and to address the bane of small crimes in their communities. The text is enhanced by contemporary photographs and lively accounts of individual court cases.