THE BURDEN OF GRANDEUR: THE WELL-BEING OF THE RUSSIAN POPULATION
IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY ACCORDING TO THE ANTHROPOMETRIC DATA
Boris N. Mironov
Materials and processing procedure
The conditions of sources with reference to Russia of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries does not allow us to use such traditional indicators of well-being as national income per capita, incomes of various social classes and the level of inequality among them as well as real wages. But even if such indicators were at our disposal they would be obviously insufficient to characterise the material conditions of the people. The peasantry which comprised about 90 per cent of the population had week ties with the market of goods and labour. The lion's share of products the peasants consumed they produced in their own households selling a small part of agricultural produce to get money required for the payments of taxes and quitrent to the state and landlords. In terms of the way of life the greater part of the not numerous urban population (in the early eighteenth century nearly 13 per cent of the country's population resided in towns and in the late eighteenth century – 8 per cent) did not differ much from peasants and was also engaged in agriculture. Owing to this fact, in order to solve the problem set we shall use the information about the variations in the stature of male conscripts. Stature variations are a good proxy of changes in the biological status of the population and for Russia of the eighteenth century are also a fairly reliable indicator of well-being and standard of life since in pre-industrial Russian society more than half of peasant's income was spent to maintain the biological status. According to the earliest and reliable budget inspections of 1877-1883 (at that time the way of life in the countryside appreciably changed towards the diversification of requirements) peasants engaged mainly in agriculture spent on the maintenance of the biological status nearly 54 per cent of their income (including 40 per cent on nutrition, 14 per cent on clothes and dwelling) and those engaged mainly in home industry – 78 per cent (60 per cent on nutrition, 18 per cent on clothes and dwelling).
To assess variations in the biological level of life we have information on the stature of 57,549 recruits born in 1700-1799 and called up in 1731-1835. The compulsory military service was introduced in 1699 and extended to all taxable population in 1705. Unfortunately they began to measure the stature after the introduction of the minimum height standards in November 1730. Before this time they never measured the stature in Russia. From 1730 to 1799 there were 50 recruitments, in the first third of the nineteenth century – 26 more, on the average 2 recruitments every 3 years, although sometimes there were 2 recruitments a year. Not all of the official recruit lists have been preserved. But owing to the fact that recruits were aged from 16 to 35 and sometimes older the information available allows us to form a notion of stature variations for each year of the century. The information on stature was related to those who were medically examined and recruited. Their number varied from 14 thousand in 1730 to 132 thousand in 1796 and about 200 thousand in 1830s. Before the introduction of the universal compulsory military service in 1874 they recruited peasants (83-92 per cent of the population) and the lower strata of the urban populations – burgers (3-7 per cent of the population). For the nobility (2 per cent of the population) before 1762 military service was compulsory and since 1762 – voluntary. As a rule, they served as officers. The clergy (1.5 per cent of the population) was exempted from the service and not numerous bourgeoisie had the right to pay off from military service. Thus, throughout the century the social composition of recruits was stable – 95-97 per cent were peasants of various categories.
In due course basic requirements to stature and age varied insignificantly: stature not less than 160 cm, age 17-35 years. This considerably facilitates the comparison of data for various years (se Table 1).
Table 1. Variations of Minimum Height Requirements and Age Requirements for Recruits of the Regular Russian Army in 1730–1874, centimetres
During protracted wars they called up recruits aged from 16 to 50, of stature 1-5 cm below standards, in exceptional cases without restrictions. For example, in 1788 during the Russo-Turkish war it was permitted to recruit volunteers without stature restrictions. This creates some difficulties when data for various years are compared but the difficulties should not be exaggerated, however. First, information on the stature of recruits called up in the years when indulgence was in effect is relatively small in the overall data base. Secondly, the maximum lessening of requirements during Russo-Turkish war lowed the average height of recruits by 1.8 cm. Thirdly, the drop in requirements to height was often caused by actual decrease in the stature of the population. In the last case it was not the decrease in the height of recruits that caused the standards changes, but the drop in standards resulted from the decrease in stature.
Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii . Sobranie pervoe (St. Petersburg: Vtoroe otdelenie Sobstvennoi e. v. kantseliarii, 1830), Vol. 22, № 16681. An accurate assessment of stature and age is an important issue. At all enlistment offices recruits were measured with the aid of a stature measuring device delivered from the Military Board. It was a tin-bound wooden plank with a scale marked in old Russian measures – arshin (71.7 cm), vershik (4.445 cm), fourth and eighth parts of vershok (0.556 cm). At both ends the scale was sealed up with the seal of the Military Board. During medical examination recruit was stripped to the skin, put to the plank, his back against the scale, a ruler was put on the top of his head and his measure was taken. The accuracy of measurement was not regulated by instructions and depended, probably, on the honesty of examiners: in some cases they confined to ? of vershok (2.3 cm), in others – to ? vershok (the most frequent version) and still in others – to ? vershok (0.6 cm). The medical examination of recruits was made at day time, from daybreak till two o'clock in the afternoon. Examination with candles was prohibited. On the one hand, the examiners had a stimulus to increase one's stature for a bribe in order to accept a person who did not meet the requirements. On the other hand, they had a stimulus to decrease one's stature in order to insure themselves against an accusation of increasing one's stature since during the day man's stature alters by 2 cm. On the arrival at the place of their service recruits were measured for the second time and a deliberate distortion of one's stature was revealed. If the stature turned to be lower the prescribed standard the recruit could be sent back at the expense of the examiners. And if the stature turned to be higher then the fixed in the official list, there were no consequences for the examiner since the Army was interested in tall soldiers. The wish to avoid problems led to the fact that examiners had a tendency to understate the actual stature. The repeated measuring showed that the understating was within the range from 0.5 to 2.2 cm. No claims to that were laid before selection committees. The case of correct assessment of age was worse. Instructions demanded verification of age with the documents of censuses which had been regularly taken since 1719 or with registers of births which had been kept more or less regularly by parish priests since the 1730s. Verification of age with documents was somewhat burdensome for officials. The case was aggravated by the fact that in the eighteenth century the administrative and territorial
The Central State Archive of the Navy division was altered several times, and owing to this the materials of the latest census taken in one district were often kept in the archives of another district and it was indeed difficult and sometimes impossible (for example, because of a fire – rather a frequent occurrence) to find the required document. That is why in dubious cases they turned to the documentary examination of age but in most cases confined themselves to questioning inquiring of people not about their birth-date but about their age. As a result, as it usually happens when census are taken in traditional societies with a low level of literacy (in Russia in the eighteenth century literacy among peasants did not exceed 1 per cent) people preferred age ending in 0 or 5 (the so called problem of age accumulation), were fond of the figure 33 (the age of Christ), men exaggerated their age. The Whipple index of age accumulation varies from 175 to 250. Being aware of this peculiarity the selection committee officials apparently were likely to understate the age of recruits than to overstate it. In 1790 it was allowed to recruit carpenters from Kostroma province for the Black sea fleet with no restrictions on their age and stature but with one requirement: they should be healthy and fit for service. On the arrival at the place of service a contingent of 180 recruits was measured and questioned about their age. The remeasured stature turned out to be 1 cm higher (generally speaking it is normal since man's stature varies during the day) and according to questioning, age turned out to be 10 years higher than that stated in the official lists. In the course of verification it was found out that the age of 35 recruits was indeed distorted. According to official lists it was on the average 30 years, according to questioning at the place of service – 58 years and according to the documents – 37 years. As they abolished qualification for recruits it was an exceptional case of age distortion which revealed typical errors made in stature measurement and age assessment. In selection committees they understated both stature and age; stature insignificantly as it could be easily verified by the second measuring, but age – sometimes significantly as it often stated after questioning and it was more difficult to verify it. Age distortion requires special care when using stature annual data and compels us to prefer five-year and ten-year data in which the problem of age accumulation is largely eliminated. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the quality of measurement of recruits largely improved – the accuracy of measurement heightened up to 1/8 vershok (0.6 cm) and age was by all means verified with documents. And correspondingly the accuracy of data relating to the last third of the eighteenth century was in principle higher than that previous period.
The age structure of recruits in different years varied. For example, among recruits born in 1700-1709 the share of persons called-up and measured at the age 16-19 years was 14 per cent, at the age of 20-23 years – 55 per cent, at the age of 24 and over – 31 per cent and among recruits born in 1760-1769 – 23, 40 and 37 correspondingly. Since in Russia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries men grew up till the age of 27 the stature of recruits born in the same year will be largely conditioned by the following: at what age they were recruited and measured. In order to eliminate the age bias in the sample let us calculate the weighted mean height of cohort (by analogy with standardised demographic coefficients) basing on the standard relationship among the ages at which recruits were measured when called-up (the standard relationship was calculated from all data for the eighteenth century):
A check on the character of the distribution of stature data over years, five year and ten year periods showed that in appreciably most cases the distribution of individual statures is close to normal and this enables us to use the Quintile Bend Estimator computer program (hereafter referred to as QBE program) for the assessment of the average stature in the entire population on the basis of the truncated sample.
Thus, the accuracy of data on the stature and age of recruits selected by recruit committees in the eighteenth century was not ideal; however, it was on such a level which allows us to use them for a scientific analysis. Common inaccuracy in stature measurement is within the limits of random sampling errors. Inaccuracy in age assessment is neutralised if average 5-year and 10-year data used and the problem of truncated statute data can be solved with the use of the QBE procedure. Now we turn to the analysis of stature data (see Table 2 and Figure 1).
Results and their discussion
Table 2. The Stature of Russian Recruits by Year of Birth, 1700–1799, by 5-year cohorts, centimetres gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Voenno-morskogo flota) and the Archive of the Military-Historical Museum of the Artillery, the O ngin J ers and the Intercommunication (Arkhiv Voenno-istoricheskogo muzeia artillerii, inzhenernykh voisk i voisk sviazi). The sources never used by anybody.
N = Number of observations in the sample. x = Raw mean of the sample.
Let us make a reservation, that the obtained statistical results and correspondingly the conclusions made on their basis are of a preliminary character. The work on the formation of the data base has not yet been completed. In addition to the lack of information and gaps in data for some years several samples have regional bias. In consequence of this the sample Russian mean is either overestimated or underestimated as compared with population mean depending on what regions and to what extent are represented in the sample. For example, according to our sample data the mean stature of a 16-19 year cohort in 1785-1789 decreased by 4.6 cm in comparison with 1780-1784. This improbable result is explained by the fact that the sample for 1780-1784 includes recruits from southern fertile provinces inhabited by the tall Ukrainian people and the sample for 1785-1789 includes recruits from Northern Great Russian provinces with shorter people. Later on the problem of a regional bias will be solved with the application of the stratified sample. More attention deserve such methodical problems as the effect of minimum height standards, testing the divergence of the sample distribution from normality and others.
As seen from Table 2 in 1700-1724 the weighted sample mean stature regularly decreased and within 25 years diminished from 164.7 to 162.3, by 2.1 cm. In 20 years which followed, from 1725 to 1744, there has been an opposite trend and owing to it in 1740-1744 the stature of recruits slightly exceeded the level of the early eighteenth century – 164.9 cm. In the following 55 years stature began to decrease again and in 1795-1799 it was only 159.5 cm – by 5.2 cm less than the level of 1700-1704 and by 5.4 cm less than the level of 1740-1744. Hence it follows that the biological standard of living of the population declined in 1700-1724 and 1745-1799 and it rose in 1725-1744. Let us consider factors which could account for such dynamics. The hypothesis for the serious effect of epidemiological environment should be declined right away since it was stable during the period under study. From the point of view of the frequency and intensity of epidemics the period from 1725 to 1744 when the biological status rose was not much better than two other periods from 1700 to 1724 and from 1745 to 1799 when the status declined. This is proved by the general mortality coefficient (although the demographic statistics of the eighteenth century was very approximate) which did not differ much from the coefficients of the first half of the nineteenth century when the biological status of population was higher than in the second half of the eighteenth century: in 1738-1744 for rural population it was 41 per cent, for urban population – 54 per cent, in 1779-1783 - correspondingly 30 and 41 per cent, in 1807-1815 – 36 and 51 per cent, in 1851-1859 – 39 and 53 per cent. Consequently, the variation of the stature of recruits in the main were due to an increase in labour costs and worsening of consumption among lower social classes which were called up for military service. Direct information on working hours and consumption for the eighteenth century is not available that is why let us turn to indirect one – to agricultural production, prices, obligations, and taxes.
In 1696-1796 in European Russia on a territory within the boundaries of 1696 nearly 21.4 mln hectares of land were cleared from woods and put into an agricultural turnover. Owing to this the share of land under ploughed fields, meadows and pasture rose from 20 to 31 per cent. In European Russia sown area extended 2.5 times whereas population increased 2.2 times (taking into account people living on territories annexed in the eighteenth century). However area under crop extended even more owing to the transition from two-field system to three-field one and from long disused land system to regular fallow land one. It is clearly seen from the following data: in 1763-1796 in European Russia sawn area extended 1.5 times whereas in 1780-1800 crops increased 1.6 times and according to some estimates even 2 times. Since no serious technical innovation were introduced into agriculture it is reasonable to assume that this required an increase in labour costs on the part of the peasantry. An increase in crops resulted in an increase in agricultural produce. Before the 1770s grain harvests rose also owing to raising yield capacity. In 1696-1763 crop area extended 1.7 times, yield capacity rose 1.3 times, consequently corn harvests increased 2.2 times whereas population increased 1.8 times (see Table 3).
Table 3. Size and Distribution of Land Resources in Eighteenth-Century European Russia, Crop Capacity and Population
Intensive cultivation of land without proper application of fertilisers and decrease in fallow fields resulted in a decline in yield capacity in the last two decades of the eighteenth century in the main agricultural regions nearly by 25 per cent (see Table 4).
Table 4. Output/Seed Rations for the Major Grains in Central Russia in the Eighteenth Century, by Decades
Due to the fall in yield capacity grain output began to lag behind the increase in crops but all the same was ahead of the population growth: in 1780-1804 population increased by 19 per cent, total grain output – by 28 per cent, that is by 8 per cent per capita. Thus the production of grain, the main foodstuff, outstripped population growth and contributed to the increase in labour costs on the one hand and to the growth of the main foodstuff production on the other hand. However, the total number of cattle decreased and the decline in fodder supply in particular is indicative of that: in 1696-1763 meadows and pastures area decreased by 6 per cent and in 1763-1796 increased only by 21 per cent whereas population – by 63 per cent (se Table 3).
In the 1790s net output of food grains per rural capita without oats (100 kg) and excluding seeds was approximately 250 kg. This is the amount of grain consumed by peasantry in Russia in 1896-1913. True, in the eighteenth century they did not produce potatoes, the consumption of which in 1896-1913 increased the calorie content of nutrition by 10 per cent; but on other hand the output of meat, dairy produce, vegetables, fish and game was undoubtedly greater. However, in 1896-1913 the average stature of recruits (minimum height standard being lesser) was 168.8 cm and in 1790-1799 – 160.7 (8.1 cm less!) and the average height of the men born in 1896-1915 was 166.6 cm). Why was it so? The point is that in 1790-1799 a peasant had to sell a considerable part of his agricultural produce in order to pay taxes, rent and to buy some goods he needed and did not produce himself. The analysis of tax and rent explicitly shows it (see Table 5 and 6).
Table 5. Changes in the Burden of Taxes and Dues from Seigniorial Serfs in the Eighteenth Century Russia (per Capita)
* In money and kind.
** Index A does not take into account price changes; index B has been deflated to reflect changes in nominal prices.
*** Complete cultivation of a certain number of the desiatins of land per year; the desiatina was equal to 2.7 acres or 1.09 hectares.
**** Pud=16.38 kilograms.
Table 6. Changes in the Burden of Taxes and Dues from State Peasants, Appanage Peasants, Church (from 1764 Economicheskie) Peasants and Burgers in the Eighteenth Century Russia (per Capita)
* Index A does not take into account price changes; index B has been deflated to reflect changes in nominal prices.
From Table 5 and 6 it is obvious that the burden of taxes and obligations increased for all categories of taxable population, though in varying degrees. Landlord peasants suffered most of all. Even with the grain price rise taken into account the rent they paid to landlords almost uninterruptedly rose up to the 1770s when it doubled as compared with 1700-1709. After the powerful peasant uprising of 1774-1775 quitrent actually decreased but nevertheless in the late eighteenth century it exceeded its level of the early eighteenth century 1.6 times. And in 1780-1799 obligations of corvee peasants were not reduced ether. The whole burden of payments of landlord peasants, that is with direct taxes taken into account, was essentially lighter. By the 1770s however the total amount of payments, with a corrections for a grain price, increased 1.4 times and then decreased, but even in 1790-1799 was by 7 per cent higher than in 1700-1709. Per capita payments of other categories of peasants were lower than payments of landlord peasants. Before the 1770s they went up, then declined and in 1790-1799 even fell below the level of 1720s (corresponding information for 1700-11719 is not available). Because of the necessity of payments peasants had to sell produce they needed themselves for their own consumption and this substantially undermined their biological status. To discharge the payments in 1700-1709 a landlord peasant had to sell 250 kg of rye, while in 1790-1799 – 289 kg and in the 1770s – even 325 kg. During the century the payments of burgers rose in the least degree – nominally by 80 per cent. Burgers however suffered not only from an increase in taxes and obligations but also from a rise in prices for foodstuffs. They had to buy a considerable part of them in the market since their own household could not provide all necessary supplies as was the case with peasants. The comparison of stature of recruits from various social groups vividly supports the conclusions made on the basis of the analysis of the tax and rent dynamics (see Table 7).
Table 7. Height by Social Groups in 1700–1799, centimetres
The biological status of burgers suffered most of all: their stature in 1760-1799 as comparison with 1700-1759 decreased by 2.3 cm. The stature of appanage (court) peasants (they belonged to the tsar's family) decreased by 2.1 cm, of landlord peasants – by 2 cm, of state owned peasants by 1.9 cm, of clergy – by 1.6 cm, of manor serfs (house-serf peasants) (they were in landlords' service) – by 1.1 cm, of church peasants (they were confiscated from the Church in 1764) – by 0.7 cm. The biological status of non-Russian peoples of the Volga region (Tatars, Mordovians, Chuvashes, Bashkirs; the ethnic origin of recruits of other nationalities was not defined in the sources) suffered least of all. By the end of the eighteenth century landlord peasants had the lowest biological status, non-Russian peoples and clergy had the highest one. Now we see that on the scale of stature social groups are arranged in accordance with their position on the scale of payments they paid to the state and their masters. Unfortunately, nobles serving in the Army were never measured. The procedure was thought to be humiliating for their dignity. That is why information on their stature is not available. Undoubtedly they were the tallest people. The stature of their house-serfs indirectly testifies to that. They were among the tallest people in various categories of peasant and by 1 cm higher than other landlord peasants. What made the state raise taxes and landlords increase rent? Years when the tendency for a fall of the biological level of living was replaced by the tendency for its rise are very indicative and suggest an answer to the formulated question. First of all let us note four 5-year periods when a short-term and insignificant rise of the biological status set in: 1725-1729, 1740-1744, 1760-1764, 1775-1779. In my opinion, in three cases it was connected with accession to the throne of a new emperor. Every time it was accompanied by the remission of arrears and temporary weakening of the state machinery pressure on taxable population on the issue of tax payment. And this was substantial concession since annual arrears on direct taxes made up 4-5 per cent of the total amount of payment. The rise of the biological status in 1775-1779 can be linked with the peasant uprising in 1774-1775 which raged over a vast territory for two years and after which the amount of rent was decreased for some time.
In 1700-1724 when there was the first decline of the biological status Russia waged a difficult exhausting war with Sweden for the Baltic lands which ended in 1721 in Russia's victory and Nishtadt peace. During intervals in fighting in the West Russia also fought against Turkey (1700-1713) and Persia (1722-1723) and simultaneously she carried out serious political, economic, social, cultural and administrative reforms. Formation of a regular army, prolonged wars, building of towns, canals, roads, construction of a fleet, factories, reform of management required enormous funds from the state on whose initiative all these were going on. The state obtained these funds through tax raising, the use of the state regalia (monetary, salt, alcohol drinking etc.) and the emission of inferior money (the so-called coin spoiling). In 1701-1721 state revenue grew 2.9 times at the expense of direct taxes, regalia, various kinds of dues and duties (not counting considerable state obligations in kind – recruitment, delivery of horses and carts for the transportation of military cargoes, felling of trees for shipbuilding, building of roads, fortresses, towns etc., whose value it is difficult to estimate). Despite this revenues did not defray state expenses completely. In 1701-1721 the share of military expenditure in the budget was 76 per cent minimum and 96 per cent maximum. Recruitment became customary to provide Ibid, p. 383. personnel for the newly formed regular Army and Navy. In 1699-1723 they called up nearly 365 thousand people (15.2 thousand a year). In 1719 Russia numbered only 7,570 thousand males and this was a sensible loss of able-bodied men for the country. By the end of the Northern war, according to the evidence of some contemporaries, people groaned under war burden, high prices and impoverishment. A decrease in the stature of recruits by 2.1 cm indeed testifies to the lowering of the physical and perhaps general well-being of the population but hardly speaks of its disastrous fall. On the whole neither direct nor indirect per capita taxes collected in cash (with regard to the grain rise) increased (in 1701-1724 indirect tax receipts in the state budget grew 1.8 times). But with regard to the growth of obligations in kind the total tax burden increased since conversion of only recruit obligation to money raised direct tax by 23 per cent. If we also take into consideration the devastation of war-struck areas, asynchronism of variations in taxes, rent and prices and also the fact that in reality they collected more taxes than there were on paper (part of them stuck to the hands of officials from the local and central administration) the well-being of the population in the first quarter of the century lowered and this was reflected in the decrease of the biological status of the taxable population.
With the end of the military operations in 1721 and the death of the tireless emperor in 1725 a certain easing set and the biological status of the population began to rise gradually and in 20 years exceeded the pre-war level. A new fall in the biological level of living which went on 55 years (the fall halted only in 1760-1764 and 1775-1779) began in 1745-1749 and also largely due to wars. During this period Russia fought several wars: with Prussia (1757-1762), with Turkey (1768-1774, 1786-1791), with Poland (1768-1772, 1792 and 1794-1795), with Sweden (1788-1790), with Persia (1795-1796), with France (1798-1799). In 1763-1800 military expenditure on the Army and Navy absorbed 67 per cent of the state budget revenue. The most difficult was the war with Turkey. In expenditure and manpower losses it did not yield to the Northern war. Only military fatal casualties were 215 thousand, 2.2 times more than in the Northern war. Even during the first war against Turkey, in 1769 Catherine II had to turn to foreign loans which have become companions of Russian finance up to present time, and issue of banknotes which in the end threw into confusion country's money circulation. By 1800 the rate of exchange of a banknote rouble fell down to 66.3 kopecks in silver and in 1796 the state debt (with the issue of banknote) was 216 mln roubles, 3.9 times exceeding the budget revenue. Finally, the spoils of war in the form of new territories, the Northern Black Sea lands in particular, required considerable investments on the part of the state into infrastructure, defence, settling and development.
The second important reason that made the state increase taxes was in the fact that that it was in the years of the fall of the biological level of living that the supreme authority carried out structural reforms in the country. Earlier we mentioned the reforms of Peter I. The reforms of Catherine II were not less significant and intensive and they also absorbed much funds. The empress created real estates in Russia, extended estate self-government for townspeople and created it for the nobility, established estate courts, placed local crown government under control of the nobility societies, carried out administrative reforms which helped to strengthen the rule of law in management, encouraged the development of industry, sciences, literature, education, journalism, book-printing, theatre and art, open foreign markets for Russian agriculture, extended contacts with West-European countries in all spheres of life, founded foundling hospitals for orphans etc.
Westernization that started in Russia since the early eighteenth century was one of the impelling causes of the nobles' desire to increase their income required for leading a luxurious life in European style. This desire was stirred up by a favourable economic situation which formed in Russia as a result of the price revolution. In 1700-1799 the general level of prices, in silver, rose 5 times, grain prices – 5.7 times (including in 1760-1799 – 2.7 times). The phenomenal price rise had no connection either with economic depression or with the overpopulation. It was caused by the fact that Russian prices which in the early eighteenth century were approximately 7 times lower then West-European ones during the eighteenth century were evening up with the European prices owing to Russia's entry to the European market as an important supplier of primary commodities, first of all grain, hemp, flax, furs, but also iron. As compared with 1690-1699 by 1726 foreign-trade turnovers in silver rose 2.5 times and by 1791-1800 – 26.5 times. The role of foreign trade in country's general turnover rose. In 1724 nearly 25 per cent of the country's aggregate commodity mass passed through it and in 1800 – 41 per cent. Russian prices' catching up with the European prices and the rapid growth of Russian exports of agricultural produce which started in the 1760s after the declaration of freedom for grain exports (before that time grain exports were limited and depended upon the price level) created an extremely favourable economic situation first of all for landlords. In pursuit of money everywhere, where it was possible they expanded the area under cultivation, increased corvee to satisfy their requirements for manpower, and where it was unprofitable to expand cultivation they increased quitrent for their peasants forcing them to expand crop area or to engage themselves in non-agricultural trades.
Landlord peasantry (7,057 thousand of both sexes in 1719 or 51.5% of all population and) were the common source of income for landlords and the state. Naturally they competed for a greater share of the income. Under Peter I a compromise was found – the income was shared equally. Peter's I successors, however, became strongly dependent on the nobles and gradually almost completely let them misappropriate the state's share. It happened due to the fact that increase in the landlord rent, as a rule, outran rise in grain prices and increase in taxes lagged behind rise in prices. The share of income from landlord peasants acquired by the state was gradually falling form 50 per cent to 12.1 per cent:
As a result the state budget lost enormous funds which were misappropriated by landlords and spent on their personal whims (see Table 8).
Table 8. Losses to the State Treasury from the Gap between the Increase in the Poll Tax and Grain Prices, 1725-1800
* The direct taxes received by the state treasury are depreciated in proportion to the rise in prices.
The nobility also laid claim to state-owned and former church peasants. And here too, the empresses made concessions transferring nearly 1 million of the state-owned peasants to the possession of landlords. This brought considerable losses to the treasury as rent slipped away from the treasury into the pockets of landlords. The nobility's longing for former church peasants (1,626 thousand of both sexes in 1719 and 2,610 thousand in 1795) was rejected and income from them allowed the government to patch up holes in the state budget.
Let us summarise
The eighteenth century is noted for the fall in the biological level of living of 98 per cent of the Russian population since the share of the nobles whose stature was likely to increase comprised 2 per cent of the population. Possibly the conditions of the clergy (1.5 per cent of the entire population) were better than our information about those drafted into the Army shows since, as a rule, they recruited people from among the pauperised part of the clergy, people who lost their job and had no prospects to get it. Finally, it is unlikely that the biological status of the small section of entrepreneurs (their share in the country's population was less than 0.1 per cent) decreased. All privileged layers totalled not more than 3.5 per cent of the population. Consequently the biological status of the remaining 96.5 per cent of inhabitants decreased. The biological status took a turn for the worse twice: in 1700-1724 when the stature of recruits decreased by 2.1 cm and in 1745-1799 when it decreased by 5.1 cm. These periods were separated by two relatively favourable decades when the biological level of living reverted to the initial level of 1700-1704. From 1700-1704 to 1795-1799 the average stature of recruits decreased from 164.7 to 159.5 cm or by 5.2 cm. However paradoxical it is the decrease in the biological status occurred against the background of a considerable economic growth and was caused not by economic depression but by the rise in taxes and obligations which deteriorated the material conditions of common people and made them work longer and more intensively. Increase in payments to the state was linked with the wars Russia waged for the outlet to the Baltic and Black seas, for the status of a great power and with reforms carried out by the supreme power to do away with the lagging behind the West-European countries. The increase in obligations in favour of landlords was caused by their desire to have means for a comfortable and wasteful life. In the first quarter of the eighteenth century the surplus value created by landlord peasants, and they comprised more than half of the total country's population, was equally divided between the state and landlords. But gradually it became almost an exclusive property of landlords who at the end of the eighteenth century usurped 88 per cent of its volume. It can be said that after the death of Peter I the nobles, and to be exact 70 thousand landlords, privatised 57 per cent of the country's population. If two empresses, Elizaveta Petrovna and Catherine II could have resisted this and had preserved the state's 50 per cent share of the surplus value created by the labour of landlord peasants these means would have been sufficient both for all the measures taken to modernise the country and for the pursuit of an active foreign policy without serious detriment to the well-being of the people. Under Peter I the burden of war and modernisation was distributed evenly among all social classes, national income met the requirements of the whole society and owing to this the decline in the well-being was minimised. Under Elizaveta and Catherine II all expenses were shifted on to the people's shoulders, the people's interests were sacrificed to the nobility elite which appropriated the results of the economic growth and modernisation. In consequences of this the well-being of the population also suffered a great damage – under the rule of the two empresses the biological level of living of broad masses fell 2.6 times greater than under Peter I.
In the 1740s Russian recruits were approximately of the same height as British soldiers (164.7 cm) but were shorter than American (173 cm), Austro-Hangarian (171.4 cm), Swedish (168.5 cm) and possibly German, French and Italian if their height is judged by those who served in the Austro-Hungarian Army. In the second half of the eighteenth century everywhere in Europe the stature of recruits decreased but in variable degrees: in Austro-Hungary by 4.3 cm, in Britain by 2.5 cm, in Sweden by 2 cm. Only American soldiers preserved their former high stature. As in the eighteenth century in most European countries during recruitment there existed minimum height and age standards similar to Russian ones the information on the stature of recruits is sufficiently comparable. Thus, in the eighteenth century in terms of decrease in the biological level of living Russia kept pace with Europe next to Austro-Hungary although the causes of this All-European phenomenon were different. Britain experienced the industrial revolution, the rest of West-European countries were getting ready for it being at the stage of protoindustrialisation; all experienced economic growth. Russia also grew economically and was getting modernised in every respect but on a different basis – she experienced the apogee of serfdom, a sort of another enslaving. At the cost of decrease in the well-being of her citizens Russia became a great power in military respect, Britain tuned into the world workshop and other West-European countries were getting ready to carry out their industrial revolutions. High cost was to be paid for military or economic grandeur.