Preferred Citation: Lih, Lars T. Bread and Authority in Russia, 1914-1921. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1990 1990.

2 The Two Solutions

The Two Solutions

The food-supply question has swallowed up all other questions. . . . And we see that as economic anarchy has spread, all the deeper is the process of the penetration of the state principle into all aspects of the economic existence of the country.
An employee of the Union of Towns, fall 1916

By the fall of 1916 food-supply policy had become a central focus of political attention.[1] The feeling was spreading that a drastic change of the government's overall course was imperative and that any such change would have to begin with food-supply administration. Two strong challenges arose to the middle course that had been pursued by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Special Conference on Food Supply. One came from within the government and was headed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs; the other came from outside and was headed by the public organizations, particularly the Union of Towns. The three-way struggle between these two challengers and the Special Conference came to a climax in October and November 1916.

I will not be concerned so much with the complicated infighting that accompanied this struggle as with the solutions proposed by the challengers and the arguments they used to justify their approach. The deep fissure within the Russian educated elite over the proper direction of the future political evolution of the tsarist government showed itself in the microcosm of debates over food-supply policy. Were the traditional methods of the government hopelessly outmoded and incapable of being updated to meet the challenge of modern war and international competition? Or did the demands of the educated public to be given a decisive voice in the councils of government reflect only the ignorant amateurism of the frustrated outsider?

The clash of solutions was not only a partisan debate over the best

[1] According to L. L.'s account, papers reported 98 sessions on food-supply matters in September alone, most of them not coming to any conclusion. L. L., Vopros , 1.


approach to food-supply problems but also two opposing attempts to establish a basis of unity for the political class. Most people realized that the war could not be fought successfully unless the various elements of the Russian political class—the bureaucrats, the opposition activists, the "third-element" specialists, the military, and the landowners—achieved a greater working unity than they had been able to achieve in the first two years of the war. Yet this unity was almost impossible to achieve given the entire lack of consensus on the bases of legitimacy for the political class. Without agreement on a political formula the effort to overcome economic dualism would be defeated by lack of consensus on proper political methods. Since the beginning of the war, disputes over economic policy had reflected this deeper political conflict.

One possible strategy for a central political authority is to send an agent to a locality and give that agent full responsibility for maintaining order and in consequence full authority over other members of the political class in the area. In Russian history this agent has been the governor, and so I have named this strategy the gubernatorial solution . This term would not have seemed strange to political activists of the period. In 1914 Struve called the gubernatorial authority (vlast' ) the main unhealthy element in Russian political life; even after 1917 and the disappearance of the governors, people understood what was meant when Bolshevik commissars were called Red governors.[2]

During the first years of the war the main advocates of the gubernatorial solution were to be found in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the ministry to which provincial governors reported. The gubernatorial solution was advanced mainly by three ministers of internal affairs (there were six altogether between August 1914 and February 1917): Nikolai Maklakov, Aleksei Khvostov, and Aleksei Protopopov. All three were bizarre characters with close connections to the empress and to Rasputin; they were intensely hated by the public opposition. They were parodies of the reforming minister, filled with projects and plans that went nowhere. But the definition of the situation implied by their programs is consistent enough to warrant the assumption that it originated in something more enduring than three unstable ministers. Behind the gubernatorial solution was a great deal of accumulated experience on how to run a Russian government.

The gubernatorial solution arose out of a definition of the war situation

[2] Struve, Collected Works , vol. 11, no. 461. On the similarity between the governors and today's provincial party secretaries, see T. H. Rigby, "The Soviet Regional Leadership: The Brezhnev Generation," Slavic Review 37 (1978): 1-24. For an instructive look at the real world of the governors, see Richard G. Robbins, Jr., The Tsar's Viceroys (Ithaca, 1987).


that emphasized the finite amount of administrative resources at the disposal of the government and the absolute priority of the war effort. A certain amount of dualism was therefore acceptable to shield the army from the inevitable disruption of national life. This acceptance did not mean acquiescence in the blind policy of the military leadership, who seemed to believe that taking any civilian interest into account was illegitimate.[3] But it did imply that the problem of provisioning the population should be considered only when food-supply problems threatened disorder, and even then attention should be given primarily to workers in defense industries.

Preventing disorder may have seemed an unambitious goal to opposition activists, but to gubernatorial advocates it was a worthy challenge. Maklakov, Khvostov, and Protopopov each put prevention of food-supply disorders at the center of their political program. Maklakov wrote:

I assume that a revolutionary movement based exclusively on the preaching of the theories of learned socialists cannot present a serious threat to the system existing in the Russian Imperial state and society. . . . Such a movement will definitely be crushed by appropriate measures of the government authority.

But much more dangerous are revolutionary outbreaks of the masses caused by economic reasons, the most important of which is the high price of objects of prime necessity and in the first place—bread. . . .

The uncivilized [nekul'turnyi ] mass of poor people in the capital, independently of their political outlooks, explain these oppressive phenomena in the most undesirable fashion, willingly taking as truth various dark rumors, which boil down to the following: the government is completely on the side of the well-off classes and the capitalists and therefore willingly gives the latter the possibility of "making a bundle" by exploitation of the poor people, to whose lot fall, even without that, the heaviest burdens of the present war. Reasoning like this so agitates the simple people that more and more often one hears that it is necessary to start pogroms, to "settle accounts with the parasites [miroedy ] and the moneybags," and so forth. A mood is being created in which is hidden the embryo of all kinds of complications for the task of preserving necessary order and public tranquillity.[4]

[3] Daniel W. Graf, "Military Rule Behind the Russian Front, 1914-1917: The Political Ramifications," Jahrbucher[Jahrbücher] fur[für] Geschichte Osteuropas 22 (1974): 390-411.

[4] 1276-11-975/2-6.


To fight these problems effectively, the political class had to be united around the gubernatorial authority that was traditionally responsible for order. In early 1915 Maklakov argued that he should not be expected to preserve order by purely repressive means and that regulatory authority should be given to organs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the only ones "having at their disposal data on the needs and moods of the population, as well as having sufficient authority for carrying out any kind of exceptional measure."[5] In late 1916 Protopopov also complained of the danger that the Ministry of Internal Affairs would turn into a mere police station. Only if the governor had local sovereignty could he impose a unified policy and be held responsible by the center for order in the provinces. If he were not given primary responsibility for food supply, the only result would be endless squabbles between him and the other local officials.[6]

Another advantage of gubernatorial authority was that it was supposed to be strictly subordinated to the center. Gubernatorial advocates were appalled at the manner in which the minister of agriculture relied on voluntary cooperation, as reflected in Glinka's words:

I must point out that this whole organization [of purchasing commissioners] has one extraordinary feature: it is not definitely subordinated to the department, but rests entirely upon the free will of its members to render service to the cause of provisioning our gallant troops. My position as High Commissioner, called upon to furnish instructions and directions to the local commissioners, has been most unusual and might have been exceedingly difficult, when we consider that it lacks real authority.[7]

Gubernatorial advocates felt that more reliable means for ensuring cooperation were required. Protopopov, for example, realized the need for zemstvo participation in food-supply matters, and he asserted that the transfer of food-supply authority to the Ministry of Internal Affairs would broaden this participation. But he insisted that zemstvo activity would be productive only if the governor had more authority as well as control over the granting of contracts and financial aid.

These means of influence could also be used to lure the local zemstvos away from the national Union of Zemstvos. Protopopov felt that this

[5] 1276-11-975/46-50.

[6] Padenie tsarskogo rezhima (Moscow, 1924-27), 4:65-68; 1276-12-1288/2-5.

[7] Zaitsev and Dolinsky, "Organization and Policy," 5. This statement was made in August 1916.


organization was dominated by a revolutionary salaried staff and that in general the demand of opposition activists for a role in food-supply matters was meant to further political, and not practical, aims. This reasoning led him to attempt to bring unity to the political class entirely through the negative policy of banning independent organizational initiative—in particular the food-supply congresses scheduled by the public organizations in late 1916.[8]

Although gubernatorial advocates sought a secure basis of unity for the political class, they continued to accept economic dualism. This acceptance led to a solicitude for the apparatus of private trade so as to disrupt peacetime arrangements as little as possible. This policy did not stem from any admiration of the market or respect for bourgeois law and order. On the contrary, the governors had a penchant for high-handed methods of dealing with "speculators"—having them whipped in the bazaars, for example.[9] The reason for relying on the "commercial apparatus" was to free the government to concentrate its attention and forces on the vital tasks of supplying the army while making sure through monitoring and punishment that "speculative" price rises did not cause disorder, Although Protopopov, for example, had a more sincere admiration of the banks and the large commercial firms than the previous ministers of internal affairs, it is still inexact to describe his program as simply free trade. His plan was to get what the army needed (plus a certain reserve to be used for civilian purposes) by imposing fixed prices and then remove all restrictions on trade. Even at that point the government was to use its reserves to moderate prices.[10]

Gubernatorial advocates did not necessarily restrict themselves to using the existing trade apparatus, and at times a more activist policy was put into effect. Khvostov in particular felt that such a policy was necessary. Believing that "politics depends on the stomach," Khvostov took over the post of minister of internal affairs in September 1915 with a list of projects that (he said later) struck his fellow ministers as equivalent to socialism.[11] Khvostov's formula for achieving a mass base without enlisting organized social forces was to demonstrate the concern of the government by vigorous and visible activity. Police made raids on railroad stations revealing unloaded wagons, and gubernatorial agents were sent out as troubleshooters, all to the accompaniment of much publicity.

Khvostov tried to invigorate the traditional assertion of the tsarist

[8] 1276-12-1288/20-28; Padenie , 4:65-68.

[9] Norman Stone, The Eastern Front, 1914-1917 (London, 1975), 288.

[10] Padenie , 4:71-78; TsGVIA, 13251-40-140/13-17.

[11] Padenie , 6:84-86; Diakin, Russkaia burzhuaziia , 130.


governors that they protected the people against economic exploiters. Food-supply difficulties were blamed on speculators in the form of citizens of German nationality, the syndicates, the banks, and of course the Jews. To show that he meant business, Khvostov ordered massive raids of the Moscow grain exchange, and in January 1916 he sent out a circular to the governors in which he accused dark forces of sabotaging the war effort.[12]

All this activity could also be used as an offensive weapon against opposition activists. The city councils that made up the Union of Towns could be pictured as hotbeds of speculators.[13] Deliveries to the cities would be distributed through the police rather than the city dumas, and within the government Khvostov tried to take coordinating authority away from the Special Conference and its agents in the localities and give this authority back to the governors.[14]

Khvostov had difficulty connecting his activity on the food-supply front to a wider worldview that could serve as the basis for a political formula. All that was available to a tsarist minister trying to reanimate the gubernatorial solution came from the Black Hundreds, extremely nationalist and anti-Semitic groups spurned by more traditional conservatives as rabble—"an army of dvorniki (concierges), cabbies, servants, peddlers and rag and bobtail."[15] The outlook of these groups is expressed in a letter sent to the chairman of the Council of Ministers by an Irkutsk schoolteacher, Ia. G. Fedin:

The most important and essential defect of our food-supply setup consists in the fact that it was mistakenly given to the city self-governments, the majority of which consist of merchants who are therefore naturally interested in seiling the objects of their trade at the highest price possible. This is the first and most important reason for speculation, and it is necessary to remove it.

Claims that we do not have objects of prime necessity are completely unfounded—we have everything, but this "everything" is hidden and not allowed on the market in order that prices not fall. Set up a governmental dictatorship, appoint

[12] The tepid response of the public opposition to the anti-Semitic content of this circular is described in Michael Hamm, "Liberalism and the Jewish Question: The Progressive Bloc," Russian Review 31 (1972): 163-72. It should be said to the credit of Protopopov that removing restrictions on the Jewish population was part of his program.

[13] Diakin, Russkaia burzhuaziia , 207-16.

[14] 1284-47-269/9-11.

[15] Allan Wildman, The End of the Russian Imperial Army (Princeton, 1980), 80.


government and not elected food-supply commissars, and you will be convinced that those stocks hidden by the speculators can feed the population for a very long time. Of course it will be necessary to give these commissars a very large authority, so that besides requisitioning they can severely punish speculators: here there should be no coddling. The commissars should be subordinated only to the state and to you [the chairman of the Council of Ministers] personally; the commissar should be given the right to find assistants from the population, paying no attention to their social position—just so that they are honorable and wish to work for the good of the people and the government.

The moral significance of the appointment of the commissars will make itself felt immediately: even before they have time to show their authority there will be food products on the market in sufficient quantity and at reasonable prices. These products will only have to be used intelligently and distributed among the population—this already will be a secondary task. Do not delay, Your Excellency, in the institution of a food-supply dictatorship.[16]

A deep distrust of society's ability to govern itself, a romantic image of the virtue and vigor of the agents of the supreme authority, and the ideal of governmental service as the highest calling of a loyal subject—all these are combined in Fedin's letter with a disdain for the complicated job of economic regulation ("a secondary task"). But along with these traditionalist images are more radical overtones. Fedin was anticapitalist; he feared election because it led to domination by local elites; he had scant regard for bureaucratic rules and regulations; and he wanted the powerful agents of the center to be appointed without attention to social position.

But tsarism and a mass base were destined not to come together.[17] Khvostov's attempts to unify Black Hundred groups and make them somewhat respectable did not get far, and Khvostov himself fell from favor as a result of some bizarre intrigues concerning Rasputin. Looking at this effort to give a new energy to the gubernatorial solution, one is tempted to reverse Marx's epigram and say that history occurs first as farce and later as

[16] 457-1-219/69-70. Fedin surprisingly included participation by the public organizations as part of his program. His letter was received in December 1916. There is some evidence of support for the Bolsheviks from right-wing extremists; see M. Agurskii, Ideologiia natsional-bol'shevizma (Paris, 1980), 52.

[17] Earlier attempts to combine the two included the "police socialism" associated with the name of Zubatov. See Jeremiah Schneidermann, Sergei Zubatov and Revolutionary Marxism (Ithaca, 1976).


tragedy. It is certainly difficult to take seriously Maklakov (who did barnyard imitations to amuse the Tsar), Khvostov (who tried to poison Rasputin's cat), or Protopopov (who got advice from the dead Rasputin at seances).[18] But despite their eccentricities, they were groping toward a vigorous application of the gubernatorial solution that would be possible only when a new political class was constituted.

Opposed to the gubernatorial solution was the solution based on enlistment [privlechenie ]. The self-confidence of the "vital forces" of Russian society expressed itself in the view that the government could solve its problems only to the extent that it earned the confidence of society and enlisted its representatives into full membership in the political class. This was not only a technical but also a moral imperative: the government should solve its problems only by way of earning the confidence of society. This general view of the proper relation between government and society led to a definition of the food-supply problem as something that could be solved by what society felt it had to offer: expertise, the ability to mobilize support, and a sense of the reforms required by modernity.

The specific programs proposed by enlistment advocates varied widely, depending not only on what was seen as necessary for earning the confidence of the vital forces of society but also on different views of the precise identity of these forces. But moderate bureaucrats such as Krivoshein, the liberal public opposition, and the socialists all agreed that the key to the problem was earning the confidence of society through enlistment. A crucial role in providing continuity in the evolution of the enlistment solution in the food-supply area was played by Groman. As the representative of the Union of Towns on the Special Conference on Food Supply, Groman was undoubtedly the main spokesman on food supply of the liberal public opposition. But he was also a dedicated socialist, and after the February revolution he argued that the food-supply crisis demanded a socialist transformation of the economy. Groman's advocacy thus provided a bridge between the liberal public opposition of the tsarist government and the radical enlistment solution that became dominant after the February revolution. Groman was finally left behind by the radical extreme reached in the spring of 1918 when he opposed the Bolshevik version of the enlistment solution.

The logic of the enlistment solution was based on confidence—confidence in society and the goal of earning the confidence of society. It arose

[18] Bernard Pares, The Fall of the Russian Monarchy (New York, 1939). For an unexpected tribute by a Soviet historian to Maklakov, see Diakin, Russkaia burzhuaziia , 77.


out of a definition of the situation that emphasized not only the urgent priority of the war but also the all-encompassing demands made by military mobilization in all phases of social and economic life. The war was seen as a challenge and an opportunity. Far from wishing to limit the impact of the war, enlistment advocates stressed the need for complete militarization of national life and mobilization of social forces.[19]

If the population at large was to be enlisted into the war effort, it had to have confidence in the government. This precondition implied what was called a government of confidence (the insistent slogan of the public opposition) or perhaps even a government responsible to society instead of to the Tsar. As a pamphleteer of the public opposition put it, "The foodsupply question has long ago become and in essence will remain a political question. . . . To change the system of administration is the most necessary condition of a rational economic policy in time of war."[20] The new system of administration would rely not so much on agents of the central authority as on newly created councils such as the Special Conferences that included representatives from various social groups.

The population had to accept many hardships and sacrifices during wartime, and these sacrifices had to be distributed fairly if the government was to retain the confidence of the population. This meant a broad government commitment to ensuring not only that food was available but also that it was available at a reasonable price or, even better, rationed on an egalitarian basis. Then, as Groman argued, "Once it becomes necessary to regulate consumption, we must inescapably enlist the consumers themselves, who alone can organize distribution [by rationing]. We must not forget that if the mass of the population is not enlisted into regulatory activity, they will not understand it, and inevitably a feeling of deep dissatisfaction will result."[21]

The enlistment advocates wanted to expand the food-supply apparatus both vertically and horizontally: it was to reach down to lower levels than previously, and it was to include a wider range of public forces. The extension of the apparatus was defended by the pamphleteer L. L. in December 1916. L. L. wrote that the food-supply apparatus should consist of collegial organs resting on a wide range of social forces and empowered to elect the local commissioner. This meant that the representative of the central organs would be responsible to local forces. Only through such local collegial organs could the government carry out central measures

[19] Struve, Collected Works , vol. 11, no. 510 (December 1916).

[20] L. L., Vopros , 16-17.

[21] TsGVIA, 12593-68-78/12. This memorandum was written in October 1915, which is very early to be thinking about rationing and shows Groman's continuous pressure on food-supply officials to extend the scope of their regulation.


"tied together by a common plan whose implementation depends on harmonious and coordinated actions of regional organs." Election instead of appointment of the local commissioners, L. L. continued, would assure that these commissioners would not be "infected with lack of confidence in public forces." In this way the apparatus would itself gain the confidence of the public forces and therefore be strong enough to carry out "the most serious measures, up to and including compulsory seizure of grain."[22]

We see here the ideal of a voluntary hierarchy. Of course such a hierarchy needs leadership from above, but it presumably would be in the form of guidance, not direct orders. As a writer in the newspaper Den' put it: "Healthy decentralization is the foundation of proper development of such a complicated matter as the organization of the population's food supply, but along with this a living regulatory activity by the central organs is also necessary."[23] One reason for rejecting appointment from above was not so much principled democratism as suspicion about who would be appointed. We may surmise that if a change of government had lessened the suspicion between the locals and the center, the locals would have shown less resistance to central direction.

The opposition activists agreed with Khvostov on the organizing potential of the food-supply question, and there were various attempts in 1915 and 1916 to set up independent public organizations to provide the cities and the workers with food. The hope was that such organizations would eliminate the damaging competition between consumer centers—in one town, for example, there appeared twenty-two purchasing representatives of cities and zemstvos.[24] Politically these organizations would not only shame the government but also help enlist worker groups into opposition ranks and provide a national umbrella organization for groups excluded from full membership in the tsarist political class. A police report claimed that "under the guise of regulating food supply . . . there was an intent to create a supreme leadership center that in reality would have been a parallel government."[25]

Given the ambition of enlistment advocates, it is not surprising that they pushed for a full grain monopoly. Under a grain monopoly the government would control all the grain in the country above a fixed minimum left with the producer. The surplus grain, however, was not simply taken: it was to be exchanged in return for town products needed by

[22] L. L., Vopros , 4.

[23] This article was written in May 1916 and can be found in 1291-132-12.

[24] Deviatyi s" ezd predstavitelei gorodov Petrogradskoi oblasti , April 1916, 268-74.

[25] 1276-12-1294e/7-23 (a memorandum on the cooperatives). See also Laverychev, "Politika," 166-69.


the peasant. Although the grain producer had to sell his grain at a fixed price, the government would undertake to regulate the price of goods bought by the grain producer and to see that those goods were actually available.

The monopoly strategy of the enlistment solution can be contrasted to the tax strategy of the gubernatorial solution. Gubernatorial advocates viewed the grain needed by the army (and perhaps defense industries as well) as an obligation (povinnost' ) that the citizen owed the state in its hour of need and for which no direct recompense should be expected. The tax strategy demanded a specified amount, be it large or small, and afterward gave the producer free disposal of what was left of his surplus.

The ambitious monopoly strategy required a huge amount of information about the nation's economic resources, but the enlistment advocates felt that this information was obtainable in the form of statistics. Groman was a statistician by training, and his admiring disciple Naum Jasny said of him that "if Groman had been given a free hand, nobody would have been doing anything but collecting and processing statistics."[26] Overweening confidence in the new tool of statistics was undoubtedly one motive force behind the enlistment solution. Statistics offered control over a chaotic situation and the possibility of reconciling what otherwise seemed to be three contradictory demands: coordination of government action, expansion of government tasks, and expansion and decentralization of the administrative apparatus.

Statistics also challenged the claim of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to be the best-informed department because of its control of the police and the local administration. In the eyes of the governors, statistics was hardly to be distinguished from socialism. They viewed the statisticians on the staff of local zemstvos as a subversive element and did what they could to obstruct the remarkable studies of the peasant economy carried out by zemstvo statisticians.[27]

The logic of the enlistment solution thus described a full circle: to have equitable distribution, we need monopolized control of grain exchange; to carry out the monopoly, we need the confidence of the population; to earn this confidence, we need to have equitable distribution. The only danger was that enlistment advocates would be caught in this logic and forget why they embarked on economic regulation in the first place: to supply the army and preserve national independence.

[26] Jasny, To Live , 19. For the similar background and feelings of the Bolshevik commissar of food supply, A. D. Tsiurupa, see V. Tsiurupa, Kolokola pamiati , 42-44.

[27] Hans Rogger, Russia in the Age of Modernization and Revolution (London, 1983), 61.


The gubernatorial solution was openly based on special features of the Russian political environment, whereas the enlistment solution was much more influenced by Western models of democratic control of government. But the enlistment advocates unconsciously adopted in their view of the world certain structural features of the Russian polity in a way that weakened the relevance of Western democratic thought. In Russia the chain of authority went from tsar to governor down to peasant council; since there were few horizontal links at lower levels, this pattern resulted in a dominance of vertical communication over horizontal communication. In the West horizontal links between people independent of each other formed the basis of industries, classes, professions, and parties—the interest formations that were the basic political units of the parliamentary system. Although this type of communication was developing rapidly in Russia, coordination in the political system still took place overwhelmingly at the top.

The enlistment solution aimed at enlistment into vertical hierarchies, which helped preserve a pyramidal structure that lacked horizontal links at lower levels. The deep strain of alienation from the state in Russia's social thought that Robert Tucker has called the image of dual Russia emphasized the contrast between popular Russia and official Russia.[28] Yet the reformers' vision of a triumphant popular Russia also had an underlying structural similarity to its statist counterpoint, and this similarity created the possibility that a revolutionary new Russia might reproduce more than it realized of the old Russia.

In summary, here is a list of contrasts between the gubernatorial solution and the enlistment solution:






solidarity of political class


limitation of task

expansion of task

control from above

voluntary hierarchy

centrally appointed agent

locally elected council

advisory organs

collegial organs

tax strategy

monopoly strategy

limit impact of war

    of national life



strict priorities

reform ambitions

prevention of disorder


[28] Robert C. Tucker, The Soviet Political Mind , rev. ed. (New York, 1971). For a discussion of an allegedly Russian tendency to reverse positive and negative evaluations while retaining the same structure, see Iu. M. Lotman and B. A. Uspenskii, "Binary Models in the Dynamics of Russian Culture," in Alexander D. Nakhimovsky and Alice Stone Nakhimovsky, eds., The Semiotics of Russian Cultural History (Ithaca, 1985). For an example of Bolshevik susceptibility to the gubernatorial solution, see the hero-worshiping description of a food-supply commissar in S. N. Nevskii, ed., Prodovol'stvennaia rabota v kostromskoi gubernii (Kostroma, 1923).


The two solutions had roots that went far deeper than an immediate reaction to food-supply problems. The loyalty they inspired was not due just to a belief in their technical efficacy as a response to current problems; the two solutions sprang from deep convictions about the proper way for the state to go about its political business. They were solutions in search of a problem since prior loyalty to a particular solution usually determined how a problem was defined. The food-supply crisis was seized on by advocates of both solutions as an excellent illustration of why their strategy was the only basis of unity for the political class.

Challenges to the Enlistment Solution

Up to September 1916 the evolution of food-supply policy had been in the direction of the enlistment solution. There had been a steady move toward overcoming dualism and toward the enlistment of public forces. By October 1916 this evolution finally provoked enough opposition from gubernatorial advocates to check its course. The policies of the Special Conference had not achieved the results that would have disarmed this opposition.

Dissatisfaction with the Special Conference was revealed by an attempt to introduce dualism in civilian food supply by militarizing the provisionment of defense workers. The idea first appeared in a meeting at Stavka, army general headquarters, in July 1916. Minister of War D. S. Shuvaev (who had previously been head of the army supply organization) was then told to work out a more detailed project. The basic idea of the project was to provide selected factories with food supplies directly from the reserves of the army supply organization; the factories would then distribute them to the workers through its own facilities. Various mechanisms were set up for quality control and inspections (with worker participation). At the beginning this measure could not be extensively applied if only because few factories had canteen facilities, and those facilities that did exist were mainly for show. But the project would take in approximately seven hundred thousand workers, mainly in the Moscow and Petrograd regions, and was expected to have "serious significance in the struggle against the lack of material security of the factory workers and their families and against the strike movement."[29]

[29] 32-1-396/1-11; further information can be found in 1276-12-1294zh.


This project was having relatively smooth sailing through bureaucratic channels until it came to the Special Conference on Food Supply in late September 1916. Here the reaction was sharply and unanimously negative. In Struve's words, "To separate out one group in the population would create still more confusion in food-supply matters." He believed that it would be inequitable, as well as administratively and politically difficult, to provide food only for defense workers since they were not segregated residentially from the rest of the working population. It also seemed unfair to give a privileged status to the Moscow and Petrograd workers as opposed to those in other regions who had equal "state significance." It was thought the plan would increase class antagonisms, for what would the soldiers say when they learned that the soldatki , the soldiers' wives, were being discriminated against? Groman summed up the feelings of the Special Conference: "According to rumor, the government will take further measures to secure the food supply of railroad workers, employees, and then bureaucrats and so on, and all this in a scattered way, on separate bases and with different norms. . . . The food-supply plan should be single and completely the same for all classes of the population."[30]

The opposition of the Special Conference killed the plan. This hostile reaction to a mild attempt to impose priorities on civilian food provisionment can be contrasted to Bolshevik policy, which resulted in a crazy quilt of different statuses in relation to food distribution, not only between social classes, but also between military and civilian families and between occupations, depending on their importance to the war effort.

The people who rejected the war minister's project did so in the name of a unified "plan" of food-supply provisionment that would deal with the whole problem of food supply in a coherent way and would coordinate procurement, transportation, and distribution. The defenders of the war minister's project could—and did—make a telling reply. Where is your plan? they asked; we cannot wait on this urgent matter while you work out your schemes. Thus the Special Conference was under pressure to come up with its coordinated plan, which it did by early October. An important part of this plan was an outline of a system of local councils for purposes of both purchasing and distribution. This system was included in a set of new rules proposed by the Special Conference on 10 October which were the apogee of the enlistment solution under the tsarist government.

[30] 32-1-396/5-11. Other objections to the project included protests from factory owners against the extra burdens and the internal interference, and suspicions that the army purchasing agency was not up to the job. The army lost prestige if food-supply difficulties continued after militarization; for an example from October 1916, see TsGVIA, 499-3-1634/38-39. T. M. Kitanina distorts Groman's objections in Kitanina, Voina , 360.


During its first year of existence the Special Conference had given provincial food-supply commissioners few directives on how to set up their local organizations. The structure that had developed was largely dependent on local circumstances and on the initiative of the local activists.[31] In September 1916 the extension of fixed prices to all transactions and the wider responsibilities of the government food-supply organization, as well as bureaucratic challenges from the War Ministry and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, convinced the Special Conference of the need for more stringent rules for local organization. The new rules mandated a purchasing committee in the surplus provinces at the level of the district, the lowest rung of the tsarist administrative hierarchy and the only one to have direct contact with the peasant villages.

The proposed committees, at provincial as well as lower levels, were bulky, and rightly so, since "the complexity and many-sidedness of the questions to be analyzed and decided . . . demand a very complete representation of interests." Furthermore, the new district units were necessary for the sake of "making a closer approach to the producer and of penetrating to the depths of the localities."[32]

The new committee structure was also intended as a substitute for the private commercial apparatus. The government purchasing organization would certainly be preferable to

the haphazard middleman [sluchainyi skupshchik ], sufficiently famous for his negative methods of activity and recently fading away in view of the exceptional circumstances experienced by the country in connection with wartime events. . . . In the scheme of economic measures designed to raise rural productivity and eliminate the middleman activities that make the labor of the producer valueless, the placing of purchasing organizations under the leadership of the government central authority will have a very great significance.[33]

All of the citations just given are from tsarist bureaucrats—officials of the Special Conference secretariat—and not from the public organizations or from points further to the left. In the original proposals of the secretariat it was even suggested that under some circumstances the zemstvos would elect the provincial commissioner. The privilege of election was not an unmixed blessing, for it was meant as an inducement to a further enlist-

[31] L. L., Vopros; G. K. Gins, Organizatsiia prodovol'stvennogo dela na mestakh (Petrograd, 1916); 457-1-255, p. 61; Obzor deiatel'nosti osobogo soveshchaniia (Petrograd, 1916), 220. Obzor can be found in 1291-132-47.

[32] 1291-132-18/45-48; Materialy , xiii-xxxi.

[33] Materialy , xiii-xxxi.


ment of the zemstvos in times of difficulty, especially when it seemed that the producer would not deliver his grain voluntarily. In that case the zemstvos would move from "voluntary service" to an "official obligation" to provide the necessary grain.[34] Election of the provincial commissioner from below was not included in the final rules as published. A conference of the Union of Zemstvos in late October called for local election, but by that time the local committee rules as a whole were doomed. This de facto alliance between the specialists of the Special Conference secretariat and the specialists in the central bureaus of the public organizations is an indication of the complexity of the political forces and coalitions that influenced the course of food-supply policy.

The proposed rules would have marked a real step forward in the evolution of the tsarist government and an important attempt to bring the central administration and the population into direct contact. Its significance was not lost on Protopopov, who listed with horror all the local organizations to be included: three landowners, elected by the district zemstvo; three peasant representatives; representatives of cooperatives within the district; a representative of the tax inspectorate; the district peasant elder; members of local peasant institutions; the justice of the peace; a member of the district zemstvo board; zemstvo doctors, veterinarians, agronomists, and insurance agents; representatives of the local church hierarchy; representatives of the commercial and industrial classes; representatives of local branches of the public organizations (Union of Towns, Union of Zemstvos, War Industries Committees); and members of the Special Conference who happened to be in the area. Protopopov concluded, "Is it even necessary to mention that with this kind of composition the food-supply committees will be representative institutions, not of the zemstvos, but of the so-called third element [or professional staff] and that, inasmuch as the committees will obviously not work for the common good so much as for their particular goals, they deserve to be abolished?"[35] The result of Protopopov's accusation was a compromise: the bid by his ministry to take over the food supply was rejected, but the attempt by the Special Conference to expand the apparatus was also rejected. The rules of 10 October were quietly retracted even though they had been officially published, and things were left much as they were.

N. Kondratiev expressed the public opposition's view of this retreat: the government found the rules for local organizations "politically dangerous and in particular even saw in the district organizations a tendency to

[34] 457-1-261/67-93.

[35] 1276-12-1288/20-28.


implant in contraband fashion [the old liberal project of] a district zemstvo. A better illustration of the interference of the politically reactionary tendencies of the government in the business of supply [than the retraction of the October rules] would be hard to find."[36] Another view is put forth by Zaitsev and Dolinsky: it was not only political considerations that led to the conclusion that the bulky local committees would have been unworkable. Aleksandr Rittikh, the last tsarist minister of agriculture, preferred working with peasant elders to working with the proposed district committees because he believed that the peasant officials would be more "prompt executors" of his new policy. Zaitsev and Dolinsky also pointed to the bad experience of the Provisional Government with such committees.[37]

The Rittikh Razverstka

When Rittikh, a career official in the Ministry of Agriculture who had played an important role a decade earlier in the formation of the Stolypin reform legislation, took office as agriculture minister in November 1916, he was immediately confronted with an emergency. A telegram from General Aleksei Brusilov, commander of the southwestern front, described at length the miserable and inadequate food of the soldier. Brusilov stressed that the army had no reserves and was living hand to mouth on incoming shipments. This situation not only created an intolerable dependence on the flawless functioning of the railroads but demoralized the troops as well. The general demanded that the civilian authorities quickly build up reserves; otherwise he would authorize his officers to start foraging for grain.[38]

Rittikh immediately depleted available supplies of grain and sent 85 million poods to the army. But the need to build up army reserves meant that the order from the army was increased from the actual yearly use of around 485 million poods of grain to 686 million. At the same time, because of the extension of fixed prices to all transactions, central government purchases earmarked for civilian use went up from 411 million poods of grain to 420 million, and for a while the amount was thought to be much

[36] Kondratiev, Rynok khlebov , 87.

[37] Zaitsev and Dolinsky, "Organization and Policy," 22. Dolinsky the participant was less detached than Dolinsky the historian; in 1917, he blamed the gubernatorial authority for the demise of the October rules. Izvestiia po prodovol'stvennomu delu 1 (32): 5-7 (hereafter cited as Izv. po prod. delu ).

[38] 457-1-78. The relevant portions of this telegram can be found in A. L. Sidorov, Ekonomicheskoe polozhenie Rossii v gody pervoi mirovoi voiny (Moscow, 1973), 492. The food-supply situation in the army at this period is discussed in Wildman, Russian Imperial Army , 108.


higher. The total order for government purchases was thus 1,106 million poods of grain—that is, roughly equivalent to the entire commercial turnover in prewar years.[39]

At the same time as he was faced with urgent new demands, Rittikh had to address a deteriorating situation on the supply side. Time had been lost in the summer and early fall, before the close of river transport in midOctober. Besides terrible weather, a major problem was the tardiness in setting fixed prices for grain and disappointment caused by the prices when they were finally announced. Many middlemen had already built up stocks by paying prices higher than those the government was now willing to match. The requisitioning of these stocks by panicky purchasing commissioners meant the complete end of commercial operations, for the merchants were in no position to replace them.[40]

The government purchasing apparatus was also degenerating into a competitive free-for-all and an "unbelievable customs war of all the provinces among themselves." Bureaucrats of the Agriculture Ministry openly encouraged the consumer regions to send their own agents to the producing regions, saying, "Perhaps they will listen to you more than they do to us."[41]

If material incentives were unavailing, Rittikh realized that the use of force against the mass of peasant producers was hardly feasible,[42] as an incident in Viatka province in early December 1916 confirms. There a provincial levy had already been applied to obtain oats. A land captain (the tsarist official directly responsible for the peasantry) had gone out with a force of ten policemen (strazhniki ) to Aleksandrovskaia, a village of about sixty-five households, since thus far no one had delivered so much as a single pood of oats. The peasants blandly informed him that the provincial levy was meant to apply only to surpluses, of which they unfortunately had none. The land captain tried to check the storehouses of the peasants, but in each case the owner never seemed to be around; so he broke in and took the appropriate amount. This action infuriated the crowd of peasants. At the end of the day, fearing bloodshed and not having sufficient carts and men, the land captain retreated and asked for further instructions from the chairman of the zemstvo of the county, the administrative unit between the

[39] 457-1-78/10-20; Nicholas Golovine, The Russian Army in the World War (New Haven, 1931), 49.

[40] TsGVIA, 369-1-376/92-106 (speech by Rittikh).

[41] Ek. pol. , pt. 3, doc. 94; Chaianov, Vopros , 23-24; Sidorov, Ekonomicheskoe polozhenie , 486-91.

[42] Gosudarstvennaia duma, IV sozyv, sessiia V (Petrograd, 1917), 1261-83 (hereafter cited as Duma). Speech of 14 February 1917.


district and the province. On their side the peasants sent in a complaint to Petrograd.

The zemstvo chairman saw a dilemma: "Without a doubt, if compulsory measures are not applied to the peasants of Aleksandrovskaia, the whole purchase of oats in the county will be stopped; even more dangerous in its consequences, however, [would be] any serious clash . . . between officials of the administration and the peasants." He was especially afraid of being accused of arbitrariness (proizvol ) and reminded his local officials that "wide circles of the public" were taking an active interest in food-supply administration. His concrete suggestions were to seal off the storehouses and intensify efforts to persuade influential peasants.

The governor's response was only slightly more vigorous. He ordered that a detachment be sent in to inspire respect (vnushitel'nyi otriad ) but also stated that on no account should there be bloodshed.[43] Besides all the other obstacles to the use of force, such as unreliable troops, the case of Aleksandrovskaia shows that one restraining factor was the hostility of public opinion, not to mention the administration's own scruples. The government had the unenviable choice of either appearing bloodthirsty or appearing foolish.

Faced with a situation in which neither material incentives nor force could meet the demands of urgency, Rittikh improvised a response based on moral incentives. "The idea of the razverstka . . . consists in the transfer of grain deliveries from the area of commercial transactions to the area of duty toward the homeland, a duty obligatory for every Russian citizen in the conditions of the war we are living through."[44] Out of the total government order of 1,106 million poods of grain, Rittikh took out 772 million to be subjected to a razverstka . A razverstka is a method for alloting shares: a total amount is determined first, and this amount is divided up among those concerned.[45] Rittikh's total of 772 million poods was divided up between provinces, after which the provincial zemstvos were to hand out fulfillment quotas to the county zemstvos, which in turn would do the same to the peasant organizations on the district level, and so on down to the peasant household.

The total of 772 million poods was based on the army order of 686 million, with the rest intended for workers in defense industries. Rittikh felt that this open return to dualism was necessary because only the direct war effort could justify making grain deliveries a matter of civic obligation. But he also felt he could not publicly explain the desperate situation of

[43] 456-1-118/81, 102-11. ("Levy" is a translation for razverstka .)

[44] 369-1-376/3-14 (Special Conference on Defense, 15 Feb. 1917).

[45] For further discussion of the term razverstka , see Note on Translation.


army reserves, and thus much of his urgency could not be communicated to the public. Since the army order was so much larger than the army's actual yearly consumption, Rittikh has been accused of "lying grandiosely" and of surreptitiously including civilian procurement in the razverstka.[46] But although there were a few exceptions based on special circumstances or personal influence, Rittikh's razverstka really was intended only for the direct war effort.[47]

The real aim of the razverstka was to speed up deliveries. It was announced in early December, and the total process of allotting quotas, right down to the individual peasant, was supposed to be completed by 6 January 1917. This tempo would have been fast for any government and was unheard-of for the tsarist government; the deadline had to be extended until 1 March. These deadlines were only meant for the allocation of quotas, and actual deliveries were obligatory within a six-month period. Deliveries made at any time after 2 December 1916 would count toward one's razverstka quota, and special receipts were to be given out for this purpose. Any deliveries made before the quotas were determined would obtain better prices in the form of transport costs and bonuses for large shipments. Local officials were also told that if deliveries were not forthcoming, Rittikh would be forced to take dire, if still unspecified, steps, or (even more ominously) the entire matter would be handed over to the military to deal with as they saw fit.

The Rittikh razverstka was not based on the use of force; it was rather an attempt to impose "something of an obligatory nature" on grain deliveries.[48] This sense of obligation would be created by the allotment of a definite quota for each producer labeled "your contribution to national defense" and even more by the urgency generated by the campaign itself. Rittikh said that he did not care if the razverstka failed as long as grain was delivered; if a purchasing commissioner did not like the razverstka method and felt he could obtain his quota by regular channels—fine, let him do so.[49] The price bonuses and the threat of force were meant as supplementary motives backing up this sense of urgent civic duty. Requisition powers remained available, but at least they would now be applied more equitably instead of haphazardly to any grain holder whose stocks happened to be in a convenient place. Rittikh had in fact come up with the razverstka in the first place mainly to prevent the use of force by the military.

[46] George Yaney, The Urge to Mobilize (Urbana, 1982), 433; Zaitsev and Dolinsky, "Organization and Policy," 95.

[47] Kitanina, Voina , 254-64.

[48] E. Iashnov, in Izv. po prod. delu 1 (32): 9-11.

[49] Duma speech of 14 February 1917. Out of thirty provinces nine chose this option.


Rittikh failed in his primary objective of creating an atmosphere of urgency and self-sacrifice; instead, the razverstka gave rise to a storm of protest and criticism.[50] Rittikh was accused of reviving dualism and abandoning the cities to their fate, especially the provincial cities with few defense workers. A hostile source reports him as saying he was not going to worry about "some Tula or Orenburg or other."[51] In theory the razverstka did not imply a fundamental break with the existing procurement system, which was still based on fixed prices and the distribution of orders to purchasing commissioners. In reality the exclusive focus of government attention on the direct war effort and the headlong disintegration of the government purchasing apparatus meant that the cities were left to their own devices. Even Petrograd and Moscow were getting no more than onetenth of their orders filled.[52] Rittikh could only have defended himself by saying that he was not throwing the cities overboard but rather, out of the shipwreck of food supply he discovered on taking office, he was trying to ensure that the army at least did not go under.

It was also charged that in the interests of speed Rittikh failed to consult with the provincial commissioners but instead hastily assigned razverstka quotas based on dubious statistics. Previously the determination of provincial purchasing targets had been accomplished through bargaining by the purchasing commissioners among themselves, which (it was claimed) led to the targets representing a moral authority that they lacked when they were merely handed down by the center.[53] The figures for the 1916 harvest were unreliable, even though they had been provided by the zemstvos themselves, and it was also difficult to determine how much grain had already been procured previous to the razverstka. Differences among provinces in the level of marketed grain were also not taken sufficiently into account; some provinces got off easy and others were unfairly burdened. Whatever the justice of these claims, the result was that zemstvo activists distributed quotas to lower levels only under protest and often disavowed all responsibility for the outcome.[54]

Rittikh's manipulation of the fixed prices by adding transport costs also provoked outrage from the public opposition. One observer, I. Sigov, reported that he "personally heard a passionate speech by a genuine Russian socialist intellectual, who in enumerating the genuinely horrible

[50] Kondratiev, Rynok khlebov , 106-10; Bukshpan, Politika , 397-401; Zaitsev and Dolinsky, "Organization and Policy," 88-97.

[51] Sidorov, Ekonomicheskoe polozhenie , 490, citing a Union of Towns report.

[52] TsGVIA, 369-1-376/92-106.

[53] Zaitsev and Dolinsky, "Organization and Policy," 88-97.

[54] Ek. pol. , pt. 3, docs. 85, 86, 87, 88.


crimes of the old government included the fact that the government 'did not scruple to make the fixed grain prices flexible.'"[55] According to the more substantive objections by specialists, Rittikh had repealed the law of rent, so that grain farthest from transportation points was now worth as much as more conveniently located grain. Since every grain shipment had a different price, it was impossible to establish consistent regulated prices for consumers.[56]

Rittikh felt that under the battle cry of moderate prices the consumer interest had gone too far in dampening the economic stimulus of the producer to deliver his grain. In particular, the growing difficulties of cartage and the necessity of tapping grain supplies now held far from railroad station points was not taken sufficiently into account.[57] Beyond the political difficulties involved in raising the fixed price, it would not work because the psychological moment when peasants normally marketed in the fall had been wasted; besides, the peasants had enough money and were not feeling the economic pinch. Furthermore, they would interpret any price concessions as weakness and would hold out for more. Therefore Rittikh's price supplements were presented as strictly temporary and as a once-in-a-food-supply-campaign opportunity. The supplements were originally meant to expire on 6 January 1917, when the razverstka allotment process was to be concluded, but an extension was then made until 1 March. This extension undoubtedly weakened their credibility as an inducement to quick delivery.

The most fundamental objection to the razverstka was that it tried to avert the necessity of enlisting social forces. While Rittikh called for unity, his fellow minister Protopopov was closing down food-supply congresses right and left. Aleksandr Chaianov remarked a few months later that "the government feared hunger, but it feared public organizations even more."[58] The razverstka failed because "the absence of a base for foodsupply organizations in the population itself and the prerevolutionary zemstvo's isolation from the peasantry [meant that] as the razverstka got closer to the producers, in their view it became more and more a simple seizure of grain by an unpopular state authority."[59]

The government had been on the verge of obtaining a base in the population with the district purchasing committees set up by the rules of

[55] Sigov, Arakcheevskii sotsializm , 9.

[56] Dolinsky, in Izv. po prod. delu 1 (32): 5-9; Zaitsev and Dolinsky, "Organization and Policy," 92-93.

[57] Ek. pol. , pt. 3, doc. 81; Sigov, Arakcheevskii sotsializm , 9.

[58] Chaianov, Vopros , 22.

[59] Iashnov, in Izv. po prod. delu 1 (32): 9-11.


10 October, but then it had thrown this necessary institution away. Shingarev took up this point in a debate with Rittikh at the Special Conference for Defense on 15 February 1917:

For A. I. Shingarev it remains incomprehensible how the influence of the conscious public forces on the peasant population, which the minister of agriculture tells us is desirable, is to be accomplished. The minister of agriculture places the implementation of the razverstka in its final and therefore crucial level on organs as inappropriate to the fulfillment of general state tasks as district and village assemblies. Access to these assemblies is closed to representatives of the intelligentsia and thus the latter are factually deprived of the means of influencing the course of the razverstka.

The formation of all-class (vnesoslovnyi ) district committees with wide participation by public elements was rejected by the minister of agriculture. It is the deep conviction of A. I. Shingarev that in order to attain that unification of which the minister of agriculture himself admits the necessity, the population must first of all believe in the existing state authority.[60]

In response Rittikh argued that enlistment was not without its difficulties. Ali the discussion leading up to the determination of fixed price levels in September had done little more than split up the country into the mutually antagonistic camps of producer and consumer. The proposed district committees would have been dominated by zemstvo staff, which approached "the estimation of local needs with a somewhat peculiar patriotism—and they are right, of course—the patriotism of their parish, their little region."[61]

Instead of enlistment Rittikh advocated political class unity based on acceptance of the central leadership's definition of priorities: "It would have great significance if all elements of the population and of the active public [obshchestvennost' ] inspired the peasantry with the thought that [grain delivery] is their civic duty, that it is demanded by the war[as well as by] the decisive moment we are now living through." More of an obstacle than impassable roads was the "poison of doubt" that certain influential currents of public opinion persisted in injecting into political life. Rittikh's colleague M. A. Beliaev, the minister of war, later commented that "Rittikh continually turned to the State Duma with a request that it support him from their side and say the word that would compel the landowners

[60] TsGVIA, 369-1-376/106 (emphasis added).

[61] Duma speech of 14 February 1917.


and peasants to sell the grain [and] fulfill the quota division that had been introduced. . . . Evidently, it was impossible to count on [this support], and it was even said that there might be resistance."[62]

It is in principle impossible to measure the success of the Rittikh razverstka in terms of grain deliveries since it would not have been completed until the summer of 1917. Discussion of this question has usually relied on the amount assigned in quota distribution, not amounts actually delivered. The extent of even this distribution is unclear and becomes more so as we approach the individual producer. But the political failure of the razverstka is manifest in the protests of local activists and their refusal to cooperate. It partially failed as well in its primary aim of building up a military reserve. A reserve of eighteen to thirty days had been created by the middle of January, but the extremely harsh winter had led to transport problems, and the reserve had been dissipated.[63]

The razverstka also failed to obtain grain without the use of force. On 23 February 1917, frightened by the outbreak of disorder in Petrograd and by the oncoming rasputitsa (season of impassable roads), Rittikh and Beliaev sent out a telegram to all commissioners, governors, and zemstvo officials stating that deliveries had to be made within three days. During that period price concessions were to remain in force. Afterward, in any region that had refused or significantly lowered the razverstka, "all available reserves above seed and personal food-supply needs" were to be requisitioned: "To the county zemstvo is given the task of effective cooperation in the fulfillment of requisitions."[64] That same day Rittikh admitted his failure in the Duma: "I'm only human, only mortal, and Russia needs now to push forward everywhere—in the active public and everywhere—[people] of titanic strength. Yes, I'm to blame that I don't have this strength—in that respect I admit my guilt with complete openness."[65]

To acknowledge the failure of the razverstka is not to justify its critics. Rittikh's program was based squarely on the gubernatorial solution. He openly accepted dualism between the direct war effort and the home front, made grain delivery a matter of obligation rather than relying on material interest, tried to impose central unity on the political class, and rejected enlistment strategies as counterproductive. It is true that he relied on statistics, but to the extent necessary only for a tax strategy, not for a monopoly strategy. The many difficulties of this approach were pointed out

[62] Padenie , 2:237.

[63] TsGVIA, 369-1-376/92-106; Shingarev, in Izv. po prod. delu 1 (32): 13, 60.

[64] 457-1-40/222. I have not seen this telegram mentioned in any discussion of Rittikh or the February revolution.

[65] Duma speech of 28 February 1917, 1596.


by the critics, but their own alternative was weak—weaker than they knew. Their outrage at Rittikh's price manipulation reveals a fetishism of the fixed price that overlooked the genuine difficulties of price formation, especially in a highly charged political atmosphere. The promise of material equivalents for grain deliveries implied by the commitment to put fixed prices on industrial items was impossible to keep. Rittikh's warnings about localism should have been heeded: it would turn out to be harder than enlistment advocates realized to build a bridge to the peasantry through newly established councils and committees. The banned food-supply congresses obscured the fact that enlistment was not a straightforward answer to political class unity, given deep divisions in outlook and aim. Sooner than they knew, enlistment advocates were about to learn some bitter lessons on these matters.

The Soviet historian A. L. Sidorov wrote that "with the democraticbourgeois revolution [fast approaching], only a bureaucrat with no contact with life could dream of a unification of 'all the vital forces of the country' around the thoroughly rotting autocracy."[66] Rittikh's efforts do seem naive in the doom-laden atmosphere of the winter of 1916-1917. At the top, officials spun confused intrigues around the uncomprehending figure of Tsar Nicholas and tried vainly to force him to show some leadership.[67] The public witnessed explosions of frustration such as the grotesque murder of Rasputin and the barely veiled accusations of governmental treason made by speakers in the Duma. At the bottom of society the strike movement picked up energy, and despair over the hardships of wartime grew stronger as the winter grew colder. The forces of disruption had gone beyond economic dislocation and had rendered helpless even the best intentioned of those who sought unity of the political class. Rittikh was only mortal, and his razverstka ended up intensifying political and economic disruption; but his improvisation still stands out as the only real effort made by the government to save itself from swiftly advancing destruction.

[66] Sidorov, Ekonomicheskoe polozhenie , 493.

[67] Nicholas himself stated in September 1916, "I simply understand nothing about these questions of food supply and provisionment." Kitanina, Voina , 301.


2 The Two Solutions

Preferred Citation: Lih, Lars T. Bread and Authority in Russia, 1914-1921. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1990 1990.