The Voshchazhnikovo estate was located in the Central Industrial Region of European Russia. More specifically, it was located in the Rostov district, which was situated in the southeastern part of the Yaroslavl province. The estate spanned 32,400 acres; unfortunately, less than half of the land was arable. The geography of the land was a mixture of meadowlands, wasteland, and forest. The ecology and geography of the location of this state is not very suitable for agriculture. Because of this geography, industry, and trading were more common and widespread practices in the region than they were in the Central Black Earth Region of Russia, which was located in the southern part of the country.
Peter the Great granted the estate to Boris Petrovich Sheremetyev, a Muscovite Aristocrat, in 1706 in return for his great service during the Great Northern War, which lasted from 1700 to 1721. Voshchazhnikovo was merely one of over thirty estates held by the Sheremetyev family. Prior to the serf emancipation reform of 1861, the Voshchazhnikovo estate was home to a little under 4,000 serfs. The population of these serfs was spread across thirty villages on the estate.
The Voshchazhnikovo estate has recently been thrust into the historical spotlight and has sparked some debate. Author Tracy Dennison uses data from the estate as the foundation for her argument questioning the credibility of the Peasant Myth, which argues that peasants and serfs lived in a completely communal state and lived primarily off of their communal lots. They distributed resources equally, shared the burden of helping the poor, did not have a grasp of individual land ownership, and did not understand the concept of labor, land, and commodity markets. While data is limited at the Voshchazhnikovo estate, analyzing it can call into question the validity of the Peasant Myth.
Data from the Voshchazhnikovo Estate shows that serfs got their primary subsistence from means, such as industry and trading, other than their communal plot of land. Only ten percent of the serfs lived primarily from agriculture. They also owned their own land and often used it as collateral for monetary loans, showing that they had an understanding of how much it was worth. Data also shows that the wealth distribution amongst the serfs on the Voshchazhnikovo Estate was not communal or even. There were three different categories of wealth; those with assets under 500 roubles, those with assets worth 500-1000 roubles, and those with assets worth over 1000 roubles. The existence of this categorization shows that there were enough economic disparities for the managers of the estate to create a classification of wealth amongst the serfs.
While this data shows that the Peasant Myth did not apply to the Voshchazhnikovo estate, there is still a significant amount of debate if it is a large enough data sample to discredit the entire Peasant Myth. There were hundreds of other estates located in very diversified regions of Russia. The argument Tracy Dennison presents against the Peasant Myth will most likely lead to more academic debate and research. This will hopefully give the academic world a closer look at serf and peasant life in pre-emancipation Russia. The Voshchazhnikovo estate is sure to play a major role in the foundations of this argument due to the fact that it was the data from this estate that caused the Peasant Myth to be called to question in the first place.
The remnants of the estate still remain in Russia today. Where the Voshchazhnikovo estate once stood is now the town of Voshchazhnikovo in the Yaroslavskaya Oblast province of Russia. It has a population of 1,000 to 2,000 people. It is located a little over 200 kilometers from Moscow.
Tracy Dennison. 2011. The Institutional Framework of Russian Serfdom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-19448-8. pp. 6-11, 29-32, 93-95, 113.
“Voshchazhnikovo”, 2012. www.CollinsMaps.com. March 10th, 2013.