A Peasant in a Modern City (mental aspects of urbanization second half of the 19th – early 20th century)

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Yu. Prysiazhniuk


Abstract. Introduction. The history of the peasantry has always been interesting for researchers, including Ukraine, where this «bread-making class» was the majority of the population until the middle of the 20th century. Our attention is drawn to the following questions: when, how, and most importantly, what consequences did the mass resettlement of peasants to cities lead to? The fact that internal migration took place according to the «residual principle» (people left the village under the pressure of extreme need) makes the motivation of the exploration clear. A difficult transformation awaited them in the city, which meant a complex and painful socio-psychological evolution. The result of this was the partial preservation of the rural mentality in urban conditions, which was observed even among those immigrants who replenished the environment of marginal groups. Urbanization in Naddniprianshchyna has attracted less attention of researchers than migration. The last reason is quite understandable, since the movement «to the outskirts» of the empire was clearer and easier to analyze. As for peasants in the process of urbanization, most often historians spoke about them in the language of statistics, in the context of socio-economic history, where, as a rule, rural people were assigned the role of «labor force».

Purpose. The author seeks to find out the understudied (mental, anthropological) aspects of the participation of the Ukrainian peasantry in the processes of urbanization at the stage of the formation of an industrial society in Naddniprianshchyna Ukraine.

Results. According to the situation at the beginning of the First World War, the level of urbanization of the Naddniprianshchyna was significantly behind the countries of Central-Western Europe. And this is taking into account the fact that its peasant potential, in relation to the number of the rural population, was much higher. So, it can be assumed that at that time the Ukrainian experience of urbanization did not reach the Western European one, Ukraine will enter the communist era as an agrarian-industrial country. This circumstance will determine the very nature of the Bolshevik experiment with its infamous «Leninisms» – socialist industrialization, cooperation (collectivization) of the countryside, cultural revolution.

There were also significant regional differences. Lower rates of modernization were observed where patriarchal customs were preserved until the beginning of the 20th century, which was manifested in the slowdown of industrialization and urbanization. Previously, historians were inclined to talk about the backwardness, «poverty» of the bulk of the peasantry, but such an opinion seems biased to us.

Conclusion. The author offers a working hypothesis about the consequences of the (non)participation of the Ukrainian peasantry of the Naddniprianshchyna in the urbanization of the post-reform decades and the beginning of the 20th century. The noticeable passivity of the peasants is explained by the fact that they held on to their lands until the last. In addition, when, in search of new sources of livelihood, they did leave their places, they envisioned the future and acted in such a way as to remain peasants. This is evidenced by the fact that the peasants managed to maintain their loyalty to agriculture after moving to new places. This significantly outweighed their conscious participation in the processes of urbanization. Our hypothesis is confirmed by the historiography of migration movements in post-reform Ukraine and the Stolypin agrarian reform period, to which the authors paid little attention, as they were usually guided by political-statistical approaches rather than anthropological ones. This brought a mess into the discussion incorrectly expressed by words about some kind of conscious attachment of the peasants to their «Ukrainian» land, which in principle could not be.

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Author Biography

Yu. Prysiazhniuk

Prysiazhniuk Yuriy – Doctor of Sciences (History), Professor of the Department of History of Ukraine, Bohdan Khmelnytsky National University of Cherkasy


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