19th/20th Century Russian Ag.
The caption of this photo says it depicts monks planting potatoes in fields reclaimed from conifer forest. This got me thinking about all the different times I had learned about clearing land for agricultural use, and for that matter all the different countries it takes place in. This could spark a debate over many controversial topics from food distribution to clear cutting forests, but regaurdless it shows just how important agriculture is. Not only to the farmer but also to the nation as a whole. Agriculture might not be what most people think of when they think of Russia, howerver, crops and livestock play a vital part to there exictence. Always have and most likely always will.
Russia as a whole stretches over 6.5 million square miles. As a result, it is no surprise that its agriculture varies signifigantly throughout the country. Russia has a massive area of land refered to as the black earth belt or Chernozem. This “belt” is the main producer for many of the grain products consumed throughout Russia. The biggest crop grown in this region is wheat and the black earth belt is responsible for providing it to the less fertile areas of Russia. These less fertile areas dont restrain from agriculture however. These areas partake in smaller scale vegtable production as well as livestock production.
During the late 1800s into the early 1900s a larger variety of crops started to be grown by peasents all over Russia. Most of the crops that saw a large increase were cash crops. These crops could be grown in a variety of areas and provided addtional income for the farmer. As industry and technology improved, naturally so did the crop variety and overall agricultural production.
One of the major technologies used by peasents during this time period was field roatation. Row crops were planted in certain places and livestock was kept out by minimal fencing. As soon as harvest time was passed the livestock was turned into the cropland to cleanup and fertilize. This combined with the rotation of crops kept soil fertility and crop production high. Overall throughout the 19th and 20th century Russias agriculture was highly productive and said to be advance for the time. Mainly due to the large amount of wheat exported. However this large surplus of wheat was not enough to make up for less productive areas which put Russia fairly behind other developed nations (of the time period) when it came to agricultural production.
Of course the whole concept of arable land “reclaimed” from conifer forest assumes that the forest wasn’t there first, and generally agriculturalists clear forests to “claim” land for food crops. Thanks for discussing some of the main aspects of peasant agriculture in the late 19thc. While most people think that crop rotation and exporting grain kept the peasantry hungry (there was a big famine in 1891), grain exports did play a role in the industrialization drive.
I think this hits a point home fairly well when describing the transition from an agrarian society to a modernized industrial civilization. The ending of the blog points to the fact that no matter how much they were able to produce of one crop in any given year, the fact remains that famine, drought, and over all agriculture failure still dictated the wealth and prosperity of the nation. This, coupled with the feudal serfdom system, meant that the state would be weak and susceptible to bad crop years, hence the importance of agriculture and keeping an abundance of lower class serfs tied to the land.