Soviet Union Table of Contents
Throughout the last half of the nineteenth century, Russia's economy developed more slowly than did that of the major European nations to its west. The population of Russia was substantially larger than those of the more developed Western countries, but the vast majority of the people lived in rural communities and engaged in relatively primitive agriculture. Industry, in general, had greater state involvement than in western Europe, but in selected sectors it was developing with private initiative, some of it foreign. The population doubled between 1850 and 1900, but it remained chiefly rural well into the twentieth century. Russia's population growth rate from 1850 to 1910 was the fastest of all the major powers except for the United States (see table 3, Appendix A).
Agriculture, which was technologically underdeveloped, remained in the hands of former serfs and former state peasants, who together constituted about four-fifths of the population. Large estates of more than fifty square kilometers accounted for about 20 percent of all farmland, but for the most part they were not worked in efficient, large-scale units. Small-scale peasant farming and the growth of the rural population produced extensive agricultural development because land was used more for gardens and fields of grain and less for grazing meadows than it had been in the past (see table 4, Appendix A).
Industrial growth was significant, although unsteady, and in absolute terms it was not extensive. Russia's industrial regions included Moscow, the central regions of the country, St. Petersburg, the Baltic cities, Russian Poland, some areas along the lower Don and Dnepr rivers, and the Ural Mountains. By 1890 Russia had about 32,000 kilometers of railroads and 1.4 million factory workers, the majority of them in the textile industry. Between 1860 and 1890, coal production had grown about 1,200 percent to over 6.6 million tons, and iron and steel production had more than doubled to 2 million tons. The state budget, however, had more than doubled, and debt expenditures had quadrupled, constituting 28 percent of official expenditures in 1891. Foreign trade was inadequate to meet the empire's needs, and surpluses sufficient to cover the debts incurred to finance trade with the West were not realized until high industrial tariffs were introduced in the 1880s.
Data as of May 1989