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STATE, NAVY AND THE ORIGIN OF PETRINE FOREST CADASTRE

The epoch of Peter the Great is rather controversial. From one side, the feudal representative system and traditional medieval state and social institutions had been replaced by the bureaucratic authoritarian empire. From the other – the country became opened to foreign influence overcoming the tradition of introspection and closeness. Not only the state administration, economics and technology had been changed. The western science of the New Ages had been developed in Petrine Russia with its’ social institutions and regulations which required the autonomy of thought, intellectual freedom and the whole environment for development of pure science and education. In this environment the statesmen, military officers, diplomats, architectures, geodesists – the whole educated elite was brought up.

At the beginning of the reforms the practical needs of efficiency of state management, army and navy reform determined the introduction of the Western state and economic institutions (1). The history of forest surveys show that state institutions of early Petrine Russia were based on the state and economic forms of the previous medieval period. Changed according to the current needs of the moment they developed from their medieval successors closer to the Western ones. The middle of the century is the date of total transformation of these institutions. Apart from the practical applications they begin to play an important role for academic science development, collection of geographical information and for the professional education. Thus they take part in introducing Western scientific community and social regulations corresponding to it. This may be called the duality of Petrine intellectual history.

Petrine forest surveys and the whole system of forest cadastre demonstrate the raise of power and influence of the centralized state. It illustrates the history of origin of the bureaucratic centralized empire. The comparison of forest surveys in Russia and England stresses even more the role of the total transformation of the character of the Russian state under Petrine reign. From the other side the history of forest surveys illustrates the different trend: the links and influence of Russian medieval state and economic institutions on the Petrine ones, shows the basis on which the Western approach to the state, economy and science was planted, illustrates the raise of academic geographical science developed from the various kinds of geographical practice.

Medieval forest descriptions are located in “pistsovye knigi” – survey books of Administration of Estates - “Pomestnyi Prikaz”. Since the end of 15 century it undertook regular surveys of the lands of Moscow State. There were created descriptions of the whole state and its separate provinces. They included number of peasants in each village of the estate, quantity of arable lands, slash-and-burn farming and meadowlands, approximate data on forests. Being improved from one survey to another, late descriptions of the 17th century demonstrate distinguished and complicated feudal cadastre.

Cadastre of this period had been the tax cadastre - evaluation of settled and exploited lands. It dealt sometimes with fisheries, apiaries, hunting estates of tsars. Virgin forests, empty lands and marshes “as is” attracted no attention of surveyors. This situation reflected abundance of agricultural resources and low density of peasant population. This shows the level of geographical knowledge of this period: despite the fact that mayor waterways and roads had been described and well-known, contemporaries of Ivan the Terrible or Boris Godunov seem to be unaware of endless Russian forests as foreign ambassadors and merchants had been on their way to the capital of Muscovy. Contemporary documents show that even for wealthy native aristocracy going astray while travelling in the forests of the Central Russia was not surprising. Sometimes it could even serve as pretence for them in unsuccessful attempts of runaway abroad from Russian service(2).

Petrine reforms meant the end of the old order. The state economy, pressed by necessity of urgent changes, increased day by day. Practically all economic projects (including military) had been based on the rich resources belonging to the state or quasi-state enterprises with forests, mines and slaves enclosed to them, such as the baron Stroganov’s tremendous estate in Siberia or - some time later - Demidov’s iron plants in Ural mountains. The request for natural resources was growing constantly. The forests were to satisfy the needs of navy and metallurgic industry, peasantry should also serve as a resource for magnificent state building. The rights of the classes had been strongly restricted, the basis of common rights regulating the relations between vassals and supreme power decreased. The development of serfdom in Petrine Russia, for example, is seen by P. N. Milukov as a result of the fiscal reform and growing state’s demand for taxes (3) .

First steps of Petrine reforms were caused by the urgent needs of the war. The beginning of the century is the period for searching of the form and ways to manage forest supply. First experience of Petrine forest cadastre took place in 1698 – 1701 when the first men-of-war had been built at Voronezh dockyard. In these years the tzar ordered surveys of Voronezh forests in attempts to find timber for shipbuilding (4). Documents of these surveys are stored among the papers of the “Tzarskii Shater” of Navy History Archive [RGA VMF], Petersburg. They show the survey techniques very much in common with medieval land surveys of “pistsovye knigi”. The only difference was that these detailed and explicit descriptions were devoted to forests instead of agricultural lands.

A definite analogy with the medieval tradition of natural resources management could be observed. First experience of forest management show that the young Petrine administration used the experience of Pomestnyi Prikaz, pistsovye knigi surveys and the whole tradition of taxation for the new purpose – survey and management of Navy forests. Navy officers and clerks seem to have just the same functions as Pomestnyi Prikaz d’iaki and pistsy. In one case the officials sent to Voronezh uezd for ash forest survey are old-fashionably called “pod’iachie”(5). They received special tzar instructions and were vested power to order local landlords and clergy, to check property rights and to put requisitions. The content of these descriptions is similar to the pistsovye knigi, except the fact that in contrast to them, forest statistics is set up in river basins while pistsovye knigi were set up in local proprietors, name after name. But terms, measurement and professional language seem to be just the same.

First forest surveys are fragmental descriptions in order to supply the building of just several Navy vessels. Only the most suitable forests along main rivers near the city had been described. No systematic, regular cadastral surveys were planned and fulfilled at this time.

Much more detailed and full are the survey documents of 1720th – the period of Baltic Navy activities. They show the first attempts to develop the regular forest cadastre required by the Baltic Navy forest supply. A decade later they resulted into a regular cadastre. In 1720th a set of surveys organized according to the identical plan took place around Petersburg, at the islands of Neva delta, along the rivers of Novgorod gubernia (6). They meant the first attempt of systematic regular surveys of Russian forests. The Admiralty classes contain correspondence on copying and distribution among uezd military offices (voevodskie kantseliarii) “val’dmeister books of 1722-nd and 1723-rd” – descriptions of preserved forests(7). Probably, a large part of Russian forests had been described at that time.

Important is the fact that Admiralty surveys were among the earliest regular geographic surveys in Russia. Navy geodesists formed the basis for the mapmaking of the whole country. The Senate decree “On the sending of the Petersburg [Navy] Academy pupils for mapmaking” [O posylke uchenikiv S.-Peterburgskoi [Morskoi] Academii dlia sochineniia landkart] issued in 1720ty shows that Navy was considered to posses the approved “know-how” of geographical surveys and descriptions of the country. Professor of the Naval Academy Farquharson prepared official instruction to the Petrine geodesists performing surveys under general supervision of Senate secretary Kirillov (8) . We may say that forest surveys among other geographical activities of the Navy played a key role in the geographical practice development in Russia.

The decade of 1720ths is the period of emergence of the general program of mapping and geographical exploration of Russia in order to raise efficiency of the central government and to establish strict control under the regions. (See topographic map of Nizhegorodskii uezd, ~1733). Forest surveys of 1720th are contemporary to the “General Regulations” [Generalnyi Reglament] where effective state administration was stated to be the main purpose of mapping and geographical ex

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