From the rye field and the threshing barn to the local gentry and the village court, A.N. Engelgardt's Letters painted the most lively, entertaining, and insightful portrait of Imperial Russia's rural countryside. Now translated into English for the first time, judiciously abridged, and fully annotated for the modern reader, Engelgardt's account stands revealed both as a major primary source on nineteenth-century Russia and as an ever-more-timely analysis of a peasant culture in the wake of reform.
A distinguished chemist at the St. Petersburg Agricultural Institute, Engelgardt was also an eloquent spokesman for liberty and reform, especially on behalf of Russia's peasant majority. Accused of conspiratorial activities by the Tsarist government, he was exiled in 1871 to his modest estate in impoverished Smolensk province, where, under police surveillance, he wrote his Letters for publication in St. Petersburg. With scientific precision, Engelgardt produced the first comprehensive eye-witness account of the peasant's daily affairs and environment, with detailed descriptions of land reform and collectivization, reflections on the role of peasant women and the effects of emancipation, discussions of local agriculture and the economy, and vivid accounts of peasant attitudes about everything from the Russo-Turkish War to anti-semitism. With an extensive introduction and copious notes, this translation is ideal for anyone interested in Russian history and peasant studies.
"[Frierson] has produced a readable, abbreviated, lightly annotated translation....Had you been putting off reading reading Iz derevni because you read slowly in Russian, you will welcome this translation. If you have read Engel'gardt and wished you could assign his book, now you can....an excellent piece of work. The book is handsomely produced by Oxford and enhanced by the insertion of fourteen plates. It deserves to be read widely."--Slavic
"This English translation, well edited with sound commentary, provides a rare opportunity for students of Russian history to get a 'feel' for the problems of Russian agriculture after the Great Reforms. And it also presents to the reader the lives of the peasants in a rather poor sector of rural Russia, by the pen of a keen observer who tried with them to succeed at farming. It is primary source material at its best for teaching purposes."--F. David Pudsen,
Fairmont State College
"An excellent source, possibly usable as an essay option in an introductory course, certainly usable for a primary source exercise in a senior seminar."--John M. Karl, Bowdoin College
"Very useful title in English. The leading comment on 19th-century Russian peasantry."--Hugh Ragsdale, University of Alabama
"Truly excellent primary source."--Robert A. Farman, Lewis and Clark State College
"A very valuable addition to the social history of imperial Russia and the life of the peasants. The book provides a very human picture of country life after the Emancipation of 1861."--Lohr E. Miller, Auburn University at Montgomery
"A wonderful book."--Jeffrey Brooks, Johns Hopkins University
"An excellent collection of letters, superbly edited and translated."--Richard DiNardo, St. Peter's College
"I like this book very much."--Roger Reese, Texas A&M University
"Excellent translation and editing job of an invaluable post-serf emancipation resource."--D. McCaffrey, Providence College
"Engelgarddt provides an unsurpassed glimpse of peasant society in the aftermath of emancipation" -- Slavonica