Modern Russian history began with the "Great Reforms" of 1861-4 which emancipated the serfs and introduced public self-government to assist the state in managing rural administration and change. In this capacity, peasant and zemstvo self-government, established partly on the basis of Western administrative theory, was important to the solvency of the entire state, autocracy's political evolution, and the fate of the rural gentry, peasants, and townspeople. This book is the first full-scale account of the development of rural self-government from the "Great Reforms" to its bureaucratization in the counterreforms of 1889-90 and their implementation during the following decade. Drawing on a wide range of archival material in Moscow and Leningrad, Pearson pinpoints the concrete problems that Russian officials experienced in introducing rural self-government, and shows that the land captain and zemstvo counterreforms, like the earlier "Great Reforms," resulted from practical statist considerations.
"Pearson contributes an important study on an important subject, Tsarist Russia's effort to develop effective local government in the late 19th century...Based in large part on archival research, the work demonstrates also complete command of the extensive secondary literature and offers a rich critique of other recent works on the subject..." Choice