Land Captain

views updated


Land captains were representatives of the administrative and judicial authority in Russian villages from 1889 to 1917.

The Statute Concerning Land Captains was passed on July 12, 1889, and was one of the counterreforms made during the rule of Emperor Alexander III. The purpose of this law was the partial restoration of the control of provincial nobility over the peasants. In 40 provinces, 2,200 land districts, headed by land captains, were formed. Land captains were appointed by the Minister of Interior, usually from local hereditary nobles at the recommendation of governors and provincial marshals of nobility. They had extensive administrative and judicial power, controlled the activity of peasant communities, and formed the primary judicial authority for peasants and other taxpayers. A land captain had to have a higher education and three years of experience in serving as a peace mediator (mirovoy posrednik ), a mirian (mir-peasant commune) judge, or member of a provincial council of peasant affairs. Moreover, he had to possess at least 200 desiatinas (approximately 540 acres of land) or real estate worth at least 7.5 thousand rubles. When candidates with records sufficient for the position were unavailable, local hereditary nobles with primary and secondary education were eligible. In special cases any local noble could be appointed. A land captain had the right to cancel any decision made by the village or the volost gathering (skhod ) of the district, order the physical punishment of a taxpayer for minor misdemeanors, and order a threeday arrest or a sixruble fine. The land captain appointed volost courts, which had been previously elected by the peasants, from a number of candidates selected by village communities (the volost was the smallest administrative unit in tsarist Russia). He could cancel any decision of a volost court, remove a judge, arrest, fine, or order physical punishment. The decisions of a land captain were considered final and did not allow for revision or complaints. In accordance with the reform of 1889, District (Uyezd ) Bureaus of Peasant Affairs and mir (communal) courts were cancelled. The mir courts were reinstalled in 1912. The post of a land captain was cancelled by a decision of the Provisional Government on October 14, 1917.

See also: autocracy; peasantry


Zaionchkovskii, Petr Andreevich. (1976). The Russian Autocracy under Alexander III. Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press.

Oleg Budnitskii