Bankrupts and Usurers of Imperial Russia: Debt, Property, and the Law in the Age of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy

Bankrupts and Usurers of Imperial Russia: Debt, Property, and the Law in the Age of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy

by Sergei Antonov

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As readers of classic Russian literature know, the nineteenth century was a time of pervasive financial anxiety. With incomes erratic and banks inadequate, Russians of all social castes were deeply enmeshed in networks of credit and debt. The necessity of borrowing and lending shaped perceptions of material and moral worth, as well as notions of social respectability and personal responsibility. Credit and debt were defining features of imperial Russia’s culture of property ownership. Sergei Antonov recreates this vanished world of borrowers, bankrupts, lenders, and loan sharks in imperial Russia from the reign of Nicholas I to the period of great social and political reforms of the 1860s.

Poring over a trove of previously unexamined records, Antonov gleans insights into the experiences of ordinary Russians, rich and poor, and shows how Russia’s informal but sprawling credit system helped cement connections among property owners across socioeconomic lines. Individuals of varying rank and wealth commonly borrowed from one another. Without a firm legal basis for formalizing debt relationships, obtaining a loan often hinged on subjective perceptions of trustworthiness and reputation. Even after joint-stock banks appeared in Russia in the 1860s, credit continued to operate through vast networks linked by word of mouth, as well as ties of kinship and community. Disputes over debt were common, and Bankrupts and Usurers of Imperial Russia offers close readings of legal cases to argue that Russian courts—usually thought to be underdeveloped in this era—provided an effective forum for defining and protecting private property interests.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674971486
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 10/10/2016
Series: Harvard Historical Studies , #187
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Sergei Antonov is Assistant Professor of History at Yale University.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Part I The Culture of Debt

1 Usurers' Tales 35

2 Nobles and Merchants 74

3 The Boundaries of Risk 105

4 Fraud, Property, and Respectability 133

5 Kinship and Family 159

Part II Debt and the Law

6 Debtors and Bureaucrats 193

7 In the Pit with Debtors 228

8 Intermediaries, Lawyers, and Scriveners 261

9 Creditors and Debtors in Pre-Reform Courts 284

Conclusion 311

Appendix A Glossary 317

Appendix B The Table of Ranks (as of 1850) 319

Appendix C St. Petersburg Pawnbrokers, 1866 321

Appendix D.1 Objectives of Legal Representation, Based on the Powers of Attorney Registered at the Moscow Chamber of Civil Justice 323

Appendix D.2 Legal Representatives Registered at the Moscow Chamber of Civil Justice 325

Appendix E Agreement to Provide Legal Services, 1863 327

Abbreviations 329

Notes 329

Acknowledgments 373

Index 377

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