30 December 2011

Inheritance rights in Russia under Peter the Great

From John Nye's review of Richard Pipes' Property and Freedom:

Peter the Great is often saluted for having modernized Russia's culture and economy. But Pipes makes clear that Peter's Westernization was primarily cultural and technological. Although receptive to Western ideas in art, literature, music, and science, Peter did little to adopt the legal institutions so crucial to English success. Rather than improving individual property rights, Peter blurred a variety of existing distinctions and endangered the long-run stability of all reforms through arbitrary confiscation. Peasant agriculture was held back by a law requiring that all holdings must be bequeathed in toto to a single heir. Though intended to stop the devolution of large holdings into small parcels through inheritance, the law had the effect of destroying the working land market that had begun to emerge in Russia.