Preparations for Mining Reform in Russia in the 1860s: European Guidelines and Russian Realities
Keywords:19th-century Russia; mining reform; mining legislation; Western European experience
This article analyses the activity of two commissions, the Mining Commission and the Tax Commission, which operated in the 1860s under the Ministry of Finance in order to develop a draft reform of mining and metallurgical legislation of Russia. The author clarifies the role of various factors that influenced the adoption of decisions by members of the commissions, paying special attention to the importance of international experience. The article focuses on the views the participants of the discussion had regarding the prospects of private entrepreneurship in the mining industry and the use of the experience of Western European countries in addressing the issues of subsurface resource management, taxes, and the organisation of state supervision. It transpires that the Mining Commission relied in its proposals on the rules and institutions already existing in Russia, trying to give them a more European look, while the Tax Commission categorically rejected not only the domestic order, but also international experience if it did not comply with modern liberal ideas about freedom of enterprise. The differences in their approaches are explained by the composition of the members of both commissions. In the first Commission, which was composed of the higher echelons of the mining department, the basis for their proposed reform was their desire to reconcile the interests of the treasury and entrepreneurs. To this end, they sought to expand opportunities for private enterprise while maintaining professional supervision by a special mining department. In the second Commission, mostly represented by factory owners, liberal economists, and the “enlightened bureaucracy”, the interests of entrepreneurs came to the fore. This resulted in a focus on the complete elimination of sectoral governance, which was intended to lead to entrepreneurial freedom. Depending on the attitudes of Russian reformers to the development of the industry, they made different choices regarding legal and institutional innovations, either accepting or rejecting European experience. The author concludes that the choice of legal and institutional innovations and the adoption or rejection of European experience depended primarily on the ideas of Russian reformers about the development of the industry under the control or in the absence of the state.
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