Lithuania SIG #Lithuania Re: Meaning of Petit Bourgeois, first rank #lithuania

Judith Singer

Hi - Sociologically, the petit bourgeoisie were the class between
between peasants and unskilled factory laborers on the lower end of
the socioeconomic scale and the higher level bourgeoisie who owned
capital or were professionals such as lawyers or doctors. I believe
"petit bourgeois" is a translator's approximation of the Russian term
"meshchantsvo". Subjects of imperial Russia were assigned by the
government to one of several " estates" or classes, ranking >from nobles
related to the Tsar down to landless serfs. When Catherine the Great
acquired Jewish subjects along with her seizure of portions of the
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, she classified most of them as members
of either of two urban classes, the meshchantsvo, who were craftsmen,
shopkeepers, and small traders, and the kupechestvo, merchants and
others with capital assets. Merchants were further divided into three
levels or guilds, the first guild being the most wealthy. I have not
seen references to the meshchantsvo being subdivided into guilds, but
likely the first guild was the wealthiest level of meshchantsvo.

What would 8 rubles buy in those days? Comparisons such as these are
difficult due to the sparseness of data and to the many factors
affecting the value of money. Three calculations made purely by
calculating inflation, then by cost of goods, and then by wages result
in three very different conclusions. Converting rubles into dollars
based on the official exchange rate of $0.77 dollars per ruble during
this period and then adjusting the value of the dollar according to
inflation results in 8 rubles in 1846 having the same buying power as
$167.13 in the U.S. as of 2016. Working an 8-hour day at the minimum
wage of $7.25, that's just about three days' work (not taking into
account FICA and other deductions)..

That calculation of buying power does not take into account decreases
in prices of goods due to improvements in production. According to
Boris Mironov, who has collected wage and price data in imperial
Russia, it cost 0.605 grams of silver to buy a kilo of wheat in the
1840s in the North Dvina region. (Sorry the location can't be more
relevant to the Pale, but that was the only one for which I found
date-appropriate data.) Since one ruble contained 18 grams of silver
in the period >from 1841-1855, eight rubles would buy 528 pounds of
wheat. A current price for a bushel of wheat (containing 60 pounds) is
$8, so 528 pounds of wheat would cost a little over $70 in the U.S.
today, not the $167.13 calculated above.

Another measure of the value of money is wage data (again from
Mironov). Wages varied tremendously >from place to place in Russia and
there was no data available specific to the Pale. A laborer in St.
Petersburg, where wages appeared to be higher than anywhere else, even
Moscow, might have had to work for 16 days to earn 8 rubles, but
workers in the Ural mining and metallurgy industries would have had to
work for months to earn that much.

It would be more useful if I could come up with actual costs for
specific items but so far I have not found data other than for wheat
and other grains.

The Candle Tax, like the Box Tax, was not paid directly to the
imperial government. The Jewish community as a whole was responsible
for the payment of these taxes. Initially, the kahals were responsible
for collection and payment of the taxes, but after they were abolished
by the Russian government, the obligation was taken over by
individuals who would bid for the right to collect the taxes. The
highest bidder would have the obligation to pay the amount of the bid
to the Russian authorities and had the right to keep any excess over
the bid, but in the event of a shortfall, the tax collector would have
to make up the difference >from his personal funds. According to the
Kaunas County Archives, the taxpayer lists, including the names of the
heads of households, their occupations and financial status, were
compiled in order to be able to estimate the amount of taxes that
could be collected. How the tax bidder collected the amounts >from the
shopkeepers, butchers, etc. who had actually collected them >from the
consumers during transactions is beyond me.

Judith Singer

LITVAKSIG Digest for Wednesday, July 26, 2017.


Subject: Meaning of Petit Bourgeois, first rank
From: Robin Aaronson <grandvizier51@...>
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2017 09:43:04 +0100
X-Message-Number: 1

My gg grandfather, Shlomo Hoppen is described on a list of
candle-taxpayers (Linkuva, 1846) as "Petit bourgeois, first rank".
Does anyone know how this description should be interpreted? On the RL
for 1858, he is described as a craftsman: is there a difference?

The taxes paid were 8 rubles. Was this a large or small amount? What
would 8 rubles buy in those days?

Finally, I am puzzled that there is a list of candle-taxpayers at all.
As I understand it, this was a sales tax, included in the price of a
candle, not a direct tax like a poll tax. So how could there be a list
of taxpayers? Could this be a list of people who sold candles and
passed the tax on to the authorities?

If anyone can shed any light (excuse the pun), I'd be very grateful.

Robin Aaronson
Chudleigh, Devon, UK


Researching HOPPEN and AARONSON

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