On November 22, 1906, the Stolypin agrarian reforms were introduced with the release of a decree that enabled each peasant household to claim individual ownership of its land allotment and to withdraw from the commune.
The Stolypin agrarian reforms, so called by the name of their initiator – Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Pyotr Stolypin, were initiated to improve the legal and economic status of the peasantry as well as the general economy and political stability of Russia.
Despite the abolition of serfdom in 1861, serfs did not have real freedom. Instead of land being allocated to individual peasants, it was given to the peasant commune (the obshchina). Also, serfs were not yet officially free, as they were still bound to the land until they had repaid redemption payments to their previous landlords, which were to be paid over a 49-year period.
By the end of the 19th Century, the Russian villagers were faced with taxation and huge redemption payments, which put them on the brink of ruin. Famine took over many agricultural regions.
Due to their lack of economic success in agriculture, as well as the peasant revolts of 1902 and uprisings of 1905 and 1906, Stolypin planned to present these reforms to gain the support of the peasants, who made up the majority of the Russian population. Stolypin also hoped that independence from the commune would breed enterprise and lead to improved agricultural yields.
Under the Stolypin agrarian reforms, the redemption dues were abolished, peasant families were allowed to leave the commune and peasants were encouraged to consolidate their holding of land. These measures had an immediate impact, with many peasants taking up these opportunities. However, the rate of applications to leave the communes and consolidate holdings declined after the initial rush.
Stolypin had often said that in order for the reforms to be successful Russia needed at least 20 years of peace. However, fate would have it otherwise. The reforms were disrupted by Stolypin’s assassination in 1911 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, which segued into a revolution and a civil war. In 1917, the agrarian reforms were abolished by the Provisional Government.