Moreover, he believed that zemstvos
, organs of rural self-government in late imperial Russia, had held out significant political promise.
The situation began to change in 1864 when Czar Alexander II initiated a system of local government, the Zemstvos, with responsibility for, among other things, health (Krug 1976).
The Debate over the Delivery of Health Care in Rural Russia: The Moscow Zemstvo, 1864-1878.
A particularly interesting point is the emergence of the new problem of self-arson in the 1870s and 1880s, a result, ironically, of the compulsory fire-insurance programmes sponsored by the organs of rural local self-governance, the zemstvos.
Yet, interestingly, Frierson also shows how peasants sometimes turned to the government for sup port against the coercive energies of zemstvo do-gooders determined to rationally assist villagers whether they liked it or not.
Self-governance, grassroots opinions, municipal and "small area" democracy he sees as growing out of the Russian Orthodox medieval tradition of zemstvos
While state ministries took the lead in trying to organize large-scale resettlement, zemstvos and other public organizations, like relief societies and local agricultural committees, actively assisted in the process because resettlement was widely regarded as the kind of "all-national cause" (vsenarodnoe delo) that seemed to require educated society's (obshchestvo) commitment and participation.
Zemstvo writers were especially distinguished in this regard (the Poltava and Khar'kov zemstvos perhaps most of all), but so too were a number of non-zemstvo pamphleteers (many of them populists) who wrote resettlement brochures and handbooks "for the people.
Changing class values and political priorities help to explain why the zemstvos
could collect more than half a million rubles for war relief work during the war against Japan, but curtailed efforts to organize famine relief in 1906.