Working Class Protest: Boycotting Vodka
At first the working class assault on the tax farm, which began in September 1858, was peaceful and disciplined, taking the form of organized boycotts of vodka. In September 1858, consumers in the townships and villages of Catholic Lithuania began, with the support of the local Catholic clergy, to take oaths of abstention from vodka. By the end of 1858, the boycotts had spread from the Catholic provinces of Lithuania far to the East into the Orthodox provinces of Great Russia; and in the first months of 1859, they spread throughout much of European Russia. In May 1859, the protests turned violent. What had started out as a non-violent, even rather respectable, movement of protest was now beginning to look like an incipient peasant insurrection. For 1859, Soviet historians have listed as many as 636 incidents involving either boycotts or riots against tax farms in a year in which there were altogether 938 separate reports of peasant insubordination.
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