The ‘Jacquerie’ or Peasants’ uprising began in February 1905, in Dmitriev in the Kursk governate. Its initial manifestation was remarkably disciplined and free from violence. Led by the ‘middle peasantry’, or smallholders, and organized through the mir, the local peasant assemblies, the rebels targeted estates, carting off stores of fodder and grain. The uprisings rapidly spread, extending to the neighbouring governates of Orel, Chernigov and Voronezh. Within Kursk, raiders also invaded private forests, harvesting timber and game. The retaliation by the authorities was disproportionately brutal, particularly where Cossack militia were involved, and the peasantry responded in kind, beginning to burn raided estates. The All Russian Peasants Union was formed to organize the previously spontaneous rebellion and coordinate demands for higher wages, lower rents, and the exclusion of outside workers. The tsar was eventually forced to promise cancellation of redemption payments (money owed to the government for land granted the peasants on emancipation) to quell the uprising.
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