Today the name of Academician Ivan Yanzhul is known only to economists by and large. Yet a hundred years ago all educated people of Russia were quite familiar with it. Dr. Yanzhul's lectures were popular among university students, and his public lectures and statements always became an event in scientific and social life. His works won renown both in this country and abroad - their author was a leading light in the theory and history of finances, foreign trade and taxation. The range of Ivan Yanzhul's interests was very broad, taking in the history of economics and monetary law, international relations and customs policy, factory and labor legislation, teaching and public education, literature and the arts... Our scholar was competent in all these fields.
Yanzhul, Ivan Ivanovich (that's his first name and patronymic), was born in 1846 into a large and impoverished family of small gentry resident in the Kievan province. Even though they were hard up, his parents tried their best to give their children a good education. Ivan completed a course at the boarding school of the Ryazan gymnasium (grammar school) and, as a straight-A pupil, won the right to enroll in Moscow University's School of Law without entrance exams. The young undergraduate developed an interest in the works on social statistics by Lambert Caitle, a Belgium- born Corresponding Member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and in the political economy of John Mill of Great Britain. Plunging into "serious reading" like that, the young man felt a taste for undertaking independent research on his own. In 1869 Yanzhul was through with his university course and, as one of the brightest graduates, was selected for a post-graduate school; soon after, he was sent as a visiting researcher to Dresden, Germany, for "improving his mind in sciences and for writing a dissertation".
While in Dresden, the young scholar met Yekaterina Velyasheva, his destined wife and helpmeet in his multidimensional research and public activities. Here's what Yanzhul confided in his autobiography: "Whatever I did and wrote was done with her aid and counsel, and I cannot tell for certain as to who the author of this or that idea, say in this particular article, is-she or I?"
From Germany Yanzhul went to Britain for further research. "I became ever more interested in matters of industry and trade, and in this sense kept the live interest in finances and economics for all of my life," our economist recalled many years after. Yes, London sealed Yanzhul's fate, it spurred his research preferences.
Britain was a wellspring of fresh experiences to the young scientist. The passions of its political life, parliamentary debates, a wealth of newspapers and lampoon literature and, first and foremost, the book lore of the British Museum-all that overwhelmed the Russian visitor. "Time flew pretty fast with me, I could not even keep track of it. The British Museum offered so many good opportunities for studies as none other library in the world did... Having a knack of handling the books, you cannot but work most intensively there." In later years Yanzhul would spend his vacations every year in London and sit up in the British Museum to collect material for his works.
This "pilgrimage" produced a M. Sc. dissertation, A Study of British Indirect Taxes. Excise, which the young Russian economist defended in 1874. His guiding idea was that the nature of a state's financial system is determined by the struggle of class interests. Excises were predominant in Britain of the 17th and 18th centuries, for this form of indirect taxation was to the benefit of landlords who were wielding political power at the time. Yet with the further development of capitalism and with the growth of the influence of the Middle Class (bourgeoisie), most of the excise taxes and customs duties became an obstacle to the advancement of British industry and commerce, and they were rescinded in due course. The growth of the political significance of the working class made it necessary to reform the system of taxation toward the universal income tax and further rescinding of indirect taxation. Ivan Yanzhul came to the conclusion about the impact of class interests on the body politic independently from Karl Marx with whom, as it came out, he was working side by side, with the same sources and in the same halls of the British Museum.
In his doctoral dissertation the young Russian economist considered the custom duties as well as the history of the ideas of free trade and protectionism in Britain in connection with their impact on the customs legislation and on that country's economic life in general. In the autumn of 1876 Yanzhul published the first volume of his British Free Trade dealing with the mercantile period* (presented as his doctoral thesis). Upon defending his doctoral dissertation the thirty-year-old Yanzhul was confirmed as a professor of Moscow University on the staff of the Department of Monetary Law. The second volume of his work, on the period of free trade, came out only in 1882.
* Economic policy of the era of primary accumulation (the closing decades of the 15th, and the 16th and 17th centuries) characterized by active interference of the state in economic life. This policy was implemented in the interests of the merchants. - Ed .
The author revised and amended the factual material on the history of British economic policy over several centuries. More than that, he looked into how and why the prestige of classical political economy had declined among the British public, and why its basic principles and tenants came to be shaken considerably.
Ivan Yanzhul made a thorough study of the subject-matter in a broad historical context; he examined all the various schools and ideas. The development of science, he concluded, occurs not only through the corollaries and arguments of cool reason- there may also be the human factor implicated here, say, feeling for the humble and unfortunate ones. Moved by such sentiments, many economists would oppose the soulless and rigorous science prone to formal analysis. The faith in the bedrock principle of free competition and noninterference of the state in economic life wavered significantly.
The publication of Yanzhul's British Free Trade caused a stir. Reviewers pointed to the merits of this fundamental study, in particular, the conclusion about the dominant role of state interests in opting for this or that system of trade. The great Russian chemist Dmitry Mendeleyev, who participated in the coding of the Russian customs tariff of 1891*, drew upon the material contained in Yanzhul's study for the validation of his own concept of this country's economic development.
Ivan Yanzhul's fundamental works on the economic history of Britain occupied a prominent place in the literature of this and other countries of Europe. These works became a must for any serious study of economic teachings, finances, and income and commercial policies.
The late 1870s and early 1880s were quite fruitful for the Russian economist-he wrote over 20 monographs on a variety of subjects. Leaning towards the ideas of "state socialism", Yanzhul advocated broad interference of the state in economic life and pinned hopes on its social policy capable, as he deemed, of relaxing social tensions and thus making it easier for the working masses. It is not accidental that our economist showed interest in the social policies of Otto von Bismarck. At the same time he pointed out that the "iron chancellor" had no steady economic credo, and therefore economic theories turned in his hands from a source of policy into its tool.
In the 1880s Yanzhul had a chance to see how some of his ideas worked in practice. His articles on the factory legislation in Russia and Europe, factory life and working conditions in industry elicited public interest. Considering the rapid development of Russian industries and the growing importance of the working class problem, the government (in the person of the Finance Minister and future member of the Science Academy Nikolai Bunghe) took steps towards legislative regulation of some aspects of relationships between factory owners and workmen.
In 1882, at the suggestion of the Finance Minister, Yanzhul was appointed inspector for the Moscow district
* See: P. Dzyubenko, M. Savchenko, "Mendeleyev Tariff", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2001. - Ed.
within a new body, the Factory Inspection Board. He was determined to bring "at least some dim light of legality into the utter darkness of lawlessness at Russian factories."
The Factory Inspection Board came up against untoward difficulties, such as the absence of a legal-normative base and exact information on particular enterprises; dense ignorance on the part of industrialists in matters related to the labor code, and their custom of circumventing restrictive standards and regulations; and what Yanzhul called, "the defects of managerial order and control".
In 1886, in connection with the complaints of Moscow factory owners about the growing competition from Polish entrepreneurs, the Finance Ministry set up a commission for studying the situation on the spot. Dr. Yanzhul was also among this commission which, after its fact-finding tour, filed an official report supplemented with a study on the history of Polish industrial enterprises (prepared by Dr. Yanzhul). Explaining the causes of the Polish industrial boom, he pointed to the economic advantages which Poland had gained within the Russian Empire. For many years a prohibitive customs tariff protected Russia from foreign competitors; but Poland was a notable exception, a loophole in this solid wall separating Russia from the rest of the world.
A similar situation obtained in Finland thanks to the double tariff and widespread smuggling. To avoid the custom tax, foreign producers would move their enterprises to the borderline Russian territory where they put a manufacture mark on the smuggled goods and then marketed them off. Prof. Yanzhul sought to discontinue such vile practices detrimental both to the Russian industries and to the treasury. Simultaneously, however, he spoke against the temptation to "equate the competition chances" through administrative compulsion on the part of the government; he thought the factory owners stood to gain from fair practices after all.
As it gained more influence, the Factory Inspection Board ran into ever stiffer resistance from industrialists in its activities to enforce rather cautious government enactments in the factory legislation. They, the industrialists, assailed the government with a spate of complaints, solicitations and requests to put a curb on the Inspection. Dr. Yanzhul became one of the main targets of such attacks and innuendoes in the press. One did not shun slander, denunciation and downright threats to make short work of him. With Bung-he's retirement Dr. Yanzhul's position as inspector became precarious, and his activities, futile: his proposals for efficient factory laws were ignored, and his reports on facts of abuse and misfeasance were pigeonholed. To cap it all, an inspector's job became that of a police officer-Yanzhul the scholar was supposed to "help suppress workmen's disorders", while nothing was done to prevent such discontent by efficient moves. Small wonder that Yanzhul had to retire (1887) and return "exclusively to lecturing and writing", as he put it.
Unlike the entrepreneurs, the workmen kept fond memories of the first factory inspector. Even years after his retirement, he continued getting letters
from factory workers of the central industrial region with requests for protection. As testified by one of his pupils, his courageous engagement against Moscow factory owners contributed greatly to his popularity: at that time Dr. Yanzhul's name cut a wide swathe all over Russia; to the younger generation he was a herald of the new trend, that of social reforms within the bounds of capitalism. Yanzhul was more than a great scientist, he taught how to live.
In 1893 the Finance Ministry sent Dr. Yanzhul on a business trip to a Wirld Fair held in Chicago on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America. Among other things, he was to "study the chief phenomena of the economic life of the United States". The Russian economist collected a large body of material on US trusts and syndicates, a novel economic phenomenon then.
Dr. Yanzhul summed up this material in his book off the press in 1895- Industrial Syndicates, or Entrepreneurial Associations- which was one of the first in the world literature on the subject. Demonstrating the natural character of plant concentration and monopolization, the author found it necessary to legalize trusts and syndicates on condition that their activity be strictly regulated in the interests of all of society. As Prof. Yanzhul confessed, he had changed some of his own outlooks during that work. Realizing the significance of monopolies as a "new form that abolished the older economic notions on free competition", he lost what remained of his faith in the all-healing effect of industrial and commercial rivalry. The great importance and relevancy of this study became obvious in time.
Another work that Dr. Yanzhul published in the 1890s dealt with commercial museums, export alliances and storehouses of commodity item samples. Since there was no literature on
the subject, the author had to make long tours of the West in search of factual material and for on-the-spot inspection. No industrial growth is possible without wide marketing, Prof. Yanzhul said. He found useful the European experience in winning new markets, also with the help of commercial museums, export alliances and storehouses of commodity items samples.
Russia's experience in this field was none too rich. In 1874 the St. Petersburg customhouse opened a museum displaying samples of imported items; and in 1882 a Moscow-held congress of commerce and industry considered the possibility of opening a permanent exhibition of foreign trade items at the Custom Duties Department. Unfortunately the rich experience gained by other countries in this field, as presented by Dr. Yanzhul in his book, found no ground in our land.
For nearly a quarter of a century Prof. Yanzhul lectured on finances at Moscow University. He was one of the first pioneers of practicals that gained great popularity among students. His course of lectures on fundamentals of the financial science and on state fiscal policies was found to be the best in the Russian literature, and it was published in several editions. The specific genre of this work did not prevent the author from uttering original and bold pronouncements on the state of the Russian economy and finances, and from assessing their outlooks; he outlined the goals of economic and financial policy which, as he saw it, was vital to Russia.
As a moderate protectionist who could not approve of extremes of the prohibitive system, Ivan Yanzhul spoke out for a liberalization of the customs tariff: many of the revenue and protective duties, he believed, should be lowered. Yet this country's rapid transition to free trade would be fatal. "Our manufacturing industry is but a hothouse plant raised in the artificial, stuffy atmosphere of custom overprotec-
tion," he said. "A fresh wind of free expanses is certain to kill it unless it is inured to higher endurance and gradual changes of the ambient condition." Economic policy, Dr. Yanzhul maintained, should be free from jumps; reforms should be carried out gradually, step by step, and at the same time firmly and steadily, in pursuit of the paramount goal of popular welfare.
In 1893 Dr. Yanzhul's book of lectures merited a prize of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, which the author donated to the literary foundation. His signal accomplishments brought kudos. Prof. Yanzhul was elected corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences and, two years later, its full member.
Thereupon he moved to St. Petersburg. Leaving Moscow, our economist ran into unexpected difficulties- namely, the problem of moving his immense library worth over 30,000 rubles, a princely sum in those days. The academic library of St. Petersburg and the Rumyantsev library of Moscow refused to accept the gift for lack of space (Yanzhul wished to give his library as a gift). Finally the newly elected academician persuaded Moscow University to accept it in installments; but he had to pay several thousand rubles to cover the costs.
In St. Petersburg Dr. Yanzhul's activities changed somewhat. He edited the economic and financial entries in the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron; he wrote articles and reminiscences-this job touched him near as a matter of honor. Dr. Yanzhul was a witness and direct participant of many important events. An erudite and a keen mind, he was a superb raconteur and writer too, one who could portray the spirit of his time in all its shadings, and impart the warmth of human feeling herewith.
Ivan Yanzhul opposed political extremism and violence, he opted for order as a warranty of steady social progress. That is why he felt anxiety over the mounting social tensions in Russia at the turn of the 20th century. Thinking back to his work as factory inspector, Dr. Yanzhul concluded that a well-considered and timely reform of factory conditions could have "weakened the evil of the present lingering disturbances and of the revolutionary period of our Russian life." At any rate, many of the clashes of economic interests might have been precluded.
In 1914 Ivan Yanzhul left for Wiesbaden, Germany, for a course of treatment just before the outbreak of the First World War. He was unable to return home because of his failing health. Dr. Yanzhul died in Wiesbaden on October 18, 1914. In an obituary, the journal published by the Russian Ministry of Public Education had this to say: "A list of I.I. Yanzhul's works shows to what extent he used his knowledge and abilities in studying scientific and practical questions, motivated above all by a desire to bring them within reach of Russian society for practical goal reaching. In the thorough selection of material and its objectiveness I.I. Yanzhul has actually no rival among contemporary Russian scientists."
Опубликовано 14 сентября 2018 года
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