Between 1860 and 1914 huge changes affected the economy of the Russian Empire. The population — already growing quickly before 1860 — more than doubled from 74 million to 175 million. The structure of the countryside, where most of this population made its living, underwent fundamental change in 1861 with the emancipation of the serfs and again in 1906 when peasants were allowed to establish their own farmsteads independent of the communal structures under which they had lived. Railways were built across Russia so that the 1600 km of track which had been laid by 1860 grew to a network of 70 000 km by 1914 and included the Trans-Siberian railway, linking Russia’s Pacific coast to its European heartland. Heavy industry grew quickly; coal production increased more than a thousand-fold and more than ten times as much iron was being smelted in 1913 as had been in 1860.
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