By the middle of the XIX century, Russia occupied the territory of 18 million sq.km. The population of the country in 1851 was estimated (according to the 9th audit) at 69 million people. The density of the urban population was steadily growing: from 5,8% in 1835 up to 7,8% in 1851; in total, the population was estimated at 3,5 million people. The number of cities in comparison with the previous period changed a little - 566. In Moscow, in St. Petersburg and in Odessa were living more than 100 000 people (17% of the urban population). The growth of the number of townspeople was due to the inflow of countrymen.
"The first estate" of the country was nobility, which Nikolay I named "fencing of throne". The manifest of 1831 in infringement of "Charter to Nobility" established a high property qualification for participation in nobility elections and assemblies. The control of the governor was put above the activity of nobility assemblies. Noblemen owning a small estates thus were discharged of influence on the corporate life of nobility.
In 1832 was created the new estate of hereditary and personal 'honorable citizens". Honorable citizenship was given to children of personal noblemen, clergymen, merchants, scientific, and artists. The access to the noble estate was thus limited. With the same purpose the decree of 1845 increased the class grade "Table of Ranks" giving the right for the reception of hereditary and personal nobility.
For the preservation of the large landowning by the law of 1845, entails-reserved eminences were established; they were not subject to division or sale. Preferential state credits were given to landowners. By 1856 the general debt of noblemen to the treasury was estimated at 427 million rubles. More than half of serfs was pledged.
The most numerous remained the agricultural population of Russia that was paying taxes. By the end of the reign of Nikolay I landowners' peasants were more than 20 million persons. Due to the growth of manor arable lands, the peasants' lots reduced, and peasants were transformed into domestics. In 1851, the number of domestics was more than 1 million persons.
There was a steady growth of merchants. From 1830 till 1858, the guild merchant class increased up to 133%.
In first half of the XIX century, separate economic regions with clearly expressed specialization in branches, were formed. Around Moscow developed Central industrial area, where were concentrated the industrial and shopping centers of the country. From the south, the Central Black Earth area adjoined it; it was the basic grain region of the country. The industry here advanced poorly; the corvee-land economy was dominating. The Northwestern Russian provinces specialized in commercial crops (flax, hemp etc.). The particularity of the North of Russia was woodcrafts and slash agriculture.
The Baltic region specialized in the intensive agriculture. In the western provinces the cattle breeding and the commodity agriculture, focused on the European market, developed. The production of grain, sugar beet, growing, animal industries and the industrial processing of the agricultural production were characteristic of the Right-bank and Left-bank of Ukraine. Mountain and iron-steel industry was the distinctive particularity of Ural and Ural region.
The agriculture of Russia during the 2nd quarter of XIX century was under a great crisis, which developed as the crisis of the corvee system.The technical equipment of the agriculture remained at the routine level. The crops were low. The commercialization of the agriculture grew; in the country manor, the surpluses of grains and sugar beet were being processed. The volume of distiller manufactures grew in the second quarter of the century up to 3 times, and the number of sugar plants up to 8 times.
The fine and country manufacture was still prevailing in the industry of Russia. The general number of industrial institutions (without mining factories) by 1854 increased up to 9994, or nearly twice in comparison with 1825. The number of the workers occupied in the industry grew also: in 1860, in 15 338 enterprises were working 565 thousand persons, including 462 thousand civilians and 103 thousand serfs.
The position of the possessed industries was critical: the government regulated the sizes and the character of manufacture, and also working conditions; owners of enterprises had no right to dismiss their workers, to bring improvements etc. In 1840 the government, at last, softened the possessive right, and gave to owners an opportunity to dismiss workers and even to close the enterprises. By 1860 the number of possessed workers decreased to 20 thousand and was estimated only at 12 thousand persons.
There were changes in the sectoral structure of the industry: in the second quarter of XIX century were being created new kinds of fine commodity manufacture.
In the second half of 30s in the Russian textile began an industrial revolution. The transition to mechanical production in 1830-1850 was experienced with cloth, clerical industry, sugar refining. Alongside with the augmentation of import of machines in the first half of the century, machine-building factories were created in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Nizhni Novgorod. In 1851 in the country were totaled 19 machine-building enterprises.
In 1835 and 1845 the first laws regulating the relations between businessmen and workers appeared. The right of landowners to withdraw the serfs from the enterprises was limited.
The growth of production, increasing of the specialization of regions were stimulated by the development of trade. In the beginning of the 30s, 1705 fairs were operating in the country, and the largest of them turned to commodity exchanges. Trading exhibition circulation grew.
The circulation of the foreign trade of Russia increased. England was the main foreign trade partner of Russia.The trade in the second half of the XIX century lagged from the needs of the industry and trade. The most successful was the organization of steamship communications.
The active trading and the balance of payments of the state allowed the Minister of Finance E.F.Kankrin to carry out the currency reform based on the depreciation of bank notes in 1839-1843. In 1843, the bank notes began to be replaced by credit notes provided by silver. The reform could order the financial system. From the beginning of 1854, free exchange of bank notes on silver was limited, and their cost began to fall.