Russian; akin to Russian zemlya earth, land, Latin humus — more at humble
First Known Use: 1865
Rural elected assembly in the Russian Empire. Established by Tsar Alexander II in 1864 to provide social and economic services, the zemstvos became a liberal influence in imperial Russia. The assemblies, formed at the district and province levels, were composed of delegates representing the landed proprietors and the peasant village communes. They expanded education, improved roads, and provided health care. From the 1890s they agitated for constitutional reform, and they stimulated activity in the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 (seeRussian Revolution of 1905; Russian Revolution of 1917). They were abolished after the Bolsheviks came to power. The term zemstvo also refers to a 16th-century institution for tax collection.