Up until 1861, land was worked by serfs. This source of cheap labour meant there was little incentive for landowners to invest in industrialisation and new methods.
After 1861 they had to deal with redemption payments. These were very high and reduced the amount of money the peasants had to spend. Taxes on goods such as sugar and vodka also reduced the amount the peasants had to spend.
Many peasants believed that their problems would be solved by acquiring more land. However, there was a land shortage in the Empire. Only about one square kilometre in every five was suitable for farming. Much of the rest was poor land or situated in underpopulated areas.
The majority of peasants lived in small scattered villages. They had little communication with the world beyond their local area and most were uneducated and illiterate. As a result they had little knowledge or understanding of the wider world and developments in agriculture that were happening elsewhere in the world.
Peasants had little machinery to help them. They also farmed their land in long narrow strips. These were often not located together. This meant that time was wasted moving between them. The land was also owned communally by the village. This meant that it could be redistributed after ten years. This meant that peasants often lacked an incentive to improve their land.
The Empire lacked a strong industry for a number of reasons.
It lacked the capital or money to purchase the machinery required. It relied on taxation of peasants which increased resentment and sales of grain to other countries. It did receive investment from countries such as France.
It lacked the roads and rail network required to exploit many of its natural resources. These were often located in remote regions such as Siberia. The building of the trans-Siberian helped open up many of these areas.
It lacked a skilled workforce. The majority of peasants were illiterate and unskilled.
The heavy taxation of the population meant that there was a lack of a market within the Empire. This reduced the incentive to industrialise.
Unlike other countries such as Britain, the drive for industrialisation was led by the government and not the middle classes. However, many bureaucrats had little understanding of the importance of industrialisation.