The peace arbitrator was created in 1861 to be the main administrative autiiority in the countryside during die implementation of emancipation. In this article Roxanne Easley examines the institution of peace arbitrator and its role in mediating interests and fostering communication between landlord and peasant and as a potential generative agent of civil society in the postemancipation countryside. After the initial shock of confrontation between landowners and peasants, coercion, arbitrariness, and custom began to share public space with dialogue, process, and law in the solution of public disputes. The peace arbitrator, as die point of intersection for each group’s ideology(ies) and as instructor in formal communication, was at the heart of this change. But a permanent, fully institutionalized vehicle for mediating public interests did not fit with the autocracy’s vision of orderly social change nor with its habitual compartmentalization of die social estates. In response to this threat, the state first neutralized the unusual public principles that underlay the institution of peace arbitrator and then eliminated it in 1874. Easley explores the unintended growth of public politicization in rural Russia as a consequence of emancipation and the boundaries of autocratic reformism.