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History 440: Peasants and the end of Serfdom. Pre-1861 peasants’ lives Serfdom: an unequal, reciprocal relationship Land was power Lords owned the land.

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Presentation on theme: "History 440: Peasants and the end of Serfdom. Pre-1861 peasants’ lives Serfdom: an unequal, reciprocal relationship Land was power Lords owned the land."— Presentation transcript:

1 History 440: Peasants and the end of Serfdom

2 Pre-1861 peasants’ lives Serfdom: an unequal, reciprocal relationship Land was power Lords owned the land Exploitation was central – Labor rent (barshchina) – Payment in cash or kind (obrok) Up to half their harvests went to lord and the state. Harshest close to center of power.

3 Pre-1861 peasants’ lives The State’s impositions: Poll tax (Peter I, until 1880s) Military service: Peter I lifetime service; in 1793 reduced to 25 years : 7 million peasant men conscripted. Peasant communities were jointly responsible for all obligations (until 1903) Landlord also had responsibilities: protection, safety net, authority

4 Weather and soil North and northwest forest, poor soil Winters long, low precipitation South and southeast Semi-forested steppe quite fertile (Black Earth) Weather varied Led to redistributive commune Spread risk

5 Regional economic patterns

6 How did they farm? Subsistence Three-field system No legumes or potatoes Some livestock, but small, underfed Resistant to “improvement” Preferred security of old methods KEY: Redistributive commune Large households

7 But population grew enormously 1678: 9 million 1795: 20 million 1857: 32 million : 90 million With conquests, by 1917: 172 million (80 percent peasants) And spread out: extensive (not intensive) agriculture Why? Peasants married young Had many babies So some survived Landlords encouraged this. Created a strong pro- birth mentality. Hard habit to break.

8 Gender differences Sexual exploitation, especially of daughters- in-law Men: heavy field work: plowing, harrowing, sowing Women: household, children, kitchen garden, small animals Everyone harvested Also generational conflict

9 Peasants’ resistance Flight (common earlier) Revolt: – : Bolotnikov revolt (reached Moscow) – : Razin revolt – : Don Cossack revolt – : Pugachev revolt – All were suppressed with massive state violence

10 Peasants’ resistance “Weapons of the weak” Worked badly Stole estate property Broke new machines Late paying dues Feigned incomprehension Hid in the woods Took solace in the church’s promised afterlife

11 Finally, Emancipation, 1861


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