What is serfdom, and why did Russia take it up just as it was dying out elsewhere in Europe, then keep it all the way up till the mid-19th-century? This institution of near-slavery is the focus of our new epic series. Today, find out how you got serfed!
Be sure to support the show at www.patreon.com/deadideaspod to get your portrait drawn!
Co-hosts: Nick and Anna
Time/place: Russia, from the late Roman period through 1861 CE
Dead Idea: Russian serfdom
A Map of Russia, 1834 CE, by Adam McKithern
Glossary of Russian Words and Spellings
- aul (ah-OOL) – a Caucasian mountain hut
- bárshchina (BAHR-shchee-nah) – dues paid in labor to landlord; corvée
- brat na braty (BRAT na BRA-tee) – the “brother for brother” system in which half the adult laborers of a commune worked the landlord’s fields on any given day.
- burmistr (BOOR-mee-stur) – bailiff, manager of an estate
- chernaia (CHUR-nai-yuh) – chimney-less hut
- desiatina (DEE-syah-tee-nah) – a unit of area equal to 2.7 acres
- izbá (eez-BAH) – hut
- kholop (hah-LOHP) – slave
- krepostnoi (kray-PAHST-noy) – serf
- mir (MEER) – peasant commune; also means “world”, “peace”
- obrók (ahb-ROHK) – dues paid in kind or money to landlord
- oprichnina (ah-PREECH-nee-nah) – secret police of Ivan the Terrible
- poméshchik (pah-MYEE-shuhk) – servitor landlord
- Pomórskaia (POH-mohr-skai-yuh)– Old Belief, referring to liturgical forms retained from before the reforms of 1652-1658
- saklya (SACK-lee-yuh) – a Caucasian mountain hut
- sótskii (SOHT-skee) – peasant/serf assigned to keep order on an estate; lit. “hundredth” and in charge of 100 households
- stárosta (STAH-us-tuh) – village elder
- tiaglo (tee-ah-GLUH) – husband-wife work team
- upravitel (oop-rah-VEE-tul) – steward, bailiff
- versta (vyeer-STAH) – a unit of distance equal to 0.663 miles or 1.067 km
Avakkum. (1950/2003). “The Life of Archpriest Avakkum.” In: Fedotov, G. P., Ed. (1950/2003). The Way of a Pilgrim and Other Classics of Russian Spirituality. Iswolsky, H., Trans. Mineola, NY: Dover.
Buggle, J. C., and Nafziger, S. (2015). “Long-Run Consequences of Labor Coercion: Evidence from Russian Serfdom.” Retrieved Jan. 7, 2017, from: http://www.johannesbuggle.com/docs/serfdom_1.4.pdf
Domar, E. (1970). “The Causes of Slavery or Serfdom: A Hypothesis.” The Journal of Economic History, 30(1): 18-32. Retrieved Jan. 7, 2017, from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-economic-history/article/div-classtitlethe-causes-of-slavery-or-serfdom-a-hypothesisdiv/B6055D4D909C9D21B79BB42D2CD952C5
Fedotov, G. P., Ed. (1950/2003). The Way of a Pilgrim and Other Classics of Russian Spirituality. Iswolsky, H., Trans. Mineola, NY: Dover.
Gogol, N. V. (1834). Taras Bulba and Other Tales. Cournos, J, ed. Retrieved Mar 16, 2017, from: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1197/1197-h/1197-h.htm
Gorshkov, B. B. (2005). A Life Under Russian Serfdom: The Memoirs of Savva Dmitrievich Purlevskii 1800-1868. New York: Central European University Press.
Hoch, S. L. (1986). Serfdom and Social Control in Russia: Petrovskoe, A Village in Tambov. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Kolchin, P. (1987). Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Lincoln, W. (1994). The Conquest of a Continent: Siberia and the Russians. New York: Random House.
MacKay, J. (2009). Four Russian Serf Narratives. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Markevich, A., and Zhuravskaya, E. (2016). “The Economic Effects of the Abolition of Serfdom: Evidence from the Russian Empire.” Retrieved Jan. 7, 2017, from: http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/MarkevitchZhuravskaya2016.pdf
Moley, H. (1866). Sketches of Russian Life Before and During the Emancipation of the Serfs. London: Chapman and Hall.
Nafziger, S. (2013). “Russian Serfdom, Emancipation, and Land Inequality: New Evidence.” Retrieved Jan. 7, 2017, from: http://www.ucrs.uu.se/digitalAssets/336/c_336060-l_3-k_serfdom_emancipation_inequality_steven_nafziger.pdf
Nafziger, S. (2011). “Serfdom, Emancipation, and Economic Development in Tsarist Russia.” Retrieved Jan. 7, 2017, from: 126.96.36.199/dotAsset/60e0d541-627e-4028-bca1-5fb981169cc2.doc
Nafziger, S., and Lindert, P. (2013). “Russian Inequality on the Eve of Revolution.” Retrieved Jan. 7, 2017, from: http://web.williams.edu/Economics/wp/Nafziger_Lindert_Inequality_Sept2013.pdf
Rosa, J. (2011). “The Causes of Serfdom: Domar’s Puzzle Revisited.” Retrieved Jan. 7, 2017, from: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1833511
Semyenov, Y. (1944). The Conquest of Siberia. Dickes, E. W., Ed. London: G. Routledge & Sons, Ltd.
Tolstoy, L. (1887). A Russian Proprietor and Other Stories. Dole, N. H., Trans. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.
Tolstoy, L. (1852). The Cossacks. Maude, L., & Maude, A., Trans. Retrieved Jan. 7, 2017, from: http://www.fullbooks.com/The-Cossacks.html
Wirtschafter, E. K. (2008). Russia’s Age of Serfdom 1649-1861. Maldon, MA: Blackwell.
Maps, pics, references, and more at http://www.deadideas.net. Music and graphic design by Rachel Westhoff. Map by Adam McKithern.