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!
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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
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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
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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
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Nafziger, S. (2011). “Serfdom, Emancipation, and Economic Development in Tsarist Russia.” Retrieved Jan. 7, 2017, from: 184.108.40.206/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
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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.