9 errors and facts about serfdom

The abolition of serfdom did not delight many peasants, brought the state a lot of money and forced Alexander II to fear for his life

9 errors and facts about serfdom

The peasants, including from the surrounding villages, have a dense crowd in a rural church. A local priest came out, only arriving from the city, put on anal document. Some woman gasped, and tense silence hung in the temple. The priest with a solemn look began to read the manifesto on the abolition of serfdom, signed by Emperor Alexander II on February 19 (March 3 according to the new style) of 1861.

Pretty soon the silence in the church was replaced by a murmur: someone asked to explain incomprehensible expressions, someone said that they were deceived and this is not the will that the king promised.

Around such an environment, an epoch -making document was made in the counties of the Russian Empire, from which the period of great reforms and the restructuring of all obsolete ways began.

1. The peasants were delighted with the reform of 1861


“They announced the will, and on Monday they would be driven to work again,” the peasants were indignant, listening to the imperial manifesto. It turned out that for at least another two years the former serfs would spend in the position of “temporarily liable”, that is, almost all the same duties – corvee and quitters would be the landowner.

Many peasants hoped that with the liberation their plots would go to them for nothing, and were disappointed with the requirement of land redeems. People believed that the landowners are deceiving them, replacing the real royal “will”;The people went on arbitrary interpretations and fake versions of the tsarist decree.

In 1861, 1859 peasant uprisings took place in Russia (for comparison: in the previous decade, which was considered troubled, there were about 1010 riots).

9 errors and facts about serfdomThe bailiff reads the manifesto on the abolition of serfdom at the estate near Moscow. 1861.

2. Serfdom was canceled throughout the Russian Empire at the same time


As early as 1816–1819, Alexander I canceled serfdom in the Baltic provinces: Estland, Courland, Livonia – and on the island of Ezel. The peasants were then liberated without land. His nephew and namesake Alexander II, abolishing serfdom in the main territory of the empire in 1861, several years later with special decisions he carried out the same reform on the outskirts, in particular in the Caucasus.

3. Catherine II thought about the liberation of serfs


Catherine II, following the French enlighteners, believed that slavery contradicts the Christian faith and justice. When she convened in 1767-1768 a stacked commission so that delegates from all over the empire would develop a new set of laws, it was a “order” for it, which also considered the issue of serfdom dependence.

The empress carefully stated: “It should not suddenly and through legalization to make a great number of freed”. In other words, Catherine reflected on such an opportunity, but came to the idea that if it was carried out, if it was carried out, then gradually.

One of her ideas: to declare free of all peasant children born after 1785 (this year a letter of letter was published). However, in fact, the serfs began to depend on the landowners to the board of Catherine: in particular, she allowed the peasants to exile and forbade them to complain about the master directly to the monarch.

9 errors and facts about serfdomEmperor Alexander II

4. The abolition of serfdom of Alexander II prompted the defeat of Russia in the Crimean War


The Crimean War of 1853-1856, lost to the Union of the Ottoman Empire with Britain, France and the Sardine kingdom, showed how the Russian Empire was technically and economically lagging behind other European powers and needs thoroughly reforms. And the main hopelessly outdated system was serfdom.

In order to update all areas of activity in Russia, investments and numerous employees were needed, and forced labor did not motivate either the serf or its owner more efficiently dispose of resources (there was even the expression “work like in the corvee”).

5. As a result of the abolition of serfdom, the state acquired the peasants


The peasant bought a full -fledged allotment from the landowner not at the market value of the site. In fact, the serf compensated the landowner his work for many years to come.

They calculated the amount of ransom as follows: for 6% of it, the annual quitter was considered, which the landowner previously received from the peasant. It turned out expensive. But the redemption system was proposed as follows: the peasant paid or worked directly to the landowner, and the remaining 75–80% received from the state (mainly securities).

Since that time, the state has become a creditor of the former serf. He had to annually pay the treasury of 6% from the redemption amount of allotted, and so within 49 years. During this time, almost 300% ran. From 1862 to 1907, when the government canceled payments, the state received 1,540,570,000 rubles from the landowner peasants.

9 errors and facts about serfdomProclamation of the manifesto of Alexander II in. Assumption Cathedral in Moscow on March 5, 1861. Archive of the Russian State Library

6. In order not to give the land, the landowners referred the peasants to Siberia


The reform was discussed and cooked for several years, and during this time some landowners, wanting to preserve the lands intended for the redemption of the peasants, were launched on all kinds of tricks.

While serfs depended on them, landowners moved them worse, sold at all without land, transferred to the yard (that is, they selected the allotment). Having the authority to judge the people belonging to them, the landowners even found reasons to exile peasants to Siberia. In 1858, the government issued a number of decrees to stop this practice.

7. Before the abolition of serfdom, the landowner could make anything with his peasant


By 1861, the landowner could sell and lose the peasants, resettle, send it to recruits, had the right to a patrimonial court over people belonging to him, could put them to bodily punishment, imprisonment in the prison and exile. But there were a number of restrictions: the number of sticks and pinks was regulated, according to the law it was impossible to kill the serfs, public trading was prohibited, and during sale it was forbidden to take away their allotments from the peasants and share families.

However, the landowners knew how to circumvent the law. As the economist of the mid-19th century wrote, Andrei Zablotsky-Tyatyatsky, “if they want to sell children, then they let their parents go free. Or, without giving vacation to parents, they combine the marriage of children and, thus composing a separate family, sell it without violating the law “.

9 errors and facts about serfdomPoster in honor of the manifesto on the abolition of serfdom. Archive of the State Historical Museum

8. The Russian Empire later abolished serfdom in Europe


For example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina (which, however, in the 19th century was part of the Ottoman Empire) with serfdom was officially finished in 1918. Independent European states during the years of Alexander II have already canceled serfdom in the classic version. However, in their colonies there was still slavery.

9. On the night after the signing of the manifesto, Alexander II was afraid for his life


The emperor knew that most of the nobles were very unhappy with the prepared reform. He remembered the fate of his grandfather, Paul I, who was killed as a result of the palace coup. On the night after the signing of the manifesto, troops and police were warned, horses were prepared for the emperor, and Alexander II himself, according to the servant, spent the night with his sister, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna.


  • 67 081 167 – the number of the population of the Russian Empire by the beginning of 1859.

  • 23 069 631 -So many residents of the Russian Empire, both sexes, were in serfdom on the eve of the reform (according to the 10th People’s Census of 1857–1858 and cameral descriptions in the Transcaucasian Territory).

  • 90% the population of the Russian Empire was made up of peasants (serf and free) in the middle of the XIX century.

  • 65 – the number of provinces and regions of the Russian Empire on the eve of the reform.

  • 9 – The number of provinces and regions in which there were no serfs before the reform of 1861.

  • 3 Day A week, the landowner was recommended to force serfs to work on his land according to the “Manifesto on the Three -Day Barch” adopted in 1797 ”. However, in practice, this norm was often exceeded, in addition, serfs were also supposed to perform additional labor duties.

  • Up to 50 strokes Rods according to the law were supposed to be a fortress peasant who filed a complaint against his landowner.

Photo: Getti Images (4)

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