Serfdom in Russia
Serfdom is the basis of the feudal mode of production, while the owner of the land has a legally established power over the peasants living in his possessions. The latter not only economically (landedly) depended on the feudal lord, but also obeyed him in everything, could not get away from their owner. The runaway were persecuted and returned to the owner.
Serfdom in Europe
In Western Europe, the birth of serfdom begins with Charlemagne. In the 10th and 13th centuries serfdom was already established there for a part of rural inhabitants, while the other part remained personally free. The serfs served their feudal lords as rent: heirloom and corvee. The rent was a part of the food produced by the peasant economy, and the corvée was working out on the manor field. From the 13th century in England and France there was a gradual destruction of serfdom, which completely disappeared by the 18th century. In Eastern and Central Europe, a similar process took place later, covering the period from the 15th to the beginning of the 19th century.
Registration of serfdom in Russia
In the country, serfdom was formed rather late, but we can see the formation of its elements as early as in Ancient Russia. Starting from the 11th century, certain categories of rural residents move into the category of personally dependent peasants, while the bulk of the population was a category of free peasant communes who could leave their master, find another, choose the best share for themselves. This right was for the first time limited in the legal code issued by Ivan III in 1497. The opportunity to leave the host was now determined two weeks a year, before and after November 26, when St. George’s Day was celebrated. At the same time it was necessary to pay the elderly, a fee for the use of the landowner yard. In the Sudebnik of Ivan the Terrible of 1550, the size of the elderly increased, which made the transition impossible for many peasants. From 1581 they begin to introduce a temporary ban on the transition. As often happens, the temporary has become surprisingly permanent. The decree of 1597 introduced the duration of the search for fugitive peasants in 5 years. In the future, the lesson summers were constantly increasing, until in 1649 the indefinite search for those who had run away was introduced.Thus, serfdom was finalized by the father of Peter the First, Alexei Mikhailovich. Despite the begun modernization of the country, Peter did not change serfdom; on the contrary, he took advantage of his existence as one of the resources for carrying out reforms. With his rule, the combination of the capitalist elements of development with the serfdom dominating in Russia begins.
The decline of the feudal serf system
By the end of the 18th century, signs of a crisis in the existing economic system in Russia were beginning to emerge. Its main manifestation was the question of the unprofitability of the economy based on the exploitation of labor of dependent peasants. In the non-chernozem provinces, the introduction of a monetary charge and otkhodnichestvo (the departure of the serfs to the city to work) was practiced for a long time, which undermined the landowner-serf system of interaction. At the same time comes the realization of the immorality of serfdom, very similar to slavery. Particularly, the need to eliminate it was raised by the Decembrist movement. Nicholas I, who headed the state after the uprising, decided not to touch this problem, fearing to make it even worse.And only after the lost Crimean War, which revealed the lag of feudal Russia from the countries of the West, did the new Tsar Alexander II decide to eliminate serfdom.
After a long preparatory period, affecting the years 1857-1860, the government developed a more or less acceptable for the Russian nobility scheme for the abolition of serfdom. The general rule was the unconditional liberation of the peasants with the allotment of land, for which it was necessary to make a ransom. The size of land allotments fluctuated and depended primarily on their quality, but was insufficient for the normal development of the economy. The manifesto on the abolition of serfdom, signed on February 19, 1961, was a breakthrough in the historical development of the Russian state. Despite the fact that the interests of the nobility were taken into account much more than the peasants, this event played an important role in the life of the country. Serfdom hampered the process of the capitalist development of Russia, while its abolition contributed to the speedy progress along the path of European modernization.