Russian Serfdom and American Slavery

As an American Studies major, I found Peter Kolchin’s The Origin and Consolidation of Unfree Labor to be absolutely fascinating. Kolchin’s purpose in the introduction we read is to delineate the similarities and differences between the causes and realities of Russian serfdom and American slavery. Kolchin begins by detailing the origins of Russian serfdom. Serfs originally had freedom to move around the country; however, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century this right was restricted and eventually abolished because serf migration caused too much disruption and therefore decreased the amount of agricultural labor being performed.… Read the rest here

Serfdom in Russia

Within this particular chapter, there was one aspect that stood out to me. I was surprised at the number of types of serfs that were discussed. Prior to taking this course, I had thought that a serf was a single type of individual, and there wasn’t any differentiation because they were collectively seen as the lowest within Russia society. In addition to the serfs that most people associate with the title, there were also industrial serfs, as well as household serfs.… Read the rest here

18th Century Serfdom

Something that stood out to me in this chapter was the quote by Sumner at the beginning of the reading.  He states that serfdom lasted longer in Russia than in the West because “humanitarian and other ideas of the value of the individual spirit were little developed.”  It is strange to attempt to reconcile that fact that Catherine the Great set up a Noble Wardship and a Bureau of Public Welfare for the peasants but that she was also the monarch responsible for entrenching serfdom the most.  … Read the rest here