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The Yale review (v. 16)

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Pages: 358

Book format: An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose.

Publisher: Date:8/5/2009 - General Books LLC

By: George Park Fisher

Excerpt from book: had failed to call out the mounted police and the Cossacks, when the peasants presented their demands.1 Before we point out the effects of the abolition act, it is perhaps well to say a few words about the character of Russian serfdom. Serfs were property, christened, baptized property. The relations of the masters towards their serfs naturally differed. Some masters were cruel, some kind. But the kindest landlord would have been just as much astonished to hear that his serfs were human beings with sensitive personalities like himself, as your country neighbors would be did you see fit to tell them that their farm horses and cows have immortal souls. Here is an illustration: " 'Why is it, General, that the number of "souls" on your estate increases so slowly? You probably do not look after their marriages.' "A few days later the general ordered that a list of all the inhabitants of his village should be brought him. He picked out from this list the names of the boys who had attained the age of eighteen and of the girls just past sixteen,—these being the legal ages for marriage in Russia. Then he wrote, ']om to marry Anna, Paul to marry Parashka', and so on. . . . The weddings, he added, must take place in ten days, the next Sunday but one."2 So much for the personal relations. The economic relations can be characterized not as an "expropriation" of the peasant lands, but as an "appropriation" of the peasant labor. There were two systems of serf economy. One was that of the "obrok," the other that of the "barshchina." The former was typical on state domains, the latter being the prevailing form on the private estates. "Misl," N. 4. 'P. Kropotkin, Memoirs of a Revolutionist, London, 1899, v. i, p. 50-60. In the first few chapters of Prince Kropotkin's remarkable...  

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