The myth of serfdom

Quite a few in Russia think that our serfdom was a sign of the wildest lag behind all of Europe. Say, well, now they have already canceled everywhere, and in our country bloody Tsarism tortured and tortured the simple people. But was it really?

Serfdom appeared in Europe in the Early Middle Ages, spreading through political instability and chaos. On the one hand, the monarch's vigilantes were rewarded for their service, and then — altogether for their oath — land allotments. On the other hand, personally free peasants themselves turned to large owners for patronage, changing their freedom for safety. This was a purely Western European phenomenon, and already in the XIII-XIV centuries it began to fade away in France and Northern Italy. In the XVI century, it was finally eliminated in England, and in fact went away from it in the XIV century. At the same time the peasants were liberated in Castile.

Serfdom in Medieval England

At the same time, in many European countries it was not as such: medieval Russia, the Hungarian kingdom, Bohemia, northeastern Germany, Sweden and Norway lived without serfdom, and this did not correlate with their “backwardness” - the same Hungary was a powerful kingdom, with lands three times larger than its modern territory, and the kingdom of Bohemia was a tasty morsel in all sorts of feudal wars, with a magnificent development of culture and the legendary Charles University.

In these countries, the introduction of serfdom coincided with the New Age and the departure of the Middle Ages. Thus, in the Czech Republic, serfdom has been spreading only since the 17th century, and in northeastern Germany it is associated with the Thirty Years War and the issuance of land for military service. For the same reasons, it appeared in a freer version in Sweden. In Hungary, it was introduced only in the 1514 year; in Poland only from the XIV century; in Norway it was not introduced at all. As for Russia, it owes its premises to the local army of Ivan the Third, when in exchange for getting to feed (but not privately owned), the warrior had to be mobilized in the event of war, carrying weapons (with large feedings - his own squad) . This system showed itself in a positive light: at one time, Ivan the Third could have set up an army that no other sovereign of Europe could afford. The annexation of Novgorod and a number of other Russian lands, as well as a more or less successful confrontation with Lithuania, was obliged to Russia for this type of army.

However, this was not yet serfdom - both St. George’s Day and the extensive self-government in the form of zemstvos remained. It was finally introduced by Peter I, and also had administrative functions: the landowner had to take care of the entrusted estate. But not about that, however, speech.

'Yuriev Day ”, S.V. Ivanov

Serfdom in Russia was abolished in 1861 year. Terribly late. In England at that time there was already an industrial revolution, the contours of industrial cities were formed, and in Italy, with the exception of the Papal States, they completed the Risorgimento!

And what, however, really? In the aforementioned Czech Republic, serfdom was abolished in 1781, in Hungary - in 1785, in Denmark - in 1788. At the same time, in Prussia - and then under direct threat from the French, who established new orders in many parts of Europe, with very often the support of the local population - in 1807. In Hannover in 1831, in Saxony in 1832, in Mecklenburg, it was held until 1820, and finally, with all the formalities, was canceled in 1859 (two years before in Russia, and despite the fact that this preparation). In the Austrian Empire - and this is more interesting - in the 1848 year, during the revolution. In Iceland, a form of dependence similar to serfdom, wistarband, when all landless people were obliged to work for farmers, changing them every year, but not having to leave the farm without the permission of its owner, was canceled only in 1894 year - and certain periods the number of such dependent accounted for up to 25% of the population!

Modern Denmark, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Norway and Iceland are economically and technically quite prosperous countries, but also are among the ten best countries in the world in terms of standard of living and economic indicators (except the Czech Republic). Worse indicators are in Poland and Hungary, but they are more likely associated with the recent era.

Thus, all the allegations about excessive belatedness, allegedly too different from the rest of Europe, the abolition of serfdom in Russia, because of which we are suffering, should still be considered inconsistent with historical truth. The Russian empire in this respect did not stand out from the pleiad of the neighboring countries of Eastern, Central and Northern Europe. The natural path of development of Russia, which promised us a standard of living no worse than that of Western Europe, was interrupted only by the Bolshevik coup.

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Nikita Novsky

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