Why Were Serfs Legally Bound to the Land
While landowners received financial compensation for what they had abandoned, farmers had to pay for their new property. Since they had no savings, they received 100% mortgages, 80% from the State Bank and the remaining 20% from landowners. It seemed like a generous offer, but as with any loan deal, the trap was in the repayments. Farmers faced withdrawal payments that became a lifelong burden that then had to be passed on to their children. The Smerdy were a kind of serfs on Kholops in medieval Poland and Kievan Rus`. Serfs increased their political power by acting collectively in village communities that began to hold their own courts and acted as a counterweight to those of the landed nobility. In 1227 in the north of the Netherlands, in 1230 on the Lower Weser in northern Germany and in 1315 in the Swiss Alps, violent peasant armies were defeated by aristocratic knights. A major but unsuccessful rebellion, the Peasants` Revolt, which called for an end to serfdom, occurred in England in 1381. Throughout Europe, all these factors conspired to weaken the traditional system of unfree workers tied to the land and working for the rich, so that by the end of the 14th century AD, more agricultural work was done by paid workers than by unpaid serfs. Serfs had a place in feudal society in the same way as a baron or knight. The place of a serf was that in exchange for his protection, he lived on a piece of land of his master and worked it.
So there was a certain reciprocity in the system in power. The justification for this period was that a serf “worked for all,” while a knight or baron “fought for all” and a clergyman “prayed for all”; So everyone had their place. The serf worked harder than others and was the least malnourished and paid, but at least he had his place and, unlike slavery, he had his own land and property. A landowner could not sell his serfs as a Roman could sell his slaves. On the other hand, when he decided to sell a plot of land, the serfs or serfs associated with this land accompanied him to serve their new master. Moreover, a serf was not allowed to leave his country without permission, nor to sell it. A description of the customs of the Richard East estate in England in 1298 records the following daily tasks expected of a serf: A serf had free time on Sundays and holidays, when the most popular pastimes were drinking beer, singing and dancing in groups to bagpipe music, flutes and drums. There were games like dice, board games, and sports like hockey and medieval football where the goal was to move the ball to a given target, and there were few, if any, rules. Serfs could experience it once a year when they were traditionally invited to dine in the mansion on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, they had to bring their own plates and firewood, and of course all the food had been produced by themselves anyway, but they got free beer and it was at least a chance to see how the other half lived and alleviate the gloom of a rural winter. In 1861, serfdom, the system that irrevocably bound Russian peasants to their landowners, was abolished by imperial order of the Tsar.
Four years later, slavery was also declared illegal in the United States by executive order. Tsar Alexander II (1855-81) shared with his father Nicholas I the conviction that American slavery was inhuman. This is not as hypocritical as it may seem at first glance. Serfdom, which had prevailed in Russia since the mid-seventeenth century, was not technically slavery. The landowner was not the owner of the serf. This contrasted with the system in the United States, where black slaves were mobile; That is, they were considered in law as the available property of their masters. In Russia, the traditional relationship between lord and serf was based on land. Because he lived on his land, the serf was bound to the Lord. There is a sense in which the details of emancipation were less important than the fact of the reform itself.
Whatever its flaws, emancipation was the prelude to the most enduring reform program Imperial Russia had ever known (see timeline). There is also the irony that such a far-reaching measure could only have been introduced by a leader with absolute power; This could not have been done in a democracy. The only comparable social change of this magnitude was the emancipation of black slaves by President Lincoln in 1865. But as one modern Russian historian provocatively pointed out (Alexander Chubarov, The Fragile Empire, New York, 1999, p. 75): “[Russian] emancipation was achieved on an infinitely larger scale and was achieved without civil war and without devastation or armed coercion.” After the Renaissance, serfdom became increasingly rare in most parts of Western Europe, but developed strongly in Central and Eastern Europe, where it was previously less common. In England, it lasted legally until the 1600s and in France until 1789. There were native Scottish serfs until 1799, when miners previously held in serfdom obtained their emancipation. In Eastern Europe, the institution existed until the mid-nineteenth century. It existed in Austria-Hungary until 1848 and was not abolished in Russia until 1861. Tibet is believed to have been the last place where serfdom was abolished in 1959.
Free men were essentially rent-paying tenants who owed little or no service to the Lord. In parts of England in the eleventh century, these free men made up only ten percent of the peasant population, and in the rest of Europe their numbers were relatively small. In the Middle Ages, there were a variety of types of villaeinage in Europe. The half-villas received only half of half of the strips of land for their own use and owed the Lord a full workforce, which often required them to hire their services to other serfs to compensate for this difficulty. Villeinage, however, was not a purely unidirectional exploitative relationship. In the Middle Ages, the land inside the mansion provided food and survival, and as a town, it guaranteed access to land and crops protected from theft by marauding thieves. The owners, even if they were legally allowed to do so, rarely evicted the townspeople because of the value of their work. Villeinage was much better than being a vagabond, a slave or a worker without disgrace. Perhaps the main reason for the development of the system was also its greatest strength: the stabilization of society during the destruction of the Roman imperial order. With a declining birth rate and population, work was the key factor in production.
Successive administrations tried to stabilize the imperial economy by freezing the social structure: sons had to follow their fathers in their trade, councils were forbidden to resign and coloni, the peasants of the land, were not allowed to leave the land to which they were linked. The workers of the country were becoming serfs. When the Germanic kingdoms in the 5th century. Roman owners were often simply replaced by Gothic or Germanic owners without changing the underlying situation or population displacement. Thus, the property system took root in medieval societies. The Kholops were the lowest class of serfs in medieval and modern Russia. They had a similar status to slaves and could be traded freely. In addition to the service, a serf had to pay certain taxes and fees. Taxes were based on the estimated value of his land and property. Royalties were generally paid in the form of agricultural products and not in cash. The best wheat ration from the serf`s harvest often went to the owner.
In general, hunting and the capture of game by serfs was forbidden on the Lord`s property. On Easter Sunday, the farming family owed maybe a dozen more eggs, and at Christmas, maybe a goose was needed. When a family member died, additional taxes were paid to the Lord as a form of feudal relief so that the heir could retain the right to cultivate the land he owned. Any young woman who wanted to marry a serf outside her mansion was obliged to pay a fee for the right to leave her master and as compensation for her lost job. The idea of people of different social classes living together on one estate for mutual benefit dates back to Roman times, when country villas produced food on their surrounding land. As the Roman Empire fell into disrepair and raids and foreign invasions became more frequent, the security of living together in a protected place had distinct advantages.