The Emancipation of the Serfs

17 May, 2018 940 History of Europe

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the 1861 declaration by Tsar Alexander II that serfs were now legally free of their landlords. Until then, over a third of Russians were tied to the land on which they lived and worked and in practice there was little to distinguish their condition from slavery. Russia had lost the Crimean War in 1855 and there had been hundreds of uprisings, prompting the Tsar to tell the nobles, “The existing condition of owning souls cannot remain unchanged. It is better to begin to destroy serfdom from above than to wait until that time when it begins to destroy itself from below.” Reform was constrained by the Tsar’s wish to keep the nobles on side and, for the serfs, tied by debt and law to the little land they were then allotted, the benefits were hard to see.

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  • Sarah Hudspith 3 episodes
    Associate Professor in Russian at the University of Leeds
  • Simon Dixon 6 episodes
    The Sir Bernard Pares Professor of Russian History at UCL
  • Shane O'Rourke No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in History at the University of York

Reading list

  • Lord and Peasant in Russia: From the Ninth to the Nineteenth Century
    J. Blum (Princeton University Press, 1961) Google Books →
  • The Lady with the Little Dog and Other Stories 1896-1904
    Anton Chekhov (trans. Ronald Wilks) (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2002) Google Books →
  • The House of the Dead
    Fyodor Dostoevsky (trans. David McDuff) (Penguin, 2004) Google Books →
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    Ben Eklof and Stephen P. Frank (eds.) (Unwin Hyman, 1990) Google Books →
  • The Russian Landed Gentry and the Peasant Emancipation of 1861
    T. Emmons (Cambridge University Press, 1968) Google Books →
  • End of Serfdom: Nobility and Bureaucracy in Russia, 1855-61
    D. Field (Harvard University Press, 1976) Google Books →
  • Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia
    Orlando Figes (Allen Lane, 2002) Google Books →
  • Peasant Icons: Representations of Rural People in Late Nineteenth Century Russia
    Cathy A. Frierson (Oxford University Press, 1993) Google Books →
  • Dead Souls
    Nikolai Gogol (trans. Robert Maguire) (Penguin, 2004) Google Books →
  • Russia: People and Empire, 1552-1917
    Geoffrey Hosking (HarperCollins, 1997) Google Books →
  • The Cambridge Companion to the Classic Russian Novel
    Malcolm V. Jones and Robin Feuer Miller (eds.) (Cambridge University Press, 1998) Google Books →
  • Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom
    Peter Kolchin (Belknap Press, 1987) Google Books →
  • The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia: 1762-1907
    David Moon (Routledge, 2002) Google Books →
  • Up from Serfdom: My Childhood and Youth in Russia, 1804-1824
    Alexander Nikitenko (Yale University Press, 2001) Google Books →
  • War and Peace
    Leo Tolstoy (trans. Louise and Aylmer Maude) (Oxford University Press, 2010) Google Books →
  • The Devil and Other Stories
    Leo Tolstoy (trans. Louise and Aylmer Maude) (Oxford University Press, 2003) Google Books →
  • Master and Man and Other Stories
    Leo Tolstoy (trans. Paul Foote) (Penguin, 2005) Google Books →
  • Plays: The Power of Darkness, The First Distiller, The Fruits of Culture
    Leo Tolstoy (trans. Louise and Aylmer Maude) (Elibron Classics, 2004) Google Books →

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Auto-category: 947.08 (Abolition of serfdom in Russia)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In March 1861 in St Petersburg, Tsar Alexander II proclaimed that Russian serfs were now free.