Serf. Middle French serf from Latin servus (“slave”). 1. a person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a lord, commonly attached to the lord’s land and transferred with it from one owner to another. 2. a European* enslaved to another European
*”Europe” is western Asia
On March 3, 1861, an event of seismic significance occurred in the history of international emancipation. With the stroke of a pen, Tsar Alexander II freed 23 million Russian serfs. It always has been a point of pride for Russians that their great emancipation preceded the one in the United States and occurred largely without bloodshed. Adam Goodheart has written a nice piece on this event in yesterday’s Disunion in the New York Times. I heartily recommend it, although I wish Goodheart had said more about the limitations of Russia’s 1861 Emancipation Manifesto.
First, the decree only freed serfs on private land. Imperial serfs, on land controlled directly by the Tsar, were not freed until 1866. Second, Russians landlords were compensated handsomely by the Tsar’s government for the loss of their land, which was given to peasant mir communities who in turn were required to make regular payments to the government for it plus…
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