Impact of the emancipation of the Serfs in Russia (notes)

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The Positive Impact on the Peasants
-50 million serfs were freed by the Emancipation
-Each serf family was allowed to keep their cottage and each family was also given a plot of
land with 85% of former serfs becoming land owners over the next 20 years.
-Ambitious peasants were able to buy the land from those who were less motivated. They
were known as 'KULAKS'. The kulaks were prosperous and produced surplus grain which they
sold in order to make a profit.
-Freed serfs were allowed to go to the cities to earn a regular wage. (helping
-The peasants were subjct to 'Volost' courts and those who were accused of a crime were
allowed a trial. This meant that the noble landlords lost their abilty to punish the serfs.
The Negative Impact on the Peasants
-The Emancipation Manifesto was aimed at protecting the nobles.
-The serfs were not just given free land when they were emancipated. Even though the serfs
may have been given a plot of land that they had worked on for many years, they still had to
pay redemption payments over 49 years with land owners greatly inflating the price of the
-The noble land owners kept key areas such as meadows and pasture which they used to
economically exploit the freed serfs.
-The nobles were responsible for the distribution of land and kept the best land for
themselves. Freed serfs found themselves with less land than they had been bonded to
under serfdom.
-The land that was distributed to the serfs was not enough to bring about significant
agricultural improvement with the average plot of land (9 acres) being too small to adopt
new farming methods. Only 50% of peasants were able to produce a surplus.
-The emancipation did not have the desired effect on industry. High redemption payments
meant that the serfs could not buy consumer goods and the lack of surplus grain meant
that those in the city could not be fed.
-Serfs had to stay in the mir, which controlled all aspects of their life, until their redemption
payments had been paid. Moreover, the mir used poor farming practices such as the strip
system and periodic land distribution.
-Land was regularly re-distributed which demotivated the peasants.
The Positive Impact on the Nobles
-The nobles received full financial compensation from the Tsarist government for the land
that they lost.
-The nobles were able to divide up the land and kept the best for themselves.
-The nobles were safe from the peasant unrest which was present before the emancipation.

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The Negative Impact on the Nobles
-Most nobles didn't want to free their serfs; they had been forced to by the Tsar. This
undermined support for the Tsar.
-With the loss of their serfs, the nobles lost social status.
-The emancipation did not stop the economic decline of the nobility as intended. Evidence:
By 1905, 50% of the land that the nobles owned in 1861 was mortgaged.…read more


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