The Emancipation of the Serfs

A word document giving an overview of the Emancipation of the Serfs, as well as detailing the repercussions and opinions of the Edict.

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Emancipation of the Serfs
Three possible approaches:
1. Freed by decree without land
2. Serfdom abolished but the peasants payed for the land kept
3. Peasants `obliged' to perform certain services either temporarily or indefinitely
1858: Main Committee for Peasant Affairs set up
Landowners where soil was fertile wished to liberate serfs without/with as little as possible
land
Where trade/industry was developing, prepared to free serfs if rents were paid
Many moved their serfs to poor lands/exiled them/turned them over to the army to
minimise the cost of a possible emancipation ­ Tsar prohibited this by decree
March 1859 ­ job of drafting the reform given to a Commission comprising many liberals
Measures
Freedom to marry without consent
Freedom to enter into contracts/obligations, to engage in trade/industry and go to law
Entitled to acquire property/make free use of any land purchased/to inherit property
Each would be a member of the peasant commune and owed financial/other obligations
Personal freedom depended on their signing agreements with the landowner
No peasant could give up the allotment of land received
Could not leave the commune until 9 years after publication of the Emancipation act
Amount of land received
Maximum/minimum average sizes of land were laid down in the act
Surplus of the land would be handed back to the landowner
Landowner had to make the deficit by giving up some of his own land/reducing peasant's
obligation ­ meant that in most cases the land available for the peasant's personal use was
reduced
Peasant's obligations
Assessed on the basis of the peasant's inventories
Inventories had to be completed within two years of the Act and confirmed by an Arbitrator
Very few peasants able to pay for their allotments outright
Advances plus interest were paid over 49 years

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Results
Many peasants unable to keep up with their redemption payments, which had to be
rearranged over a longer period
Many households became impoverished
Remained subject to recruitment for military service and corporal punishment
Were not treated as individuals but as part of the commune
Powers of the Commune included:
Right to impose fines
Right to make arrests
Could order enforced labour and placed under direct government control by the police and
local administratio
Peasants' freedom further limited by other regional administrative structures
Land was…read more

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