Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Peasant Russia: Family and Community in the Post-Emancipation Period by Christine D. Worobec

For those interested in the everyday life of Russian peasants in a general sense throughout Russia, this book is a great start. Worobec presents a good amount of information in regards to the changes undertaken post-emancipation. These included, of course the emancipation of the serfs (who accounted for about 90% of the Russian population at the time), a small trickling of peasants to urban centers, and marriages moving away from being solely arranged and letting in some aspects of choice on behalf of the future bride and groom. But the reader will mainly notice the continuity of tradition throughout almost all aspects of peasant life. While peasants might no longer have been considered 'serfs' they still had to pay for the land they tilled, they still answered to the head of the household and the commune assembly controlled the majority of the activities throughout the estate.

Bailiff's (those looking after estates for the land owners) mainly let the serfs take care of themselves and their problems, they might interfere in case of a catastrophe when the peasants needed monetary loans, but for the most part the serfs settled their own problems. For example, to get rid of those considered troublesome within the commune, the assembly might choose to send them for conscription into the army (although this became less of a threat after the 25 year conscription was reduced to 6). In the end a good description of peasant life before the revolution in Russia.

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