Serfdom in the Russian Empire and slavery in the United States: which was worse?


Serfdom in Russia and slavery in the United States existed at the same time, but in different parts of the world. Considering that since the 18th century, Russian peasants legally differed little from slaves, both systems were very similar.

However, how did they differ?

Contrary to popular belief, there was a high proportion of white slaves among American slaves — Irish, Spanish, French, as well as criminals from England.

Anyone, in principle, could find themselves on the plantation with a hoe in their hands. So, in the middle of the 17th century, during the British conquest of Ireland in captivity

Spaniards, French and other Europeans were less common. They cost less, but they worked worse and more often tried to run. These were prisoners of war, criminals and simply debtors who were in chains due to stupidity.

But the most «popular» were slaves from Africa. In total, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, there were

Legally slave status

Slaves could not enter into a marriage union, such families were not recognized as legal. Therefore, the owners without a twinge of conscience sold parents and children separately. Harsh corporal punishment, violence against women and murder were not regulated in any way by law.

Since the end of the 17th century, Russian peasants found themselves in a very difficult situation. In fact, a semi-free worker with little obligations eventually became property entirely owned by the landowner.

In 1675 it was

In 1833, the nobles received the right to dispose of the personal lives of their wards — to allow and prohibit marriages. In addition, the master

In the Russian Empire, the murder of a peasant was considered a crime. However, it was impossible to prove the fact of the crime. Using unlimited power, the landlords physically punished and even killed the peasants.

One of the few cases when a nobleman was punished is the case of Daria Saltykova. She tortured 139 peasants to death and was sentenced to life imprisonment. It was after this incident that Catherine II forbade complaining about the landlords.

The fate of serfs and slaves depended entirely on the humanity of their masters. Nevertheless, the position of the peasants was still better. They could live in a separate house, run a household, create a family. The serf prepared his own food and chose his own clothes.

Although the peasant was close to the slave in his capabilities, according to the law he was recognized as a full-fledged person, albeit limited in rights compared to the landowner. Serfs were treated with more respect than black slaves in America.

In addition, in many estates, the nobles did not want to look after their estate and led an idle lifestyle, and the peasants could agree on the arrangement of the estate: they would pay a small quitrent, but in return to work on the land as they pleased, without the intervention of the landowner.

Serfdom in Russia was abolished in 1861, slavery in the United States — in 1865. However, both countries will get rid of the remnants of the old systems for a long time to come.

What, in your opinion, was worse: slavery in the United States or serfdom in Russia? Leave your opinion in the comments! And also read on the topic: