Peasants and Beyond
This chapter surveys the society and economy of the majority of the empire’s population, East Slavic peasantry. It explores the gradual enserfment of the East Slavic peasantry (completed by the Lawcode of 1649) as a way to support the cavalry army; this applied to those living in the relatively fertile lands of the center. In the northern borderlands, where enserfment did not reach because of lack of gentry, East Slavic peasants, the so-called “state” peasants, owed taxes to state and Church, but were not enserfed to a landlord. All East Slavic peasants organized themselves in self-governing communes that exerted significant control within the village. The peasant economy generally operated at a subsistence level, and slavery in the form of selling oneself or family into indenture acted as a social safety net. When oppressed by taxation and state intervention in rights and customs that the peasants regarded as traditional, they responded with various forms of resistance.
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