the Empress

page 302

In 1762, the Russian population of roughly twenty million consisted of hierarchal layers: the sovereign, the nobility, the church, merchants and townspeople, and, at the base, up to ten million peasants.  some of the peasants were partially free; a few completely; most not at all.  Serfs were peasants in permanent bondage to land owned by the crown, the state, the church, private owners–almost all in the nobility–[or to a variety of industrial and mining enterprises.  According to a census taken between 1762 and 1764, the crown owned five hundred thousand serfs who worked on land owned by the ruler and his or her family.  Two million eight hundred thousand serfs were classified as state peasants, owned by the state and living on land or in villages belonging to the state but allowed to meet their obligations by paying money or labor dues to the state.    One million had been the property of the Orthodox Church; these were the serfs Catherine had taken from the church and transferred to the state.  The largest number of Russian serfs–five and a half million, or 56 percent of the total–belonged to members of the nobility.  All Russian noblemen were entitled by law to own serfs.  A handful of these nobles were extraordinarily rich (a few owned thousands of serfs), but the vast majority were small squires owning land that required fewer than a hundred–sometimes fewer than twenty–workers to farm.  Finally, there was a fourth category of unfree labor, the industrial serfs, working in the mines and foundries of the Urals.  They did not belong to the owners or the managers of these enterprises; they were the property of the mines or foundries.

page 303:

Sales of talented serfs often took place in cities where their skills were extolled by advertisements in the Moscow News or the St. Petersburg Gazette:

For sale, a barber and also four bedposts and other pieces of furniture.  For sale, two banqueting cloths and likewise two young girls trained in service and one peasant woman.  For sale: a girl of sixteen, of good behavior, and a ceremonial carriage, hardly used.  For sale: a girl of sixteen trained in lace-making, able to sew linen, iron, and starch and dress her mistress in addition to have a pretty face and being well formed.

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