Russian Serfdom: Children

Figure 1.--This illustration pictures a Russian peasant boy about 1880 a couple decades after serfdom was abolished in Russia.

Most accounts of serfs focus on adults. As part of the enserfment process, however, serfdom became hereditary. As with slavery, the children born to serf parents inherited the serf status of their parent. They became serfs at birth. That meant that that there were serf children as well as adults. And their responsibilities at serfs did not begin as adults. Even as children they owed services yto the lord/landowner. There were differences between the boys and girls. Of course this was limited for younger children, but increased as they got older. A serf had to pay a fine if his children ran off instead of staying on a lord's esrate and being a serf. Serfs had to give their best animal to the lanbdowner when they died. This essentially allowed the children to remain on the lord's land. Family issues involving the household economy, property, inheritance, and the children. The most important decesion involving the children would be marriage. The landlord's chief respomsibility concerning the children was to build a school. We begin to see this in the early-19th century. There may have been some schools earlier, but it was not until the 19th century thst it was common. Before this the Russians peasantry, esoecially the serfs, were mostly iliterate.

Serf Boys

Serf boys like their fathers were primarily employed for agricultural work in fields and farms. Serfs were not exclusively agricultural workers, but the great majority were so employed. From May through October serfs commonly worked barefoot. Serfs during the winter were given shoes. The serfs had rough shirts and canvas trousers. The Russian serf boys were divided into two categories - ordinary serf boys (krepostnye) and yard boys (dvorovye). Landowners varied greatly as to how they treated their serfs. This varied with both the landlord and the type of serf boy involved. Some brutal landowners would put boys into iron collars both as punishment and for discipline. At night some serfs slept in special sheds, all together on straw. Frequently in these sheds stood heavy wooden fetters to ensure that they would not escape. When serf boys lay down to sleep, they put bare feet into these fetters. These iron collars and wooden fetters were not the general phenomenon in old Russia, but they were used by some landowners.

Serf Girls

We know less about serf girls. They presumably were assigned a variety of domestic chores. There was also agricultural jobs assigned them. Here we suspect that the type of jobs were quite simlar to those assigned slve women in America. Differences probably reflected the crops grown more than any basis difference in appeoach or status. Russian landowners often focused on grains while American plantations focused on cotton. We do know that girls were usually not shepherds. This was probably because boy shepherds were out in areas where seep or cattle were grazing by themselves which was probably seen as unsafe for girls. Attractive serf girls were commonly chose as house servants. The same occured in America, although here light skin was a factor. A problem that serf girls faced was the ability of male landowners to abuse them.


Navigate the Children in History Website:
[Return to the Main Russian serfdom page]
[Return to the Main later serfdom page]
[Return to the Main serfdom page]
[Return to the Main forced labor page]
[About Us]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Freedom] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Ideology] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Russian pages:
[Ballet] [Choirs] [Movies] [Royalty] [School uniform] [Youth groups]

Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to theMain Russian country page]
[Kazakhstan] [Kyrgyzstan] [Tajikistan] [Turkmenistan] [Uzbekistan]
[Bulgaria] [Czechoslovakia] [Estonia] [Finland] [Germany] [Latvia] [Lithuania] [Poland] [Romania] [Russia]
[Armenia] [Azerbaijan] [Georgia] [Turkey]
[Canada] [United States]

Created: 10:41 AM 7/28/2018
Last updated: 10:41 AM 7/28/2018