National Geographic : 1896 Jan
RUSSIA IN EUROPE Another marked difference between eastern and western Europe, which also led to serfdom, arose from the ownership of the land, in western Europe held in comparatively small par cels and divided between the church, the nobles, and the people, while in Russia the Czar, as owner of all the land, gave great tracts to a few families or to religious houses, retaining the re mainder; but these gifts were of little value while the peasantry were allowed to roam wherever and whenever they pleased. Laws were passed to remedy this evil by confining the peas antry to certain parts of the country, and subsequently to the estates where they lived. Conscription of the serfs for the army was then introduced, the proprietor was made responsible for the entry of the conscript into the army, and from thatarose the obli gation of the serf to the master. As the serf could only be profit ably employed on the rich black lands around Moscow and Kief, the number of serfs diminished with the distance from the black zone, while in the extreme north and the steppes of the south it never existed. They either worked three days in the week for their masters, having the rest of the week for them selves, or they gave a corresponding portion of their crops, or else one-half of their wages to their masters. It was by slow degrees, subsequent to 1450, that serfdom was established and the serfs became personal property. With this right of property came control of life and limb, and these successive changes, often regulated by laws passed for the relief of the serf, generally resulted in binding his chains tighter. The act of emancipation in 1861 liberated 49,486,000 serfs, of whom 23,022,000 belonged to the nobles; 23,138,000 to the state, and 3,326,000 to the departments. A portion of the land owned by the state and of that owned by the nobles and religious houses was by the act of emancipa tion given to the serfs. The government paid the nobles and religious houses sums fixed by arbitration for the lands surren dered by them, while the serfs paid the state for the land given to them by annual payments running over fifty years, secured by the land and also by the other property of the serfs. The last of these payments will not be due until the early part of the next century. Even now 40 per cent of the land is owned by the state, 2 per cent by the imperial family, 33 per cent by the peasantry, and 25 per cent by private owners.
1895 Oct 31