Slavery and Serfdom
Unfree labor had been existed in America and Russia during the 1600s to the 1800s. Slavery or Serfdom is a system that treated laborers as personal property to force to work in a factory or on land, without proper compensation and recognition as human being having human rights. The main purpose of unfree labor systems were to improve the agricultural production with high efficiency. Although slavery in America and serfdom in Russia were not geographically connected reflecting the isolation between the two cultures, there were many similarities between the two. Both unfree slavery systems forced people into intense and inhumane labor.
American slavery and Russian serfdom shares very similar lifestyle although the later allowed some type of freedoms. Laborers in both systems were treated as property and could be sold, bought, or gambled. If they resist, they were punished, beated, or even killed in a severe situation. This severe treatment on laborers were legalized when a law in 1785 was established that allowed landlords to punish slavers who rebel or do not obey. According to
American laws and regulations, black slaves were not allowed to gather together, nor to possess or carry a gun. Slaves who ran away must return to their original owners, otherwise they could be subject to death penalty. If a black slave attacks or threaten a white, the black would be punished by 40 lashes no matter he or she is right or wrong. If a slave committed a crime, he or she could be have his ears cut off, or even executed. On the other hand, however, a white owner were legalized to even kill his slave based on the logic that no owner would kill his slave except in “self-defense”. In Russia, serf who escaped were fined, while those who gave refuge to escaping serfs would be prosecuted. A regulation in March of 1607 allowed the the landlords to extend the time limit for owning their serfs from five years to fifteen years. Similar to American slavery system, owners in Russia could judge, whip, torture, or shackle their serfs based on the Legal Code of 1649.
Moreover, these serfs and slaves were at the very bottom of the social ranks. In America, social class was based on racial origins, which whites were at the top, African and Native Americans were at the bottom, and the rest were in the middle. In a similar sense, Russia put serfs at the bottom, landlords in the middle, and the nobility at the top. Comparing the number of serf or slaves in the two parts of the world, Russia had a higher percentage of the total population. About 58 percent of total Russian population was serf in 1811 and decreased to 44 percent by 1858. On the other hand, about 14 percent of total American population was black slaves in southern America.
Indeed these systems are very similar in a way, but also there were still some differences in how they were treated in society.