Discuss the major similarities and differences between slavery in the americas and russian serfdom
During Mongol rule, Russian peasants were free farmers with a legal position superior to serfs of the Medieval era. However, after the fall of the Tatars, more peasants fell into debt and were forced to accept servile status in order to clear themselves of debt. More and more peasants fell into debt and eventually created the serfdom class. During the early 16th century, the Spanish and Portuguese started to import African slaves to help meet the labor needs of the newly conquered Caribbean islands, since all the natives were wiped out from disease. Although Russian serfdom and the American slave trade where not geographically connected, there were many similarities between the two, while several crucial differences remained.
Although Russian serfs were still allowed some freedoms, their lifestyle was very similar to those of the African slaves. Both were could be sold, bought, or gambles. If they did not obey, slaves and serfs alike were punished. In 1785, a law was created that allowed landlords to severely punish serfs that rebelled or committed any sort of crime. Both of these laborers were also placed at the very bottom of the social ladder. In the New World, class was based on sociedad de castas, which was based on racial origins, with whites at the top, black slaves and Native Americans at the bottom, and mixes filling in the middle. In Russia, serfs were located at the bottom, with landlords next, and then the nobility.
However, there were still some differences. Although serfs were sometimes treated like slaves, they used the village government to regulate their lives and relied on community ties. Whereas, the slaves had no voice or choice to what they wanted to do. Also, serfs were generally local Russians, known as insiders to their country. The landlords were enslaving their own people. African slaves however, were not from the Americas, so they were considered outsiders to the country. These slaves were not from the soil they were working on. Russian serfs were also able to retain access to their land, although not gain primary ownership. They were also forced to pay taxes. Slaves however, owned no property, as they were property themselves, and had no taxes to pay.
Even though differences remain, one thing is certain. Slavery and serfdom forced people into hard and intense labor. The differences between these two labor systems may reflect the isolation between these two cultures.