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Jan 10, 2012

The tiniest of Tims!

Serf's Up! Let's Play the Russian Empire in Victoria 2!

Ah, the Russia that we lost...

Ah, the nineteenth century. The height of the Russian Empire - a land of elegant dances, beautiful dresses, and heart-tugging poetry.

For about 2% of the population.

For the vast majority of the population of the empire, the 19th century was one of abject poverty and horror. Regular famines, disgusting levels of inequality, and a complete lack of education and medical services for the masses were just regular facets of everyday life for pretty much everyone. Outside the nobility, the church, and the rich traders, of course.

A serf's life

Oh, and people were property.

We're gonna be talking about them.

Welcome to a character-focused Victoria II LP! It's gonna be fun!


Wait, another narrative LP, don't you have like three unfinished ones already?

I do! Those are, at best, on the backburner. Though I will finish the narrative part of ZunLP eventually, I have things to say. OldmenLP is pretty dead, though.

Ok, so what's the deal with this one? Russian Empire world conquest?

No. Gameplay-wise, I'm going to play the Russian Empire as arrogantly and oppressively as possible, to best match the way the way that abomination of a state was run.

Narrative-wise, we're going to be following a family of serfs from a small estate near Nizhny Novgorod as they go through the turbulent 19th and early 20th centuries. They'll start out as serfs, and we'll see where it goes from there. People will be exiled to Siberia, fight in wars, *cough*revolt*cough*, and die. We'll track how generations change and adapt to the new world.

Basically, if you've seen Heimat, it's that, but in Russia.


If the Empire ends up having a parliament worth a drat, we might have some voting. At the moment, the will of the Tzar Emperor is absolute.

Let's get this show on the road!


Generation 1
----1.1. A Peasant Wedding
----1.2. A Good Deal

Supplemental Material
Russian Background
----Supplemental 1. Russian Names
----Supplemental 2. A "Brief" History of Serfdom in Russia

Kayten fucked around with this message at 21:27 on Apr 4, 2021


Jan 10, 2012

The tiniest of Tims!


Jan 10, 2012

The tiniest of Tims!

1.1. A Peasant Wedding

Andrey Ryabushkin - A Peasant Wedding in the Tambovskaya Governorate (1880)

1836 - February 1st - Sergeevo pomestye, Nizhegorodskaya Governorate

The sun slowly rose over the Sergeevo pomestye on a crisp February morning. Two hundred souls were yet to wake - after all, who needs to wake up this early in the middle of winter? And so, the serfs slept where they could: the young on the benches, and the elders on the stoves, where it was the warmest.

All slept, except one.

Even if Avdotya Ivanovna tried to sleep the night before her wedding, she wouldn't be able to. For most serfs, their wedding was one of the highlights of their lives: their whole family coming together to wish them well in their union.

But Dunya didn't have a family, not in any traditional sense. Her mom died along with her newborn baby sister near ten years ago, and her dad hasn't been the same since. Last summer, the drink caught up to him, and he passed out in a small puddle, drowning. Dunya was alone.

The pomestye helped her out, of course. Her dad's izba was in terrible shape even when he was alive, and with him gone, it threatened to collapse at any moment. This is when Bogdan Arhipovich started visiting more often. Bogdan was good with carpentry, because he had no other choice: he was orphaned at 10, and had to pull his own weight from a young age.

So little by little, Bogdan fixed up her izba, and made his overtures clearer and clearer. And it's not like he was a bad man: he worked hard, the rest of the pomestye loved him, and unlike her father, didn't spend most days drunk. It's just that, well, she just didn't feel that way about him. Or any man in the pomestye, really.

Dunya sat by the window, staring out into the woods, her mind racing in a thousand directions. Her meditation on her wedding day was interrupted by the door swinging open. Her friend, Anfisa Kuzmichnina, came in, rubbing her hands for warmth.

"Dunya! God almighty, you look like you didn't sleep at all!"
"Fisa, I don't think I can do this. How can I stand in front of all those people, in front of God-"
"Oh, Dunya, every woman feels like this! I went through this, my mother went through this, YOUR mother, may she rest in peace, went through this. You just need to take it one step at a time, and before you know it, you'll be a wife. Now get up, we have to get you dressed."

Reluctantly, Avdotya stood up, getting ready for the ritual upon ritual of the wedding day itself. Anfisa ran around her, slowly putting layer upon layer of light cloth on the bride.

"Almost ready, Dunya, hold still, I need to stick oberegs to you."
"Really, Fisa? I-"
"Of course really! We need to make sure no one can jinx you!"

Avdotya sighed, but Fisa really was the expert here. Her father was the local priest, so she grew up hearing about all the prayers and oberegs you'd need to protect yourself. And a wedding was a fragile thing: a wrong glance at the bride could curse the whole affair!

So Fisa filled the wedding gown with blessed needles, whispering her prayers over each one. The final obereg was a small pouch with a prayer written by her father - one of the very few people for miles around who could write. It hung from Dunya's neck.

"There, as safe as you could be! Come now, to church!"


The small church that serviced Sergeevo and a few other pomestye in the area stood in an open field, with the priest's home nearby. A dirt road connected it to the outside world. A caravan of sleds pulled by horses carried the wedding party to the church: first Bogdan and his brother Osip, then Avdotya by herself, and finally Anfisa, her husband Yelisey, and her sister Marfa.

Fisa and Marfa's father, Kuzma, greeted the wedding train. As was tradition, Bogdan poured him a cup of a strong nastoyka and gave him a piece of pie to chase it. The father invited him inside the church, and they were married under the eye of the Lord.


After the crowning and common cup and the candles and the rings, the wedding train returned to the pomestye. By now, the rest of the serfs were up, and ready for the celebration. It was, after all, a great occasion: two orphans were orphans no longer!

The newly-minted couple's izba couldn't fit all the guests, so most of them came and went. Bogdan and Dunya sat in the main corner by the icons, and played host. Villager after villager would come in and demand to share a drink the new husband and his wife. Bogdan indulged them, cracking a joke for every man, while Dunya smiled, shook her head, and kept track of how often the jokes repeat.

Outside, Osip leaned against the izba wall to take a breath or two. Unlike his brother, he was never good with people. When their father died, Bogdan was only three years old. Osip was nine, and had to provide for the family. So he took his father's rifle and learned to hunt. He liked it in the woods: it's not that it was that much quieter than the pomestye, it's just that there was a lot less meaningless noise.

Perhaps the only person who could relate to Osip in the pomestye was Yelisey. A small river ran nearby, and he spent his life fishing. His craft required him to be patient and quiet, bringing him closer to Osip than anyone else around. Now too, he came out of the izba to take a break from people.

He leaned against the wall next to Osip. They stood for a few minutes in silence, staring at the stars. After a while, Yelisey rubbed his hands and spoke.

"Cold out."
"You take a look at Marfa today?"
"I did."

"My wife's sister has grown into a fine woman, hasn't she?"
"She has."
"And she's been eyeing you all day."
"Didn't notice."

Frustrated, Yelisey gestures at the izba, then at Osip, then back at the izba.

The door swings open, and Marfa herself comes out. The young woman heads over to the pair.

"Yelisey, Fisa's looking for you. Something about the sleds."

He nods and heads to the door. Before going inside, he gestures at Marfa once again.

"Haven't seen you around the church much lately."
"Lots of work. Good time for hunting."

She played with her braid, continuing the conversation.

"I hear you bring lots of furs to the pomestye."
"I do. The barin takes most."
"Oh, I see there's a small hole in your pants. You know, I could fix that."

He looked at his pants.

"Will fix myself. Thanks."

Undeterred, she continued.

"And I can keep a house."

"Good skill to have."

Marfa has had enough. She stomped her foot.

"Well, you're an idiot!"

She stormed off towards the izba. Osip stood there, dumbfounded.

Sleigh bells rang out by the gate. A fat man in his fifties dressed in rich furs got out of the sled, and waddled towards the izba. Konstantin Aleksandrovich Gromov, the pomeschik of Sergeevo and the owner of all the men, women, and children in it, has arrived. His teenage son Mstislav followed behind him, looking at his surroundings with disdain.

Pomeschik Gromov opened the door, and the celebration inside ground to a halt. The quite drunk wedding party jumped to their feet and bowed.

"I see there is a wedding happening, and I was not invited."

Bogdan came over to the barin, bowing every few steps.

"Barin, this is a small affair, you see, we're both-"
"I have not come here to punish you, man! Tell me, who are the lovely couple?"
"Well, barin, I'm Bogdan, Arhip's son, and this is my wife", he said, gesturing at her to come over.
"I'm Avdotya, Ivan's daughter, barin."
"And where are Arhip and Ivan? Should they not be here celebrating this holy union?"

Bogdan's face soured.

"My father died fighting the French, barin. Twenty years back or so."
"Ah, I'm sorry, I did not know. Served the empire, did he? Is it just you, then?"
"Me and my brother Osip, barin. Best hunter in the governorate. Could take a squirrel's eye out at 100 paces."
"Best hunter, you say? I could use a good hunter. Bring him here."

"Already here", Osip said from behind him.
"Is it true, then? About the squirrel?"

He nodded.

"No choice. Need all the fur."
"Indeed. Right, then, I will tell you what. You hit a squirrel in the head right now, and I will give the newlyweds a gift. Say, a cow. How does that sound?"

Bogdan's eyes shot wide open. But Osip wasn't so quick to buy into the pomeschik's kindness.

"And if I miss?"
"If you miss, I'll have you whipped. For wasting my time."

The room fell silent.

A cow is a cow, though.


The man and his property shook their hands.

The wedding party moved outside, as Osip went to grab his father's rifle. It was by no means a new piece, nearly 30 years old at this point, but it was made in Tula, and kept in perfect condition. The rifle fed Osip, and he took care of it in return.

In front of his audience, dressed in furs to keep out the winter chill, Osip methodically loaded his father's rifle. The ritual complete, he went towards the treeline looking for a target. There, barely visible from where he was standing, a grey shape huddled for warmth on a grey branch. Osip quietly kneeled and took aim.

The wedding party had completely sobered up by now: too much was at stake. On the one hand, a cow would be a great help to the newlyweds. On the other, if the pomeschik was in a foul mood, a whipping could kill the man: either on the spot, or a few days later from blood loss.

The silence was broken with a single shot. The grey shape fell off the branch, completely still. Step by step, Osip made it to his quarry: a grey squirrel, shot straight through the eye. He smiled into his bushy beard.

"Here, barin."

Gromov studied the dead squirrel. His serf performed admirably - a clean shot, most of the fur intact.

"Very well. The next market day, I will buy the newlyweds a cow. And you, man, will be my son's personal hunter. Maybe you'll teach him a thing or two."

Osip bowed to Gromov and his son.

"Very well, serfs! I leave you to your celebration!"

With the pomeschik and his son gone, the crowd erupted into cheers. Bogdan dragged his brother inside to get absolutely, positively wasted.

Jun 4, 2008

grandma plz don't folow me on twiter its embarassing, if u want to know what animes im watching jsut read the family newsletter like normal

A very interesting approach! I look forward to reading more.

Mar 7, 2014

It would be a sad error in judgement to mistake me for a corpse.

Clapping Larry

Always nice to see more Victoria 2 LPs!

Jan 10, 2012

The tiniest of Tims!

Supplemental 1 - Russian Names

Russian names are complicated. They don't quite get as long as, say, Roman or Spanish names, but they have their own quirks. So let's break them down.

As an example to break down, let's take Дмитрий Иванович Менделеев (Dmitriy Ivanovich Mendeleev), the Russian chemist who came up with the periodic table of elements (and the correct vodka recipe).

A general Russian name has three parts: your first name (имя, lit. "name"), your patronym (отчество, lit. "fatherness"), and your last name (фамилия, from Latin "familia" - dynasty, official clan).

In this case, the first name is Dmitriy (or Dimitriy), from the Greek Demetiros. Lots of Russian names come from Greek via the church, which followed Greek liturgy. Also, the first name gets modified a lot for less formal conversation. Dmitriy can become Dima, Mitya, Dimchik, Dimon, and a whole slew of others.

By the 19th century, there was a strict split between aristocratic and peasant names. Sometimes, different forms of the same name fell into different classes: Evdokia (from the Greek Eudokia) was an upper-class name, while Avdotya was left to the peasants. Most Greek-derived names went to the aristocracy (Konstantin, Dmitriy, Aleksandr), unless they were heavily "corrupted" by "peasant-speak" (Anfisa from Anthousa, Artyom from Artemios).

Dmitriy's patronym is Ivanovich. The way patronyms are formed is as follows: you take your father's name (Ivan), and add a special ending to it (-ovich, -evich, or just -ich for men; -ovna, -evna, -ichna, or -inichna for women). Thus Dmitriy Ivanovich just means "Dmitriy, son of Ivan". Compare "bin/bint" and "ibn" in Arabic: Ibn Sina (Avicenna, the Persian medical scholar) means "son of Sina", though in this case, he wasn't Sina's son, he was his great-great-grandson, the full name included a few more bins and ibns.

The first name-patronym pair was used as the polite way to address someone in upper society. So, if you met Mendeleev for the first time, you would call him Dmitriy Ivanovich. Peasants, however, would generally just use first names alone, or the patronym alone (for the elders). At best, you'd refer to an older man as Uncle + first name (Dyadya Vanya) or Grandpa + first name (Deda Lyosha), and an older woman as Aunt + first name (Tyotya Fisa) or Grandma + first name (Baba Dunya).

Dmitriy's last name is Mendeleev. Most Russian last names end with -ov/-ev for men and with -ova/-eva for women. They generally come from first names (Ivanov - Ivan's), professions (Kuznetsov - Smith's), locations (Volgov - of the Volga river), nicknames (Men'shov - of the little one), or just pleasant-sounding words (Gromov - of the thunder). Mendeleev's last name’s origin specifically has a few versions, with a weird caveat that it's not his family's original last name. His grandfather's last name was Sokolov (of the falcon), but he got a new one after becoming a priest.

Here's the thing about last names, though. Peasants in general didn't really use last names until the late 19th century, or even post-revolutionary times. My great-great-grandfather was only given one once he signed up for the Red Army.

Serfs specifically sometimes were given a special "last name" derived from their owner. Whether these really counted as last names, I can't say, since they didn't cover a family as much as the whole pomestye, and would change if the serfs were sold. Instead of the usual -ov/-ev (-ova/-eva for the women) form, these would use an -ovskiy/-evskiy (-ovskaya/-evskaya) ending, like any other property. See: This is Demidovskaya cow (cow belonging to Demidov) = This is Demidovskiy man (man belonging to Demidov).

In summary, our slowly growing family doesn't have a last name yet, and if it did, it would be Gromovskiy/Gromovskaya, at least until they get sold or inherited or given away as a dowry, or exiled to Siberia.

Kayten fucked around with this message at 01:01 on Mar 8, 2021

May 16, 2012

I would often go there
To the tiny church there

In at the ground floor and really enjoyed the first update. Honestly, I just want more victoria 2 in my life. It's not a particularly great game, but it's definitely the best 'simulation' paradox ever made and it really makes an amazing empty canvas. Feeling irrationally annoyed at the description of Avicenna as a medical writer tho, he was so much more than that. A true homo universalis

Nov 12, 2016

The hat is mandatory.

We really don't see enough LPs in and about Victoria 2 and its setting; will keep an eye on this.

Lustful Man Hugs
Jul 18, 2010

Well consider me fascinated by this. Keep up the good work.

Gravity Cant Apple
Jun 25, 2011

guys its just like if you had an apple with a straw n you poked the apple though wit it n a pebbl hadnt dropped through itd stop straw insid the apple because gravity cant apple

Definitely got too engrossed with reading the update and had to go back and actually look at the pictures of what's happening in the game a few times.

Apr 12, 2010

Getting some Sholokhov vibes from the narrative in a good way.

Viola the Mad
Feb 13, 2010

As a little girl I used to hear stories about how "Your great-grandmother fled over the border with the Tsar's bullets whizzing by her head!" My impression of late Tsarist Russia has only gotten worse since then. In other words, I expect this LP to be one hell of a trainwreck.

Do you plan on doing more informative posts about Russian history and culture? Ancestral grudges aside, I'm a shameless slut for history dumps. Don't feel like you have to push yourself though, a good LP is a heavy enough load as is.

Feb 14, 2013

someone introduce jojo to lazyb

excited for the serf number to go up and then collapse immediately to 0 upon a timely revolution

Dec 10, 2007

Horned Rat-Sempai Noticed Me!

Oh boy, allied to the Ottomans and Greece! What could possibly go wrong??

Jan 10, 2012

The tiniest of Tims!

1.2 - A Good Deal

Konstantin Trutovskiy - A Market in the Provinces (1893)

1840 - June 3rd - Outskirts of Arzamas, Nizhegorodskaya Governorate

The old horse kept a steady rhythm, pulling the serfs' cart to the city. It was market day, and the men had things to sell. The trips to Arzamas weren't a common affair: the city was far from the pomestye, and they didn't always have the horses to spare.

Osip was sorting the furs in the back, arranging the carcasses by colour. The smell stopped bothering him years ago. He rarely made the trip: he didn't really like people, especially in crowds, especially when they all tried to sell something. However, he had a few things to take care of this time. These furs were important.

His brother usually handled the sales; Bogdan loved wheeling and dealing. He could've been a good trader if his parents hadn't been serfs. Instead, he handled most trade from the pomestye's families. He didn't have to do as much hard labour, and he got more out of the sales than anyone else did. It was a good deal, though the frequent trips weren't kind to his back.

Unlike Osip, though, the rotting smell still annoyed him. He sat at the front, preferring the smell of the living horse to the dead animals in the back.

"So, Osya, how many more trips do you think this work of yours is going to take?"
"I don't know. A few. Depends on Arhip."
"Arhip's a standup guy! He's kin, after all, even if he is city folk."

Osip didn't like Arhip very much, kin or no kin. Yes, he was their cousin - his dad even named him after their dad - but there was something unpleasant about him. It wasn't the smell - couldn't avoid it, what with working at a tannery and all. No, Arhip had a sort of slipperyness about him. It's as if every conversation was a competition to him, and he just had to come out on top.

But he did always hold up his end of a deal, and that's exactly what Osip needed right now.


The market was full of people from all over the area. After all, Arzamas was the second largest city in the governorate, after Nizhny Novgorod, though it was ten times smaller. Most of the sellers were local serfs and peasants getting rid of crops and animal products, but travelling traders did stop by every Wednesday as well.

Osip hopped off the cart, and threw the sack of furs on his back. Bogdan stayed with the cart, calling the locals over to sample the fresh milk and eggs he had for sale.

Osip didn't have very far to go: across the market square, past the half-finished cathedral, and a few blocks to the tannery. The smell of death and chemicals around the factory was strong enough that even Osip had to hold his breath from time to time. He turned a few corners, and stopped by a side entrance.

A young boy no more than 10 years old peeked out the door.

"Uncle Osip!"
"Van'ka, fetch your dad."

The boy disappeared for a few minutes. Osip took the time to set his sack down and look over the cathedral. To him, the massive church was another cousin: every time he came to the town, it grew a little taller, a little fairer, and a little closer to God. Most of the structure was already finished, and the workers spent their days tinkering with the domes. Inside, a swarm of artists painted their faith into its walls.

Osip's meditation on the cathedral was interrupted by a polite cough. His cousin was here.

"Osip! Great to see you! What do you have for me this time?"

Osip opened up the sack and laid the furs out on the ground.

"Squirrels, mostly."

He split the furs into two piles. One had the finest squirrel carcasses: the cleanest shots, the least damage. The other had the less-perfect ones, and a few woflskins as well. Osip pointed at the second pile.

"Your payment. As always."

Arhip looked through it.

"Come now, Osya, do you take me for a fool? These are nowhere near the quality we agreed on! I'm taking a big risk here, you know."

Osip took three good squirrel pelts and threw them on the second pile.


Arhip looked them over.

"Now that's what I call fair."

The pair wrapped the stacks up with rope. Arhip opened the door and nodded at his son.

By the time they were done packing the pelts up, Van'ka showed up with a small sack of gorgeous squirrel furs, cleaned and processed.

Osip looked through the results and smiled into his beard.

"You do good work."

"We ALL do good work, Osya. I'll see you in a month, yes?"
"In a month."

As Osip geared up to leave, Arhip stopped him.

"Oh, have you heard about the war? With the Englishmen."
"Englishmen? Why?"
"Why, because of the Turks, of course! Once again, the treacherous Englishmen are pushing them to war! My uncle died freeing them from the French, and this is how they repay us?"
"Dad died at Grodno. Not a lot of Englishmen there."

"That's beside the point! We saved the world from the French, and now the English forget! Traitors and cowards to a man!"
"Arhip. You see many Englishmen in Arzamas?"
"I don't need to see them to know what they're like. You've never seen a Frenchman either!"
"Careful, cousin."

"I mean no disrespect to your father, Osya. All I'm saying is that you and I know that the French are a murderous people who came here to kill every last one of us. And we didn't need to speak to a Frenchman to learn that."
"Hm. And the Turks?"

"I don't know, something about Egypt. All I know is that the Tsar declared war on the English, and our brave boys will remind them about the glory of Russia!"
"Right. More recruitment then?"
"Maybe soon. God watch over you, cousin."
"You too, Arhip."

Heaving the new sack over his shoulder, Osip went back to the market.


The cart was full of new product: tools, cloth, ammo and powder, and even a few toys. Bogdan sat next to it, carving a block of wood with a small knife.

Osip tossed the sack inside.

"Knife looks new."
"It is. Traded a dozen eggs for it. I'm trying to make a duck for Vadim."
"Your son's one. Won't recognize a duck."

"I know. But if I start practicing now, by the time he's old enough to want a toy, I'll be able to make one. You'll understand when you have kids."
"Working on it."
"Speaking of that, how'd it go with Arhip?"
"Greedy little poo poo. But works well with furs."

Bogdan put everything away, and the pair rode home.

"I managed to get some solid thread for your work. Dunya said the old stuff didn't hold the furs together very well."
"Thanks. I'll pay you back. Both of you."

"Nonsense, Osya, family first! And hey, if everything goes well, the family will grow a little larger, eh?"
"Yes. If it goes well."

Osip opened the sack and looked over his processed furs in detail. Arhip's work was stellar: the squirrel furs were soft to the touch and ready to be stitched together. A few more trips, and his gift would be ready.

"By the way, everyone's been talking about the war", Bogdan piped up.
"With the English, yes. Arhip mentioned."
"What'd he say?"
"Something about the French and Turkey? Not sure. Arhip's full of poo poo."

"I heard that the English are fighting in Italy so that the Egyptians stay in Turkey."
"What nonsense. Do the city folk think the Tsar a fool? What kind of a war is that?"
"Nonsense or not, if more recruitment's coming..."

Though they'd never say it out loud, neither brother wanted to end up like their dad. For them, the army was a death sentence, like Siberia. It just took a while.
"You should be fine, though. The barin needs you around for the hunting."
"Maybe. You're useful too. You do the trading."

"I suppose. Let's avoid getting on his bad side, just in case."

The pair rode in silence, ruminating on the potential draft. Not a lot of serfs would be called up, but the barin would decide who gets to stay home, and who gets to be a soldier for the next 19 years.

Aug 1, 2005

Do you think this is funny?

Got a bad feeling about this for the guy the barin knows is a good shot.

Mar 16, 2009


GunnerJ posted:

Got a bad feeling about this for the guy the barin knows is a good shot.

Same. Stay safe, brothers

Gravity Cant Apple
Jun 25, 2011

guys its just like if you had an apple with a straw n you poked the apple though wit it n a pebbl hadnt dropped through itd stop straw insid the apple because gravity cant apple

Surely nothing bad will happen to the serfs. They are after all subjects of the wise and just Tsar, who has their best interests at heart.

Feb 14, 2013

someone introduce jojo to lazyb

GunnerJ posted:

Got a bad feeling about this for the guy the barin knows is a good shot.

Why send away your best shot to die in some silly war in the Caucauses when you can just send that layabout that hasn't made you money in a decade?

Jan 10, 2012

The tiniest of Tims!

Supplemental 2 - A "Brief" History of Serfdom in Russia

The situation our small family found themselves in 1836 wasn't created overnight, it was a gradual process that took centuries. But how did this medieval institution end up existing on such a grand scale in 19th century in the Russian Empire, when it fizzled out in western Europe in the Late Middle Ages?

A plan of a typical medieval manor in England - William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas (1923)
The mustard strips of land are the lord's personal land, the striped ones are owned by the church. Everything else is rented out to the peasants.

So let's talk about manoralism (segneuralism). The segneural system was widely practiced in the Middle Ages across western Europe, and broke up land owned by an individual lord into strips that were then farmed by individual peasant families. Since no lord (or priest) would ever actually work, all the labour that turned the ground into something valuable either directly (by growing wheat, barley, tobacco, etc.) or indirectly by feeding animals with food grown on it (milk, cheese, eggs, etc.) was done by peasants. However, as far as the lord saw it, all of the land was his, and the peasants owed him for using it, usually in product.

Say you, as a peasant, managed to grow twenty sacks worth of grain on the tract of land you worked on over the year. Two of these would go to the church, because you wouldn't want to upset God. One of these would remain for next year so you can plant more. Two of these would be eaten either directly (you mill it into flour and bake bread) or indirectly (you trade it for other food at the local market) by you and your family. You're left with fifteen sacks. The lord takes anywhere from five to fifteen of these as taxes, leaving you to go gently caress yourself, or get stabbed by the lord and his troops. Animal products (milk, eggs, meat) worked the same way.

Feudal Lord and Peasants - Unknown, Queen Mary's Psalter (~1310)

This system included both serfs and free peasants, both of who paid rent to the lord for the privilege of feeding him and his layabout lifestyle. The difference was that the serfs were attached to the land or the lord directly, which meant they could not leave the land unless forced to. The extent to which this made them the lord's property varied wildly depending on the time and place, from "almost like a freeman, insured against corporal publishment" to "slave in all but name". The segneural system was also the chief land-use system for peasants in the Russian Empire.

The reasons serfdom appeared in western Europe were complex, but I will try to generalize to compare it with the Russian style of serfdom. Generally speaking, after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and its ability to direct resources across its vast area, power became very local. Whoever could get a bunch of dudes on horses to go stab someone else for them became the local lord. While there were other things that produced value, and thus power to whoever controlled it (mines, important trade route nodes, local artisans), land made sure that people didn't starve. It was by far the most plentiful, and the most important source of value. You can't eat copper, and neither can the miners that actually get it out of the ground.

Thus, whoever controlled the land could feed their troops, who could get more land, which could feed more troops, and so on, and so on. Note that "controlling" here means both holding the land itself and getting peasants to farm it - land without peasants is useless. As these petty fiefdoms expanded, slowly growing into duchies and kingdoms with complicated oaths of loyalty between the smaller lords and the larger ones, the nobility took more and more drastic steps to secure the peasantry. This culminated in laws that tied peasants to the land, turning them into serfs.

(This process of attaching peasants to the land started happening in the 3rd century CE long before the Western Roman Empire collapsed. The coloni - tenant farmers - slowly lost their rights until a sort of proto-serfdom emerged. However, most land was still farmed by tenants that could theoretically leave, with something akin to sharecropping. Mass serfdom only really took off in western Europe in the Middle Ages)

Outbreak - Käthe Kollwitz, "Peasants' War" series (1906)

So how did this practice die out? Well, eventually, owning land and extracting value from it by having peasants grow food stopped being the greatest possible source of power. Individual landholders that used food gained from "their" lands to feed small armies started getting outclassed by both the centralizing monarchies and the growing class of traders who could fund their own mercenaries. On top of that, following the Black Death, there were a lot fewer peasants left, meaning those who survived could bargain for better conditions, which they politely did in England, France, and Iberia. Non-farming production also grew to the point where a lord could make a lot more money with a manufactory than with an estate, and manufactories needed free peasants to exploit as wage slaves choose to work to death in proto-factories. Thus, serfdom no longer justified itself economically.

But what about Russia?

Well, let's take a look at a few critical differences between western Europe and Russia. For starters, for quite a while, western Europe was united by the Roman Empire, with its legal system and proto-serfdom heritage. More than 400 years passed between the time the Western Roman Empire finally fell (traditionally 476, when Odoacer deposed Romulus Augustus) and the Kievan Rus started (traditionally 882, when Oleg the Seer took Kyiv and set his capital there). By the time Kievan Rus collapsed into the clusterfuck of Rurikovich principalities (12th century) that somewhat resembled Western Europe post-Karling, nothing resembling a centralized state has even existed for long enough to build institutions.

On top of that, there is a very important factor here: the climate. The European parts of Russia are colder than western Europe, meaning that growing food there is much harder. Remember our example of growing 20 sacs worth of grain during the year? Half it. One sack goes to the church, one to sow next year, two to eat with your family. Out of the remaining six, the pomeschik takes three to six. Moral of the story: gently caress you, starve.

Anyway, the Grand Moskva Knyazhestvo (principality) more or less united the shattered Rurikovich principalities (and the Novgorod republic) by the late 15th century. By this point, there were a few categories of peasants: free peasants (free landowners, communal peasants), smerds, zakups, and kholops. Smerds were controlled directly by the knyaz ("prince") - the ruler of a given principality - and could own land, which they could pass onto their sons. Killing someone else's smerd was considered destruction of property and carried a fine. Zakups were debt farmers: people who sold themselves into debt and had to work it off. Unlike all other non-free peasants, they could not be beaten. Kholops were full-on slaves, usually taken in raids, or were zakups that tried to run away. Killing a kholop was also considered damaging property, and kholop children were born kholops (equal to cattle giving birth in legal documents).

Tsar Ivan Vasil'evich the Terrible - Viktor Vasnetsov (1897)

After uniting the Rurikovich lands and beating back the Golden Horde, the Grand Principality was reformed into the Russian Tsardom. This process took a few decades, and encompassed the reigns of Ivan III (the Great) and Ivan IV (the Terrible). One of the major reforms Ivan III did, expanded on by Ivan IV, was establishing the pomestye ("estate") system. Under it, people that served the Grand Prince/Tsar well in war or matters of state were granted land with peasants on it in lieu of payment, becoming pomeschiks ("estate holders"). There were first granted for life, but eventually made inheritable. Most of the peasants on this land were free, though their rights were immediately limited: they could now leave the pomestye and move only once a year, during the week before and the week after Yuri's Day (November 26th). Provided they paid their taxes.

At the same time, smerds and zakups were removed as a category and rolled into kholops. Two types now existed: regular kholops, taken from captives in war, with their status inheritable; and rostovye ("growth") kholops, who sold themselves into slavery to pay the interest (growth) on their debt. Rostovye kholops were not considered serfs, their debt was wiped clean on death, and they could still buy their freedom.

The pomestye system by the late 16th century was weird one: newly-minted nobles could also own their own land that was worked by their personal kholops, on top of tsar-granted pomestye. However, the peasants that worked the pomestye could not be used to work the other land: they were independent subjects of the tsar, and not the barin's ("lord") property.

Unfortunately, things only go downhill from here. In 1597, the tsar signs an edict that establishes beglyy sysk ("runaway search") - a system where if a peasant runs away outside Yuri's Day without paying that year's taxes, and is found within five years, they are to be forcefully returned to the pomestye. At the same time, Yuri's Day is suspended temporarily (and officially cancelled a century later). The only way for a peasant to leave a pomestye was to run away and not be caught for five years.

This bullshit was tightened after the Time of Troubles and the ascendance of the Romanov dynasty. In the early 17th century, the beglyy sysk is first increased to fifteen years, and then to infinity, and now covered all peasants that have left the pomestye outside Yuri's Day (which was suspended), even those that have paid their taxes for the year. The pomeschik could now track down any runaway peasant or his descendents, and forcefully bring them back, fully fixing them to the land and making them krepostnye (serfs, lit. "attached") The only remaining rights they had that separated them from kholops were: the ability to petition the court over mistreatment, they could not be evicted from the land and turned into kholops (who were reclassified as dvorovye - "of the yard", landless peasants who did whatever the lord wanted), and if they were beaten to death, the barin owed the family of the deceased a fine. They were still attached to the land, and could not be sold without it.

Peter I on his Deathbed - Ivan Nikitin (1725)

Until Peter I (the Great), the westernizer and reformer. Peter I's great reforms put him up against the established old nobility (including a myriad Rurikoviches still running around), who were very comfortable with their privileges and influence. To combat them, he created new nobility (later formalized in the Table of Ranks) to have his back. And what did the great reformer use to secure their loyalty? Why, grant them power the only way power was granted in Russia: by giving them peasants. gently caress it, let's just sell them without land, why not. Thus a new class of nobility was born, fanatically loyal to the now Emperor of the Russian Empire, built through serfdom.

Oh yeah, Peter I also essentially removed the kholops as a class, I guess? This wasn't done out of any great love for people, he was a oval office like any king, these weren't people to him. No, what happened was Peter called for a census for taxing nobles according to the number of souls they had on their pomestye. To dodge taxes, a ton of nobles registered their krepostnye as dvorovye, since those weren't counted as taxable souls. Once he found out about this particular scam, he forced a second census through, counting all peasant souls the same, erasing the last little bit of difference between them in practice. By the mid 1700s, this was certified by his successors, who nationalized all souls owned by traders, priests, cossacks, and old nobility, turning them into krepostnye owned by the Tsar Emperor. The new nobility thus became the only possible owners of humans in the Russian Empire outside the all-powerful head of state.

The final nails in the coffin happened in late 1700s. In 1747, pomeschiks were allowed to sell their krepostnye to be recuited into the army on behalf of anyone else. In 1765, krepostnye could be sent to Siberia to be worked to death in labour camps. In 1767, they were strictly forbidden from petitioning the Tsar Emperor about mistreatment at the hands of their pomeschik.

By the time our story takes place, there were a few weak-rear end edicts "protecting" the krepostnye, such as one that forbid splitting up families without also selling land. In practice, pomeschiks just placed an ad in the newspaper that said "renting out a man", but everyone knew exactly what was happening. On top of that, the practice of mesyachina ("monthly") started becoming widespread. Under mesyachina, the pomeschik took all of the krepostnoy's property, including their home and food, and worked them around the clock. This meant that he could no longer work his rented plot of land, and grow food to not die. In return, the barin occasionally fed him.

Christ in the Desert - Ivan Kramskoy (1872)

The krepostnye could be beaten, including to death, could be exiled to Siberia with confiscation of everything they owned, could be recruited to the army to serve for decades, and could by this point be worked around the clock. They were personal property of the pomeschik, and could be sold or given away at will. Their children were born krepostnye and could not escape that fate.

Slavery. I'm describing chattel slavery. For 23 million people in a country with a population of 67 million.

I loving hate the Russian Empire.

Mar 4, 2014

When I woke up this morning, I did not expect to get depressed while reading LPs on Something Awful.

Aug 15, 2015

Lets get our X tons of Duranium back!

....Is that still a valid thing to jingoistically blow out of proportion?

Finally got around to reading that new-ish Victoria LP that's been sitting in my bookmarks for a while and whoops definitely should have done that sooner. Good LP, this whole empire thing sounds like it's going great and we've got a bright future of watching our scores go up ahead.

Mar 16, 2009


Between this and Revolutions I am very, very glad that the Russian tsar was overthrown

May 3, 2011

Fuck you say?!

Kayten posted:

The krepostnye could be beaten, including to death, could be exiled to Siberia with confiscation of everything they owned, could be recruited to the army to serve for decades, and could by this point be worked around the clock. They were personal property of the pomeschik, and could be sold or given away at will. Their children were born krepostnye and could not escape that fate.

Slavery. I'm describing chattel slavery. For 23 million people in a country with a population of 67 million.

I loving hate the Russian Empire.


Jun 9, 2010

Can't wait for those POP numbers to go up!

Dec 17, 2013

Slaan posted:

Between this and Revolutions I am very, very glad that the Russian tsar was overthrown

Don't worry, we're not there yet. Russian history works on a simple principle after all. Namely: 'and then it got worse'


Feb 14, 2013

someone introduce jojo to lazyb

It's better than chattel slavery bc they make your soldier number goes up

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