Was there serfdom in the Ottoman Empire

Serfdom (overview)


1 Concept and history of research

L. is a classic subject in historiography. Since the 19th century it has been examined in the context of rule and law, economy and society as well as everyday life and mentality. The L. in Eastern Europe was an early modern phenomenon. The term "second L.", which is often used in literature, overlooks the fact that L. was a completely new phenomenon in early modern Eastern Europe and not the reappearance of an older institution. In the Middle Ages, L. only referred to the personal dependence of a person who was subject to the constant rule of another person. In the L. of early modern Eastern Europe, on the other hand, the landlord was to the serf at the same time court, landlord and personal lord. The borders of the area in which the L. found its distribution in Eastern Europe in the early modern period are formed by the Elbe, Baltic Sea, Urals and, in the south, by a transition zone in the European possessions of the Ottoman Empire.

The German agricultural historiography of the late 19th and early 20th centuries recorded the phenomenon L. with Roman legal categories that it only wanted to see applied to German history, but not to East Central Europe. The Marxist historiography located the Eastern European L. in the transition from feudalism to capitalism under the condition of a worldwide market. While agriculture capitalized itself in western Europe, the L. developed in eastern Europe as a system in which the nobility siphoned off peasant labor free of charge. The history of everyday life and mentality currently dominates the research agenda on L. In syntheses that aim at a typology of L. forms, however, the aspects of demography and domination have also recently played a key role. In the field of global historical comparisons, the criterion of unfree work justifies a methodological comparison with slavery in antiquity as well as in modern times.

The L. fundamentally contradicted the natural law ideas of the Enlightenment. Its abolition was one of the central axes of the philosophical discourse from the middle of the 18th century. In practice, the peasant liberation continued well into the 19th century, until the last decree in Russia in 1861 was the abolition of the L. The historiography treats the peasant liberation as a separate topic from the L.

2 forms of origin

All forms of L. in Eastern Europe have a basic historical pattern in common. The demographic crises of the late Middle Ages and early modern times led to devastation and labor shortages. The nobility tried to counter this by binding the farmers and using their labor free of charge. The form in which the aristocratic access to the peasants came about largely depended on the respective legal constitution and the relationship between sovereign and nobility. In Ostholstein, Mecklenburg and Brandenburg in the Middle Ages the high court lay with the lordly Vogt, who stood as an intermediary legal instance between the peasants and the nobility. The nobility had greater access to the peasants when they were given the bailiwicks in the 14th and 15th centuries in the course of pledging. Since the estates had put the sovereigns on the defensive, this shift in power also affected the village level.

In Poland, the background of the plaice binding lies in the drying up of the stream of settlers after the demographic collapse from the middle of the 14th century. Up until the beginning of the 16th century, several legal acts stipulated the binding of clods. At the same time, the nobility gained jurisdiction over their people. Similar to the northern German cases, the purchase of the Schulzengut was the instrument of the nobility to expand their influence in the legal sphere. Constitutional dominance and the emergence of L. were two sides of the formation of the Polish aristocratic republic. The village sphere of aristocratic estates was now beyond the king's ability to intervene.

The developments in Bohemia and Hungary lie on two lines parallel to the Polish case. An aristocratic corporation was established and the nobles tried out access to the peasants. In densely populated Bohemia, however, the tight network of towns and factories offered farmers an alternative. In Bohemia, the intensification of compulsory labor only came after the demographic collapse of the Thirty Years' War. In contrast to their Polish and Bohemian peers, the Hungarian nobility focused less on establishing their own farms than on trade. The Schollenbinding was established in Hungary since the tripartite period of 1514/17, without being strictly enforced in practice. It was only from the late 16th century onwards that there were forced labor of two to three days on the property of the nobility in Hungary.

The Russian case is completely different. Here demographic slumps and the expansion of the service from the middle of the 15th century to the middle of the 17th century led to the development of the L. plague epidemics, Tatar invasions, bad harvests and wars caused the population decline and the process of desertification in the Moscow Rus. The Moscow law books of 1497 and 1550 allowed peasants to withdraw one week before and after St. George's Day, subject to certain conditions. Clod binding began in Moscow Russia in the late 1590s. Monasteries and noblemen pushed for peasants who had run away to be returned. The so-called period of time within which farmers could be searched for and brought back amounted to five years in 1597 and 15 years at the beginning of the 17th century. The law book of 1649 completely abolished it and thus brought the clod binding to its legal conclusion.

To the extent that the Moscow Grand Duke and later the Tsar ensured the fulfillment of the aristocratic service by handing over service goods to his men, he also gave the peasants to the nobility. The nobles willingly served the tsar and, as compensation, saw the L. as the right and cheap service of the peasants.

The Ottoman Empire represents a contrast to the Russian Empire. There was also a group of servants in the Ottoman Empire. The state did not give them any land, but authorized them to collect taxes. From the late 16th century on, traders, administrative staff and the military acted as tax tenants who sought rights to land. However, according to its self-image, the state always remained the owner of the land, and in addition it did not recognize any third party rights to the peasants. The peasants in the Ottoman Empire did not become personally dependent on them. The term L. therefore does not apply in Ottoman agricultural history. The principalities of Moldova and Wallachia - standing under Ottoman suzerainty - form a transition zone on the map of L. between East Central European L. in Poland, Bohemia and Hungary and the non-existence of the phenomenon in the Ottoman Empire. The motive for tying the peasants to the plaice was in the tax system in the two principalities. In the face of demographic collapses, the loyalty of farmers should ensure that the municipalities are able to control them. In the restriction of rural mobility, the agricultural constitution of the principalities is similar to the L. As in the Ottoman Empire, however, the nobles did not receive far-reaching rights over the peasants. In terms of power politics, the voivodes appointed by the Ottomans dominated the nobles as rulers. In order to maintain the tax power of the country, the voivodes set limits to the noble claims on the peasants.

3 manifestations

L. can be described as a constellation in which the landlord confronts the farmer as landlord, court lord and personal lord in one person and in which the peasant rights to land and mobility are severely restricted or completely abolished. The authorities thus oppose the serf only in the person of the nobleman (or his administrator). Against this general background, however, different characteristics of the L. can be recognized. The aristocrats in East Elbia, Livonia and Poland have considerably expanded their own farms by adding peasant land to their goods and thus creating a mass of landless day laborers (“peasant laying”). This phenomenon is unknown to the Russian agrarian constitution. Five criteria are relevant for a typology of manifestations:

1. The accessibility of the judiciary ranged from an unconditional right of appeal to state courts in Holstein, Brandenburg and Livonia in the Swedish era to a conditional right of action, which farmers in Mecklenburg practiced out of habit, to the complete lack of the right of action for serfs in Poland and Russia .
2. Peasant ownership deteriorated in general under L. Peasants in Poland, Livonia and Russia lost their leaseholder status in L. The use of the land could be terminated. The farmers in Livonia and Russia, however, were spared the lot of pawning.
3. The extent of the Fron varied widely across Eastern Europe. While it was one day a week in the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, it was four to five days a week in Poland in the 17th and 18th centuries. In Russia, Tsar Pavel I limited the fron to three days a week in 1797. But there is evidence of higher compulsory labor.
4. In Russia alone there was a real market for the trade in serfs.
5. With the exception of Poland and Mecklenburg, the nobles were forbidden to carry out the death penalty on serfs. However, no executions are said to have taken place on Polish estates, while Russian noblemen are reported to have murdered serfs.

On the basis of these five criteria, a typology of three characteristics emerges - namely inheritance, the L. and the extreme L. Here, Ostholstein and Brandenburg in the west form the region of inheritance. There absolutism guaranteed the serfs the right to sue their landlords. At most 20% of the population were serfs. Activities on one's own responsibility were high in the second half of the 18th century compared to the other societies that L. knew. Mecklenburg, Poland and Livonia represent the area of ​​L., in which the dominance of the nobility considerably reduced the protection of farmers and the farmers' right to sue was not secured. Russia stands for the extreme L., in which the access of the nobles to the serfs was sharpest and the juridification of social relations was lowest. The fron was sometimes six days a week.

4 Everyday life, mentality and resistance

Serfs worked in different functional contexts, from which different everyday stories emerged. In Russia, for example, the group of serfs is divided into those who paid interest and those who worked on the manors' estates. The former had certain freedom in migrant work as well as in trade and commerce. In addition to this weighty differentiation, others that are not so important in quantitative terms should not be overlooked. Some serfs had to serve their nobles in the manor house. Few of them were fortunate enough to be assigned to the estate by extremely wealthy gentlemen with a patronage vein for artistic activities in painting, music or theater. Others were employed in their masters' factories. The everyday history of the serfs does not just go into the history of the peasant world, especially since there were not only serf farmers, but also personal free farmers on crown and state domains. Nonetheless, the village and agriculture determined the everyday life of most of the serfs.

Work on social control in the Russian village has revealed two normative worlds. It is true that the landowners pursued the goal of socially disciplining their farmers and submitting them to their western norms. Nevertheless, peasant legal ideas remained intact, which in many cases did not coincide with those of the authorities. In Russia z. B. accepting runaways was part of the self-image of rural hospitality. The norms of the tsarist state, on the other hand, required the repatriation of escaped serfs. That the state tolerated the runner-up because, among other things, strengthened the Cossack border troops in the south, and the fact that wealthy noblemen were happy to take in the runner-ups of their poorer peers is another matter.

The specialist literature has often pronounced the verdict of backwardness on Russian agriculture. Of course, the estate economy, which worked with serfs, did not lead to intensification and innovation. From the point of view of the serfs, however, this would also have been fatal. For the increase in productivity would have led to an increase in the landlord's demands on the serfs. Stagnating yields were therefore part of the serfs' calculations. Apart from that, farming was generally aimed at the survival of the household and the family, not for profit. The land reallocations in the Russian village communities followed an ideal of justice. Everyone should be provided with the land that was necessary to maintain their own existence and to be able to pay the taxes to the state and the landlord.

Serfs knew a wide range of options for action in order to partially or completely escape the unreasonable demands of the L. or even to offer open, violent resistance. Six patterns of action can be distinguished:

1. The boycott of manorial orders practiced by serfs v. a. by doing the work in the fields of the Lord in a way that saves energy or alternatively by assigning their children to it.
2. In submissions to higher authorities, farmers complained about oppressive tax burdens and compulsory obligations with the aim of achieving a reduction.
3. Lawsuits in court were another means of improving one's lot. This presupposed the accessibility of the state judiciary, which the serfs of Poland and Russia had lost.
4. Violence could develop from small everyday conflicts and z. B. lead to manslaughter of supervisors.
5. As a rule, flight was an option for comparatively better-off serfs, as it presupposed that at the destination of the flight one had to build a new existence first on one's own means alone. Only Russia knew a real runner movement.
6. The uprising represents the extreme form of resistance. The four great uprisings in Russia's early modern period should not, however, be understood as peasant uprisings alone. A variety of actors participated in them - impoverished servants, Cossacks, Old Believers and others.

Bush M.L. 1996: Serfdom and Slavery. Studies in Legal Bondage. London. Goehrke C. 1969: Serfdom, Kernig C. D .: Soviet system and democratic society: a comparative encyclopedia 3. Freiburg, 1399–1410. Schmidt C. 1997: Serfdom in the Baltic Sea region. Attempt at a typology. Cologne. Sundhaussen H. 1990: The change in the Eastern European agricultural constitution during the early modern period, Südost-Forschungen 49, 15–56. Origin of D. (in press): clod binding and serfdom. On the agricultural constitution of the principalities of Wallachia and Moldova in a comparative perspective (= Southeast research)

(Martin Aust)