Serfdom in Russia
The origins of serfdom in Russia are traced to Kievan Rus' in the 11th century. Legal documents of the epoch, such as Russkaya Pravda, distinguished several degrees of feudal dependency of peasants, the term for an unfree peasant in the Russian Empire, krepostnoi krestyanin (крепостной крестьянин), is translated as serf.Serfdom became the dominant form of relation between peasants and nobility in the 17th century. Serfdom only existed in central and southern areas of the Russian Empire. It was never established in the North, in the Urals, and in Siberia. Tsar Alexander I of Russia wanted to reform the system but was stymied. New laws allowed all classes (except the serfs) to own land, the privilege that was previously confined to the nobility. Finally, serfdom was abolished by a decree issued by Tsar Alexander II in 1861. Scholars have proposed multiple overlapping reasons to account for the abolition, including fear of a large-scale revolt by the serfs, the government's financial needs, evolving cultural sensibilities and the military's need for soldiers.