Was the slave trade in ancient Russia

Was the slave trade in ancient Russia

Probably, many of us, since our school days, confirmed that serfdom in Russia was abolished as early as 1861. But in fact, the traditions of the slave trade have existed all over the world for a long time. Ancient Russia was no exception.


It was possible to get into slaves in Russia in several ways. One of them is the capture of foreign prisoners. Such “Polonian” slaves were called “servants.”

In one of the articles of the contract concluded in 911 with Byzantium after the successful raid of the ancient Rus on Constantinople, the Byzantines were asked to pay 20 gold coins (solid) for each captured person. This amounted to about 90 grams of gold and twice the average market price for slaves.

After the second march on Byzantium (944), which ended less successfully, the prices were knocked off. For "a young man or a good girl," this time they were given 10 gold coins (45 grams of gold) or "two pavoloki" - two pieces of silk fabric. Eight coins were relied on a “middle age” slave or a middle-aged slave, and only five coins for an old man or a child.

The “servants” were most often used for various unskilled jobs, for example, as domestic servants. Polonian women, especially young women, were valued above men - they could be used for love pleasures. Many of them became concubines and even wives of slave owners.

According to Russkaya Pravda, a collection of laws of the 11th century, the average cost of a chelyadin was five or six hryvnias. Many historians believe that this is not about the silver hryvnia, but about the kuna hryvnia, which were four times cheaper. Thus, about 200 grams of silver or 750 tanned squirrel skins were given for the slave at that time.

In 1223, after an unsuccessful battle with the Mongols on Kalka, Smolensk Prince Mstislav Davidovich signed an agreement with the Riga and Gotland merchants, according to which the cost of one chelyadin was estimated at one hryvnia silver (this corresponded to 160-200 grams of silver and about 15 grams of gold).

Prices for servants depended on the region. So, in Smolensk, a slave cost a little cheaper than in Kiev, and three times cheaper than in Constantinople itself ... The more people were taken into slavery during military campaigns, the more the price fell.

Slavery by law

In Russia, the internal slave market was also actively developing. Another common form of slavery, in addition to "servants", was servility. One could get into slaves for debts, as a result of marriage with a servant or serf, servicemen, as a punishment for a serious crime ... There were cases when the parents themselves sold or gave their children into slavery because they could not feed them.

Serfdom began to develop only in the XI century, with the formation of a centralized state. It was based on the dependence of poor peasants on landowners. In Kievan Rus and the Novgorod principality all unfree peasants were divided into three categories - serfs, purchases, and serfs. Unlike the first two categories, serfs could not have any property, had no right to move to another owner.

In the XV century, after the Moscow principality was freed from the Tatar-Mongol yoke, the price of one serf ranged from one to three rubles. By the middle of the XVI century, it rose to a half to four rubles. On the eve of the Time of Troubles, it already reached four or five rubles.However, crop failures and wars invariably lowered prices for live goods.

If it was rather difficult to control the external slave trade, then inside the country the state tried to regulate slavery. There were special enslaving books, where the relevant transactions were recorded. In this case, with the owners of slaves was taken a special tax.

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