Peasant Marriage in Nineteenth-Century Russia

By Alexandre Avdeev, Alain Blum, Irina Troitskaia, Heather Juby


During the nineteenth century, the Russian family existed within a particular institutional and social context, very different from that of Western Europe. The constraints surrounding and shaping family formation, and especially marriage, were very strong and diverse in nature. They arose jointly from serfdom and the landowner’s power associated with it, from kinship prohibitions and religious interdictions, and from the power held by the rural community. One of these elements disappeared abruptly in 1861 with the abolition of serfdom which had imposed severe limitations on the possibility of choosing a spouse outside the landowner’s estate. Using information contained in the revision lists (taxation counts) and parish registers, this article analyses marriage practices among Count Sheremetev’s peasant serfs before 1861, as well as the first transformations following reform, in three Russian villages near Moscow belonging to this Count’s estate. Although the abolition of serfdom led in particular to an increase in marital migrations, other characteristics such as marriage’s patrilocal nature remained unchanged, testifying to the deep cultural roots of particular marriage practices.

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