Changes and Continuities in the Russian Labor System from 1750-1914

Updated on March 3, 2013
Russian serfs
Russian serfs | Source
Russian serfs as apart of the feudal system
Russian serfs as apart of the feudal system | Source


During the period between 1750 and 1914, Russia saw Western Europe’s borders expanding. England was gaining power in the Middle East and Africa, Germany and Italy were becoming established nation states, and all the while Western Europe was getting richer due to the economic boom created by the Industrial Revolution. When Russia realized they needed to reform or be left behind, it caused big changes in Russia’s labor system, through industrialization and emancipating serfs, while maintaining continuity as well, in the treatment of serfs and the type of reform.

Changes in the Russian Labor System

Monumental change came to Russia when Tsar Alexander II launched a series of reforms that stretched from the 1860s and the early 1900s and included emancipating Russian serfs and industrializing the nation’s economy. Previously, serfs tilled and cultivated the land of a lord without pay, as is common in feudal societies. While they were permitted to have farms of their own, serfs had to work the lord’s land whenever called upon, usually during the time of harvest, regardless of their own farm’s needs. Once emancipated, serfs fled to either large cities to find work or the countryside to find land. Change also came through Russian industrialization. Railroads, factories, and other infrastructure expanded, and the steel, coal, and petroleum industries boomed. Because of this, serfs who migrated to the city, easily found work in the new, industrialized establishments. Serfs also created guilds, much like unions, to protect the interests of the laborers. With new industries creating new jobs and plenty of freed serfs to take them, the Russian labor system changed dramatically between 1750 and 1914.

Continuities in the Russian Labor System

Although emancipating serfs and instituting plans for industrialization brought change to the Russian labor system, some continuity remained through the treatment of serfs and the type of reform. After the serfs were emancipated they fled to the city and the countryside, and while they found work, they did not find escape from the hindrances of their feudal position. Peasants who worked in Russian factories between 1750 and 1914 were overworked and underpaid, and serfs who attempted to farm had to pay to do so. Even after reform, serfs were still treated the way they had been in their previous labor system. Along with serf’s treatment, continuity remained in the Russian labor systems through the type of reform instituted. Although the reforms themselves were revolutionary for a country like Russia, whose feudal system went back to the eleventh century, the type of reform instituted still benefitted the state rather than the individual, as was always the case with Russia’s despotic government. When emancipated serfs found work in the city, they also found disgusting and dangerous conditions, due to the heavy influx of people living in a confined space. The Russian government made no attempt to remedy the situation, nor would they been capable to. Eventually, citizens became disgruntled and the Russian government cracked down on the discontentment by forbidding the public announcement of opinions, which was punished by being sent to Siberia. Although the labor system saw change through reform, the attitude surrounding the labor system, those in it and those controlling it, did not.


From the emancipation of serfs to widespread industrialization, the Russian labor system was affected by significant change between 1750 and 1914. However, the feudal mindset remained, even in the industrialized labor system, maintaining continuity.

Questions & Answers


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • profile image

        Doctor J.R. Green 

        2 years ago

        As I have begun my research in this topic for over ten years ago, from a political, economic, and cultural stand point the digital yet somehow factual reasons behind the outlooks and points of this essay are all easily proved wrong and unreasonable to the differences of the Russian empire.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)