Thursday, January 26, 2017

In the terrible winters of tsarist Russia, the families gave their children in exchange for food or vodka.

In Tsarist Russia, the status of servitude lasted from 1650 to 1860, for over two centuries. The feudal lords freely disposed of the inhabitants of their lands. The servants were estates, like the lands, the plantations or the cattle. As all that the earth begets was its owners, the fruits of the land, like the children of the servants, belonged to the rich, owning families.

Dominated by the elite they belonged to, the servants suffered from cruelty, hunger and the rigors of the climate, their misery and submission had no limits. In the harsh winters famine and cold put many families in complete despair. It was not uncommon for some families to choose one of their children to sell to the noble families as slaves. Even if they did not earn much from the sale, sometimes just some food or vodka, it was one mouth less to feed.
The younger ones, by grace, beauty, or simply because they were less useful to work, or less resistant to the miseries of winter, were the ones chosen for the bargain.

In this drawing we see the poor woman of a family offering her youngest son, and an old alcoholic announcing the beauty of his younger grandson in exchange for vodka.
In desperation they expose naked boys, even in such low temperatures. The boys accept their fate, they know that there is not enough food for everyone. They seek to please the noble lady or the rich farmer.

If they are bought or simply accepted as gifts, they will probably never see their families again.
At this time of year, with the whole field covered with snow, there is no work or food for them. They will certainly be used to amuse rich families in the tedious winter days. They may be raped, sexually used or tortured. If they are lucky they can survive the winter, if they have bad luck they can survive for a few more days.

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