This is the autobiography of a serf who came from an initially prosperous but then impoverished family. It tells the story of a peasant who knew sorrow in his youth, who fled beyond the Da- nube, and who, because of the All-Merciful Manifesto,39 returned to end his life in Moscow as a guild merchant. In this capacity he was the agent of a large enterprise, a person known in all stock ex- change and commercial circles and respected by all. This is an authentic chronicle, written by the author in the twilight of his life. Although many former serfs became outstanding for one or an- other reason, there is probably no other example of a person who, having just escaped serfdom, remained close to the peasant and petty bourgeois environment and wrote his own memoirs. For this reason alone the pages that follow are worthy of our attention. Alongside the historical significance and curious details of the memoir, of general interest are the author’s independent attitudes about the “lords” and the peasant brotherhood, as well as the gen- tleness and sense of his judgments.
Unfortunately, the manuscript could not be printed in its origi- nal form, firstly because it comprises an apparently unfinished
39 The 1861 edict issued by Tsar Alexander II abolished serfdom in Russia by freeing millions of landlords’ peasants. The edict marked a new era in Russian history known as the period of great reforms. For further discussion of the abolition of serfdom, see David Moon, The Abolition of Serfdom; and Emancipation of the Russian Serfs, Terrence Emmons, ed. (New York: International Thompson Publishing, 1970).