Die Entwicklung der "livländischen Leibeigenschaft" im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert

Marten Seppel


The article aims to summarize the myth of Livonian serfdom that cropped up in the 16th Century and was very popular partly even until the 20th Century. The selected examples from the 16th and 17th Century printed literature show that the Livonian peasantry was as a rule depicted as the most miserable folk under the sun who was pressed into deep serfdom or slavery. Of course, the actual Subordination of the peasantry in Livonia was not so total.
In the 17th Century when Livonia was incorporated under the Swedish crown, the discussions on serfdom and especially on harsh 'Livonian serfdom' became acute also in Stockholm. The plans of Charles XI to abolish serfdom in Livonia and Pomerania are well known. However, it seems that the terminology causes some misunderstandings even in the latest research. It cannot be agreed that Charles XI was considering the real abolishment of serfdom either in Pomerania or in Livonia. Although the terms "serfdom" and "slavery" were used, we cannot take them literally. So in case of Livonia the king aimed only to protect the crown peasantry against the arbitrariness of the leaseholder or bailiff of the manor. The legal Status of the peasants was, however, not changed and the existing economic and social order of demesne farming that was based on serfdom remained to exist also at the end of the 17th Century.