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A Life Under Russian Serfdom

Boris B. Gorshkov

The Memoirs of Savva Dmitrevich Purlevskii, 1800–1868

My future fate resolved

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1This was how my plans on village governance developed. In general, everything was fine and everyone was satisfied with me. I also occupied myself with selling iron products at the Nizhegorod fair. Until 1830 this part of my activity also went well. As a result, I always received praise and rewards. In 1830 we sold our iron at prices even higher than we had expected.

  • 1 19,200 kg.

2Unfortunately for me, an outbreak of cholera killed two of my assistants, who had taken care of transporting iron products from the Siberian mills and delivering them, according to my sale orders, to the customers, as we had always done. On one occasion it turned out that the load arrived short by one thousand two hundred puds1, which, according to contemporary prices, amounted to 4,560 paper rubles.

3I was not responsible for matters concerning the formal acceptance and delivery of goods. However, the office of the general estate management required an explanation from me. Soon afterwards they sent an inspector to Velikoe. Having examined the estate’s business, and having talked to the friends of the deceased transportation assistants about the lost iron, the inspector could find nothing obvious or even anything questionable to hold against me. Even so, correspondence on this matter continued for an entire year... Obviously there were no complaints against me on the part of the landlords, since they would not have stood on ceremony in their dealings with me. The chief estate manager, with the former bailiff (whom I had replaced) at his side, were at work here. Still, it was clear that I could easily influence the manager in my favor, as suggested by his obvious attempts at extortion in his letters. Frankly, considering my case to be just, I unfortunately did not want to stoop to corrupt patronage. I was even happy in the thought that the current scandal would bring an end to this burdensome assignment of mine.

4In 1831 my desires were realized, but not as I had expected. A manager of the Siberian mills was assigned to go to the fair for the purpose of selling iron. Meanwhile, I was ordered to go to St. Petersburg to explain things in person...

5This turn of affairs promised nothing good. Another inconvenience was the fact that, in the meantime, my own business required personal attention and direction. However, I had to obey and, after putting the estate management in order and passing everything to my assistant in November, I arrived in Petersburg at the beginning of December.

6I immediately appeared before the manager of the estate main office. I was greeted by him in a kindly enough way, since I was personally acquainted with him. However, he was very reserved and vaguely promised to report to the landlords (who were in the office once a week) about my arrival. I was allowed, by the way, to occupy a room in the lord’s house. Two weeks passed and I had still not been summoned.

7Without waiting to be called I decided to report to the landlord, General A., himself. I had always enjoyed his favor and had no difficulty in arranging the meeting. His valet, a fellow-villager, immediately reported to the general about my visit and I was invited to go to his study. There, my future fate was settled, so I will relate our conversation in detail...


1 19,200 kg.

© Central European University Press, 2005

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