Up from Serfdom by Aleksandr Nikitenko
My Childhood and Youth in Russia, 1804-1824

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Aleksandr Nikitenko, descended from once-free Cossacks, was born into serfdom in provincial Russia in 1804. One of 300,000 serfs owned by Count Sheremetev, Nikitenko as a teenager became fiercely determined to gain his freedom. In this memorable and moving book, here translated into English for the first time, Nikitenko recollects the details of his childhood and youth in servitude as well as the six-year struggle that at last delivered him into freedom in 1824. Among the very few autobiographies ever written by an ex-serf, Up from Serfdom provides a unique portrait of serfdom in nineteenth-century Russia and a profoundly clear sense of what such bondage meant to the people, the culture, and the nation. Rising to eminence as a professor at St Petersburg University, former serf Nikitenko set about writing his autobiography in 1851, relying on his own diaries (begun at the age of fourteen and maintained throughout his life), his father's correspondence and documents, and the stories that his parents and grandparents told as he was growing up.
He recalls his town, his schooling, his masters and mistresses, and the utter capriciousness of a serf's existence, illustrated most vividly by his father's lurching path from comfort to destitution to prison to rehabilitation. Nikitenko's description of the tragedy, despair, unpredictability, and astounding luck of his youth is a compelling human story that brings to life as never before the experiences of the serf in Russia in the early 1800s.
 

About Aleksandr Nikitenko

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Helen Saltz Jacobson is a freelance writer and translator known for her translation of Nikitenko's 1826-1874 diaries.
 
Published April 10, 2001 by Yale University Press. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, War. Non-fiction

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The memoirs of a former serf from early-19th-century Russia who writes poignantly of his fight for freedom.

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London Review of Books

‘I can only say Glory to the Almighty and proclaim my eternal gratitude to those who helped me to be born again.’ If you are using the site for the first time please register here If you would like access to all 12,000 articles subscribe here Institutions or university library users please ...

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