Contract enforcement in Russian serf society, 1750–1860

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Abstract

This article examines questions about contract enforcement in the absence of formal legal institutions, using archival evidence for one particular rural society in pre-emancipation Russia. The evidence presented indicates that enforcement services provided by the local landlord made it possible for Russians from different socioeconomic and legal strata to engage in a wide variety of contractual transactions. However, this system had significant drawbacks in that the poorest serfs could not afford these services and no serf had recourse beyond his local estate.

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