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The Growth and Expansion of Russia

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Andrei was carving a wooden sleigh. So expert was he in the use of a knife that he could make a toy sleigh, driver and all, in two long winter evenings. Another night would be enough for the horse, which wasn’t difficult, but Andrei always had a hard time with the yoke that went over the neck. The yoke was shaped like a big wishbone and Andrei could never understand why Russian horses wore such high and heavy yokes. “Just like us peasants!” thought Andrei, “We too carry heavy burdens and are little more than slaves.” Andrei thought many things that he didn’t say. One didn’t have to he a peasant to learn that lesson in Russia 400 years ago. Look at the terrible death that the local boyar, or noble landlord, had suffered! The ruler of all Russia, Ivan justly nicknamed the Terrible, had been merciless. Even Andrei, who hated all landlords, had pitied the wretched boyar. Andrei lived in a region where streams flowed out to three seas — the Baltic, the Black and the Caspian. It was a level land of great pine forests where trappers caught fur-bearing animals and of clearings where farmers grew barley and flax. It was a land of snow and biting cold more than half of each year. Now it was winter and Andrei was carving toys for sale. When spring came, Andrei would put away his knife and pick up his hoe. Much — too much — of what Andrei earned, summer or winter, would go to the new landlord. Badly off as Andrei was, his sons were to be in a still worse position. To prevent their leaving the farms, the government bound the peasants to stay on the land of their masters. Thus they became serfs, in many ways …

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