Combat serfs also stood out – they mainly consisted of the army and princely guards.
Until the end of the 11th century, the name smerdcompared to a serf, it sounded proud: that was the name of all free peasants. They had the right to own land, livestock and tools of production. They went on military campaigns with their own weapons and served in the elite part of the princely army – the cavalry. From the 12th century, smerds began to slowly but surely turn into a dependent class, the process of enslavement of initially free people dragged on for centuries.
So from a certain point on, many researchers do not distinguish between smerds and serfs: both classes were dependent. In particular, for the murder of a representative of any of them, a fine was 8 times smaller than for the murder of a free person. Yet there was a significant difference between them. Smerds had some personal freedom – they were responsible for their misdeeds themselves, paid fines, had a partial right to inherit. The serf was originally the property of the master, as a thing. The feudal lord bore full responsibility for his life and actions: he could kill, donate, sell, or, conversely, make him rich, entrust important work to him, make him his attorney. But it is just as easy to punish cruelly at the slightest whim.
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