"A rare and powerful document. Nikitenko's memoir should take its place next to the very best ex-slave narratives and those of untouchables in India."-James C. Scott "An important historical account that reveals a great deal about the realities of serfdom."-Juliet Wittman, Washington Post Book World "One of the best surviving accounts of Russian serfdom."-Blake Eskin, Lingua Franca Aleksandr Nikitenko, born into Russian serfdom in 1804, almost miraculously gained his freedom as a young man, thirty-seven years before serfdom was abolished in the Russian Empire. His compelling autobiography--here translated into English for the first time-is one of the very few ever written by a former serf. Nikitenko describes the tragedy, despair, unpredictability, and astounding luck of his youth, bringing to life as never before the experience of a serf in nineteenth-century Russia.