Before the Mongol conquest, peasants in Russia were more or less free. The Russian government of the 16th century purposely promoted serfdom to empower the nobles and weaken the peasants. There was even a law in 1649 which made serfdom hereditary. Other laws tied the serfs to their land and gave the landlords legal rights over them. They were practically slaves being bought, sold, and punished by their "owners".
Maria Tchebotareva. Trying to feed her 4 hungry children during the massive 1932-33 famine, she allegedly stole 3 pounds of rye from her former field—confiscated by the state as part of collectivization. Sentenced to ten years in the Gulag. When her sentence ended in '43, it was extended till '45. After release, she was required to live near her Gulag camp north of the Arctic Circle, and she was not able to return home until 1956, after the death of Stalin. She never found her children.