Grigorii Soroka was a serf, one of millions in prereform Russia. He was not particularly set apart by his artistic talent, for many peasants revealed their individual expressive gifts in carved decoration, ceramics, toy making, and other crafts. Soroka was unusual, however, in that he received instruction from Aleksei Venetsianov, a retired bureaucrat, small-property owner, and renowned painter. Soroka, despite his refined talents, remained a serf, for his owner, N. P. Miliukov, unheeding of Venetsianov’s pleas, refused to manumit his “serf artist.” When the Emancipation came, then, Soroka led his villagers in drawing up a petition protesting the terms that Miliukov sought to impose. The petition, addressed to the tsar, was returned to the provincial office for peasant affairs and shown to Miliukov who, enraged, then drew up his own complaint against the peasants. Soroka was summoned to the volost offices, arrested, held for three days, and then sentenced to a flogging for “obstreperous behavior and for spreading false rumors.” On 10 April 1864 Grigorii Soroka was seen wandering distractedly about the village, and the next day his wife found his body hanging from the rafters in a cold storage building.