Slavery.Slavery existed in Ukrainian territory from ancient times. The first references to it appear in Arab historical sources of the 9th century, which speak of Magyar hordes moving from the Volga to the Pannonian Lowland and enslaving some of the local Slavs and selling them in Black Sea coastal towns to Greek buyers. The accounts of Arab and Jewish travelers attest that from the 10th to 13th centuries many slaves were shipped from Kyivan Rus’ through the Black Sea towns to Byzantium, Spain, Turkestan, and Arab countries. The Greek colonies, in particular Chersonese Taurica, acted as middlemen in the slave trade. There was a particular square in Constantinople where Rus’ merchants sold slaves (known then as cheliad). The trade in slaves is also mentioned in chronicles and other Ukrainian sources.

Slaves were taken mainly from among prisoners of war, people born in captivity or married to slaves, and those guilty of certain crimes (arson, horse theft) or of deliberately defaulting on loans. Ruskaia Pravda specified that slaves were not afforded the protection of the law, and treated them instead as the personal (hereditary) possessions of their owners. Nevertheless slavery in Ukraine remained relatively humane, particularly under the influence of Christianity and the church. The humaneness was already apparent in the Princely era, when (under certain circumstances) slaves could be freed, and sometimes they owned property. (See also Kholop and Zakup.)

The institution of slavery continued to exist (under various categories and names) in Ukraine although in increasingly milder forms. It disappeared in the 15th century in the Ukrainian lands controlled by Poland and in the 16th century in the Ukrainian lands controlled by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the late 16th century it was completely replaced by serfdom. By the time Ukraine began to fall under the rule of Muscovy (from the mid-17th century), slavery had largely disappeared as an institution. For Ukrainians in the 15th and 16th centuries the greatest threat of slavery was being captured by Crimean Tatars for sale in the slave markets of Turkey.

Zimin, A. Kholopy na Rusi (Moscow 1973)

M. Zhdan

List of related links from Encyclopedia of Ukraine pointing to Slavery entry:

A referral to this page is found in 9 entries.

Click Home to get to the IEU Home page; to contact the IEU editors click Contact.
To learn more about IEU click About IEU and to view the list of donors and to become an IEU supporter click Donors.  

©2001 All Rights Reserved. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies.