Smerd. The name given to a member of a class of peasantry of the an state in the 11th and 12th centuries. The delineation of the group is somewhat imprecise and a subject of historical debate. Most scholars (Mykhailo Braichevsky, Boris Grekov, Mykhailo Hrushevsky in his early writings, Mykola Maksymeiko, Mikhail Vladimirsky-Budanov, and others) contend the name was given to two categories of peasants: the free, who gradually lost their freedom with the development of the feudal order, and the dependent peasantry. Others (Vasilii Kliuchevsky, M. Hrushevsky in his later writings, S. Chernov, and Aleksandr Presniakov) maintain that only the free peasants, including both those who lived on their own land and those who settled on the estates of princes, were thus designated.

The name disappeared from use in the 12th century but resurfaced in the 13th and 14th centuries as a designation of dependent peasants of the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia. It sometimes surfaces in documents of the 15th and 16th centuries concerning Ukrainian territories under Poland and Lithuania as a term for people of low station. From the 13th century the name was increasingly replaced by kmet. The designation was also used by West Slavs, including Serbs (smardi) and Poles (smardowie, smurdowie).

Maksymeiko, M. Pro smerdiv Rus’koï Pravdy (Kyiv 1927)
Grekov, B.D. Krest’iane na Rusi, vol 1 (Moscow 1952)

Arkadii Zhukovsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1984).]

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