Voloka land reform

Voloka land reform. A land reform introduced in 1557 in Ukrainian and Belarusian territories, during the rule of the Polish king Sigismund II Augustus, through laws known as ustavy na voloky. It had been initiated by Sigismund I the Old in the early 16th century, and continued into the early 17th century. It consisted of a redistribution, consolidation, and revaluation of state-owned, communal, and individual peasant lands and resulted in increased income for the state treasury. The reform established the first official land registry in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and aimed to standardize peasant landholdings and obligations. Free peasants received one voloka (33 morgy, or approximately 20 ha) and bonded peasants (otchychi) received one-third of a voloka. Putni boyars and pantsyrni boyars and starostas received two voloky. Noblemen were entitled to compensation (odminy) for reallocated land, but peasants were not. In addition parcels of approximately 20 voloky were set aside for export grain production. Initally the voloka land reform was implemented on state-owned lands; then it was carried out on aristocratic holdings. Peasants who participated in the new land tenure system were subjected to new duties. It was opposed by them because it disrupted old forms of ownership and agricultural practice, and because it did away with communal land use (as in the dvoryshche) and their freedom of movement.

Picheta, V. Agrarnaia reforma Sigizmunda-Avgusta v Litovsko-Russkom gosudarstve (Moscow 1958)

Arkadii Zhukovsky

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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