Burghers (mischany or mistychi). In the broad sense of the term, urban dwellers employed in various skilled trades, industries, and commerce, as well as town and suburban residents employed in farming, gardening, fruit growing, etc. In the narrow sense, which is particularly applicable to Ukraine, burghers were a social stratum that used to be self-governing and then became‘tax-paying estate’ (podatnoe sosloviie) of the Russian Empire in the 19th and 20th centuries. In Kyivan Rus’ the burghers (known as liudy hradskii [townspeople] or hrazhdany [citizens]) were not legally defined, even though they constituted a socially and economically distinct stratum. The elite upper-stratum were prominent men (narochyti muzhi), city elders (startsi hradskii), and wealthy merchants (hosti); in the middle were the merchants; beneath them were the commoners (prostaia chad, liude). At the bottom were dependents of various kinds—servants, slaves, exiles, etc (kholopy, izhoi). The burghers were engaged in up to 60 different professions in this period.
The burghers became a separate stratum in the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia at the end of the 13th century, and particularly under Polish- Lithuanian rule, when Magdeburg law was granted to many cities and towns throughout Ukraine. During this period a distinct hierarchy, consisting of patricians, middle burghers, and plebeians, emerged among the burghers. In Western Ukraine this division was complicated by national-religious differences. As a result, different groups of burghers had different rights; for example, non-Catholic burghers (Orthodox Ukrainians, Armenians, Jews) lost the right to elect their own representatives to the city council and to certain guilds. In general, the residents of small towns, particularly towns owned by nobles, enjoyed significantly fewer rights than the residents of large towns that had full self-government. The burghers of larger towns or cities (eg, Kyiv) came under various jurisdictions—the city council, the state voivode or starosta, the church (monastery, metropolitan, or bishop)—and their legal-social position was not uniform. In spite of social and national-religious discrimination by the Polish authorities and the economic competition of the nobility and the foreigners, the Ukrainian burghers formed the leading stratum in the towns of the 16th and 17th centuries. They sought allies in the struggle for their rights and interests; they attracted some noblemen and gentry of the ‘Ruthenian faith’ to their brotherhoods and in time won the significant support of the Ukrainian Cossacks, who came to a large extent from the towns of the Dnieper region.
By the end of the 16th century, the population of Galicia was about 100,000, of which 38 percent were burghers. Ten percent of the population was employed in commerce, and 28 percent, in the skilled trades. At the time there were about 100 trades and more than 33 guilds in Lviv, while Kyiv had only 10 guilds, Kamianets-Podilskyi had 18, Cracow had 44, and Vienna had 77.
The following were the most influential burgher families of the ‘Ruthenian faith’ in Western Ukraine: the Babych, Berynda, Dubovych, Zyzanii, Krasovsky, Nalyvaiko, Smotrytsky, Striletsky, Tuchapsky, and Shakhovych families, and some immigrant families that joined the ‘Ruthenian faith’ (the Albiz, Korniakt, Lianhysh, Mazapeta, and Mazaraki families). Well known in Kyiv in the 15th and 16th centuries were the Kobyzevych, Koshkoldovych, Krykunovych, Krynytsky, Meleshkovych, Mytkovych, Cherevchii, and Shavula families. In the 16th and 17th centuries the leading families in Kyiv were the Balyka, Bykovsky, Bulych, Voinych, Kotovych, Lobachevsky, Machokha, Mefedovych, Samuilovych, Sobol, Somkovych, Sushchyn, Khmil, Khodyka, and Khursovych families. Some of them (eg, Khodyka) were elevated to the nobility because of their wealth and pro-Polish attitude.
The burghers played an important role in the Hetman state. They participated in large numbers in the Cossack wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, particularly in the Cossack-Polish War of 1648–1657. With their help the Cossack-Hetman government organized the economy and finances of the state and used their commercial connections with foreign lands to establish diplomatic relations. The burghers played a particularly important role in restoring the economy in Ukraine under hetmans Ivan Samoilovych, Ivan Mazepa, and Danylo Apostol. The patricians participated actively in foreign trade and tax farming under the hetmans. Besides the patricians, the middle burghers took an interest in agriculture, particularly in various farm and forest industries, and acquired landed estates worked by the common people. In spite of strong competition from the Cossack starshyna and the monasteries, the burghers were an important factor in the economic development of the Hetman state, and this strengthened their influence in the sociopolitical and cultural life of the country. In 1666, 60–65 percent of the population of Left-Bank Ukraine lived in cities and towns. One-third to two-fifths of this population were burghers.
Many of the more influential burgher families joined the Cossack starshyna in the 17th and 18th centuries, including the Bezborodko, Vasylkivsky-Maksymovych, Kozelsky, Korniievych-Ohranovych, Kuliabka, Lobysevych, Moliavko, Polubotok, Skorupa, Tomylovsky, and Shyrai families. But the patricians remained part of the burgher estate and retained all their public influence under the hetmans, as is especially noticeable in Kyiv, where the following burgher families were prominent in the 17th–18th century: the Aleksandrovych, Balabukha, Barsky, Kyselivsky, Nechai, Polotsky, Rybalsky, and Tadryna families. The burghers of Kyiv produced such outstanding cultural figures as Teofan Prokopovych, the brothers Vasyl Hryhorovych-Barsky and Ivan Hryhorovych-Barsky, and Artem Vedel.
As before, the burghers, particularly in large cities, constituted three basic groups: the rich (mozhni) or patricians, the middle stratum (seredni) or merchants, and the poor (mizerni) or plebeians. According to data from 1723, in Kyiv and Starodub the first two groups comprised almost one-third, and the last group two-thirds, of the burghers.
In 1743 the legal code of the Hetman state recognized the burghers as a separate estate (see Estates). According to the Code of Laws of 1743, a burgher was a resident of a town and an accepted member of the community whose name was entered in the town register and who was occupied in commerce, the skilled trades, or in some other work related to town life. The burghers had the right to elect, and to be elected to, all offices of the municipal government, court, and administration, the exclusive right to commerce and industry in the town and its lands, and the right to be free of tolls. The burghers fulfilled their military service at home by maintaining law and order in their towns. They were obliged to defend their towns or to go to war only on rare occasions of national emergency. In some large cities such as Kyiv the burghers maintained their own troops, which bore various types of arms.
In the second half of the 17th and at the beginning of the 18th century the burghers declined rapidly on Ukrainian territories under the Polish Commonwealth because of the hostile policies of the nobility. To monopolize the profits from commerce, the nobility prohibited burghers from engaging in foreign trade and lowered prices on the burghers' wares while raising the prices on its own goods. It did so through the Sejm, which it controlled. For these reasons the burghers became impoverished. Many skilled tradesmen left the towns and took up employment on the estates of nobles or the latifundia of magnates. As a result, the cultural importance of the Ukrainian burghers declined as well.
With the abolition of the Hetman state and the unification of the majority of Ukrainian territories under the Russian Empire, the position of burghers in Ukraine changed. Catherine II's charter (1785) and subsequent acts of the Russian government divided town residents, excluding nobles, ‘honorary citizens,’ clergy, and urban peasants, into three corporate groups: merchants, guild tradesmen, and burghers. Thus, the burghers in the 19th and 20th centuries formed a separate estate, membership in which was hereditary. Before the emancipation in 1861, serfs could not become burghers, and state serfs could become burghers only by permission of the senate. The burgher estate had its own self-government, whose role gradually decreased, particularly after the reform of municipal self-government in 1870. These changes led to the socioeconomic, legal, and cultural decline of Ukrainian burghers. Although in the 19th century the majority of burghers were Ukrainian, there were many Russians, some Jews (in Right-Bank Ukraine), Greeks, Armenians, and other non-Ukrainians (in the south) among the merchants. According to 1832 data, of 1,000 merchants who owned factories in Ukraine 526 were Russian, 222 Ukrainian, 209 Jewish, and 43 other. Of 1,000 burghers who owned industrial firms the respective figures were 355, 314, 124, and 207. In general the burghers constituted 5 percent of the population of Ukraine at the beginning of the 19th century and almost 8 percent by mid-century.
Old Ukrainian burgher families that went over to the merchant estate retained their socioeconomic status during the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, particularly in Kyiv and Left-Bank Ukraine (notably the Balabukh, Barsky, Dykovsky, Dronyk, Dubynsky, Kyselivsky, Kobets, Kulzhenko, Kunderevych, Matiienko, Mytiuk, Sokolovsky, Strilbytsky, and Sukhota families). Only a few Ukrainian families of burgher or peasant-burgher lineage managed to penetrate the top echelon of wealth and economic power: the Yakhnenko and Symyrenko families of Kyiv gubernia, the Tereshchenko family of Chernihiv gubernia, and the Kharytonenko and Alchevsky families of Kharkiv gubernia.
The majority of Ukrainian merchants remained, up to recent times, petty merchants and tradesmen. Many burghers, particularly in small towns and suburbs, were farmers. Most of the Ukrainian burghers preserved the Ukrainian language, customs, and traditions. Enjoying greater rights than the peasants, they had better access to schools. This advantage eventually produced many cultural and political leaders. The Ukrainian burgher intelligentsia took part in the hromada movement of the 1860s and 1870s. Symon Petliura was descended from Poltava burghers. Many Ukrainian burghers, however, became Russified or Polonized under the influence of the city environment, education, or career interests.
In Western Ukraine under Austrian rule, attempts were made in the 1870s to revive the Ukrainian burgher class and strengthen its economic position, despite Polish opposition. Brotherhoods and banks were organized by Ukrainian burghers to protect small producers against usury. This was the purpose of the Burgher Brotherhood in Lviv, founded by M. Zhelekhivsky and Mykhailo Dymet in 1872, and of other brotherhoods in various towns of Galicia and Bukovyna, particularly in Ternopil and Peremyshl. In 1884 the trades association Zoria was organized in Lviv through the efforts of Vasyl Nahirny, and it continued the work of the former brotherhoods.
Among the prominent organizers of Ukrainian burghers in Western Ukraine before the First World War, the following deserve to be mentioned: Roman Zalozetsky-Sas (founder of a Ukrainian business school in Lviv in 1911), Ivan Levynsky (founder of a trades and industrial building complex in Lviv), Mykhailo Halibei, Mykhailo Stefanivsky, Yu. Sydorak, A. Andreichyn, I. Yarema, Karpiak, Ferentsevych and Chornii. Among women pioneers of small-scale industries were K. Avdykovych, Olena Levytska, O. Hirniak (all of Lviv), and many organizers in the provinces.
The Union of Ukrainian Merchants and Entrepreneurs, headed by Ya. Skopliak and then Ye. Dumyn, was active in interwar Western Ukraine. Young people with higher education who set up small business and industrial firms or worked in co-operatives continued the traditions of the burghers.
The legal and economic status of Ukrainian burghers within the Russian Empire remained almost unchanged until the Revolution of 1917, although their numbers increased to 13 percent of the population. The revolution abolished the estate system. The Soviet victory in Ukraine destroyed the economic base of the burghers in central and eastern Ukraine in the 1920s and in Western Ukraine after 1939. (See also Magdeburg law and Cities and towns.)
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[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine