Landowners (zemlevlasnyky, pomishchyky). The owners of large and medium-sized estates, who constituted the leading social group in Ukraine before 1917 as a result of their economic strength, political influence, and (in the case of the nobility) estate privileges (see Estates). Their Ukrainian designation was derived from the practice of pomistia or service tenure in the Russian Empire, which existed in the 15th to 18th centuries concurrently with the older votchyny, or patrimonial estates (see Seignory). By the 18th century pomistia holdings had virtually become hereditary. Consequently, in 1714 Peter I instituted a single system of land ownership that abolished the legal distinction between the two types of holding. From then the term pomishchyk was increasingly used in Ukraine, where landowners had previously been known as didychi (full and hereditary landowners) or derzhavtsi (service-tenure holders). Until the mid-19th century the right to own land and the peasants (serfs) bound to it (or to the person of the landowner) was exclusively in the hands of the nobility. After the reforms in 1861 changed the land tenure system, a substantial number of merchants became landowners, albeit without the estate privileges or political influence of the aristocracy.

The national composition of landowners in Ukraine was not homogeneous. In the central and eastern parts of the country the didychi and derzhavtsi were almost exclusively Ukrainian until the 16th century. In Western Ukraine the landowning class included Ukrainians, Poles, and (in Transcarpathia) Hungarians; on the borders of Ukraine and Belarus, Belarusian-Lithuanian landowners made their presence felt. After the Union of Lublin Polish magnates and nobility began settling in central Ukraine. Beginning with the 16th century, Russian pomishchyky began arriving on the northern reaches of Left-Bank Ukraine. During the tenure of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky and the subsequent Ruin Polish landowners disappeared completely from Left-Bank Ukraine and were largely absent from Right-Bank Ukraine until the 18th century. Subsequently, they continued to be an influential force, right up to the Revolution of 1917, notwithstanding certain confiscations of property by the Russian government in the wake of the partitions of Poland and the Polish Insurrection of 1830–1 and Polish Insurrection of 1863–4. Among the owners of massive latifundia during that period were the Potocki, Branicki, Sanguszko, and Lubomirski families.

Starting in the late 18th century many lands formerly controlled by Polish magnates fell into the hands of Russian landowners (such as Grigorii Potemkin and the Samoilov, Bobrinsky, Engelhardt, Stroganov, Shuvalov, Vorontsov, Vorontsov-Dashkov, Lopukhin, Demidov, San-Donato, Naryshkin, Balashov, and Uvarov families) through government redistribution, sale (occasionally forced), or inheritance. Some Ukrainian families, including the Hudovych and Troshchynsky, also benefited from such shifts in ownership.

The Ukrainian landowners of Left-Bank Ukraine and Slobidska Ukraine, largely the descendants of Cossack starshyna, constituted a majority of the large property owners in those areas until the Revolution of 1917. There emerged a number of Russian or other foreign holdings in the early 18th century, however, alongside the older estates of the Galagan, Hudovych, Kapnist, Khanenko, Kochubei, Lashkevych, Myloradovych, Skoropadsky, Sudiienko, Tarnovsky, and other families. They included, among others, the Rumiantsev, Golitsyn, Dolgorukov, Yusupov, and Meklenburg-Strelitzi lines. A number of Ukrainian estates passed in the 19th century from Ukrainian to Russian control by way of marriage, such as those acquired by the Lamsdorf-Galagan, Musin-Pushkin, Repnin, and Zhemchuzhnikov families.

In Southern Ukraine the Ukrainian landowners were mostly descendants of Zaporozhian Cossacks. The region's numerous Russian and other foreign landowners had acquired estates by tsarist edict (mostly during the reign of Catherine II) or through purchase. The more important foreign landowners included the Potemkin, Viazemsky, Prozorovsky, Mordvinov, Vorontsov, Kankrin, Popov, Romanov, and other families.

Merchant landowners appeared in Ukraine in the mid-19th century, notably the Tereshchenko (from the Chernihiv region) and Kharytonenko (from the Kharkiv region) families. In the late 19th century a few wealthy Ukrainian landowners (Yevhen Chykalenko, Volodymyr M. Leontovych, and others) became active in the Ukrainian national movement.

Western Ukraine. There were a substantial number of Ukrainian boyars in the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia until the mid-14th century. After the Polish annexation of Galicia most of them lost their estates. Many of them traveled eastward to Volhynia, where a number of Ukrainian princely and magnate families (Sviatopolk-Chetvertynsky, Czartoryski, Ostrozky, Sanguszko, Wiśniowiecki, Zbaraski, and others) consolidated themselves under Lithuanian rule. In addition new Ukrainian-Belarusian-Lithuanian landowning families (Koretsky, Zahorovsky, Zasławski, and others) emerged. In Galicia, the Kholm region, and Podlachia wealthy Polish families, such as the Branicki, Dzieduszycki, Poniatowski, Potocki, Rzewuski, and Tarnowski, established huge latifundia. Only a few of the old Rus’ boyar families continued to hold their estates, among them the Bybelsky, Danylovych, Melshtynsky, Shumliansky, and Tustanovsky lines.

In Bukovyna, which was part of the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia in the 12th to 14th centuries and then under Moldavia, estates were granted to boyars for state and military service as well as to certain established families that later became assimilated.

In Transcarpathia, through the 13th to 17th centuries (particularly after the seizure of the crown by the Anjou dynasty in the early 14th century) the largest estates were given to Hungarian or Hungarianized Italian, French, Wallachian, and German magnates. Among them were the Aba, Bokshai, Dovhai (a Ukrainian feudal line), Draha, Drugeth, Ilosvaj, Paloczi, Perényi, Petenko, and Ragali families.

Initially the estates were granted to foreigners in Western Ukraine as service tenure, but the lands soon became hereditary. Under the influence of a foreign elite the old Rus’ families assimilated with foreign (especially Polish) landowners, often through conversion to the Latin rite upon marriage. Only a few families held to the traditional Rus’ religion and nationality; most of them were petty gentry.

In 1785, not long after the annexation of Galicia by Austria, a register was made of 1,500 local didychi who controlled 5,300 filvarky (see Filvarok), or manors. Among them were 40 magnates who controlled 2,800 manors. Some of that group (including the Jabłonowski, Lubomirski, Potocki, Rzewuski, Sanguszko, and Zamoyski families) owned estates in Russian-controlled Ukraine. Owing to a curial electoral system Galician and Bukovynian didychi exercised a decisive influence in local affairs even after the adoption of the Austrian constitutions of 1860 and 1867 (in 1883, they constituted 70 percent of the parliamentary representatives in the Galician Diet). They also carried weight in the central Viennese government and parliament.

The owners of large estates in Galicia and Bukovyna usually did not administer them themselves; they preferred to hire managers or to rent them out. As a result, by the late 19th century many estates had gone into decline, and were changing hands frequently or being auctioned following bankruptcy. Ownership often passed to various repossessors and creditors. The estates could also be parceled out to the local peasantry. Many estates in Galicia were taken over by Jews and Austrian Germans. In the 1870s, Viennese and other financial institutions began buying up large tracts of the region's forest. Among the notable Ukrainian didychi of Western Ukraine were Teofil Dembytsky, Ivan A. Fedorovych, and the Sheptytsky and Tyshkevych families. In Bukovyna Romanian boyar landowners gradually were joined by Armenians, Germans, and Jews.

Despite the introduction of land reforms and other political changes during the interwar period, Polish landowners in Galicia and northwestern Ukraine managed to maintain their grasp on their holdings to a greater extent than in Poland proper. Similarly, Romanian landowners maintained their positions in Bukovyna. In Transcarpathia Ukrainians benefited only marginally from land reform. In all those areas the landowners remained influential, although they lost their estate privileges and entrenched political positions.

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Oleksander Ohloblyn, Illia Vytanovych

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

Encyclopedia of Ukraine