Verv. A clan-territorial rural unit in ancient Ukraine, consisting of one or more villages and peasant homesteads. Smaller than a volost, the verv corresponded to the Polish opole, the Serbian okolyna, and the Novgorod-Muscovite pogost. Originally the verv might have been a clan unit, which developed on a territorial basis after the dissolution of the clan system and the advancement of civic relations over kinship relations. The verv also encompassed newcomers, foreigners, and tradesmen who lived on its territory. All its members were called liudiie.
The verv was governed by the kopa or viche. It was also an administrative entity and had a community court, whose members were bound by collective responsibility (see Hromada). If a crime was committed, the verv was responsible for conducting the investigation (honyty slid), and if it failed to find the culprit, the community assumed responsibility for the crime committed on its territory. The verv performed the duties of a tax collector for the prince and constituted a military defense unit. In the Christian period the verv became an administrative unit with its own church.
The main source of information about the verv is Ruskaia Pravda, which includes 15 articles on the subject. Another source is the Polatsk Statute (15th–17th centuries). Among scholars K. Bestuzhev-Riumin and Aleksandra Yefymenko emphasize the clan character of the verv, and Mikhail Vladimirsky-Budanov, Vasilii Sergeevich, and Rostyslav Lashchenko argue for its territorial-civic character.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine