Artel (from the Tatar orta = community, ortak = common). A small voluntary association of individuals who come together for a limited or indefinite period for the purpose of performing some economic activity. The members of an artel donate labor, tools, and even capital and divide the profits according to the amount and quality of the labor they contribute.
As a communal-economic institution the artel has been known for a long time. Fishing and hunting artels (lovchi druzhyny) existed in Ukraine as early as the 12th–13th century. Since the 16th century a traditional and widely practiced form of artel in farming was the supriaha—an association of peasants who, individually lacking the necessary draft power, plowed, harvested, and threshed together. In some areas this type of artel lasted until the Soviet period, that is, until private farms were abolished. In the 16th–18th century artels of wagoners (valky chumakiv), ferrymen, hunters, and fishermen (zabrodchyky) were common. In the 19th century seasonal or permanent workers' artels were organized. Workers such as hay-cutters, threshers, carpenters, bricklayers, or loaders banded together to sell their labor and to divide the earnings among themselves. In the Carpathian Mountains artels of woodcutters were common. The members had to accept the basic principle of the artel: one for all and all for one. Until recent times artels were formed on the basis of an unwritten agreement and were governed by customary law. In 1902 Russian law recognized workers' artels as legal entities. With the spread of the co-operative movement in Ukraine before the First World War, Mykola V. Levytsky, ‘the artel father,’ devoted much energy to the organization of ‘co-operative artels,’ particularly farmers' artels.
After the Revolution of 1917, artels were widespread in the Soviet Union, particularly in the cottage industry. Members of the various trades—tailors, shoemakers, seamstresses—formed their own artels. Some artels were organized for special groups of people such as invalids or pensioners. These artels were classified as industrial artels. Agricultural artels, in contrast, included the collective farms (see Collective farm) and the fishing artels, which are now called collective fish farms. The agricultural artels permitted much more freedom than collective farms did later. In 1959 there were 139 fishing artels, 1,439 industrial artels, 376 artels for invalids, and 15 manufacturing-collective farms in Ukraine. The artels in the Soviet Union gradually lost the main features of this form of economic association, namely voluntariness and self-government.
On 11 October 1960 the Communist Party of the Soviet Union abolished the industrial artels in Ukraine. The former fishing artels and all farming artels were subsequently governed by the Collective Farm Statute of 1969.