Church peasants

Church peasants (tserkovni seliany). A dependent group of peasants who belonged to and worked in monasteries or the homes of the higher clergy (bishops and patriarchs). Church estates and church-dependent peasants were known as early as the Princely era and during the Lithuanian-Polish period (see Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). The number of church peasants in Ukraine increased significantly under the Russian Empire. A large number of church peasants belonged to the Kyivan Cave Monastery, the Hustynia Trinity Monastery, the Novhorod-Siverskyi Transfiguration Monastery, and other monasteries. By 1768, 61 monasteries in Left-Bank Ukraine owned about 160,000 church peasants. In 1786–8 the imperial government secularized the possessions of these monasteries and transferred control over their lands and serfs to the Collegium of the Economy (see Economic peasants). After 1793 the same thing happened to the church peasants in Right-Bank Ukraine. In most cases the position of the church peasants and their labor obligations were similar to those of the serfs belonging to gentry landowners.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]

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