Common peasants

Common peasants (pospolyti seliany). General name for the majority of the peasants in the Hetman state and in Slobidska Ukraine in the 17th and 18th century. The name ‘common’ (pospolyti) also referred initially to the inhabitants of cities and towns. The common peasants were classified, according to the owners whose lands they tilled and the relations and obligations imposed on them by the owners or the local administration, into (1) peasants in the free military settlements (under the jurisdiction of the Hetman state); (2) town peasants (ratushni seliany, under the local company or municipal administration); (3) rank peasants (living on lands awarded to Cossack officers for military service); (4) monastery peasants; and (5) common peasants on the private estates of the Cossack starshyna. In 1730 over half of the common peasants belonged to the last two categories. The obligations of the common peasants were various (monetary taxes and taxes in kind, land cultivation, conveyance, and the like) and increased in time. One group of the common peasants, the landless peasants (pidsusidky), worked as hired labor. The enserfment of the common peasants occurred towards the end of the 18th century (see Serfdom).

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

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