Possessional peasants

Possessional peasants (posesiini seliany). That category of peasants in the Russian Empire who during the 18th and 19th centuries were attached to factories and could not be separated from specified industrial enterprises. The category emerged in response to the need for a labor force to serve developing manufacturing enterprises. An imperial decree issued on 7 January 1736 legally bound to enterprises those workers who had been trained in specialized skills, and who had been laboring in them at the time law was enacted. Thus, possessional peasants were considered the property of a manufacturing firm as opposed to particular landowners. In Ukraine possessional peasants were usually employed in sugar-processing plants (see Sugar industry). In the 19th century, owners of manufacturing firms steadily replaced possessional peasants with hired workers. By 1840, legislation had abolished possessional relations, and the laws leading to the emancipation of serfdom in 1861–3 abandoned the category altogether.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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