Quitrent. Feudal rent paid in kind or money by landless peasants, townspeople, and other free persons for the use of royal-, state-, church-, and gentry-owned farmlands, pastures, forests, ponds, hunting places, mills, shops, and other properties in perpetuity. Quitrent replaced tribute as the main form of peasant exploitation in the late Middle Ages. In Polish- and Lithuanian-ruled Ukraine from the 14th century, peasant households paid quitrents in grain, honey, furs, livestock, food, and money. They had several names: chynsh (from German Zins, from Latin census), podymne (quitrent paid by each dym), diaklo, serebshchyna (from serebro ‘silver,’ quitrent in silver coins), ordynshchyna (from orda ‘horde,’ originally tribute paid to the Golden Horde), poholovshchyna (from holova ‘head,’ a form of poll tax), and povolovshchyna (from vil ‘ox’, quitrent in livestock). Their amounts were regulated by a chynsh law and custom and varied from place to place. After the voloka land reform of 1557 and the imposition of serfdom the use of quitrents declined and was replaced by the more oppressive corvée. Chynsh was revived on the vast colonized estates of the Polish magnates in Right-Bank Ukraine in the late 17th century. Economic relations based on chynsh law were maintained in the Polish-dominated territories annexed by the Russian Empire.

In Russian gubernias where the soil was poor, more peasants (60 percent in the mid-19th century) paid quitrent (called obrok) than performed corvée. From 1724 the tsarist state imposed an obrok tax on state peasants in addition to the poll tax. In the chornozem Ukrainian gubernias, the obrok tax was paid by most state peasants (44 percent of all peasants in 1860). Only a small minority (1.2 percent in 1858) of the gentry-owned serfs paid cash obrok to their owners; the vast majority performed corvée instead. After the abolition of serfdom in the Russian Empire in 1861, peasants continued paying obrok for the land they received until it was replaced by redemption payments in 1886. In Western Ukraine the emancipated peasants paid chynsh for servitudes until the 1939 Soviet occupation.

Roman Senkus

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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