Image - Traditional Hutsul crafts in Kosiv.

Crafts (Ukrainian: ремесла, remesla). Small-scale manufacture by means of primitive tools of common articles of daily use, farm implements, construction tools, buildings, home furnishings, and, in past centuries, arms as well. With the decline of the barter economy crafts became separated from home manufacture, which served the needs of the producer and his/her neighbors, and became increasingly specialized. Crafts production was concentrated mostly in the cities and towns in the form of small enterprises. Usually products were made to order; sometimes they were made for the market. There was hardly any division of labor in the craft shops, except for partial help from family members, journeymen, or apprentices. The craftsman was the owner of the shop and the means of production. Alone or with a journeyman he was an independent producer capable of manufacturing the product from beginning to end. His craft was his basic occupation and means of livelihood. As technology developed, the trades required, besides natural skill and practical experience, increasingly specialized training. At the peak of their development the craftsmen formed a relatively closed social group of the burgher estate (see Burghers and Estates) with a distinct way of life and civil status and special rights and duties, which were defined by the guilds. In these respects crafts differ from cottage industries, which are usually only supplementary occupations undertaken, for example, during a season free of farm work. Crafts also differ from industrial manufacture, which has a greater division of labor, a profit motive, and means of production not owned by the producers, and makes greater use of technical devices and natural energy forces such as wind and water. Yet, in the industrial age, in addition to manual labor (including the use of hand and foot machines), more sophisticated devices such as electrical machines have also been used in the manufacture of crafts.

Crafts were widely practiced in Ukraine from the earliest times, but for many centuries they were not divorced from other forms of work. Crafts were highly developed in the ancient states on the northern Black Sea coast. At the beginning of the 1st millennium AD crafts began to be separated from farming, and there were two basic branches of craft manufacture—iron making and pottery. In the Princely era the urban crafts differed from the rural crafts in their more complex production process and the higher quality of their product. In the large cities there were close to 60 distinct crafts: specialized branches of metallurgy, blacksmithing, arms manufacturing, pottery, carpentry, weaving, tailoring, furriery, tanning, linen and wool cloth making, bone and stone carving, glassmaking, and the production of certain food products such as beverages. Crafts specializing in ornamental products such as clothes, church and palace decorations, icons, and jewelry were highly developed. By social rank the craftsmen of Kyivan Rus’ were divided into free rural tradesmen; bondsmen (slaves) on the estates of princes, boyars, or monasteries; and free city craftsmen, who constituted the largest group. Most practitioners of a craft lived in one district or on one street of a city, and district or street names such as Swordmakers, Tanners, and Potters still testify to this fact. To protect their interests, the city tradesmen organized associations, which later developed into guilds. They were usually known as companies (druzhyny) and were headed by an elder (starosta). In some crafts, for example, in jewelry making, the craftsmen of the Kyivan period were trained mainly on Greek models. The princes of the Romanovych dynasty invited master craftsmen from the West—from Germany, Bohemia, Poland—to settle in the cities of the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia and granted them special privileges. Many products were also imported from other countries, particularly from the Near East and the Byzantine Empire.

The Mongol-Tatar invasions caused the crafts to decline. Some crafts disappeared altogether, while others suffered a deterioration in technique and in the quality of the product. The ties of the city craftsmen with the market were weakened. The earliest revival of the crafts occurred in the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia, where in the second half of the 14th century and the first half of the 15th century guilds appeared in the cities and towns governed by Magdeburg law. The guilds grew rapidly, so that by the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century the craftsmen in almost all the larger cities of Ukraine were organized into guilds. The task of the guilds was to regulate the economic activities of the master craftsmen (production, quality, and prices) and to protect their members from the powerful magnates and the government and from the competition of rural craftsmen, who were moving into the cities. The guilds united tailors, shoemakers, furriers, barbers, tanners, saddlers, blacksmiths, locksmiths, iron-foundry masters, carpenters, coopers, turners, butchers, brewers, bakers, brick-makers, stonecutters, and, of the newer trades, glove-makers, belt-makers, Russian-leather-makers, fine-leather shoemakers, saber-makers, gunsmiths, clock-makers, printers, engravers, and so on.

The largest crafts center was Lviv, where by the second half of the 15th century there were already over 50 crafts and by the first half of the 17th century, 133 crafts. By the end of the 16th century there were 27 guilds there and in the first half of the 17th century 33 guilds, with a membership of about 2,000 craftsmen. The average shop employed four craftsmen—a master, two journeymen, and an apprentice. Kyiv was the second-largest crafts center, with 20 trades in the 16th century. Lutsk, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Peremyshl, and Yaroslav were smaller centers. The master craftsmen and the wealthier craftsmen who were not guild members belonged to the middle stratum of the burgher class, while the journeymen, apprentices, and most of the craftsmen outside the guilds (known as partachi [‘bunglers’]) belonged to the poor folk (bidnota). Most of the wealthy masters were Poles, Germans, or Armenians. Few Ukrainians belonged to the guilds in Western Ukraine, because certain guilds did not admit them or did not promote them to masters and prohibited Ukrainian apprentices from becoming journeymen. In Lviv, for example, although Ukrainians worked in about 50 crafts, they could belong to only 9 guilds, and even there they encountered many obstacles. Often the city governments prohibited Ukrainians from residing and working in their trades outside of certain districts assigned to them; for example, beyond Ruska Street or in the suburbs. To defend their rights, Ukrainian craftsmen and other Ukrainian burghers organized into brotherhoods. In general, the rights of craftsmen were limited in cities not governed by Magdeburg law.

In the second half of the 17th century the crafts declined in Western Ukraine and in Right-Bank Ukraine together with the cities and the burgher class. Non-guild craftsmen increased in number; for example, by the mid-17th century about 40 percent of the craftsmen in Lviv were ‘bunglers,’ and serf craftsmen from the countryside were given work at castles and at gentry manors in the cities and in the suburbs. Competition from Jewish craftsmen and the importation of products from Western Europe also undermined the established crafts system. The crafts were in a healthier state in Kyiv and Left-Bank Ukraine, particularly in Poltava, Chernihiv, Novhorod- Siverskyi, Starodub, and Nizhyn. They were common among the Cossacks and in the villages.

The guild law of the Russian Empire was extended in 1785 to Left-Bank Ukraine and in 1840 to Right-Bank Ukraine. In accordance with the law of 1852 crafts councils were formed in cities and towns. A craftsman who did not possess a master's license and was not registered in a guild could not direct a craft enterprise, hire workers, or hang out his shingle. According to data in 1858, 77,700 craftsmen belonged to guilds in the nine Ukrainian gubernias. Of these, 32,500 were masters, 28,400 journeymen, and 16,800 apprentices. Other data placed the number of craftsmen in the cities at about 100,000. According to the Austrian census of 1773 there were 44,000 craftsmen in all of Galicia, including the western (Polish) part. Of these, 17,900 were weavers, 2,800 blacksmiths, 1,800 furriers, 5,500 shoemakers, 2,800 tailors, 1,400 coopers, 1,200 potters, and 1,000 wheelwrights. Of these, 16,000 craftsmen were Jewish. By 1837 there were 45,000 craftsmen in Galicia who paid income tax.

In the first half of the 19th century the crafts in central and eastern Ukraine and in Galicia experienced the negative effect of government fiscal policy. In the second half of the 19th century the development of factory manufacture and capitalism and the building of railways, which facilitated the transportation of factory products (usually from outside Ukraine), had an even greater negative impact on the crafts. The guilds lost their importance, and in 1900 the Russian government began taking steps to abolish the remnants of the guild system. Crafts also declined owing to the poor education of most craftsmen and their indebtedness to usurers. The 1870s–1890s were a period of crisis for crafts. A large proportion of the city crafts could not withstand the competition of factory production and died out. Cottage industry survived more successfully. Government agencies, such as the Cottage Industry Committee (est 1888) and particularly the zemstvos, came to the aid of artisans and especially of the cottage-industry workers. They provided instructors, supplied certain kinds of raw materials from state enterprises, opened craft and cottage-industry training shops, and organized local and international exhibitions of cottage products at which Ukraine's products were well represented. The Chief Administration of Land Tillage and Agriculture promoted the sale of craft and cottage products to such purchasers as the departments of the army and navy, supplied cottage workshops with sample looms, motors, and other equipment at no cost or on credit, and published artistic albums of samples of cottage products. The attempts at organizing cottage co-operatives, which by 1913 numbered 18 in the nine Ukrainian gubernias, met with some success.

In Galicia and Bukovyna the government did not provide any special support to crafts. The crafts chambers at the provincial administrations in Lviv and Chernivtsi gathered statistical data, organized craft exhibits, and maintained the Manufacturing Museum in Lviv. Ukrainian craftsmen received help from the brotherhoods in Lviv (from 1872) and then in other cities of Galicia. The Zoria crafts association, founded by Vasyl Nahirny in 1881, the building association founded by Ivan Levynsky in Lviv, and the seamstress association Trud were particularly involved in helping young rural artisans to establish themselves in the cities. The development of Ukrainian crafts in the cities of Western Ukraine and to a lesser degree in central and eastern Ukraine was hampered by non-Ukrainian control of the crafts and by the reluctance of most children of well-off Ukrainian craftspeople to pursue their parents’ trade.

Before the First World War, according to the data of the Russian Ministry of Trade and Industry, there were 700,000 cottage-industry workers and craftsmen in the nine Ukrainian gubernias. Of these, 358,000 were cottage-industry workers; 57,000, independent craftsmen; 105,000, unsurveyed cottage-industry workers and craftsmen; 135,000, workers of the food cottage industry; and 45,000, members of various non-market crafts. The cottage-industry workers usually lived in the country, the craftsmen in the cities. At the beginning of the 20th century in all of Galicia there were about 85,000 small craft enterprises, which employed about 130,000 people. Despite the partial decline of the crafts in Ukraine at the turn of the 20th century, the crafts and cottage industries remained the basic sources of consumer and food products until 1914. More workers were employed in the crafts and cottage industries than in large-scale manufacturing.

At the beginning of the 1920s the importance of crafts rose in Soviet Ukraine because of the devastation suffered by factory manufacture. By 1928 the number of craftsmen and cottage-industry workers in the Ukrainian SSR had increased to 820,000; 179,000 worked in cottage-industry co-operatives. At the time 620,000 workers were employed in large-scale manufacturing. However, the production of the crafts and cottage industries constituted only 15 percent of the total production. Eventually, as all enterprises were nationalized and factory production developed, the crafts slumped. The crafts and cottage industries were almost completely reorganized into manufacturing co-operatives, and by 1939 there were barely 57,700 independent craftsmen and cottage workers. In Western Ukraine before its absorption into the Ukrainian SSR conditions remained similar to those prior to 1914, and the number of craftsmen remained the same (around 90,000).

With the abolition of the manufacturing co-operatives in 1960 the crafts and cottage industries were brought under the state system of local industry. From 1966 new varieties of production were brought under local industry, and craft and cottage manufacturing, although not regulated by the government, did not disappear. The products of these crafts were sold at markets, particularly in rural areas, and continued to satisfy the demand of the local population for furnishings, clothing, and shoes. Official statistics provided no data on the number of craftspeople and cottage-industry workers in the Ukrainian SSR, but the number was no doubt substantial.

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Iliia Vytanovych

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

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