a category of rural and urban dwellers in Russia from the 12th to 17th century. The rural dwellers of this category were the chernososhnye krest’iane, who lived on what were called the chernye zemli.
In the posady (merchants’ and artisans’ quarters of towns), the chernye liudi paid state taxes; by contrast, such taxes were not paid by the belomesttsy (urban dwellers not subject to the tiaglo, a system of state duties). The chernye liudi were divided, according to socioeconomic position, into “better,” “middle,” and “lesser.” Under the reform of the land of Ivan IV, the urban and rural obshchiny (communes) of the chernye liudi were given greater latitude in electing their own officials and carrying out the tasks of self-administration, including administrative, financial, and judicial responsibilities; this new system later became established primarily in the north. The importance of the self-governing bodies declined in the 17th century as government by voevoda (military governor) developed. The term chernye liudi went out of use in the early 18th century.