a special form of trade and goods conveyance in the Ukraine and in southern Russia. Chumachestvo grew out of the salt trade in the second half of the 16th century in the Dnieper region, to which salt was brought from the Black Sea coast, the Crimea, and Galicia.
Initially the haulers and traders known as chumaki were primarily cossacks; later they included state peasants and, less frequently, serfs and townspeople. Beginning in the 17th century the chumaki dealt not only in salt but in dried fish, handicrafts, and lumber. They transported their goods on ox-drawn wagons (mazhi) and, until the end of the 18th century, rode under an elected ataman in armed convoys of 100 or more wagons to protect themselves against attack by Crimean Tatars.
As a result of the decline of the feudal-serf system and the development of trade, chumachestvo became a major rural occupation in southern Russia by the mid-18th century. Grain shipped abroad from southern ports, such as Odessa, came to be the principal commodity traded.
A source of primitive accumulation of capital, chumachestvo widened the socioeconomic differences among the peasant and cossack masses. Such prominent Ukrainian merchants and landowners as the Tereshchenkos and Kharitonenkos came from the ranks of the chumaki. A topic in Ukrainian folklore and in the works of such Ukrainian writers as T. G. Shevchenko and G. P. Danilevskii, chumachestvo ceased to exist by the 1870’s and 1880’s as a result of the development of rail and water transport.