Kabalnye Kholopy

Kabal’nye Kholopy


a category of serfs in Russia that first appeared in the 15th century and was most numerous in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The kabal’nye kholopy were bound in return for a money loan and were indentured to their creditor until they had worked off the debt in full. Until the end of the 16th century, only the origin of the bond distinguished kabaVnye kholopy from other groups of serfs, since their legal position was regulated by the norms and laws applying to serfs in general, including the Law Code of 1550 —the first legal document to refer to debt slavery.

The rapid growth of the group in the mid-16th century eventually forced the government to limit it. The Decree of Feb. 1, 1597, later included in the Law Code of 1649, significantly altered the legal position of the kabal’nye kholopy. The possibility of paying off the debt was abolished. Servitude lasted for the entire lifetime of the creditor, after whose death the men and their families were to be freed, even if the loan was not repaid.

Debt slavery was considered preferable to other forms of servitude. Thus, traditional serfs whose position was not regulated by any documents and voluntary serfs who were serving no less than six months gradually came to be grouped with the kabal’nye kholopy.

The convergence of the legal and economic status of the debt serfs with the status of the new class of serfs (krepostnye krest’iane ) that emerged at the turn of 17th century accelerated in the second half of the 17th century; they were combined into a single group with the establishment of the poll tax (podushnaia podat’) in 1724. The transactions by which an individual became a kabal’nyi kholop were recorded in kabala charters. After 1586 the charters were kept in kabala registers. In addition, special registers were used in 1597–98.


Kliuchevskii, V. O. “Podushnaia podat’ i otmena kholopstva v Rossii.” Soch., vol. 7. Moscow, 1959.
Paneiakh, V. M. KabaVnoe kholopstvo na Rusi v 16 v. Leningrad, 1967.
Koretskii, V. I. Zakreposhchenie kresVian i klassovaia bor’ba v Rossii vo
vtoroi polovine XVI v. Moscow, 1970.