Pomeste System

Pomest’e System


a system of land tenure that originated in the Russian state in the 15th to 17th centuries, when the grand prince (after 1547, the grand duke), or tsar distributed land to the dvoriane (nobility or gentry) in exchange for service (primarily military service).

The pomest’e system developed during the period of the formation of the Russian centralized state. The first large-scale distribution of pomest’ia was carried out by Grand Prince Ivan III Vasil’evich in Novgorod and other territories that had been incorporated into the Russian state. Later, land in southern Russia was distributed. The pomest’e system was economically significant because it contributed to the development of newly acquired territories, particularly in the south. Its sociopolitical function was to ensure the material well-being of the dvorianstvo (nobility or gentry), the main social support of the state in its struggle against feudal fragmentation.

Legally established by the Law Code of 1497, the pomest’e system reached its high point in the mid-16th century, when the Code of Service (1556) provided for the regulation of the military service obligations of owners of pomest’ia and votchiny (patrimonial estates). According to the code, each landlord had to supply the grand prince’s army with one armed cavalry soldier per 100 chetverti of land (150 desiatinas, or 163.5 hectares). The Razriadnyi Prikaz (War Office) was responsible for dealing with problems related to the service obligations of the dvorianstvo and the pomeshchiki (holders of pomest’ia). Problems associated with the redistribution of pomest’ia were assigned to the Pomestnyi Prikaz (Office of Land Grants). The pomest’e system expanded, owing to the confiscation of lands owned by the boyars and the monasteries, as well as the distribution among the pomeshchiki of lands belonging to the tsar or to the chernososhnye krestian’e (tax-paying state peasants).

During the period of the oprichnina (under Ivan IV, the tsar’s special appanage), the pomest’e system expanded considerably. The development of the corvée and of serfdom is associated with the spread of the pomest’e system. Gradually, the pomest’e became a heritable form of property. The Sobornoe Ulozhenie (Assembly Code) of 1649 permitted the exchange of pomest’ia for votchiny.

As the legal distinctions between the pomest’e and the votchina disappeared, the pomest’e began to decline. The government awarded and sold pomest’ia as votchiny to the dvoriane in exchange for service to the state. The pomest’e system was abolished during the reign of Peter I, as a result of the decree on primogeniture (1714), which gave legal confirmation to the elimination of the distinctions between the pomest’e and the votchina. Under Peter I, the dvoriane began to receive monetary compensation for state service. The legacy of the pomest’e system was gentry landownership, which lasted until the October Revolution of 1917.


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