The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



in the Russian state from the 15th century to the beginning of the 18th century, primarily impoverished, feudally dependent people who were not subject to state duties. In the second half of the 15th century rural and urban bobyli appeared who were engaged in agriculture, crafts, or petty trade or who worked for hire. They paid their proprietor a quitrent.

Bobyli were first mentioned in the Pskov Chronicle under the year 1500. Gradually their legal position approached that of serfs. Beginning in 1631–32 the bobyli began to pay a duty that was only half the amount paid by serfs. In accordance with the decree of 1679 on household taxation, bobyli who did live on their own households were made equal to serfs with regard to tax liability; those who did not have their own households continued to remain outside of the duty system. After the introduction of the poll tax in 1724 the bobyli merged with the serfs.

In colloquial speech the word bobyl’ is used to describe an impoverished, solitary, homeless person.


Grekov, B. D. Krest’iane na Rusi s drevneishikh vremen do XVII v., books 1–2, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1952–54.
Shapiro, A. L. “Bobyl’stvo v Rossii v XVI-XVII vv.” Istoriia SSSR. 1960, no. 3.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.