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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Ukrainian and Byelorussian national and religious social organizations of the 15-18th centuries. They were established under the auspices of Orthodox churches in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and part of Lithuania in order to struggle against national oppression and the forcible conversion to Catholicism of Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians of the Orthodox faith.

The brotherhoods developed as early as the 15th century (the oldest were in L’vov and Vilnius); they arose in Kamenets-Podolsk and Rogatin in 1589, Mogilev in 1590, Brest in 1591, Peremyshl’ in 1592, and elsewhere. They were based on democratic principles; anyone who paid dues toward the common expenditures could be a member. The bulk of the members were townspeople; however, the brotherhoods also included representatives of the clergy, gentry, and peasantry. In 1620 the entire Zaporozh’e Host, led by Hetman Sagaidachnyi, joined the Kiev-Bogoiav-lenskoe brotherhood.

The organizational forms of the brotherhoods were remniscent of the medieval city guilds. They had their own regulations. They fought for the right of stauropegion—that is, for independence from local clerical authorities and direct subordination to the patriarch. The brotherhoods opposed Jesuit propaganda and the propagation of Catholicism and the Uniate religion in the Ukraine and Byelorussia. They fought for the national and cultural independence of the Ukrainian and Byelorussian peoples and maintained ties with Russia, Moldavia, and the southern Slavs. They conducted extensive work in the area of culture and education, opening up brotherhood schools and printing presses. Cultural forces gathered around the schools. The Kiev Mogila Collegium (later, Academy) was established in 1632 on the base of the school of the Kievan brotherhood. A number of the writers, scholars, political figures, and figures in the areas of education, printing, and the arts who aided the consolidation of ties between the Ukrainian and Byelorussian peoples and the Russian people came from the brotherhood schools (for example, Iov Boretskii, Lavrentii Zizanii, Pamva Berynda, Zakharii Kopystenskii, and Epifanii Slavinetskii).

In the second half of the 17th and the 18th centuries, as feudal relations became further strengthened, the role of the brotherhoods in social and political life diminished. In Galicia—the right bank of the Dnieper—they fell under the influence of the clergy; on the left bank, the functions they carried out were primarily religious and social. Brotherhoods existed under the auspices of certain rural and city churches in the 19th century; by this time, they no longer engaged in socio-political and cultural activity, although they did retain some of the rites and customs characteristic of the previous brotherhoods. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries some figures of the Orthodox Church established clerical organizations that had nothing but the name in common with the earlier brotherhoods, although they did allude to the tradition of the brotherhoods.


Huslystyi, K. Narysy z istorii Ukrainy, issue 3. Vyzvol’ na borot’ba ukrains’ koho narodu proty shliakhets’ koi Pol’ shchi v drugii polovyni XVI i v pershii polovyni XVII st. Kiev, 1941.
Isaevych, Ia. D. Bratstva ta ix rol’v rozvytku ukrains’koi kul’tury XVI-XVIII st. Kiev, 1966.
Emfimenko, A. “Iuzhno-russkie bratstva.” In her book: Iuzhnaia Rus’, vol. 1. St. Petersburg, 1905.




associations of city craftsmen (sometimes of peasants) in medieval Europe. They set themselves religious and philanthropic aims; they were organizations of mutual assistance. Usually their center was the chapel of a “saint,” the patron of the brotherhood. They brought together craftsmen of the same trade from one or several guilds (there were also nonguild brotherhoods). Initially, the brotherhoods included both masters and apprentices. Later, independent brotherhoods of apprentices developed as well (unions of apprentices, French compagnonnages), and during the 15th and 16th centuries these turned into organizations for the struggle of the apprentices against increased exploitation by the masters. The frères—brotherhoods of peasants in the French countryside during the Middle Ages—were associations of peasant households for joint farming. They often became organizations of peasants in the struggle against the seigneurs.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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