systematic compendiums of documents on economic matters prepared in Russia during the 15th through 17th centuries.
The earliest surviving pistsovye knigi are from Novgorod and date from the end of the 15th century. The last such economic description was undertaken in 1684–85 but was not completed. The pistsovye knigi served as the basis for assigning land taxes through soshnye pis’ma (census documents that assessed arable land). Gradually they became a means of strengthening feudal landownership and enserfing the peasants. The pistsovye knigi begun in 1581 and completed in 1592–93 became the basic document for determining the lord’s proprietary rights over individual peasants.
The pistsovye knigi were compiled by special commissions consisting of pistsy (revenue agents) and pod’iachie (revenue clerks) sent out by the central government in Moscow. They often began with an exposition of the ukase on compilation of the tax documents and the instructions given to the pistsy. Pistsovye knigi were compiled for populated areas. Cities were described in terms of their fortifications, churches, shops, number of households, and population. Districts (uezdy) and their constituent administrative units (stany and volosti) were distinguished, and each village and town was described separately. The pistsovye knigi gave detailed descriptions of plowlands, hayfields, and forests. They concluded with summaries of all data. The pistsovye knigi are a most valuable source for Russian socioeconomic history of the 15th through 17th centuries.
REFERENCESVeselovskii, S. B. Soshnoe pis’mo, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1915–16.
Merzon, A. Ts. Pistsovye i perepisnye knigi XV-XVII vv. Moscow, 1956.
N. F. DEMIDOVA