individuals who entered into a special form of feudal dependency that existed in Russia from the 14th to the first half of the 19th century. Most polovniki were land-poor members of the peasant commune; others were manumitted slaves or impoverished townspeople.
A polovnik received a parcel of land and a loan for agricultural supplies from the landowner, for which he concluded an agreement specifying the amount and the term of expiration of the loan and various obligations. These obligations included the cession of one-half to two-thirds of the harvest to the landlord, the performance of various field tasks and construction work, and the making of monetary payments. The landowner was required to pay the tiaglo taxes based on the holdings occupied by his polovniki.
The polovnik system existed throughout Russia in the 14th and 15th centuries. In the 17th century it was still extant in northern Russia, while in the 18th century polovniki could only be found in Velikii Ustiug and Viatka provinces, and in the 19th century, only in districts of Vologda Province. A series of ukazes in the 1720’s conferred the status of state peasants upon the polovniki. However, their general condition remained essentially unchanged. The polovniki had the status of serfs with respect to their temporary landlords, although legally they remained state peasants.