Reform of the Land of Ivan IV

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Reform of the Land of Ivan IV


the reform of local administration in the Russian state around the mid-16th century.

The reform’s aims were the abolition of kormlenie (“feeding,” the payment of officials at the expense of the local population) and the introduction of local self-administration. The reform was a response to the need for strengthening the local administration in the interests of the gentry and merchant classes. In 1549, at the so-called Sobor (assembly) of Reconciliation, a program of “reform of the land” was outlined. In 1551 the church Council of a Hundred Chapters approved a “land statute” (ustavnaia zemskaia gmmota). At the beginning of the 1550’s the power of the namestniki (administrators of provinces appointed by the central authority) was abolished in a few regions, but only in 1555–56 was this measure introduced on a national scale.

In place of the namestniki and volosteli (administrators of smaller administrative subunits), “elders of the land” (zemskie starosty) were elected from the wealthier posadskie liudi (merchants and artisans) and peasantry to head so-called land cottages (zemskie izby, town halls). They had jurisdiction over the courts, except for the most serious criminal cases, and the administration of the tiaglo (feudal obligations) population and the collection of taxes from it. The “plow tax” (pososhnoi okup), which replaced the payments formerly made to the namestniki, was now turned over to the tsar’s treasury, which exercised a general control over the organs of local self-administration. This reform completed the reorganization of local administration on the basis of representation according to estate and increased the centralization of power within the state.


Nosov, N. E. Stanovlenie soslovno-predstavitel’nykh uchrezhdenii v Rossii: Izyskaniia o zemskoi reforme Ivana Groznogo. Leningrad, 1969.
Zimin, A. A. Reformy Ivana Groznogo. Moscow, 1960.


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