(longtime residents), a category of peasants in feudal Rus’ in the period from the 14th to 17th centuries.
The term starozhil’tsy appears in the sense of longtime residents in sources of the period, arising in the 14th century because of the need to distinguish feudally dependent peasants of long standing from the growing mass of novoprikhodtsy (newcomers). The starozhil’tsy were tax-paying peasants of long standing who resided on certain plots of land. In the 15th century—until the Law Code of 1497—they enjoyed the right of free movement. Of all peasants, however, they were the most closely bound in dependence on their lords. Thus, they were transformed into serfs more rapidly than were other categories of peasants. In sources of the 14th and 15th centuries, the starozhil’tsy are distinguished from “people come from other principalities” and “redeemed people.” The long-time, respected, and active members of the peasant commune (obshchina) were also called starozhil’tsy.
Starozhil’tsy made up the bulk of the feudally dependent peasant population in northeastern Rus’. In sources of the 15th through 17th centuries, the term starozhil’tsy also refers to greatly esteemed witnesses—not only peasants—called to give testimony in the settlement of disputes.
V. D. NAZAROV