(zemtsy), a category of small-scale landowners in Rus’ from the 12th to 16th centuries, a stratum between the feudal lords and the peasantry.
In Pskov the svoezemtsy evidently held land on condition of military service; like the svoezemtsy of Tver’, they made up the lowest stratum of the ruling class. In Novgorod the svoezemtsywere of varied social provenance, including the younger sons of boyar families, merchants, and rich peasants; their landholdings were similarly varied, ranging from one to 20 obzhas (seeOBZHA) in size. From the late 15th century the svoezemtsy were subject to more rapid social differentiation: the elite became pomeshchiki (fief holders), or sluzhilye liudi (military servitors); most became peasants. This process was completed by the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
V. D. NAZAROV