(literally, “church peasants”), in Russia, the category of feudally dependent peasants from the 11th to 18th centuries who were owned by the Russian Church. In a more restricted sense, the term refers to the dependent rural population that lived on the lands held by the cathedrals and urban parish churches. From the 15th to 18th centuries the tserkovnye krest’iane were owned by patriarchal (from 1589), metropolitan, archiepiscopal, and episcopal sees; they were also owned by the large monasteries, on whose lands no less than onethird of all privately-owned peasants lived in the 16th and 17th centuries (seeMONASTYRSKIE KRESTIANE).
The principal owners of tserkovnye krest’iane between the 15th and 18th centuries were the large cathedrals of various cities, including Moscow and Vladimir. Although rural parish churches did not own tserkovnye krest’iane, in the 17th century tserkovnye bobyli (church cotters) payed a cotter’s quitrent to the church clergy. In the north in the 16th and 17th centuries polovniki (sharecroppers) worked the lands of the parish churches. After the secularization of 1764 the tserkovnye krest’iane were included among the ekonomicheskie krest’iane (literally, “economic peasants”).