Slavery, Violence and the Origin of Serfdom @ 1730 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02138-4453, United States, Boston [12 February]

Slavery, Violence and the Origin of Serfdom

16:15 - 18:00

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1730 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02138-4453, United States
Seminar in Ukrainian Studies

Slavery, Violence and the Origin of Serfdom in Late Medieval Galicia
Iurii Zazuliak, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Ivan Krypiakevych Institute of Ukrainian Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (Lviv,

In my presentation I would like to discuss the interrelation between slavery and serfdom in fifteenth-century Galicia (Red Ruthenia). First, I intend to focus on legal records in which commoners were found guilty of some criminal wrongdoings and adjudicated to slavery. Through my analysis I would like to demonstrate that one can speak about the slavery in fifteenth-century Galicia without a need to describe it as a specific «Galician institution» dated back to the times before the Polish conquest of the middle and second half of the fourteenth century and rooted in the legal norms and social practices of the Old Rus’ (this view has been widely held in the historiography).

Instead I intend to situate the discussed cases of judicial slavery against the wider context of the fifteenth-century dynamics of lordship and serfdom, noble violence and plebeian criminality, that is to link them to the social and institutional contexts of the fifteenth-century Galician society. For this purpose, I would like to discuss the widespread practice of the detention and severe punishment of peasants by their noble lords which aimed at challenging the rights of peasants to pass from one lord to another (peasant right to the transit, pravo vykhodu). The cases of peasants’ captivity that occurred in the context of the peasant transits reveal the role of violence as a crucial instrument of the noble lordship in the social process of establishing and strengthening the peasant subjection. The analysis of such cases leads me to suggest that conceptual boundaries between the different forms and experiences of the peasant subjection, like slavery and serfdom, could become insignificant in the consequence of the judicial and extra-judicial violence employed by their masters.

Iurii Zazuliak is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Ukrainian Studies of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and Associate Professor of Medieval History at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. His scholarly interests are concentrated mostly on the problems of law, dispute settlement, violence and social relations in late medieval and early modern Poland-Lithuania with the special focus on the region of Galicia (Red Ruthenia). His most recent publications include “Ius Ruthenicale in Late Medieval Galicia. Critical Reconsiderations”, in Imaginations and Configurations of Polish Society: From the Middle Ages through the Twentieth Century (2017, in English) and “The Testament of the L’viv Armenian Wartik from 1461. Text and Commentary” in Lviv: misto-suspilstvo-kultura (Lviv: city-society-culture) (2017, in Ukrainian).

This event will be available on YouTube for those who cannot join us in person.

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