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A kholop (Russian: холо́п, IPA: [xɐˈlop]) was a type of feudal serf (dependent population) in Kievan Rus' in the 9th and early 12th centuries.[1] Their legal status in Russia was close to that of slaves.[2] They were sold as any other property of their master until the emancipation reform of 1861.[citation needed] The official term "kholop" was phased out in 1724, but remains in use as a type of insult.[citation needed]


The word kholop was first mentioned in a chronicle for the year of 986. The word is cognate with Slavic words translated as "man" or "boy" (Ukrainian: хлопець (khlopets), Polish: chłopiec, Bulgarian: хлапе/хлапак). Chlap/chlop (pronounced khlap/khlop) is a synonym for "man" in Slovak (chlapec thus being the diminutive).[3] Such transitions between the meanings "young person" and "servant" (in both directions) are commonplace, as evident from the English use of "boy" in the sense of "domestic servant".


The 1682 destruction of the Kholop Prikaze

The Russkaya Pravda, a legal code of the late Kievan Rus', details the status and types of kholops of the time.

In the 11th to 12th centuries, the term referred to different categories of dependent people and especially slaves. A kholop's master had unlimited power over his life, e.g., he could kill him, sell him, or pay his way out of debt with him. The master, however, was responsible for a kholop's actions, such as insulting a freeman or stealing.

A person could become a kholop as a result of capture, selling oneself, being sold for debts, after having committed crimes, or through marriage to a kholop. Until the late 15th century, the kholops represented a majority among the servants, who had been working lordly lands. Some kholops, mainly house serfs, replenished the ranks of the princely servants (including those in the military) or engaged themselves in trades, farming, or administrative activities.

Throughout the 16th century, the role of the kholops in the corvée economy had been diminishing due to the increasing involvement of peasant exploitation (see Russian serfdom). At the turn of the 16th century, the service class kholops (служилое холопство, sluzhiloye kholopstvo) began to emerge and spread across the country. In the late 17th century, there were also kholops "implanted" to their land (посаженные на землю, posazhenniye na zemlyu), who took care of their own household and had to pay chynsh (similar to quitrent). Those kholops, who had been house serfs, were subject to poll tax (per-soul tax, podushnaya podat) in 1722–1724 and were thereafter treated as ordinary serfs (permanent peasants, krepostnyye).[4]

Combat kholops[edit]

Combat kholops in the 16th century.

"Combat slaves" (Russian: боевые холопы, tr. boevie kholopi), also known as "military slaves" in literature,[5] constituted an armed retinue and personal protection for large and medium-sized landowners in the 16th-18th centuries, and carried out military service together with noblemen, constituting a considerable part of the "Landed Army". They were equipped as mounted archers, usually wearing cheap quilted armor and caps.[6]

Kabala kholops (people)[edit]

"Kabala people" was a variation of kholops in Muscovy of 15 – 17 centuries. This category of unfree population came under the "kabala" (heavy debt bondage) condition following a monetary loan for percentage of which it had serve its creditor until completion of the debt payment.[4] Legal status of the Kabala kholops was regulated by general kholops norms and laws Sudebnik of 1550, Sobornoye Ulozheniye of 1649. After the Ukaze of 1 February 1597, there was introduced a principle of the Kholop's servitude until the death of one's creditor.[4] Over time, all types of kholops were placed to the category of Kabala kholops. Agreements on Kabala kholops were inscribed in "Kabala books".[4]


  1. ^ Yuri Shemshuchenko. "ХОЛОПИ". Legal Encyclopedia (Юридична енциклопедія)
  2. ^ The Cambridge history of Russia. Perrie, Maureen, 1946-, Lieven, D. C. B., Suny, Ronald Grigor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2006. p. 576. ISBN 9780521812276. OCLC 77011698.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  3. ^ Vasmer, Max. 1959—1961. Etymological Dictionary of the Russian Language. (tr. into Russian by O. N. Trubachyov). Entry for холоп.
  4. ^ a b c d КАБАЛЬНІ ХОЛОПИ. Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedia.
  5. ^ The Cambridge history of Russia. Perrie, Maureen, 1946-, Lieven, D. C. B., Suny, Ronald Grigor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2006. pp. 383. ISBN 9780521812276. OCLC 77011698.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ "Историческое описание одежды и вооружения российских войск (Второе изд.)". Retrieved 2018-03-21.