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Vasil Varonin. Men-at-arms of Polack in the policy of the government of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (the 15th – mid 16th c.).

The policy of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in respect to a very specific social stratum which included a considerable part of population of Polack Land is analyzed in the article. In the end of the fifteenth century, the social status of men-at-arms (putnyja sluhi) was very close to that of the local townsmen. During the reign of grand duke Alexander, the situation has changed. In the result of reduction of the fund of state lands, the government began to hand out the lands of men-at-arms including them themselves to the nobles (szlachta). Alexander’s successor Sigizmund I tried to improve the position of that social stratum. It was declared about cessation of handing out of men-at-arms, they were granted the right to possession of purchased lands. However, in reality Sigismund’s practice was marked by extreme inconsistency and contradictions. The granting of men-at-arms and their lands was being continued. The reduction of significance of military service of men-at-arms was one of the reason of that. Some of them paid monetary tax instead of military service. Sigismund II August whose estate policy was pro-nobility one abolished all the guarantees given by his father and successor to men-at-arms. In his reign it became an ordinary practice to hand out men-at-arms and their lands to noblemen and before the mid seventeenth century only a little part of them preserved their personal freedom. According to their social status, men-at-arms of Polack were becoming closer and closer to peasantry.