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“Instead of Myself, I Entrust to Be in the Court and to Attend…”: Advocates in Eighteenth-Century Sloboda Ukraine (2016-2020)


The article explores the history of the legal profession in Ukraine focusing on a border region of Sloboda Ukraine (Slobozhanshchyna) throughout the eighteenth century as a case study. For the first time in historiography, the topic is analyzed on the basis of sixty-three court cases from the 1720s–1790s held in the Central State Historical Archive of Ukraine in Kyiv. In all of these cases, either one or
both litigants were substituted for by an advocate known as poverennyi (lit., “trustworthy person”). The sources reveal that the agents who acted on behalf of their principals were also widely engaged in economic activity (e.g., contracting, bargaining and transferring property). The statistics compiled on the basis of the archival data demonstrate that the majority of the clients belonged to the nobility,
that is Ukrainian Cossack officers (starshyna) and Russian noble families. The advocates came from various social strata with the leading positions occupied by Cossacks and the related subgroups of state peasantry, then the bailiffs of estates authorized by their landlords and finally, employees of local chanceries. From the perspective of appropriate experience and knowledge, the members of the latter group presented the closest equivalent to professional lawyers in the region prior to the official establishment of a professional bar in the Russian Empire in 1864.

Keywords: legal profession, advocacy, advocate, bar, Sloboda Ukraine, eighteenth century

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