Kupiškis Eldership in the 16th-19th centuries

Alvydas Totoris

The Kupiškis Eldership (a neighbourhood) that existed in the 16th-19th centuries was one of the most important royal domains in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL). It had been formed in 1565-1566 during the administrative and judicial reform of the GDL from the Kupiškis Valsčius (wolost) that was in the northern part of the Pienionys Powiat (a county). The eldership contained the manor of Kupiškis, a town and a wolost that was divide into three vaitijas (wojtships ), i.e., Lauiminiškiai, Palėvenė and Marnaka with 41 villages. In 1603 the eldership covered the area of 792.3 voloks of land and had 680 dūmas (households). The oldest inventory of the eldership is that of 1603.

The royals often used to mortgage the Kupiškis Eldership that was managed by Naruševičiai (1568-1610), Krzysztof Dorohostajski (1610-1615), Aleksander Korwin Gosiewski (1615-1636), the Tyzenhauses (1636-1760), Michal Kleofas Oginski (1760-1771), the Czartoryskis (1771-1835). The eldership was severely damaged during the wars with Sweden (1625, 1655–1656), thus, in 1667 there were only 560 dūmas.

At the end of the 17th century, the Kuosėnai Vaitija in Pienionys Eldership with 5 villages was attached to the Kupiškis Eldership. With a time being, the eldership began recovering, but in 1690, there were already 662 dūmas. However, the Northern War with the plague called Great Death in 1709–1710 caused enormous demographic and material damages for the eldership. A large part of population in these 4 vaitijas died because of the plague.

During the summer of 1711, the audit of peasants had been performed. It showed that there were only 72 dūmas in the eldership. Even 20 of 44 villages had no population. Only after the war ended, the eldership began recovering, numbers of dūmas increasing, the villages being inhabited. The first post-war inventory in 1726 showed that there were 223 dūmas in the Kupiškis Eldership; its peasants cultivated 120 voloks of land, but even 426 voloks still lay waste, and 7 villages had no dwellers at all. The data of lustration (revision) done 1765 show 40 villages with 257 dūmas. According to the 1789 inventory, there were 490 dūmas with 3,572 people, including 504 hired men. At that time there were 226 Jews, which were in trade, crafts and inn renting.

After Lithuania was annexed by Russian Empire, the Czartoryskis ruled the Kupiškis Eldership further. The lustration (revision) done in 798 showed that the eldership included Kupiškis manor, a town and 4 vaitijas with 43 villages and 14 households moved outside villages. The Kupiškis Eldership suffered damages during the Napoleon march to Russia in 1812. After the defeated 1831 rebellion, the eldership was taken from Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, and in 1835 it was given to the state treasury.

Performing the so-called Kiseliov’s reform in 1842–1843, a detailed lustration of the Kupiškis Eldership showed that there were 17 097 desyatinas of land, 785 dūmas with 5 334 obligatory peasants. There were also 400 lodgers, 97 nobles, 41 homestead dwellers, 19 free peasants, 14 reserve soldiers and 565 Jews. Thus, in 1842 the population of this eldership made up 6,481. In 1843 the Kupiškis Eldership was abolished, and its area was divided into two entities: Kupiškis and Virbališkiai state-owned manors. With introduction of the self-governing by system, the state manors turned into counties of state peasants.

The goal of the present paper is to reveal the developments of the Kupiškis Eldership. Many new previously unknown sources have been used. The archives of the Kupiškis elders Tyzenhauses were especially informative. The inventories done in 1603, 1642, 1667, 1704, 1711, 1726, 1732 and 1750, as well as revision data and other documents have been discovered. The materials of so-called lustrations done in 1798 and 1842, as well as eldership inventories and plans have been widely used. The development of the eldership, its structures, changes in peasant obligations are discussed in the paper. The impact of the then political events on development of the eldership is covered in it. The analysis of origin and distribution of peasant names and surnames fixed in the sources is given. The paper is supplemented with tables and illustrations.