Putting An End To Feudal Strife

The unification of Russian lands around Moscow and putting an end to the feudal strife was the key to finally vanquishing the Mongol yoke in 1480. The desire of Russian princes to boost Russian economy in a centralized state is reflected in the new codes of law. Both the Novgorod Judicial Charter and the Moscovite Sudebnik of 1497 provide the foundation for land ownership and the legal guide to protect it in the court of law.  This is a big leap forward compared to The Iaroslav’s Statute and Pravda Russkaia which mostly concentrated on judging most common crimes, as well as violations of moral and family values. The new documents describe in detail the structure of the court procedures to determine a person’s right to land. The figure of the judge appears, but still remains a passive force during court. The parties fighting for land have to assume the active role, produce written documents and witnesses , while the judges act as supervisors hoping that the decision would become obvious in the course of the trial. A flaw from the standpoint of contemporary litigation, this was still a great step forward in developing the legal structure of Russian society. An accent on the role of written documents presented as evidence and certifying the right to land is also an important new development. Reducing the freedom of peasants by binding them to land is a controversial measure that reduced their freedom, but at that point of time it seems to have positively contributed to developing the economy of the Russian state in post- Mongol time.

3 thoughts on “Putting An End To Feudal Strife

  1. It is interesting to see how the judges acted in the legal proceedings of the time. It seems that they thought that as long as a moderator was present, the situation would resolve itself and the “truth will out”. Today, we see that in a very different light, using a jury to determine guilt and solve problems. We can easily tell that our system today works much better, even though it’s not perfect, because of the measures that two groups would go to to determine who was in the right. While the judges may moderate using peaceful methods at first, sometimes disagreements would come down to a duel between the two parties.

  2. I found the legislative system in Rus to be much more developed in the Novgorod Judicial Charter than it had been in Русская Правда, particularly when the Judicial Charter discussed charters regarding land ownership.

    Though the system seemed to be evolving, it’s apparent that it still has very far to go. The use of witnesses seems rather skewed–witnesses in land cases can be family members or old friends, so the accuracy might be compromised, due to a bias.

  3. The relationship shift between the judge, the victim, and the criminal between the Pravda Russkaia and the Sudebnik was very interesting to me. Previously, a victim was given power over how to take justice on the person who wronged them and the laws were only in place to outline what they are allowed to take justice for. Judges were not required to the extent which they would later become. The criminal was required to pay money to the church, but beyond that the victim had the right to enact justice. In the Sudebnik the victim’s rights change from power over the person who wronged them to a responsibility to protect themselves by producing evidence against that person.

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