The Rise of Muscovy

Today’s reading focused on the rise of the Russian people after the influx of the Mongol hordes, in particular, the law code drafted by Ivan Vasilievic, the Grand Prince of Rus, which first made an appearance in 1497. Vasilievic, along with his children and nobles, comprised this code for the purpose of governing his nation, and for the purpose of administering justice in the most efficient manner possible.  This law code, which is significantly larger than the others previously examined in our reading, is entitled “The Sudebnnik”(roughly translated to “code of law”) lines out 68 key commandments of Ivan’s Rus society, commandments which he believed would unite his people and make his lands easier to govern. 

One notable modification in this law code when compared to others previously examined in class is it’s introduction of a trial system. The system (explained throughout the law code) is meant to bring a more systematic and (seemingly) fair version of justice to an accused party. Legitimate trial proceedings did not exist in Rus, instead a simple law code of “do the crime, pay the financial consequence” was in place, a system that had not developed alongside a formal trial proceeding, basically leaving a prince or lord of a town to decide the proper consequence for the action of an individual, without much chance for the accused to rebut the accusations. The law code provided a clear way for the people of Rus to see the way in which the judicial process would be conducted, a development that led the people of Rus to develop into a more modern, fair society.

3 thoughts on “The Rise of Muscovy

  1. I agree with Patrick’s analysis of the Sudebnik. If we compare this law code to earlier ones, which focused more on individual cases and punishments, we can see how the Sudebnik is also a reflection of the growth of a centralized dynastic power. Ivan was able to write such a complex law code because the lands he ruled over were already united. The complicated and stratified trial system could not exist in a society that did not have a strong, unified government.

  2. The new law code seems much different than the Правда Русская. Whereas the Russkaya Pravda focused on protecting individuals and set up a loose system for resolving conflicts, the Novgorod Judicial Charter set clear boundaries and expectations for Rus citizens in regards to justice and equality. Though women are seemingly absent from this newer text, it shows an influx of ideas (possibly from the Mongols) and an evolution in the way in which Rus people looked at legislation and inter-personal conflicts.

  3. I also think that the change in the victim’s role in administering justice was interesting. In the Pravda Russkaia most of the justice was put in the hands of the victim; the laws dictated what the victim was allowed to do, but it was in the victim’s hands whether or not they decided to take the justice they were allowed. In the more recent law code it is now the officials that has the power to deal out punishment. I think that this reflects the changing organization of the nation as a more unified state, as the officials’ administering justice means that any crime is harmful to the entire society, rather than just one individual.

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