The Systematization of Seventeenth-Century Russia

The excerpts from the Ulozhenie of 1649 indicated the continued centralization and bureaucratization of Russian government. Chapters five and six assert the state’s control over certain aspects of citizens’ daily lives such as currency and the ability to travel outside of Russia. We saw the start of the establishment of bureaucratic processes in the Sudebnik of 1497. The law code included many clauses pertaining to things such as payment of judicial officials, the proper process for slave manumission, and the documentation necessary in order to pursue a criminal case against another person. The Ulozhenie appears to follow the same trend in concerning itself with issues outside of the typical crimes of murder and theft which were almost exclusively featured in the earlier Pravda Russkaia. The centralization of government inevitably breeds a larger bureaucracy as it is necessary to the functioning of a more complex state and it is clearly shown in the excerpts from the Ulozhenie. The roots of the law code lie in the chaotic “time of troubles” which occurred thirty years prior. The Sudebnik of 1497 was a reaction to the disruptive occupancy of the Mongols as it attempted to re-establish Russians control over Russia; the Ulozhenie is similar in that it appears to be an attempt by the government to re-establish order following an extremely turbulent and lawless time.

Ivan’s reign of terror established the slaughter of people based on things as insignificant as being related to a disloyal person. People could be executed if someone in their family betrayed the crown three generations earlier. The Ulozhenie actively tries to combat these kinds of tactics by stating that if one has no knowledge of their family member’s betrayal then they should not be punished as a traitor. The excerpts do not show any signs of outright abuses of power by the state, but the punishments for crimes are severe. Execution is the chosen punishment for something as intangible as “think[ing] maliciously about the sovereign’s health.” The document also shows a partiality towards public displays of punishments in order to instill fear in the rest of the population. This was a central theme in the Sudebnik as well and it is a sign that the government is taking control back by force; something that may be necessary after such a disorganized and non-regulated period in Russian history.

Questions:

What is the significance of giving a specific form of execution for the crime of altering the content of coinage?

Why would the state be so concerned with people traveling out of the country?

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