On the Kievan Economy

The nature of the economy in the Kievan state reflected the geographical diversity of the region.  Indeed, some of the sources on the economy are derived from the commentary of outsiders, such as the Byzantine Constantine Porphyrogenitus, reflecting the wide space of influence exerted by the merchant-prince of Kiev.  The foundation of the trade system was tribute, which moved furs, wax, honey, and slaves throughout the state from north to south.  Tribute, besides being an effective means of gathering money and subordinating rival merchants, reflected the importance of trade because it was designed to protect Kiev’s commercial interests from rivals.  Economic rivals were clearly an area of concern for the Kievan princes because trade and foreign policy were connected, and Russo-Byzantine peace treaties included provisions that aided Russian commerce.   With the exception of importing amber from the Vikings, the Rus moved raw materials outside of the state and received manufactured and luxury goods from their trade partners.

The other facet of the Kievan economy was agriculture.  The emergence of the agricultural theory is based on linguistic data on agricultural terms, spiritual beliefs surrounding nature, archaeological discoveries, and written sources.  Agriculture differed between the south and the north because of the diversity between the steppe and dense forests, and forest agriculture evolved into a two and three field perlog system that increased the importance of livestock.  Archaeology shows advancements in soil cultivation and technology preceding the primary chronicle.  The idea of private property is a contested issue among scholars of Kiev, with some believing it emerged in the 11th century and others thinking it may have been in place before.  This is an interesting question to consider in tandem with the law code’s penalties for moving field boundaries.  Does this suggest there was direct individual control over the land to use it at will or does it suggest the princes were the only ones with the authority to administrate land holdings?

2 thoughts on “On the Kievan Economy

  1. I think that also bring up an interesting question of the equality of the code. If the property laws applied only to princes, and it is side by side with other laws. Does that mean commoner could exact punishment on princes, That would be interesting.

  2. I also found the topic of field cultivation between the dense wooded lands and the more open steppe interesting. In particular, the fact that the origins of the both styles of cultivation had differed from each other, yet evolved to become significantly similar to each other, stood out well within the text.

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