Gender in Rus Society

After having compared the  Pravda Russkaia with the Statute of Iaroslav, their treatment towards the subject of gender, women in particular, is not only apparent but different from each other as well. Specifically speaking, although both texts clearly state that women within society are more heavily governed, the methods which each text states are different.

Through out the Statute of Iaroslav the text clearly and consistently focuses on women in terms of sexuality. The text in particular focuses on laws around subjects including marriage, divorce, adultery, and cheating. Yet for the Pravda Russkaia, on the other hand, places more focus towards overall worth.

Furthermore when looking more closely to each document, in terms of  within Rus society, there was a surprisingly limited amount of information focusing on homosexuals. In the Statute of Iaroslav, in particular, the closest mention to any form of homosexual activity is found at the 28th law stating “If two brother engage in intercourse with one woman [they are to pay] the Metropolitan 30 grivnas; and take the woman into convent.” Other than this neither the statute or Pravda Russkaia made any attempt in mentioning the subject of homosexuals, which leads me to wonder if, during this time, the idea of homosexuality was so uncommon to the society that there was no need for laws to be made?

3 thoughts on “Gender in Rus Society

  1. To Christian’s point about the Iaroslav Statute mentioning little about homosexuality, I would like to point out number 41: “If two men fight like women, either tearing at the skin [with their nails] or biting [they are to pay] the Metropolitan 12 grivnas [of fur] or 1 grivna [of gold]” (Iaroslav Statute). This passage stuck out to me not because it explicitly (or even really implicitly) mentions homosexuality, but because it criminalizes men who act like women. This statute leads me to believe that males exhibiting any behavior deemed “un-masculine” were punishable by law. I wonder if this statute is an indirect reference toward homosexuality: would two men who had sexual relations also be considered to be acting “like women,” and therefore subject to criminal charges?

  2. One major difference that stood out to me between the Iaroslav Statute and Pravda Russkaia was who money was paid to in the event of an offense. The Pravda Russkaia generally handles matters between the parties involved. In the Iaroslav Statute, the Metropolitan is given payment in almost all of the offenses. This leads me to believe that these laws may have been more strictly enforced due to the involvement of another party.

  3. Prior to reading Christian’s post, I hadn’t given much thought to the lack of homosexuality within the Iaroslav Statute. What did strike me, though, were the laws against sexual relations with family members and animals. Law 16 says “If someone engages in intercourse with his sister [he is to pay] the Metropolitan 40 grivnas and [fulfill] the prescription of penance according to the law. Law 22 reads “If someone copulates with an animal, [he is to pay] the Metropolitan 12 grivnas, and [execute] penance and punishment according to the law.” The inclusion of these laws seems very telling about what was on the mind of people during the time that the Iaroslav Statute was written.

    While I can’t definitively say (because I don’t know) if the acts Christian asked about were rare during the eleventh century, it’s apparent that other taboo sexual acts were common enough to warrant having specific punishments. Could the inclusion of these crimes and their punishments, and the exclusion of a punishment for homosexuality perhaps answer Christian’s question?

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