State-Building in Post-Kievan Rus’

These readings illustrate the diverging types of states that developed after the fall of Kiev, and geography is a main factor in the separation of different governments.  Novgorod and the north attempted to establish restrictions to princely power and set up a system of elections and assemblies to limit the influence of the elites.  In the southwest, the elites had more power than the prince, who was subject to the will of the boyars.  Finally, in Moscow and the northeast, princely power grew and became more entrenched as land rights were transformed into personal property.  These documents demonstrate the way in which each area was reevaluating their relationship with the state, and this was responsible for bringing about new requirements for good rulers that protected the new form of government.

On thing that stood out in all three readings was the relationship of Christianity to the state.  In the Treaty of Novgorod, the document protecting property rights had to be sealed with a kiss to the cross so that the prince would be held accountable to God if he broke the treaty.  In the Galician Chronicle, the underlying message was that good rulers are Christian because God favored the devout and helped them to achieve their status.  Finally, in the will of Dmitrii Donskoi, he condemned any that violated the testament to be judged and punished by God.  Because Christianity had already spread throughout Rus by the time of the fall of Kiev, it seems that it played a much larger role in the state than it had at the beginning of the Kievan state.  Whereas princely law and church law were once separate, now we seem them becoming combined.  The separation between church and state jurisdiction is now blurred as things once under state jurisdiction, like private property, are now answerable to God.

2 thoughts on “State-Building in Post-Kievan Rus’

  1. I also found the different governments to be significant, yet for a different reason. I found, in both the north and southern parts of what was Kiev, to have taken too much power away from the princes, and or elites. In particular when looking at the set of laws in the reading, each law continues to add to the restrictions of the governing class from the law before it. As a result this would make almost any decision by the governing class, such as the prince or elites, difficult due to the essential absence of power over the more common people.

  2. I wonder about how such of a split there was. While a prince might derive his power from God’s will, or might use Christianity to determine what was a crime, and how to punish it, that is not the whole story. The Princes may have been close to the Church but could also simply be using it to justify their powers.

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