Law and economy in Post-Kievan Rus

The Mongol invasion and occupation of Rus changed the economic structure of the country. People in the countryside needed the protection of nobles. This was essentially the roots of the serf system. The law system had also considerably evolved from past systems. The laws were written out and included provisions such as swearing on a cross, an equivalent to among other things our modern day swearing on the bible, and that all where equal in the eyes of the law. Most of the cases that we have records of have to do with property disputes. Fires where not uncommon so records where often destroyed. The system for evidence was also interesting. It appears as though those who were illiterate placed extremely high value on written documents while those who could read including judges placed a higher value on human evidence, even when the memories where 60 years old. It appears that dueling could be used to challenge evidence as well as a manner of determining the case.

I found the equality written into the law to be very interesting. It was declared in the first point of the first set of laws, However it only refers to men. Also the fact that it was written does not necessarily mean it was followed. In our own history we had a time that our constitution said all where equal, yet all people where not treated equally. I wonder if it was the same here? This of course does not even address the fact that the rights of women and children are not addressed there.

3 thoughts on “Law and economy in Post-Kievan Rus

  1. It’s interesting to compare some of the practices of the law in this period to modern laws. In some ways they are based on similar principles as what we base our customs on, such as swearing on the Bible. However, in other ways, they are completely different; for example, the allowance of dueling between parties in a dispute.

  2. The only mention I found of women in the Novgorod Judicial Charter were provisions 16, 17, and 18. The phrasing of 16 suggests that women had no place in legislation (“[his] mother is to kiss the cross for herself in [her] home”), and were looked upon as a last resort.

    The absence of women in this document provides a contrast from the Русская Правда, where many of the points were aimed at protecting women from rape and violence. This document seems more focused on the concept of justice.

  3. I think it’s also important to remember here that, if most laws surrounded property disputes, then they would be more male-centered because males were much more likely than women to own land. I think that the shift from earlier law codes, such as the Pravda Russkaia, delineates a shift in the actual society. Perhaps earlier codes puts so much emphasis on protecting women because, in a less defined and organized society, crimes against women were more likely to occur. On the other hand, the Novgorod Judicial Chapter was written under the 40+ year reign of Ivan III, in which the government became stronger and much more unified. Perhaps, in this more organized society, property disputes suddenly had much more importance than they had previously, because the culture depended on fixed land boundaries and social classes.

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