The Iaroslav Statutes: an Expansion on the Law

While some articles from The Statute of Grand Prince Iaroslav carries over from the Pravdaya Russkaya (such as the prohibition of cutting another’s beard, stealing, and arson), there are several notable differences between the two sets of law. On the part of the Iaroslav Statutes, there is quite the inclusion of new laws. These new statutes predominantly fall under the relations between the men and women of the Rus’, with conspicuous ties to the Bible. In the first article, Iaroslav himself even notes he and his officials looked over the Greek Nomocanon in the making of these laws (KM, pg. 50).

Throughout the document, there are nearly identical parallels to verses in the Bible.  I personally noted fifteen cases, but there are most likely more.  One of the strongest examples of the parallels between the statutes and and the Bible would be Statute 22, which states:

If someone copulates with an animal, [he is to pay] the Metropolitan 12 grivnas, and [execute] penance and punishment according to the law. (KM, pg. 51)

The Bible has quite the similar law, and is even noted twice in the same book. In the book of Leviticus, it states the following about fornication with animals:

Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion. (Leviticus 18:23, NKJV)

If a man mates with an animal, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall kill the animal. If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:15-16, NKJV)

It is important to note here that while the Bible exacts death as the punishment for bestiality, the Rus’ law only specifically holds a fine of twelve grivnas, then mandates the individual (gender not specified) also must seek penance and follow the law accordingly, here presumably meaning the ecclesiastical law.  While a fine of twelve grivnas is not a lenient fine, it is most certainly not one of the more severe fines found in the Iaroslav Statutes.  Furthermore, a fine of any amount is more lenient than the punishment called for in Leviticus, being the death of the animal in question and the human offender.

Additionally, I’d like to note that most of the parallels I found are most commonly found in the book of Leviticus, and more specifically in chapters 18 and 20.  The main purpose for the book of Leviticus in the Bible was to establish laws for man to abide by, not only pertaining to sexual relationships, but also to acceptable and prohibited foods, behaviors of priests, the appropriations of offerings, and hygiene.

Chances are that during the rule of Prince Iaroslav, as a practicing Christian, he observed the sins of the people he ruled over, and along with the influence of the church, mandated new laws that were in accordance to the laws set out in the Bible.  The main reasons for doing so are the prince’s salvation of his people, an attempt to convert more people of the Rus’ to Orthodoxy, and to provide a broader, generalized law to his people. In making the general punishments for the crimes mentioned a fine paid to the Metropolitan, he differs from Biblical mandate in order to modernize these laws, adapt them for Rus’ society, and make it easier for people to convert over to Orthodoxy.

Furthermore, Prince Iaroslav divides his judicial power to the Metropolitan and to the Church, which was an advancement of the Rus’ government.  More laws are specified for the protection of women, and how these laws are written give insight to the social status of all people in the Rus’.  A handful of mandates are written to determine punishment for rape, however, unlike laws written today, the Iaroslav Statutes do not provide a definition for rape, which leaves one to question what constituted rape in Rus’ society at this time.

In conclusion, Prince Iaroslav progressively advanced Rus’ law, government, and society in the creation of these statutes.  In the creation of these statutes, he ties the Rus’ to the Orthodox Church by writing biblical laws, which would carry strength of the Orthodox Church further into Russia’s future.

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