Post-Mongol Law

One point that stood out in post-Mongol law was the emphasis placed on the equality of all men. Unlike the Pravda Russkaia, in which societal rank was deeply important, the Novgorod Judicial Charter specifically articulates that the archbishop is to judge everyone equally, regardless of if they are a boyar or a poor man. Additionally, if a party is guilty of slander, the Grand Prince is to take 10 rubles from the guilty party if he is a poor man, and 50 rubles if he is a rich man. This consideration of a guilty party’s means is not evident in the Pravda Russkaia, in which the same amount is paid for a crime regardless of the guilty party’s economic class. Also, in post-mongol law, the boyars do not appear to be valued more highly than poor men. For example, the societal rank of the victim of a crime does not appear to be taken into consideration when deciding the punishment. If someone robs a boyar’s house, the punishment appears to be the same as the punishment for robbing a poor man’s house.

The phrase, “kiss the cross”, is repeated multiple times in post-mongol law, indicating that the Church has a large influence in legal proceedings. It appears that kissing the cross is a way to ensure that a man speaks the truth and acts honestly in court. Kissing the cross perhaps serves as a reminder that God is present in every court proceeding and it is He who makes the final decision, not the judge alone.

Although “kissing the cross” was mentioned frequently, there was no reference to priests in post-Mongol law. Did priests have any role in court proceedings?

Who served as a judge? Was he connected to the Church at all?

How did the Orthodox Church fit into post-Mongol law?



3 thoughts on “Post-Mongol Law

  1. I think another clear sign that the post- Mongol law documents demonstrate a more equal approach among men is the direct acknowledgment (over and over) that judges and bailiffs and anyone in positions of authority for court hearings are never to accept a bribe. First of all, the idea that there is a court reflects a society that is searching for truth rather than hierarchical justice. This is backed by the idea of outright preventing bribery- the main way that many elite get away with crimes that the poor cannot pay their way out of. By not accepting bribes the law is stating that class differences do not define the entirety of the law (because there is some stratification seeing as how the boyars “administer justice”).

  2. In the first few mentionings of “kissing the cross,” it is interesting to note how it was expected for women to be represented by a son or another male counterpart in the courts, and have him kiss the cross for her, and if this could not be done, then she must kiss the cross in her home and have others bear witness to this. This indicates it was highly unusual, if not prohibited, for women to actually go to court for themselves. While earlier on female business owners were documented to have involvement in legal matters, it seems like with the Sudebnik that women had less legal rights/equality than before. I just thought someone should point that out.

  3. In addition to preventing bribery in order to create a justice system where the truth is highly valued, it also states that the courts” shall not be used for personal revenge or favor”. I think this emphasizes the notion that this judicial system is one that is effective and seeks out the truth. Additionally, to answer the question on who is to be judge, the first line states that the law code is for “how boyars and major-domos (okolnichii) are to administer justice.” Thus, I think theses individuals serve as the judges.

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