Changing Areas of Focus

Throughout this semester law codes help show the changes occurring throughout Russian history. Written under the rule of Aleksei the Ulozehnie of 1649 differs greatly from previous law codes such as the Sudebnik of 1497. The Ulozehnie is organized into sections like previous law codes; however, the order of the articles reveals important shifts in the structure of the Russian state. Article I of the Ulozehnie protects the dignity and sanctity of the Russian Orthodox Church. The law code prohibits heresy, harming church officials, bringing political complaints to church services, fighting and/or murdering members of the congregation, and other acts that may interfere with a normal service.1 Violators of these laws often received capital punishment – showing how closely the state protected the church. In fact, the Ulozehni depicts an overlapping of the church and state, one where the Tsar’s word reflects the will of God.2 The Sudebnik protected the Russian Orthodox Church but never with the same vigor or priority.

Instead of focusing on the church, the first articles of the Sudebnik outlined court procedures.3 One finds legal procedures located in first in Article X of the Ulozehnie.4 Written during a time of internal turmoil and impending foreign invasion, the Ulozehnie addresses treason and the Prince’s safety in Article II. Twenty-two articles prohibit conspiring against the Prince, knowing of a conspiracy but not reporting it, and aiding outside powers against the Prince.5 Again, a traitor received capital punishment after a trial confirmed his or her guilt. The number of these codes focusing on the Prince’s safety allude to the turmoil and instability under Aleksei. The Sudebnik outlaws murder and violence but never addresses the security of the Prince or treason.6

Considering the content of the Ulozehnie’s first two articles, who would you say is the primary audience of these law codes?


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2 thoughts on “Changing Areas of Focus

  1. Many of the articles seem as they would address the nobility, as they would likely be the ones owning property or close to the tsar. But the two that truly stuck out to me was the one regarding mint masters, who seem to be at the top of their trade and likely higher up in the social chain. Also the articles regarding permits to transfer into other countries. Since serfs were not able to leave the land assigned to them, these permits would likely address the boyars and merchant classes.

  2. It’s interesting to think about law code in terms of audience. If we consider who the policy architects are trying to reach in their laws, we can understand which segments of their population they most wanted to control or subdue. As Frank said already, I think that these codes are aimed at the boyar and merchant classes – serfs were already disempowered under the law, but the members of the growing middle class may have been yearning for more social mobility. Do you think that these law codes were a way of controlling the middle class and deterring any social unrest or class warfare like we saw in the Time of Troubles?

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