Law and Women in Early Rus Society

The two law codes we have read for the people of Rus are very different. They show changing attitudes to governance, punishment, and women. The First law code we read, the Pravada Russkaia, mostly describes crimes that pretty much everyone would have a problem with. They are things like theft, violence, and destruction of property. The mechanism for enforcement is the wronged party. The second set of laws we have read, Iaroslav’s Statute, Are much broader. Instead of before when crimes such as rape where left out, probably because everyone knew what to do about it, they are included. There are lots of new laws about women, their actions, and actions against them. There is also the inclusion of laws with religious reasons. Punishments no longer go just to the wronged party, but they may now also have to be paid to the Metropolitan or the Church. Some crimes even require people to go to covenants. The laws protected people especially women from things such as being kicked out of their house, or raped, but also restricted rights we would see as very important today.

In early Rus the Orthodox Church had a heavy hand in people’s views of women. The Church had a way of viewing women that we might refer to as the “Madonna/Whore complex.” Women where either good or evil based on a set of guidelines we today would most likely not think of. However that does not mean that women where without power in the society. There was evidence of them doing everything from being mayors of towns to brewing their own beer. While this might have set them occasionally at odds with the Church they where still able to enjoy greater freedoms. The Church’s opinion of women was widespread it often did not reflect the actual position of women, who often had prominence than they where given credit for. I wonder how comparable the situation of women was in Rus to other places around the world at the same time.