State-Building in Post-Kievan Rus’

These readings illustrate the diverging types of states that developed after the fall of Kiev, and geography is a main factor in the separation of different governments.  Novgorod and the north attempted to establish restrictions to princely power and set up a system of elections and assemblies to limit the influence of the elites.  In the southwest, the elites had more power than the prince, who was subject to the will of the boyars.  Finally, in Moscow and the northeast, princely power grew and became more entrenched as land rights were transformed into personal property.  These documents demonstrate the way in which each area was reevaluating their relationship with the state, and this was responsible for bringing about new requirements for good rulers that protected the new form of government.

On thing that stood out in all three readings was the relationship of Christianity to the state.  In the Treaty of Novgorod, the document protecting property rights had to be sealed with a kiss to the cross so that the prince would be held accountable to God if he broke the treaty.  In the Galician Chronicle, the underlying message was that good rulers are Christian because God favored the devout and helped them to achieve their status.  Finally, in the will of Dmitrii Donskoi, he condemned any that violated the testament to be judged and punished by God.  Because Christianity had already spread throughout Rus by the time of the fall of Kiev, it seems that it played a much larger role in the state than it had at the beginning of the Kievan state.  Whereas princely law and church law were once separate, now we seem them becoming combined.  The separation between church and state jurisdiction is now blurred as things once under state jurisdiction, like private property, are now answerable to God.

On the Kievan Economy

The nature of the economy in the Kievan state reflected the geographical diversity of the region.  Indeed, some of the sources on the economy are derived from the commentary of outsiders, such as the Byzantine Constantine Porphyrogenitus, reflecting the wide space of influence exerted by the merchant-prince of Kiev.  The foundation of the trade system was tribute, which moved furs, wax, honey, and slaves throughout the state from north to south.  Tribute, besides being an effective means of gathering money and subordinating rival merchants, reflected the importance of trade because it was designed to protect Kiev’s commercial interests from rivals.  Economic rivals were clearly an area of concern for the Kievan princes because trade and foreign policy were connected, and Russo-Byzantine peace treaties included provisions that aided Russian commerce.   With the exception of importing amber from the Vikings, the Rus moved raw materials outside of the state and received manufactured and luxury goods from their trade partners.

The other facet of the Kievan economy was agriculture.  The emergence of the agricultural theory is based on linguistic data on agricultural terms, spiritual beliefs surrounding nature, archaeological discoveries, and written sources.  Agriculture differed between the south and the north because of the diversity between the steppe and dense forests, and forest agriculture evolved into a two and three field perlog system that increased the importance of livestock.  Archaeology shows advancements in soil cultivation and technology preceding the primary chronicle.  The idea of private property is a contested issue among scholars of Kiev, with some believing it emerged in the 11th century and others thinking it may have been in place before.  This is an interesting question to consider in tandem with the law code’s penalties for moving field boundaries.  Does this suggest there was direct individual control over the land to use it at will or does it suggest the princes were the only ones with the authority to administrate land holdings?