Putting An End To Feudal Strife

The unification of Russian lands around Moscow and putting an end to the feudal strife was the key to finally vanquishing the Mongol yoke in 1480. The desire of Russian princes to boost Russian economy in a centralized state is reflected in the new codes of law. Both the Novgorod Judicial Charter and the Moscovite Sudebnik of 1497 provide the foundation for land ownership and the legal guide to protect it in the court of law.  This is a big leap forward compared to The Iaroslav’s Statute and Pravda Russkaia which mostly concentrated on judging most common crimes, as well as violations of moral and family values. The new documents describe in detail the structure of the court procedures to determine a person’s right to land. The figure of the judge appears, but still remains a passive force during court. The parties fighting for land have to assume the active role, produce written documents and witnesses , while the judges act as supervisors hoping that the decision would become obvious in the course of the trial. A flaw from the standpoint of contemporary litigation, this was still a great step forward in developing the legal structure of Russian society. An accent on the role of written documents presented as evidence and certifying the right to land is also an important new development. Reducing the freedom of peasants by binding them to land is a controversial measure that reduced their freedom, but at that point of time it seems to have positively contributed to developing the economy of the Russian state in post- Mongol time.

Judicial Charters

The judicial process during the late 15th century in Russia, particularly including the Novgorod and Muscovite societies, is significantly different from the times of the Pravda Russkaia. From a first glance at both the judicial charters of Novgorod and Muscovite, such things including the structure of the documents and its intended audience differ substantially.

In both charters, the document is directed more towards the higher most positions of power in their society, such as the archbishopric if Novgorod the Great and Pskov, the Grand Prince, and the mayor, and their duties in terms of what is expected of them in a case. For instance in both judicial charters it states that evidence of some sort should be provided when a case is brought to court.

Yet what I found the most intriguing was the overall structure for the Muscovite judicial charter. While reading the judicial charter of the Muscovite society I found the steps in which they took to determine the most adequate outcome to be significantly similar to that of the judicial system in our modern day society. In particular, for example, the charter discusses in a land dispute between two groups it is first brought in front of a judge. From there, if the judge deemed necessary, the dispute or case would be brought fourth the Grand Prince.

After reading through this passage I find myself wondering why these societies were so advanced, in terms of judiciary systems, than most other societies during this time.