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?



Novgorod Chronicle and Mongol Invasion

The Novgorod Chronicle presents the Mongol invasion as a punishment sent by God. The Mongols invaded because the princes were selfish and fought against one another, disobeying both their father and God. The Chroniclers write that the Devil himself is responsible for inciting this discord among the princes.

The Chronicle lessens the importance of the Mongol’s role in the invasion because God is named as the one pulling all of the strings. God allowed the Mongols attack as punishment for the people’s sins. If God had not intervened, then the Mongols would never have invaded; therefore, God plays the central role in this story, not the Mongols.

Did the Mongols practice Paganism? Was there religious tolerance under Mongol rule? If God is the one responsible for this devastation, then shouldn’t the people of Rus direct their anger towards God and not towards the Mongols? If the princes had behaved more righteously, does that mean the Mongol invasion would never have happened? What is the point of being a Christian if God offers no protections from such horrors?

The Rise of the Individual States in Rus’

As Kievan Rus’ became less and less centralized, individual principalities rose in its place as the chief governing bodies in the land.  These were much more independent of one another, and largely stayed more personal.  While this movement was occurring on the own accord of the princes, the pace was changed drastically as the hordes of Mongols began to go West.  While making it difficult for princes to stay sovereign, a large proportion of inhabitant of Rus’ felt the inclusion of Rus’ into the Mongol Yoke certainly had some benefits.

One of the greater success stories of the decentralization was Novgorod.  Novgorod, even after the Mongols had entered the region, became even more prosperous and powerful.  This is in large part due to the creation of a number of political institutions that was controlled by a “merchant republic”.  One of the larger treaties between the city of Novgorod and the local princes was the First Treaty of Novgorod with Tver’ Grand Prince Iaroslav Iaroslavich.  This document provided the ground work for the city and prince’s relationship.  Many of the statutes within the document inhibit Iaroslav from a number of powers a prince would typically have.  The ability of Novgorod to create such a document, in which Iaroslav agreed too exemplifies how beneficial the decentralization of the Kievan Rus’ region was larger cities and the merchants in them.

Similarly, in Southwest Rus’ the princes were also losing power, as power was at an even smaller level.  Boyars held the most power within their lands, thus the state was losing even more control.  In the Extracts from the Galician-Volhyniam Chronicle, in 1231, a boyar set out against a prince with only 18 men.  However, as he marched, more and more individuals joined his cause.  This shows that boyars had a large proportion of the popular support of the lower class individuals in the region.

Moscow was yet another region that was becoming decentralized.  Within The Second Testament of Moscow Grand Prince Dmitrii Domskoi, he separates Moscow between his four sons.  Dmitrii Domskoi goes into incredible detail on what each prince should recieve, such as Prince Vasilli receiving “the beekeepers in the city districts, and the horse and the falconers and the huntsmen” (88).  This separation of a single city/ region into four separate areas adds to the decentralization of the Kievan Rus’ state.

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.

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.

A republic in Novgorod?

Today’s reading featured tales of Rus’ Princes following the Mongol invasion of Rus. While none of the piece treats with the consequences of the arrival of the Mongols into Rus’ land its influence on the society is deeply reflected throughout each source. For instance, the common theme in the first 2 pieces is that the ruler had difficulties keeping his power intact. In the first case, the case of Iaroslav Iaroslavovich, the first treaty of Novgorod shows that the prince of Novgorod – though he was not overthrown – had to give away most of his power to the population of Novgorod and the Church (at least this is what the very first article seems to hint).  The Second Piece was regarding the southern part of Rus’ right after the Mongol invasion, in this Chronicle, we see a prince who is betrayal from close boyars. Though Danilo, in the end, manages to survive, the end of the chronicle seems to imply that he no longer controlled the land.
The aspect of the reading that surprised me the most was of course the Treaty of Novgorod. It is already surprising to hear about anything anywhere regarding republicanism or democracy around that time period (Monthy Python even made it an anachronistic joke), but it is even more surprising to hear about it in Russia out of all places! But anyway, before I digress deeper into Russian stereotypes, I would like to point out one article that, did not necessarily surprised me but that I was still not expecting to see, article 4. In this article the people are telling the Prince that he should not take a person’s land without justification. The fact that such notion appear in the text is not surprising, since back then land meant “only source of income”, but what I find of interest is that (1) it appears so early in Russian history and (2) this is the 4th article, which I assume means it was of high importance. It makes me wonder if this could mean that throughout Russian culture holding land has been very important.
This leads me to my questions: Is the treaty of Novgorod of any significance in Russian History (by that I mean was this influential throughout the rest of history)? And if the answer is yes, why were his ideas absent in the future, and I especially mean after 1917?