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?



Post Mongol Invasion Law

After the Mongol conquest of Russia was over, law seemed to change by putting a focus on a more civilized and fair society rather than “getting even” with another party.  The Pravada Russkaia was created in the eleventh century and is a long list of crimes and set fines to go along with them. There is little organization to this early Russian law code.

The courts are given much of the responsibility when determining which party is at fault, rather than a set list of fines, after the Mongol Invasion. It is the Prince who is always receiving money from the trials regardless. Before in the Pravada Russkaia, crimes such as murder and theft could sometimes be compromised with a fine, however in the Russian Sudebink of 1497 these deeds are all punishable by death. It is interesting to note that the Sudebink does has a “one strike” policy from some crimes such as in Article 10, where it denotes that a thieve is sometimes eligible for a different consequence, rather than death. There were many more references to the religion in the post-Mongol invasion texts. For instance, The Novgorod Judicial Charter states in Article 4a, that one always must “Kiss the Cross”. Also in Article 58 of the Sudebink it acknowledges that foreigners must also “Kiss the Cross”. The use of evidence was key in these trials. It is thought that the litigants had more power in determining the case rather the judge because they were responsible for gathering and presenting evidence.

Post-mongol era laws provided was much more advanced than before and had a goal of limiting corruption and crime, rather than just punishing it.


1.) How good was the value of one’s word? Because there was so much stress on evidence, case witnesses were used a lot. Was this a loophole in the system?

2.) In what ways did the mongols bring light to the issue of corruption? Considering how much of a social hierarchy the Mongols put in place, it was very important to be able to trust your superiors. Were Russian elites that bad?


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.