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Lecture 3. The state and law of russia in the period of centralization (XIV-XVI centuries) (2 hrs)


The second half of XIV century until the middle of the XVII century was a very important period in the history of the Russian state and law. This is because it covered the time of formation of the centralized Russian state, creation of the first major common of all Russian law – Sudebnik of 1497 and “The Code of Law of 1649” (Ulozhenie)

Codification of Russian law, which began with Sudebnik Ivan I, was the culmination of all previous legislative activity of the Russian state.

By this time, “Russkaya Pravda” had lost its significance, although it was used in compiling Sudebnik, together with Pskov Judicial charter and immunity charters of the princes.

Study lecture will allow a more professional approach to the study follow-up legal documents of the Russian state. The aim of the lecture is to review the features of social and political development of Russia from the second half of the XIV century - to second half of the XVII century.

1. Prerequisites of formation of centralized Russian state

At the turn of the XIII - XIV centuries as a result of a long and exhausting struggle against the domination of the Golden Horde in Russia had formed the preconditions for the unification of disparate lands in a centralized state.

During the period between 1462 and 1533, Muscovy underwent substantial growth in land and population, virtually tripling in size. The Muscovite state gained a significant amount of land and population to the southwest in treaties with Lithuania, and annexed the principalities and republics of Iaroslavl’ (1471), Perm’ (1472), Rostov (1473), Tver’ (1485), Viatka (1489), Pskov (1510), Smolensk (1514) and Riazan’ (1521). But by far its greatest acquisition was through the annexation of Novgorod in 1478. At the same time, the ruling order – that is, the grand prince, princes, boyars and other landlords – consolidated its hold on the populace and countryside. One should not focus on the enormous expansion as the result of some kind of Muscovite ‘manifest destiny’ (the so-called ‘gathering of the Russian lands’), because the expansion itself occurred as the result of a significant refashioning and implementation of internal policies by the grand princes and ruling elite. These policies transformed Muscovy from a loosely organised confederation, roughly equivalent in structure to any of the neighboring steppe khanates, into a monarch-in-council form of government with a quasi-bureaucratic administrative structure equal to that of any European dynastic state. These policies included more effective and uniform administrative institutions and methods, the creation of a ready and mobile military force and the building of a spectacular citadel in the capital to impress all and sundry with the ruling power. Non-Russian princes and nobles were incorporated in large numbers. Added to these developments was an implacable aggrandizement of power on the part of those who ran the state. In short, they made the Muscovite dynastic state. These changes were begun under Vasilii II, brought to fruition under Ivan III and developed further under Vasilii III.

Throughout this process, the grand princes worked with the consensus support of the ruling class. Although individual boyars could be punished for crimes against the ruler, the boyars as a whole contributed to the propagation of Muscovite power. Parallel with the state, the Church also instituted standardized policies and practices. In addition, churchmen developed an anti-Tatar ideology that soon came to permeate all their writings about the steppe and has heavily influenced historians’ interpretation of this period. Eventually, the increase and spread of civil administration began to interfere with the Church’s practices, and the Church’s search for heretics affected some state personages, but on the whole the state and Church worked together, although not always completely harmoniously.

Moscow played historical role in centralizing Russian state, which eventually became the capital of the state. Originating as a city in the XII century, Moscow was not the center of a particular principality. In the XIII century Moscow became the capital city with an independent prince.

The first prince became Daniel - the son of Alexander Nevsky. The unification of Russian principalities began during the reign of Daniel at the turn of the XIII - XIV centuries. The basis of the power of Moscow was founded by the son of Daniel Ivan Kalita (1325 - 1340).

Moscow became the residence of the Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church. By the end of the XIV century Muscovy has been strengthened so that policy has passed to counteract the Tatar khans. The Golden Horde had suffered a defeat after the Kulikov Battle (1380). The final phase of the unification of Russian lands was during the reign of Ivan III (1462-1505), when Novgorod the Great - 1478, Grand Duchy of Tver - 1485, Chernigov-Seversky lands were annexed to the Muscovy. Russian lands finally were liberated from the Tatar yoke after the famous “standing on the Ugra” (1480).

Thus, the formation of a centralized Russian state was a progressive phenomenon in the history of the Russian state. The elimination of feudal disintegration had created an opportunity for further development of productive forces, economic and cultural development, and international prestige of the Russian state.

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