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methodological manual History of state and law...docx
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7. Crimes and punishments.

Many notions that regulated relationships between people in tribalism were transferred to the state. First of all, it's ascribed to the notion “crime”, which according to Russkaya Pravda was interpreted as “offence” that causes certain money and moral damage.

Russkaya Pravda knew the following types of crimes:

  • crimes against a person (murder, injury, beating, contumely, assault);

  • crimes against property (arson, robbery, unlawful use of another's property, defacement of monuments);

  • crimes against morally and family (rape, debauchery, polygamy, illegal divorce);

  • crimes against church (witchcraft, church theft e.g.);

  • crimes against state ( transfer to the enemy's side, all crimes against prince and his property, prince's administration).

System of punishments according to Russkaya Pravda was rather simple and included the following types: wholesale pillage and fines.

Reparation of damages was also exercised with the help of fines, which were called: golovnichestvo, urok, refund of stolen things.

Giving over to wholesale pillage was the extreme penalty according to Russkaya Pravda. The main point was in expulsion of the offender and his family from the community and confiscation of his property in favour of the community. Later, the wholesale pillage was meant as a physical reprisal and the confiscation of the property. This punishment was imposed in three cases: for murder at a robbery, for horse stealing and for arson.

Another punishment was wergild - a fine that was put only for a murder. Wergild was a money ban in favour of prince. It's important to point that Russkaya Pravda didn't provide death penalty. But it didn't mean that it wasn't done on practice. First of all, feud existed in Kievan Rus’ for a certain period of time. There also existed an article that allowed killing a thief in case he was captured at night, on the locus delicti or in case of resistance from his side. If the thief had been killed tight up or beyond the yard where he committed the crime - the murderer was a subject of a punishment.

During the rule of Vladimir Svyatoslavovich for criminals there was determined a death penalty, but not for long, as its application negatively affected prince's revenues.

Russkaya Pravda begins with an article prescribing the degrees of kinship within which blood vengeance is permissible ('a brother may avenge [the murder of] his brother, or a son his father, or a father his son, or a brother's son or a sister's son [their uncle]) [3, 84].

8. Court system and judicial process.

Among judicial bodies of the Kievan Rus’ first of all it is necessary to select the court of a community as the most ancient judicial body. The community judged according to a common law. An extreme penalty here was an expulsion from a community.

In Kievan Rus’ there were 3 types of courts: central court (Prince's court (gospodarskij), church's court (all cases were dealt with issues of morality, faith, family), communal court.

Prince judged either himself or through posadnikov [governor of medieval Russian city-state, appointed by prince or elected by citizens] and tiunov [name of the princely or boyar official].

The communal court. The Russkaya Pravda nowhere describes a trial as such. Rather, like the so-called barbarian codes of the European West, the Pravda describes a process of private prosecution. Homicides were liable to revenge, at least until sometime in the eleventh century, when composition (a compensation payment of money) was prescribed. Discovery of theft initiated a public announcement to that effect, whereupon the possessor of the stolen property was expected to return the goods in question within three days. If he himself was not the thief, then he was to assist in a series of regressing interrogations until the thief was discovered. Catching the thief in the act allowed the victim to settle the matter on the spot, and everyone in the community was obliged to assist in the hot pursuit of thieves. Failure to join the posse invited charges of complicity, and the law broadened responsibility for repayment to include those who would not take part in the chase. Assault cases fell under similar regulations. Initially talion ruled, but the Pravda came to detail a series of financial remedies for almost any conceivable offense.

None of this involved any third party. Only the victim and offender (together with their kin) were expected to take any part in litigation. Neither redaction of the Pravda even mentions a judge, and no regulations governing court appearances or procedure are included. Even pleas of innocence are absent, since the Pravda left all these matters to the community's own judgment [1, 46].

The basic judicial evidence of the Kievan Rus’ included: own recognition, testimonies of witnesses “rumoured” and “eyewitnesses”, justice of Heaven, the oath, a lot, an external signs.

To the justice of Heaven concerned a field (duel with the weapon in hands), and also ordeals -tests by iron, or water.

During the test by an iron the burning hot iron was given to the accused, which he should carry some steps. Then the hand was fastened, and if through certain time the traces of a burn didn't remain, accused was justified, and if the wound did not heal he wasn't justified. Vast edition of the Russkaya Pravda provided to accuse for murder and theft of significant values (with cost more than half of grivna of gold) a torture by the burning hot iron. When was stolen from two grivnas to half of grivna of gold, in such situation a test water was awarded.

During the test by water the person was thrown in water and if he did not sink, he was accused as considered, that water does not accept him as guilty. If he started to sink, he was saved and declared justified. During the petty thefts it was enough to take the oath, which was used for a long time in russian lands, probably, before the Kievan Rus’. It was rota. For Christians it consisted in verbal oath and was accompanied with kissing a cross.

Russkaya Pravda recollected about lots as a kind of the judicial proof. It was used when the parties refused from the oath because of certain circumstances.

According to the Russkaya Pravda the meaning of independents evidences had external signs. It included: beating, blue and bloody spot on the face and body and some other.


  1. Feldbrugge, F. J. M. (Ferdinand Joseph Maria), 1933 – Law in Medieval Russia / By Ferdinand Feldbrugge. – Leiden-Boston, 2009 – 365 p.

  2. Encyclopedia of Russian history / James R. Millar, editor in chief. – THOMSON – GALE. – New York, 2004. – 1930 p.

  3. The Cambridge history of Russia, 3 vols. / edited by Maureen Perrie. – Cambridge, 2006. – Vol. I. – 824 p.

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