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Lecture 2. Period of feudal fragmentation of kievan rus’ (2 hrs)

  1. The reasons of feudal fragmentation of Kievan Rus’.

After the death of Vladimir Monomakh in 1125, Kievan Rus’ went into a significant decline, from which it could not recover. The chronic problem of political fragmentation returned, with various princes seeking autonomy for regions under their control. As a consequence, throughout the 12th century, a number of regions (e.g., Halych [also called Galicia] and Volynia in the west, Chernihiv just to the north of Kiev, and Vladimir, Novgorod, and Smolensk farther to the north) gained de facto independence from Kiev. Kievan Rus’ became “an entity that had multiple centers related by language, common religiocultural bonds, and dynastic ties, but these centers were largely independent and often in competition with each other.” Control of Kiev, however, was still a prize, subject to political instability (24 princes ruled it from 1146 to 1246) and even military attacks from would-be princes.

In addition, Kievan Rus’ suffered from economic decline. The Dnieper trade route became less important thanks to the emergence of Italian merchants who opened and controlled new trade links and the Crusader raids on Constantinople.

Moreover, attacks from nomadic tribes made it difficult for Rus’ to control its southern border toward the Black Sea. Various efforts to unite the principalities of Rus’ and defeat these enemies came to naught. The Song of Ihor’s Campaign, a chronicle dating from 1187, records the campaigns of Prince Ihor of Chernihiv against the Polovtsians, who had previously been subdued by Monomakh. This time, however: Brother says to brother: “This is mine and that is mine too” and the princes have begun to say of what is small: “This is big” while against their own selves they forge discord while from all sides with victories pagans enter the Russian [Rus] land.

The final blow came at the hands of the Mongols, who originated in central Asia and whose mobile and well-led armies conquered much of Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. In 1237, Batu, grandson of the notorious Mongol leader Genghis Khan, led an army that overran the cities in northeastern Rus’ such as Suzdal and Vladimir. In 1240, the Mongols attacked Kiev. Despite brave resistance by its citizens, Kiev fell. All but a few of its churches were burned and its city walls were razed to the ground. Kiev would not recover its glory, and, in a move rich in symbolic and practical importance, in 1299, its Metropolitan was transferred to Vladimir and then later to Moscow.

2. Statehood and law of the Vladimir principality and the role of the grand-ducal government in strengthening the state.

Since the second quarter of the XIIth century, and more precisely, from 1132 - the death of Mstislav the Great, who managed some time after the death of his father, Vladimir Monomakh, retain integrity of Kievan Rus’, which was divided between his sons and grandsons and stopped to exist as a single state of Ryurikovichey. From that time such principalities became isolated: Novgorod, Galich, Volyn’, Turovo-pinsk, Chernigov, Rostovo-suzdal', Polock, Smolensk. These principalities, in same queue, were divided into appanage principalities, ruled by the closest relatives of princes, which were sitting in the capital cities.

During the fragmentation of Kievan Rus’ the political organization of ancient russian principalities was represented as a combination of monarchic, aristocratic and democratic governance. In the various principalities one or another element were predominated. Monarchical element was particularly strong in North-Eastern Russia (Suzdal’). The Boyar Council and Veche continued act here, but the power of the prince was the most intense.

Previously, these lands were far periphery of Kievan state, the center of which was a city Rostov. In these lands in 1147 Moscow appeared on a historical arena. Here, from the middle of XIIth century was formed Vladimiro-Suzdal'skoe principality, which became later (in the XIV century) the basis of the future unified state.

The supreme authority on these lands belonged to the Grand Prince Vladimir. He was the supreme proprietor of the land, the supreme suzerain of the state territory. The legislative, executive, judicial, military, and even ecclesiastical authority belonged to him.

As we said there were and other institutions of state authority: The Boyar Council, the Veche, feudal conventions. But, the Veche quickly lost its role when Prince had a strong power, and after the Mongol conquest ceased to be convened. Feudal conventions (Snemi, Svemi) acted; Princes gathered to deal with emergencies and played a role in their fights against the nobility of Rostov-Suzdal.

The system of government duplicated the old palace-patrimonial system which got its further development. In the provinces acted the governors and volosteli - representatives the Grand authorities and their tiuny.

The main source of income became the “korm” – duties from the local population. A prince’s retinue and feudal armed forces of princes-vassals, boyars and other servants formed a military organization of principality.

The features of North-eastern Russia were:

Firstly, slower evolution of feudal relations, than in Kievan lands, and to time of disintegration of the Old Russian state the strong local nobility did not have time to be formed (except the Rostov). The class of feudal lords was formed, mainly, from prince’s retinue and servants and they supported princes in their organizational activities. The prince was sharing with them part of his lands, turning them into the serving boyars.

Except the boyars, the feudal elite, sources named the free servants, which were forming the great part of the landowners-vassals. They carried military service. And detej boyarskikh - descendants from impoverished boyar families.

Rural population, as free, dependent or halfdependent, got the name of peasants (krest’jane from “christians”). Their relationships with feudal lords were regulated by the Russkaya Pravda which was used in Vladimir-Suzdal' principality for a longer time, than in other Russian lands. Most lists of the Russkaya Pravda were found in legal books and Kormchy books, which appeared in this principality. Here rose and over peered Moscow, which made Vladimir-Suzdal’ land the basis of the single centralized Russian state.

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