Slavic Law

Slavic Law

Slavic Legal History

Russian Primary Chronicle: Ruskaia Pravda, An early Law code

The Short Version:

Article 1
If a man kills a man, the brother is to avenge his brother; the son, his father; or the father, his son; or nephews, their uncles; and if there is no avenger [the murderer pays] forty grivnas fine; if [the killed man] is a Kievan Russian, or a member of the druzhina, or a merchant, or a sheriff, or an agent of the prince, or even a serf, or a Novgorodian Russian, the fine is forty grivnas.

Article 2
If a man is bleeding or is blue from bruises, he does not need any eyewitness; if he has no sign [of injury] he is to produce an eyewitness; if he cannot, the matter ends there; if he cannot avenge himself he is to receive three grivnas, while the physician is to get an honorarium.

Article 3
If a person hits another with a stick, or a rod, or a fist, or a bowl, or a drinking horn, or the dull side of a sword, he is to pay twelve grivnas fine; if the offender is not hit back [by his victim], he must pay, and there the matter ends.

Article 4
If a person strikes another with an unsheathed sword, or with the hilt of a sword, he pays twelve grivnas for the offence.

Article 5
If a person hits [another’s] arm and the arm is severed or shrinks, he pays forty grivnas fine. And if he hits the leg [but does not sever it], and then he [the victim] becomes lame, let both [parties] reach an agreement.

Article 6
And if a finger is cut off, three grivnas for the offence.

Article 7
For the moustache twelve grivnas; and for the beard twelve grivnas.

Article 8
If anyone unsheathes his sword, but does not hit, he pays one grivna fine.

Article 9
If a man pulls another man toward himself or pushes him away and [the offended] brings two witnesses, the fine is three grivnas; if he should be a Varangian or a Kolbiag, an oath is to be taken.

Article 10
If anyone conceals a runaway slave of a Varangian or a Kolbiag for three days, and if it is discovered on the third day, the original owner gets back his slave and three grivnas for the offence.

Article 11
If anyone rides another’s horse without the owner’s permission, he has to pay three grivnas.

Article 12
If anyone steals another’s horse, or weapon, or clothes, and the owner recognises it within his township, he gets back his property and three grivnas for the offence.

Article 13
If anyone should recognise his stolen property, he should neither take it nor say to a person, “This is mine”; he should say as follows: “Let us go to the place where you got it”; if he will not go immediately, he must post bond within five days.

Article 14
If a business partner should demand money from his associate and the latter should refuse, he must be brought to a court of twelve men; and if it should be established that he [the associate] cheated, the partner shall receive his share and three grivnas for the offence.

Article 15
If the original owner should recognise his [runaway] slave and should want him back, the present owner shall lead him to the party from whom he purchased the slave, and he may go the second party; and should the matter go to the third party, the third party should be told: “Give me back my slave and try to get your money back [from the fourth party] with the aid of an eyewitness.”

Article 16
If a slave should hit a free man and then hide in the house of his master, the master should be unwilling to give him up, the slave must be seized and the master must pay twelve grivnas fine; and the offended free man may beat that slave wherever he finds him.

Article 17
If anyone should break [someone’s] spear, or shield, or damage his clothes, and then should want to keep [these items], he must pay for them; and if he should insist on returning the damaged article he must pay for the value of the article.
The law of the Rus land enacted at a meeting of Princes Iziaslav, Vsevolod, Iaroslav, and the advisors Kosniachko, Pereneg, Nikifor of Kiev, Chudin and Mikula.

Article 18
Should a bailiff be killed deliberately, the killer must pay eighty grivnas fine; the people are not to pay; and for [the murder of] a prince’s adjutant, eighty grivnas.

Article 19
If a bailiff is killed in a highway attack and the people do not search for the killer, the fine will be paid by that locality where the killed official is found.

Article 20
Should a bailiff be killed near a barn, or near a horse [stable], or a livestock shed, or [trying to prevent] rustling of cattle, the murderer should be killed like a dog; the same law is applicable to the murderer of a steward.

Article 21
And for a prince’s steward, eighty grivnas, and for a master of the stable [killed] near his livestock, also eighty grivnas, as decreed by Iziaslav when the Dorogobuzhians killed his master of the stable

Article 22
For [the murder of] an elder of a prince’s village, or for a field overseer, twelve grivnas; and for the helper of a steward, five grivnas.

Article 23
And for the killing of a peasant or a slave, five grivnas.

Article 24
And if a slave-nurse or her son is killed, twelve grivnas.

Article 25
And for [the killing of] a prince’s horse, if the latter has a brand, three grivnas, and for a peasant’s horse, two grivnas.

Article 26
And for a mare, sixty rezanas; for an ox, one grivna; for a cow, forty rezanas; for a three-year-old cow, fifteen kunas; for a yearling [heifer], one-half grivna; for a calf, five rezanas; for a yearling ewe, one nogata; and for a yearling ram, one nogata.

Article 27
If anyone should abduct someone’s male or female slave, he has to pay twelve grivnas for the offence.

Article 28
If a man should come bleeding or bruised, he needs no witness.

Article 29
And whoever steals either a horse or an ox, or robs a barn, if he is alone he has to pay one grivna and thirty rezanas; if there were as many as eighteen thieves, each pays three grivnas and thirty rezanas.

Article 30
And if anyone damages or burns a prince’s bee hive, three grivnas.

Article 3I
And if anyone should torture a peasant, without the prince’s order, three grivnas for the offence.

Article 32
[For the torture of] a bailiff, a steward, or a sheriff, twelve grivnas.

Article 33
Whoever should plough over the property line or destroy a property mark, twelve grivnas for the offence.

Article 34
Whoever steals a boat, he has to pay [the owner] thirty rezanas for the boat and sixty rezanas fine.

Article 35
For [the theft of] a dove or a chicken, nine kunas.

Article 36
For [the theft of] a duck, a goose, a crane, or a swan, thirty rezanas and a fine of sixty rezanas.

Article 37
If anyone steals someone’s hunting dog, or a hawk, or a falcon, three grivnas for the offence.

Article 38
If anyone should kill a thief in his own yard, or at the barn, or at the stable, he is [justly] killed; if, however, anyone detains the thief till daylight, he must bring him to the prince’s court; and should he [the thief] be killed, and should people see that the thief was bound, the killer must pay for him.

Article 39
If anyone should steal hay, nine kunas; and for wood, nine kunas.

Article 40
If a gang of ten thieves should steal an ewe, or a goat, or a pig, each must pay a fine of sixty rezanas.

Article 41
Whoever should apprehend a thief receives ten rezanas; and a sheriff receives fifteen kunas from three grivnas [of fines collected]; fifteen kunas go to the Church] as tithe; and the prince receives three grivnas. And from twelve grivnas of theft, the apprehender of the thief will receive seventy kunas; [the Church] two grivnas as tithe; and the prince ten grivnas.

Article 42
The following is the tax collecting custom: the collectors [during their journey] should receive seven buckets of malt, a ram or some other meat or two nogatas; and on Wednesday one rezana or cheese; the same on Friday; and as much bread and millet as they can eat; and two chickens per day; and shelter for four of their horses and feed for them, as much as they can eat; the collectors should [collect] sixty grivnas, ten rezanas, twelve veveritsas, and a grivna in advance; and during Lent collectors should receive fish and should get seven rezanas for fish; during a week they should receive fifteen kunas and food as much as they can eat; tax collectors should complete their task in one week; such is Iaroslav’s decree.

Article 43
The following is the code of bridge builders: when they complete a bridge, they should receive for their work one nogata; also one nogata for every span; and if an old bridge needs repair of several planks, three, or four, or five, the same payment.

Source: The Russian Primary Chronicle

The Code of Law of 1649 (Ulozhenie)


Chapter l – Blasphemers and Heretics

I. If a member of another faith, regardless of which faith, or a Russian, should blaspheme our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or His Mother the Holy Queen, Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, or the honourable cross, or its holy servants, each such case should be investigated thoroughly, using all possible means. An inquiry about it should be organised, and the blasphemer of God should be burned at the stake.
2. And should some scoundrel come into God’s church during the holy liturgy and should he in some way try to prevent its completion, he should be seized, his action investigated, and he should be condemned to death without mercy.
3 And should someone, upon entering God’s church during the holy liturgy while singing is going on, start directing insults against Patriarch, or Metropolitan, or Archbishop, or Bishop, or Archimandrite, or Igumen, or the ecclesiastical order {in general}, and thereby disrupt holy singing in that church, the Sovereign should be informed of this, an investigation should be inaugurated, and for his action the scoundrel should be whipped at the marketplace.
4. And should anyone, upon entering God’s church, start a fight with another person and kill that person, the murderer should be sentenced to death.
5 And should he only wound and not kill, he {the guilty one} should be mercilessly whipped at the market place, put in prison for a month, and made to compensate the injured person twice for the insult.
6. And if a scoundrel should strike anyone in God’s church but inflict no wound, he should be whipped with a cane for this insult and {be] made to compensate the injured person.
7. If someone should insult another person verbally but should not harm him [bodily], the guilty person should be put into prison for a month. And whoever was insulted should be compensated in order to prevent the occurrence of any outrages in God’s churches in the future.
8. In church during the singing, no one can present a personal petition to the Sovereign Tsar and Grand Prince Aleksei Mikhailovich of All Russia, nor to the Great Lord, His Eminence Joseph, Patriarch of Moscow and of All Russia, nor to Metropolitans, Archbishops, and Bishops, in order to prevent confusion in the church during the church singing, because God’s church was created for prayer [not for business]. All Orthodox Christians should stand and pray in God’s churches with fear and should not think of worldly matters.
9. And whoever should forget the fear of God and disregard the Tsar’s decree and petition either the Sovereign, or the Patriarch, or other officials about a personal matter in God’s church during church singing, such petitioner should be thrown into prison for a term to be determined by the Sovereign.
Chapter II The Sovereign’s Honour, and How to Guard His Health

1. Should anyone think maliciously about the Sovereign’s health, and should another person report him concerning this malicious thought, there should be made an inquiry into his malicious thought and intended action against his Tsarist Majesty, and such person, upon investigation, should be executed.
2. Likewise, should a member of his Tsarist Majesty’s government wish to seize control of the Muscovite state and become Sovereign, and should he, to attain this evil goal, organise an army or conspire with the enemies of his Tsarist Majesty, issue charters, or aid them in any way, in order to seize control of the Muscovite state or do some other foolish thing with the aid of those enemies of the Sovereign, and should someone report him, there should be organised a proper inquiry into his treason, and such a traitor should be sentenced to death.
3. And should anyone give away a city of his Tsarist Majesty to an enemy through treason, or accept foreigners into cities of his Tsarist Majesty for treasonous purposes, and then investigation be conducted into it, such traitors should be executed.
4. And should anyone consciously and treacherously burn either a city or manors, and then be apprehended during his act or afterwards, and an inquiry be conducted into his evil act, such person should be burned mercilessly.
5. Service estates, hereditary estates, and livestock of all traitors should be transferred to the possession of the Sovereign,
6. Wives and children of traitors, if they were aware of their treasons, should be executed.
7. If a wife knew nothing of the treason of her husband, or children of the treason of their father, and if this be verified by an investigation, such persons should be neither executed not punished; the Sovereign will determine how much of the service and hereditary estates they should be allowed to retain for their livelihood.
8. If a traitor had children, but they, prior to his treason, were separated from him, did not live with him, and hence knew nothing of his treason, and if they had their own livestock and their own hereditary estates, from such children neither livestock nor hereditary estates should be confiscated.
9. And if someone should commit treason and leave [as survivors) in the Muscovite state either his father, or his mother, or his brothers, or his cousins, or his uncles, or any other member of his family, and if he lived with them and they jointly owned their livestock and their hereditary estates, such traitor should be thoroughly investigated in order to determine whether his father, or his mother, or his relatives knew of his treason. Should an investigation determine that they knew of his treason, they should be executed and their livestock and hereditary and service estates transferred to the Sovereign.
10. If, however, an investigation should determine that they knew nothing of the treason of the traitor, they should not be executed and their livestock and their service and hereditary estates should not be confiscated.
11. If a traitor should return from a foreign country to the Muscovite state, and if the Sovereign should pardon him and forgive his guilty action, and then if he should obtain a new service estate through service, the Sovereign may return his old hereditary estate to him, but he cannot grant him his old service estate.
12. If someone should report that another person has revealed a great state secret, but he does not have witnesses to substantiate his report, does not convince anyone [with his arguments), and no evidence exists to aid in the investigation into the revelation of state secrets, a decree should be issued on this problem, following an inquiry, as the Sovereign should direct.
13. And if someone should reveal the state of the Sovereign’s health, or if they should disclose information about people whom they serve, or, if they be peasants, to whom they belong, and if such reports are not convincing, they should not be believed. After they have been severely punished for spreading lies, through merciless whipping with a knut, such individuals should then be returned to those persons to whom they belong. Such informers should not be believed or listened to in the future on anything except matters of great importance.
14. And should anyone, regardless of his status, say that he is a government official, and then should it be determined that he is not, such person should be knuted for impersonating a government official, and afterwards he should be returned to those persons to whom he belongs.
15. And if someone apprehends a traitor on the road, and either kills him or captures him and returns him to the Sovereign, that traitor should [In the latter case] be executed, and the person who apprehended or killed him should be given the livestock of the traitor as the Sovereign should decree.
16. And whoever should report that another person had revealed state secrets or was about to commit treason, and the person who had been reported on is absent at the time, that person must be found and he must confront the accuser face to face. If a thorough investigation should verify the validity of the charge, a decree should be issued as stipulated above.
17. If a person should report that another is about to reveal state secrets or to commit treason, and then fail to prove it, and if an investigation should determine that he fabricated his evidence, such an informer should be punished in the same manner that the person who had been reported upon would have been punished if he had been found guilty.
18. Should a person in the Muscovite state, regardless of his social status, learn of the existence of mass discontent, or conspiracy, or any other evil design, [in Moscow] the existence of such plots should be reported either to Aleksei Mikhailovich, the Sovereign Tsar and Grand Prince of All Russia, or to his boiars or his high assistants, or [in the provinces), to local voevodas or other officials of the central government.
19. If someone should know or hear of the existence of mass discontent or a conspiracy or any other evil design against his Tsarist Majesty, but fails to report it either to the Sovereign, or his boiars, or his high assistants, or voevodas, or other officials of the central government in provincial cities, and then the Sovereign should find out that that person was aware of the existence of such action but failed to report it, and an inquiry be conducted into it, such persons should be sentenced to death without mercy.
20. During an insurrection, mass discontent, or conspiracy, no one should break into, or rob, or inflict bodily harm on his Tsarist Majesty, his boyars, his high assistants, members of the boiarskaia duma [Council of Notables], his advisers, his voevodas in regiments, and other officials in provincial cities.
21. Whoever should initiate mass discontent or a conspiracy against his Tsarist Majesty or his boiars, or his high assistants, or members of the boiarskaia duma or his advisers, or voevodas in regiments, or other officials of the central government in provincial cities, and pillage or inflict bodily harm on them, those persons who initiate it should be condemned to death without mercy.
22. Should voevodas of regiments or officials of the central government in provincial cities inform the Sovereign that either service people or people of other classes had approached them in numbers resembling mass discontent or a conspiracy and threatened to kill them, and if those people who had been reported on should petition the Sovereign to investigate those voevodas and officials of the central government and deny that they had approached them with any mass discontent or a conspiracy and say that they came only in small numbers to petition them, upon such petition of the Sovereign a thorough investigation should be conducted of those city officials and, in the regiments, of the military personnel. If this investigation in cities and regiments should determine that these people really came to the voevodas and to the officials of the central government with genuine petitions and not for robbery purposes [as it had been reported], such people should not be sentenced to death. Those voevodas and officials of the central government who erroneously reported to the Tsar should be severely punished as the Tsar may determine.
Chapter IV Forgers of Documents, Signatures, and Seals

1 If someone should forge a charter of the Sovereign, or the Sovereign’s signature on a charter, or if he should alter anything on an official document without the Sovereign’s authorisation, or the approval of either the boiars, or members of the boiarskaia duma, or of lesser officials, and forge the signature of a clerk, or if someone should make for himself a seal similar to the Sovereign’s seal, such individual, upon investigation, should be executed for such crimes.
2. If someone should steal the Sovereign’s seal from the Sovereign’s charters or other official documents and attach these seals to forged documents, or if he should write illegal documents and then attach such seals to them without the Sovereign’s permission, such individuals should be executed and their forged documents invalidated.
3. If a person should forge some documents and then die, and after his death these documents should be discovered by members of his family or his officials, and if either members of his family or his officials should petition the Sovereign on the basis of these documents, such petitions should be investigated to determine how they obtained these documents, where they found them, and whether they were aware that these documents were forged. if, in the course of the investigation, these persons should acknowledge their complicity or knowledge that these documents were forged and that they held them for personal gain, such individuals should be sentenced to death.
4. But if the investigation should determine that they held those forged documents without being aware that they were forged, such people should not be sentenced to death; the documents must be invalidated and no one should stand trial.
Chapter V Mint Masters Who May Counterfeit Money

1. If mint masters should make either copper, or tin, or economical money [that is, adulterated money], or if they should add copper, tin, or lead to silver and thereby cause harm to the Sovereign’s treasury, such mint masters should be executed by pouring molten matter down their throats.
2. And if gold or silver masters accept someone’s gold or silver work and start adding either copper, or tin, or lead to the silver or gold, upon discovery of this [alteration] they should be knuted. And those people who were hurt by this action, that is, by [the mint master’s] alteration of gold and silver through copper, tin, or lead, should be compensated for the loss suffered.
Chapter VI Permits to Travel into Other Countries

1. And should someone wish to travel for trade purposes or other private matters from the Muscovite state into a foreign country which is on peaceful terms with the Muscovite state, such person in Moscow must petition the Tsar, and in [other] cities [petitions are to be addressed to the local] voevodas for a travel permit. Without a travel permit no person should travel. Voevodas in cities must issue travel permits without delays.
2. If a voevoda should delay issuing a travel permit and thereby cause delay and a loss, and then if a petition of grievance be submitted about it [to the Tsar], and then an inquiry be held about it, those voevodas will incur the Tsar’s great anger. And if they cause a loss they must pay it double, and this [the fine] should go to the petitioner.
3. And if someone should travel into another country without a travel permit, and having been in another state then return to the Muscovite state, and then be reported by someone that he had travelled without a travel permit for treasonous purposes or for some other foolishness, such reports about illegal travels into foreign countries without the Sovereign’s permission should be thoroughly investigated. And if an investigation should establish that a person travelled into another country without a travel permit for treasonous purposes or other evil matter, such person, upon investigation, should be sentenced to death.
4. And should investigation establish that a person travelled into another country without a travel permit for trade purposes and not for treason, he should be penalised by knuting, so that others, seeing it, might learn that they should not do the same.
5. And in those border cities and districts where villages of the Sovereign and villages of state peasants, and hereditary and service estates adjoin Lithuanian or German border lands, and where the Sovereign’s lands thrust into the Lithuanian or German side or where Lithuanian or German lands thrust into the Sovereign’s side, in such case free people and peasants living in the Sovereign’s villages, or in villages of state peasants, or on hereditary and service estates, are permitted to travel through those Lithuanian or German border lands without permits from one city to another; they are also allowed to meet Lithuanian or German people; it should not be held against them that they live adjacent to those Lithuanians or Germans who live in border areas.
6. Should service or hereditary nobles of border areas hear that some of their own people or their peasants are trying to commit treason or some other foolishness, they should notify the Sovereign, and in cities they should also provide appropriate information to local voevodas and bring such people or peasants before them. The voevodas should thoroughly interrogate and investigate such suspects who had been reported upon, using all possible means, and then should report their findings to the Sovereign. Such people should be held in prison until the Sovereign decides what to do with them.

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