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One of the most important declarations of the code was that which divided the population into three classes - the nobles, the freemen, and the slaves. Of these three, the slaves alone were left unprotected. The freemen, who were fenced in from the encroachments of the nobles, were composed of the citizens, the farmers, the landholders, and hired servants. They were subclassified into centuries, each of which elected a head, who filled an office equivalent to that of a tribune. The civil magistracy, thus created, had a separate guard of their own, and were placed, in virtue of their office, on an equality with the boyars. The city of Novgorod, which maintained, under a nominal princedom, the spirit of a republic, exhibited these municipal franchises in a more complete form than any of the Russian cities; all of which, however, possessed similar privileges, more or less modified according to their relative importance, or the circumstances under which their charters were granted. The chief of the Novgorodian republic was a prince of the blood; the title of his office was that of Namestnick. He took no share in the deliberations of the people, nor does it appear that he even possessed a veto upon their decisions. His oath of instalment bound him as the slave rather than the governor of the city; for it pledged him to govern agreeably to the constitution as he found it; to appoint none but Novgorodian magistrates in the provinces, and even these to be previously approved of by the Posadnick or mayor; to respect strictly the exclusive rights possessed by the citizens sitting in judgment on their own order, of imposing their own taxes, and of carrying on commerce at their own discretion; to interdict his boyars from acquiring landed property within the villages dependent on Novgorod, and to oblige them to travel at their private cost; to discourage immigration; and never to cause a Novgorodian to be arrested for debt. A princedom, accepted on such restrictive conditions, was but the shadow of a sceptre, as the municipal union of the legislative and judicial abundantly proved. The first officer was the Posadnick, or mayor, chosed by election for a limited time; the next was the Tisiatski, or tribune, who was a popular check upon the prince and mayor; and the rest of the functionaries consisted of the senate, the city assembly, and the boyars, all of whom were elective. By the electoral system, the people preserved a constant guard over the fidelity of their representatives in the senate, and their officers of justice; so that, while the three grades propounded by law were kept widely apart, and socially distinguished, the prerogatives of each were rigidly protected against innovation from the other two. All that this little republic required to render its security perfect, was liberty. It was based upon a system of slavery, and sustained its dominion. more by fear than righteousness. Nor was it independent of control, although all its domestic concerns were uninterruptedly transacted within its own confines. It was an appanage of the grand princedom; but on account of its fortunate geographical position on the northern and north-western frontiers, which were distant from the capital — a circumstance that delegated to Novgorod the defence of those remote boundaries — it acquired a degree of political importance that preserved it for four centuries against the cupidity of the succession of despots that occupied the throne. The removal of the seat of empire from Kiev to Vladimir, and finally to Moscow, by drawing the centre nearer to Novgorod, diminished its power by degrees, and finally absorbed it altogether.
One of the enactments of the code of Iaroslav will show what advances had been made towards the segregation of the people into different orders, and how much the government partook, or was likely to partake, of a mixed form, in which a monarchical, an hereditary, and a representative estate were com
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[1019 A.D.] bined. It made the prince the heir-at-law of every freeman who died without male issue, with the exception of the boyars and officers of the royal guard. By this regulation the prerogative of the crown was rendered paramount, while the hereditary rights of property were preserved unconditionally to the families of the nobles alone. A class of rich patricians was thus formed and protected, to represent, by virtue of birth, the interests of property; while commerce and popular privileges were fully represented in the assembly of the elected senators. The checks and balances of this system were pretty equal; so that, if the constitution of which these outlines were the elements, had been allowed to accumulate strength and to become consolidated by time, it would at last have resolved itself into a liberal and powerful form; the semisavage usages with which it was encrusted would have dropped away, and wiser institutions have grown up in their stead.
So clearly were the popular benefits of the laws defined, that the code regulated the maximum demand which the proprietor of the soil might exact from his tenant; and it neither enforced taxation, nor recognised corporal punishment, nor in the composition of a pecuniary mulct admitted any distinction between the Varangians and the Slavs, who formed the aristocracy and the democracy. The prince neither possessed revenue nor levied taxes. He subsisted on the fines he imposed for infractions of law, on the tributes he received from his estates, on the voluntary offerings of the people, and the produce of such property as had fallen to the private title of the sovereignty. Even the tribute was not compulsory; it was rather a right derived from prescription. The only dependence of the lords of fiefs was in that they were compelled to render military service when required to the grand prince; and it was expected that they should come numerously attended, well armed, and provisioned. The tribute was the mark of conquest, and was not considered to imply taxation.
But while the monarchical principle was thus kept within proscribed limits, the power of the democracy was not sufficiently curbed: over both there was a check, but the hands of the prince were bound too tightly. His dominion was despotic, because he was surrounded by men devoted to his will; but the dominion of the people was boundless, because opinion was only in its rickety infancy, and the resistance to the offending prince lay in the demonstration of physical superiority instead of moral combination. They never hesitated to avail themselves of their numerical advantage. They even carried it to extravagance and licentiousness; and so much did they exult in their strength, that they regulated the hours at which the sovereign was permitted to enjoy relaxation, punished the obnoxious heads of the church by summary ejectment, and in several instances, taking the charter of law into their own keeping, deposed their princes. The checks, therefore, established in Iaroslav's wise convention between the government and the constituency were overborne by the rudeness of the times.
That the period had arrived when laws were necessary to the settlement of the empire, was sufficiently testified by the circumstances, external and domestic, in which the people were placed. The adoption of Christianity had partially appeased the old passion for aggression against Constantinople, which, having now become the metropolis of their religion, was regarded with some degree of veneration by the Russians. A war of plundering Byzantium, therefore, could not be entertained with any prospect of success. The extension of the empire under Vladimir left little to be coveted beyond the frontiers, which spread to the east, north and south as far as even the wild grasp of the lawless tribes of the forests could embrace. To the west, the
Russians had ceased to look for prey, since Boleslav, by his easy conquest of Kiev, had demonstrated the strength of Poland. Having acquired as much as they could, and having next, in the absence of warlike expeditions abroad, occupied themselves with ruthless feuds at home, they came at length to consider the necessity of consulting the security of possessions acquired at so much cost, and so often risked by civil broils. This was the time for a code of laws. But unfortunately there still existed too many remains of the barbarian era, to render the introduction of legal restraints a matter easy of accomplishment. The jealousy of Greek superiority survived the admission of the Greek religion. The longing after power still inspired the petty chiefs; and hopeless dreams of larger dominion wherewith to bribe the discontented, and provide for the hirelings of the state, still troubled the repose of the sovereign. The throne stood in a plain surrounded by forests, from whence issued, as the rage propelled them, hordes of newly reclaimed savages, pressing extraordinary demands, or threatening with ferocious violence the dawning institutions of civilisation. In such a position, it was not only impossible to advance steadily, but to maintain the ground already gained.
Jaroslav Dies (1054 A.D.)
Could the character of Iaroslav, the legislator, have been transmitted through his successors, the good of which he laid the seeds, might have been finally cultivated to maturity. But his wisdom and his virtues died with him. Nor, elevated as he was in moral dignity above the spirit of his countrymen, can it be said that he was free from weaknesses that marred much of the utility of his best measures. One of his earliest errors was the resignation of Novgorod to his son Vladimir, who had no sooner ascended the throne of the republican city, than, under the pretext of seeking satisfaction for the death of a Russian who had been killed in Greece, he carried arms into the Byzantine empire. The folly of this wild attempt was abundantly punished in the sequel; fifteen thousand men were sacrificed on the Grecian plains, and their chief hunted back disgracefully to his own territories. Yet this issue of one family grant did not awaken Iaroslav to the danger of partitioning the empire. Before his death he divided the whole of Russia amongst his sons, making, however, the younger sons subordinate to the eldest, as grand prince of Kiev, and empowering the latter to reduce the others to obedience by force of arms whenever they exhibited a disposition to dispute his authority.
This settlement, enforced with parting admonitions on his death-bed, was considered by Iaroslav to present a sufficient security against civil commotion and disputes about the succession. But he did not calculate upon the ungovernable lust for power, the jealousy of younger brothers, and the passion for aggrandisement. His injunctions were uttered in the amiable confidence of Christianity; they were violated with the indecent impetuosity of the barbarian nature.
With the death of Iaroslav, and the division of the empire, a new period of darkness and misrule began. The character of the legislator, which influenced his own time, was speedily absorbed in the general confusion. Iaroslav's name was held in reverence, but the memory of his excellence did not awe the multitudes that, upon his decease, sprang from their retirement to revive the disastrous glories of domestic warfare. Much as he had done for the extension of Christianity, he had failed in establishing it in the hearts
of the people. He was an able theologian, and well acquainted with the church ordinances, agenda, and other books of the Greek religion, many of which he caused to be translated into the Russian language, and distributed in copies over the country. So strong an interest did he take in the cultivation of the doctrines of the church, that he established a metropolitan at Kiev, in order to relieve the Russian people and their priests from the inconveniences of attending the residence of the ecclesiastical head at Constantinople, and also with a desire to provide for the more prompt and certain dissemination of the principles of faith. But the value of all these exertions expired with their author. He did much to raise the fame and consolidate the resources of the empire; but the last act of his political career, by which he cut away the cord that bound the rods, had the effect of neutralising all the benefits he meditated to accomplish, as well as those that he actually effected, for his country. His reign was followed by a period of savage anarchy that might be said to have resolved the half-civilised world into its original elements.
THE CHARACTER OF THE PRINCIPALITIES
THE period extending from the year of Iaroslav's death (1054) to the year of the appearance of the Tatars (1224) is one of the most troublous and confused epochs in the history of Russia. As the Scandinavian custom of partition continued to prevail over the Byzantine idea of political unity, the national territory was constantly divided.
The princely anarchy of oriental Europe finds a parallel in the feudal anarchy of the Occident. Pogodine enumerates for this period sixty-four principalities which enjoyed a more or less protracted existence; two hundred and ninety-three princes who during these two centuries contended over Kiev and other Russian domains; eighty-three civil wars in which the entire country was concerned. Foreign wars helped to augment the enormous mass of historical facts. The chronicles mention against the Polovtsi alone eighteen campaigns, while these barbarians invaded Christian territory forty-six times.
The ancient names of the Slav tribes have entirely disappeared, or are preserved only in the names of towns- as, for instance, that of the Polotchanes in Polotsk; that of the Severians in Novgorod-Seversk. The elements in the composition of Russia were thus rather principalities than peoples. No more is said of the Krivitchi or of the Drevlians; we hear only of Smolensk or of Volhinia. These little states were dismembered at each new division among the children of a prince; they were then reconstituted, to be again divided into appanages. In spite of all these vicissitudes, however, some among them had an uninterrupted existence due to certain topographical and ethnographical conditions. Setting aside the distant principality of