Rominskyi Ye. Monuments of law of the princely era of Old Rus: general description
This study opens a cycle of researches into the history of monuments of law of the princely era Old Rus (IX–XIV c.) which are going to be prepared within the research theme “Monuments of law in Ukraine: encyclopedic and legal research.” This article has identified future research directions which are determined by the peculiarities of territorial, chronological and sources nature.
When defining the territorial boundaries of research, the starting point was the recognition of the unity and totality of the Old Rus culture, including the legal culture in the princely era Old Rus. Attention is drawn to the spread throughout the whole Old Rus of common approaches to both regulation of public order and public relations. In the first case it is about the spread of agreement order of regulations and relations between the principalities and princes (princely treaties), as well as the relationship between rulers and subjects (treaties with communities or treaties with viche). In the second case – about the same prevalence of regulation of social relations through princely charters, including the Ruska Pravda. Special attention is paid to the features and legal independence of foreign neighborhoods (especially border principalities of settled nomads and principalities of Rurik dynasty in the Eastern Baltic) as well as of communities of other nations and religions (Germans, Armenians, Jews, Muslims) amidst Old Rus.
Determining of chronological boundaries of the study is predetermined by two independent factors: the period of the emergence and widespread use of the relevant monuments of law, common for the above delineated territory, as well as the time of the physical origin of the material media which contain such monuments. In the first case it is about the time from the beginning of unification of East Slavic lands around Kyiv, which is linked with the formation based on local and incorporated traditions of a new Old Rus culture, including the legal culture. Instead, the upper limit is associated with dramatic changes in the legal culture, which generally occurred in the middle of the XIV century. An overview of the main reasons that caused these changes is made.
As for the existence limits it has been noted that a significant number of legal regulations are extant in relatively new lists that do not reach before the XVI–XVII century. However, the age of the list is not synonymous with the age of the document itself and especially – of its legal content. Ancient monuments of law have been both repeatedly copied and often subjected to radical edition. The study gives appropriate types of sources (primarily Kormchiye Knyhy and collections of secular and clerical legal regulations) and individual monuments or their groups which have been subjected to this editorial influence. Attention is drawn to the problems of objective age determination of some monuments. A separate problem are later copies of old documents. Thus, a significant number of them are so distorted that there is no actual possibility to note whether this is a new version of the ancient act, or its recitation, or an entirely new act that only traditionally refers to ancient times, or it is a fake of later or modern origin.
One of the greatest features of the source base of research is the difficulty to differentiate the sources of knowledge of law and separate monuments of law, as well as to determine the ratio between these categories. Often historical legal documents are preserved in the form of recitations or stories. It is how we know a significant number of international treaties, treaties between princes and viche from XII–XIII ct. and other documents from the chronicles. A separate problem are the sources known only by recitations of researchers from XVIII–XIX centuries. Also, attention is paid to the translations of monuments of law of the foreign origin and the possibility of their definition as Old Rus monuments of law. The same question applies to the acts of church administration and organization, which mainly regulated the internal life of the Church, including religious statutes.
Within the review of each of these three abovementioned problems the directions for further research are defined. It is also noted that the review of monuments of law of the princely era Old Rus is virtually impossible in the form of a set of encyclopedic terms, but only in a complex set of interrelated essays on certain forms of lawmaking, forms of law existence and law administration forms, which should include both an overview of the monuments themselves and additional information about sources of knowledge of law, which in this case means both narratives and monuments of law from the later age.
Key words: monument of law, history of state and law, medieval law, secular law, ecclesiastical law, sources of law, law, legal custom, law-making treaty.