Thursday, January 15, 2015

The right of the blood revenge in Kyivan Rus'

Initially, the blood revenge was not limited in the Kyivan Rus' and belonged to all members of the community - verv’. The verv’ had the right and the obligation to chase for the murder of the community's member. An addition, in some cases the verv’ bore collective responsibility for the murder of the Prince’s officer or some member of the community.

The murder was a private offence and does not fall within the jurisdiction of the State as a criminal law did not exist yet. As well, there was no the court and the police in the modern sense.

The possibility of killing the felon without a trial was fixed in the treaties between Rus’ and Byzantium. Specifically, in the article 4 of the Rus'–Byzantine Treaty of 911 it was stated that “if someone would kill anyone - Rus' kill Christian or Christian kill Rus' - let die at the scene of the crime.

In connection with the development of social relations and the strengthening of princely power the right of the blood revenge gradually limited and eventually became only the right of relatives of the slain member of the community. In the article 13а of the Rus’-Byzantine Treaty of 944 it was stated that “if someone would kill anyone - Rus' kill Christian or Christian kill Rus' and the murderer will be caught by relatives (who was killed), then let he will be killed”.

Thus, there were personal relationships between the relatives of the murdered and the murderer that could be realized only in the form of the revenge. In the future the list of relatives-avengers was defined at the legislative level. Such Avengers could be a brother, son, father, sister's son or brother’s son. This provision is confirmed by article 1 of Rus'ka Justice (Rus'ka Pravda) where it is stated that "If a man kills a man, then avenges the brother for the brother or the son for the father, or the father for the son, or the son of his brother, or the son of his sister."

It should be noted that the evolution of the right of the blood revenge in Kyivan Rus’ took place under the influence of at least the following three factors. Firstly, Kyivan princes were interested in restricting the right of the blood revenge for political and economic reasons. Secondly, some members of the community did not have relatives.  Thirdly, Kyivan Rus’ legislation did not allow the death penalty (the murder as a punishment for murder was not adopted Christianity).

Thus, there was a gradual withering away of the institute of the blood revenge. On the one hand, a representative of the ruling elite does not want to be subjected to retaliation by the relatives of the killed. But relatives of the murdered also aware of the difficulties and dangers that should be arise in the implementation of such retaliation. On the other hand, the ordinary members of the community do not want to be subjected to retaliation representative of the ruling elite. Besides, if the deceased had relatives that blood revenge could turn into an endless revenge (the immortal revenge on Hegel).

An amplification of princely power and the collapse of hard-verv’ ties have led to the use of a surrogate of the blood revenge – the monetary ransom. The relatives of the killed are deprived of the right to life and the death of the killer and they have the right to claim payment for the head of a murdered. Such provisions have been enshrined in an article 2 of the Rus'ka Pravda, which states that after the death of Yaroslav again gathered his sons:  Izyaslav, Svyatoslav Vsevolod and abolished the blood revenge, setting a monetary ransom.

As a surrogate of the blood revenge the monetary ransom existed in two forms: the vira and the golovschyna. The vira was collected by the Prince and his administration. The golovschyna was a reward for the relatives of the murdered. Hence, the revenge could be replaced by a payment of 40 hryvna. For killing of the representative prince’s administration had to pay double vira - 80 hryvna. In addition, if a man was found dead on the territory of the verv’ and the killer is not found then the verv’ collectively has paid a vira (the so-called wild vira) to the Prince.

Course, the idea of shared responsibility of community in the form of public redemption for murder is not the only asset of the Rus'ka truth. This idea is generally characterized for many ancient legal systems where public redemption takes various forms: payment of money, offering sacrifices, the death penalty.  But these various forms of social redemption have one unifying cause – killing.

It must be said that the public monetary ransom was known for the Czechs, Morava and poles. Also the provisions of article 24 of the Laws of Hammurabi included payment of the deceased's relatives. The laws of Moses have set public redemption in a sacred form. In ancient Roman public redemption becomes extreme cruel forms.

Thus, an institute of the right of the blood revenge in Kyivan Rus’ passed through several stages - from unlimited right to kill through monetary ransom to the complete abolition.

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