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The prominent Russian historian, Academician Valentin Yanin, devoted much of his time and attention to Novgorod - originally, the Republic of Novgorod the Great - one of Russia's oldest towns, dating at least to the 9th century, a notable trading center, governed by its Veche - elected popular assembly, which stubbornly resisted the autocratic claims of the Muscovy rulers. In his article analyzing the roots of Novgorodian statehood Academician Yanin wrote: "We have long been accustomed to describing the 'Veche' systems of government in Novgorod as a 'boyar republic' (boyars - the nobility). But what kind of a republic this was if it also had 'the throne of a prince' and when its system of government included the person of a prince as an indispensable condition of its functioning?" On the other hand, however, one can neither call it a principality because a prince - an invited military commander, or chieftain, remained under strict control of the local boyars.
The 1264 Treaty signed by Novgorod with Prince Yaroslav Yaroslavich - the oldest such document preserved to this day - not only regiments the status and relations of the "contracting parties", but also contains a proud formula of what they called "liberty in princes". This key provision was punctually preserved in all of the subsequent treaties of this kind up to the loss of Novgorod's independent status in 1478. No earlier Novgorodian treaties of this kind have been preserved over the centuries because of various reasons, but the local chronicle contains repeated mentions of "Yaroslav treaties" in its description of the military commander swearing his oath of loyalty to the Republic. Who was this person - one out of five who held this post during this period of Novgorodian history?
As Acad. Yanin points out, one can regard with a fair measure of confidence the long-established opinion of scholars that the chronicle mention of "Yaroslav treaties" refers to some official documents which asserted the system of government of Novgorod and which were issued by Prince Yaroslav the Wise ("Mudry") at the turn of 11th century This view rests on a chronicle account of the events of 1019 when the Novgorodians came to the assistance of Prince Yaroslav in his struggle for the throne of Kievan Rus against his rival - Prince Svyatopolk "Okayanny" (from Cain - the "cursed"). Prince Yaroslav rewarded his allies with two charters, called "pravda" and "ustav" (literally - the Truth and the Charter, or statutes). The former must have been a version of the main Code of Laws of Muscovy - the "Russkaya Pravda", which was quoted in the chronicle after the aforesaid record. As for the
"Ustav", it must have been similar to the "treaty" (gramota) issued to the Novgorodians by Prince Yaroslav.
An obvious question stemming from the above was to what extent could various limitations and restrictions of the powers of a prince be traced back to 11th century This question was answered by some sensational finds of the 1998 and 1999 archeological excavations in Novgorod. In his account of this expedition Acad. Yanin says a vast urban estate in the grounds of the ancient Ludin district was studied which had an important public role to play in the second and third quarters of 12th century It accommodated the city court in which the prince formally held a priority status, but could not pronounce the final verdict without the consent of a "posadnik" - a local boyar leader. This procedure is fully in keeping with one of the formulas of Novgorodian agreements with the invited princes used in the latter years.
What experts call the dendrochronological studies of the flooring of the Court's platform proved that the oldest of the timbers used date back to the year 1126. This date as the time of the establishment of the original system of the "joint" court is fully born out by chronicle records, inscriptions and symbols on the lead seals applied to the documents of land ownership, sales and purchases of land and other legal documents. Incidentally, the appearance of numerous seals of the Novgorodian princes has been traced back exactly to the reign of Prince Vsevolod Mstislavich (1117-1136).
In his article Acad. Yanin then submits to an analysis a chronicle text for the year 6633 (which corresponds to March 1125 - February 1126 A.D.) which contains what appears to be a rather strange statement: "In the same year the Novgorodians put Vsevolod on the throne", although it is an established fact that 'Vsevolod Mstislavich became the Prince of Novgorod in 1117, when his father, Mstislav Vladimirovich, was recalled from the post by the Grand Prince Vladimir Monomach of Kiev.
In his comparison of various sources, Acad. Yanin comes to the following conclusion: in 1125, Vsevolod, after the assumption of the Kievan throne by his father, left Novgorod, leaving his son in his place. On his return in February 1126 the procedure of his enthronement was repeated. And the establishment of a joint court at that time makes it clear that the conditions were different already. And that means that the legal formula which banned the issue of official deeds, or treaties, without the approval of the "posadnik" (governor of medieval Russian city-state, appointed by prince or elected by citizens) cannot go back to the time of Prince Yaroslav the Wise in as much as the institute of posadnik's control over the issue of such charters appeared only with the establishment of the joint court of the prince and the posadnik in 1126.
Due to a number of circumstances (the absence of private ownership of land, the establishment of a system of inherited patrimonial estates in Northern Russia at the turn of 11 - 12th centuries, etc.), Acad. Yanin comes to the conclusion that any legal formulas concerning prices's rights to land could not have been established before the turn of 11 - 12th centuries. And it was right at that time that the organs of boyar state administration were formed. And they were headed by a posadnik elected by the veche popular assembly...
This being so, what do we have to assume for the earlier times? At this point in his article Acad. Yanin turns back to the Novgorodian excavations of 1951. The finds included not only the first birch-bark scroll * , but also a puzzling object which could not be explained at that time. This was a birch stump 8 cm long and 5.5 cm in diameter - a cylinder with two mutually perpendicular channels. Carved on its surface was a princely heraldic emblem and an inscription "emtsya of grivnas 3". The "Russkaya Pravda" chronicle explains the term "emets-emtsya" as a tax collector of the ruling prince. The sum of "3 grivnas" was a considerable sum of money which must have belonged to that tax collector. And although the historical value of the find was obvious right from the start, its functional purpose remained unexplained.
The following 46 years of archeological excavations unearthed a total of 12 such objects. Six of them bore traces of inscriptions indicating their belonging to the prince, or a tax collector. Carved upon some of them were princely emblems and the sum of money owned to him. Another 3 such objects bear an important additional detail - a short crosswise channel, plugged with an extractable wooden cork with the ends matched flat with the surface of the cylinder.
The combination of the aforesaid details shed light on the purpose and meaning of these finds. The cylinders "labelled" a bag of money with a share of the profits belonging to the prince (i.e. the state) or the tax collector himself. According to the "Russkaya Pravda" Chronicle, the latter was entitled to a percentage of the collected tax payments.
The explanation of the wooden cylinder as a "tag", which also served as the lock, was verified using a specially built model. And it became quite clear that this kind of lock fully protected the knot on the money bag and, consequently, its contents.
Out of the 13 such cylinders found in 1951 - 1997 ten were unearthed in the lay-
* For details, see: "Messages of Olden Times", Science in Russia, No. 4, 1995. - Ed.
ers of 11th century; two in sediments of the first half of 12th century; and yet another such "lock" could not be dated with certainty.
And when the purpose of these "locks" became clear in the early 1980s, the attention of the archeologists was attracted by yet another fact. Although the heraldic emblems and the engraved titles indicated their belonging to the princely possessions, these cylinders were unearthed in the grounds of the homes of the former aristocracy. This made it possible to conclude that, as different from the principalities of Southern Rus where the tax collectors were the prince and his soldiers, in the Republic of Novgorod the same functions were carried out by the Novgorodians themselves (the "emtsy" and the "mechniks" - sword-bearers). They maintained control over the budget and handed over to the prince his share in accordance with the formal agreement. And it is this order of things that was recorded in the agreements with the princes in 13-15th centuries as a tradition kept since ancient times.
The aforesaid findings and assumptions were confirmed during the 1999 excavations when an unprecedented "strike" of antiquities was discovered in the Troitsky dig. In the previous year the medieval estate located there was identified as a major administrative center used for formal court sessions. In the 1999 excavations, when reaching down to the layers of the first quarter of 12-the 30s of 11th century this assumption of the specialists was confirmed, but the function of the estate at that period of time proved to be different. Found in these layers were 38 cylinders of the aforesaid type. If one adds to that the two found in 1980 the total number of such objects reaches 40. And their function as a "label-lock" was also confirmed.
Out of these 40 cylinders 12 bore traces of the original inscriptions and in four cases these clearly indicated their belonging to the "sword-bearers". Carved on seven of them were swords and on ten others - princely heraldic emblems. Another four preserved to us the names of the tax collectors or their superiors. More than ten locks were without any markings, although all had non-extractable corks. This means that these locks had been used already.
Of special importance were cases of "interconnection" of the carvings upon the cylinders and birch-bark scrolls found near them. The most interesting were two cylinders with the carved name of the owner ("Khotenj") and a birch-bark scroll (No. 902) addressed to the same person by someone by the name of Domagostj. Khotenj had sent him to collect taxes from two of the territories under his administration located 240-280 km to the east of Novgorod. In one of his messages Domagostj informs his master that in the town of Ezjsk (old town on the Mologa) he had to wait longer than expected for the receipt of the taxes from the residents. Because of this delay he asked the master to send another tax collector to the next town on Volochina (tributary of the Mologa). And there were several other messages addressed to the same master.
Inscriptions one three similar cylinders bear the names of the places scheduled for tax collection which were situated as far as 900 km away from Novgorod.
Thus it becomes apparent that the estate under investigation was a "collection point" of the bags of the tax revenue from the surrounding areas. Here the tax returns were "sorted out" and labelled. As since - Acad. Yanin points out - most of the lock- cylinders found there were cut off the bags with the share of money for the tax collectors, control over the state revenue must have been in the hands of the local aristocracy In the system of the administration of the prince they performed the same function as that which belonged to the prince and his troops in the southern regions of Russia.
Acad. Yanin points out that this particular find makes it possible to link the introduction of the Novgorodians' right to collect and control the system of state revenue in accordance with the original agreement with the accord with Prince Rurik who was invited to the throne of the Novgorod princes in the middle of 9th century. Thereafter the power of the prince is asserted as the result of an accord between the local aristocracy and an invited military leader. The aforesaid document placed restrictions right from the start on the power of the prince in the vital area of state revenue collection. Acad. Yanin points out that therein lies the main difference between Novgorodian statehood and the monarchies of Smolensk and Kiev where the authority of the princely dynasty of the Ruriks was asserted not by a letter of agreement but by the sword.
In 1019 Prince Yaroslav the Wise must have confirmed the already established norms of relations between the Novgorodians and their princes. At the end of 11th century the boyar gentry succeeds in the establishment of the post of the "posadnik" governor and assumes control over landed transactions. In 1126 they succeeded in establishing the priority of their own representative in the local court. Thus it took quite some time for a pattern of the republic's relations with the invited prince to take its final shape.
At the Sources of Novgorodian Statehood (U istokov novgorodskoy gosudarstvennosti), Vestnik RAN, Vol. 70, No. 8, 2000
Prepared by Ruwnna DOLGIKH
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