Early Russian History. Key Issues. Гончарова Л.Ю. - 7 стр.



it was only secondary to the major activity of most people - that of primitive
Between 850 and 1200 the old tribal organization gave way to a stratified
society. At the top stood the military caste, the druzhina, originally Viking now
largely slavified, next came the merchants, followed by the artisans in the towns.
These were all free men. The broad base was provided by the free peasants and hired
workers. At the very bottom were the slaves. The institution of slavery was accepted
by the Russians without question as was the case by most ancient societies. Although
no opposing classes had yet appeared there was a definite division between the
ruling, land-owning warriors and the laborers. It was the beginning of feudal society.
Yet Kievan Russia was not essentially an absolute state. Democratic elements
did exist. Meetings of tribal elders and of town folk (veche) originally administered
and enforced the law. The prince eventually superimposed his power over these
primitive assemblies, except in Novgorod were the veche maintained its power for a
long time until crushed by Moscow absolutism.
Kievan Statehood: did it exist?
A fundamental question is raised by all these facts. Was Kiev actually a state?
Florinsky, a well-known historian of Russia, denies it. He argues that the frontiers of
Kiev were uncertain, the tribes still in a state of flux with many nomadic habits, the
powers of the grand dukes of Kiev imprecise. He still had to contend with princes
"under him" (treaty of 907) who frequently had more land and power than he did and
whose representative he still was. In the 9th and 10th centuries what we have,
according to Florinsky, is a loose federation of autonomous city states in process of
extension. The Grand Duke merely delegates members of his druzhina to control the
principalities and cities.
Local centers were under a "possadnik" or governor who collected tribute,
served as judge who collected fines and shared them with the prince. The families
were large - Vladimir had 12 sons, each of whom was a possadnik, forming the basis
of the Rurik dynastic claim. Local interest, however, were often stronger than the
claims of the Veliki Kniaz. So discord and violent internal struggle was endemic.
Aside form staying in the family no rule of succession existed until 1054.
Kluchevsky agrees essentially with Florinsky but he puts greater emphasis on
the unity which existed and the domination which the princes enjoyed. This was
primarily due to the fact all depended on the Grand Duke to arrange and conduct the
Grekov, a Soviet historian, believes Volhynia, rather than Kiev was the first
state. Since a state means, according to Grekov, there is authority to collect regular
taxes. This first occurred in Volhynia.
No matter who is right and how the state is defined, it seems quite obvious that
some primitive form of it existed in Kievan Russia. So Kiev is the mother of Russian
cities and the first political entity we can call Russian.