Courts and Court Hierarchy in Novgorod the Great in the Late 16–Early 17th Centuries
Daily legal practice in local centers of Muscovite Rus’ before the publication of the Law Code of 1649 (Sobornoe Ulozhenie) has been poorly studied. This article uses comparative analysis to study two groups of sources about the legal process and law enforcement in Novgorod the Great in the late 16th–early 17th centuries. The analysis illuminates a complicated hierarchy of legal levels. At the same time, the competences of the courts at each level were not always clearly defined, which corresponds to the ideas formulated by N.S. Kollmann in her study on crime and punishment in Muscovy. In the late 16th–early 17th centuries, the Novgorod Court Chancellery was a middle level of the judicial system. The highest instance was the court in Moscow, which passed judgment on behalf of the tsar and was provided by central chancelleries in the Kremlin. During the Time of Troubles, the hierarchy became simpler: the communication with Moscow disappeared and only two levels prevailed in Novgorod. The city administrator’s court (voevoda) dealt with political crimes and landowners’ disputes, while the City Court and other lower level courts dealt with civil and petty criminal cases. The courts were ruled by both codes and customary law: the existing law codes (Sudebniki) did not cover all the diversity of legal cases.