Breaking the law from the history of russian colonization of the steppe in the XVII century¹

Аннотация

Русская колонизация степи была связана с множеством специфических моментов, которые проявились в особой психологии местного населения. В статье исследуется инцидент, произошедший в небольшой крепости на южной границе России 12 июня 1648 года. Местные жители захватили власть и коллективно казнили человека, который занимался ростовщичеством и спекуляцией. Они были уверены, что казнь, хотя и незаконная, отвечает общественным интересам и их интересам царя. Этот случай показывает некоторые особенности российской общественной организации, где коллективные интересы были поставлены выше закона и прав. В этом деле мы видим интересный случай в истории, который отразил специфику сознания местного сообщества, которое ставило интересы коллектива выше законов и правил. Для жителей Челнавского острога решение народного суда имело большую легитимность, чем действующее законодательство. Интересно, что Чубулов был не просто убит своими должниками. Этой импровизированной «казни» предшествовали многие вещи: сбор, обвинение, суд. Все события сопровождались барабанными битами. Даже казнь Чубулова была коллективной: в ней приняли участие все избранные представители народа («мир»). Этот случай показывает, что для населения южной российской границы коллективные общественные интересы были выше частных. Несомненно, этот фактор способствовал успеху военной колонизации степных пространств русским населением. Нарушение закона в пользу социальной справедливости было действительным действием для жителей российской границы.

Annotation

The Russian colonization of the Steppe was connected with a variety of specific points that became apparent in special psychology of the local population. The article studies an incident that happened in a small fortress at the southern frontier of Russia on June 12, 1648. The local residents seized power and executed collectively a man who was engaged in usury and speculation. They were sure that execution, though illegal, was in the public interest. This case shows some features of Russian social organization where the collective interests were put above the law and legal rights. So we see an interesting incident in history. It reflected the specificity of local community consciousness which put the interests of the collective above laws and regulations. For the residents of the ostrog the decision of people’s court had greater legitimacy than the current legislation. It is interesting, that Chubulov was not just murdered by his debtors. This improvised «execution» was preceded by many things: the gathering, the prosecution, the trial. All events were accompanied by drumbeats. Even the execution of Chubulov was collective: all elected representatives of the people («mir») took part in it. This case shows that for the population of the southern Russian frontier collective public interests were above private ones. Surely, this factor contributed to the success of military colonization of the steppe spaces by Russian population. To violate the law for the benefit of social justice was a valid action for the residents of Russian frontier..

Key words and phrases: Colonization of the South of Russia, the Fortress, Russian frontier, Russian service people.

О публикации

¹ Статья выполнена при поддержке гранта РФФИ, проект № 8-39-20001 мол_а_вед

Авторы:
УДК 908
DOI 10.24888/2410-4205-2020-23-2-59-64
16 июня года в
29

On June 12, 1648 to the chimes of a military tower the population of a small fortress at the steppe frontier of Russia announced that they seized power for some time. They arrested their commanders, elected new chiefs from among themselves. All this was accompanied by «theatrical» effects and looked very impressive: the gates were closed, new chiefs were elected by open vote in the square to the beat of drums. However, in the center of this theatricalized performance there was the main event for which service people had seized power: the trial and execution of an old retired strelets, who was engaged in usury and speculation. On June 12, in the fortress there was held a collective execution of a person, who did not violate the laws of the state, but who caused great harm to the local community.

In this event, an incident of the XVII century Russian history, the specific character of Russian public consciousness reflected [9; 10; 12; 13]. It legitimised a special law of moral justice. In the opinion of Russians interests of a collective («mir») were above the law of the state authority.

It is important to note that this event took place exactly at the southern frontier, where there was a special military and serving community. The study of such incidents allows us to supplement the knowledge of the specificity of the Russian colonization of the steppe south and peculiarities of Russian world view.

The examination of what happened in Chelnavsk ostrog on June 12, 1648 must be implemented within the framework of micro-history which deals with the examination of small territories of the past with the purpose of studying everyday life and mentality of “a little man”, traditionally lost in the history.

The history of the construction of Chelnavsk ostrog is connected with the policy of colonizing the southern Russian frontier, which began as early as the second half of the XVI century. At the time, such important fortresses as Dankov, Belgorod, Elets, Voronezh, Livny were built. Time of Troubles (Russian Smutnoye Vremya) at the beginning of the XVII century, and financial problems of the Russian government delayed the process of colonization. After Smolensk War in 1634 the second phase of the colonization of the steppe began, which was accompanied by active military actions against the Crimean and Nogai Tatars [14, p. 15–16]. To protect the left bank of the Upper Don against nomads’ forays, Kozlov (1635) and Tambov (1636) fortresses were built. Kozlov became the center of fortification line (the rampart), extending from the Chelnava River to the upper reaches of the Voronezh River in the west. Along the edges of this line two small fortresses («ostrogi») were built: Chelnavsk ostrog in the east and Bel’sk ostrog at the western end of the fortified line.

Chelnavsk ostrog was an important strategic point for the protection of the space between Kozlov and Tambov. It was built around 1637 and governed by Kozlov Governor. According to the data for 1652 there was a military garrison there comprising 237 strel’tsy and 8 pushkari [7, л. 135]. Service people lived there with their families permanently, so total population of the ostrog was approximately 900 people. The ostrog was headed by the commander of strel’tsy («golova»), who had two assistants («piatidesiatniki»). In 1648 strelets golova was Ia. Shatilov and his assistants were T.G. Riashanin and I.I. Firsov.

The fortress had good fortifications, 6 towers, where 5 cannons and a bell were located. There was a small church in the fortress. Local strel’tsy were armed with firearms (pishchali) and spears. The fortress was constantly under martial law [2]. In spare time local people were engaged in trade and crafts. Life in the fortress was very difficult, and the population were poor. Since 1645 the government of B.I. Morozov increased the number of taxes, as well as the number of military duties. Service people patrolled the steppe, built fortifications, participated in military campaigns against the Tartars. At the same time, the salary for the service was paid occasionally, and it was small [2].

This situation created a good basis for usury. Very soon an old retired strelets Timofei Chubulov began to lend money and food in the fortress. Poverty forced local residents to turn to him for the services, and as a result much of the population owed him. The debtors in the XVII century were dealt as follows: they were caned and imprisoned, if it did not help return the debt, then their children or wives were taken. The debt was increasing over time, becoming higher, but the payment was often beyond service people strength. One had to pay the amount many times greater. However, the law allowed usury and in disputable matters it never took the debtor’s side.

As a result, the majority of the population of Chelnavsk ostrog was becoming poorer, and Timofei Chubulov’s wealth was growing. Hatred of the population towards a successful moneylender was also growing. He had a big house and a family consisting of children and grandchildren. Besides usury Chubulov speculated in goods in a remote fortress.

Chubulov’s activity though was within legal boundaries, but was contrary to local traditions. Residents of the ostrog were a generation of people who had experience of independence not only in military matters, but also in solving social and economic problems. Common danger, always existing in that region, created favorable conditions for the development of community principles, the collective solidarity. Service people of all social categories were together involved in plowing the land, building churches, administrative and residential buildings, taking care of the roads, repairing fortifications. All this work could be accomplished only by applying joint efforts. The collectivism ran through the life of the population: holidays, rites and rituals of local life were also carried out together, and nonparticipation was perceived as a challenge to the whole local world.

In 1647 residents of Chelnavsk ostrog made a collective complaint against T. Chubulov’s activities to Kozlov governor R.F. Boborykin [6, л. 307–309]. However, no real accusations were laid, as the activities of the retired strelets did not break the law. Meanwhile Boborykin had many problems: his relations with Kozlov residents were very bad.

Several times Kozlov residents complained about the governor to Moscow. They accused him of bribery, embezzlement of public money, and the illegal sale of government and church property, blackmail. The complaints contained a description of beating and ungrounded punishment that R.F. Boborykin, allegedly, used actively in his official practice [5, л. 345–350]. A serious reproach was the accusation of death because of beating a service man who had borrowed some money from the governor owing to poverty and could not repay it on time. Besides, the governor was accused of making service people work for him, demanded a lot of gifts and exempted from service for money. Logs collected for the repair of the fortress R.F. Boborykin used to repair his yard, built a stable for himself, had a large farm, consisting of goats, swans, geese. And instead of performing their direct duties service people took care of this whole farm.

But the result of numerous complaints usually came down to the promise of Moscow government to consider all the charges in the future. This went on for a long time, until a special detective prince Ivan Ivanovich Lobanov-Rostovskii, finally, arrived in the town. The prince was the governor’s friend and he conducted the investigation the way so that either governor’s milieu or residents themselves were guilty.

Kozlov residents were confused and resentful. At the beginning of 1648 they again made a big complaint about the governor. For its submission to the tsar in person a whole delegation was sent to Moscow in spring. In June 1648 a rebellion broke out in Moscow, and Kozlov residents who were in the capital took an active part in the riots. On returning to the town, they began to call people to drive the governor out of the city by force. After learning the news, the governor R.F. Boborykin left the town together with a group of loyal people [5, л. 208].

On June 12, 1648 a group of Kozlov residents led by Iu. Tolmachev started a riot. The governor was declared a traitor, and his orders were considered now illegal. Unrest in the city lasted for a few days and ended with the arrival of a new governor V. Volynskii.

The events in Kozlov were well known to residents of Chelnavsk ostrog. On June 12, 1648 the residents of the ostrog gathered in the main square in front of the church to discuss the events. It was decided there not to obey the governor R.F. Boborykin and take power into their own hands. The governor was considered a traitor of the society’s interests. General meeting – «mirskoi skhod», was declared as the main authority in the fortress. The first decision of this gathering was to arrest local authorities: Ia. Schatilov, T.G. Riashanin and I.I. Firsov. In addition, they were caned [5, л. 210¬–215].

It should be noted that the Russian notion “mir” meant the people, the community, the collective. Although it was hardly presented in law but was very important in real life. In everyday folk life there was also the practice of punishment for crimes against «mir» although they were not a legal norm.

The events in Chelnavsk ostrog were connected with the crime against the «mir». The arrest of the representatives of legitimate authorities on June 12, 1648 began with a drumbeat, which was replaced by the sound of the bell. Then, all the gates were locked. Against the seizure of power was a priest of a local church, Simeon, but he was beaten and thrown into prison. At the meeting, nine people, who ruled the town on behalf of the society, were elected.

The central event of the governing of new authorities was the trial and execution of T. Chubulov who was hated by people. Mirskoi skhod made the decision about his arrest and delivery to the square for justice. A large group of strel’tsy with sticks was sent to his house, and they arrested the accused. Then Chubulov was led to the square. Here in the presence of all the residents he was trialed and charged with different accusations, coming in general to the fact that he had ruined local population («vyel mir»). T. Chubulov’s usury, speculation, unscrupulousness in financial matters were condemned. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, which was accomplished openly by nine elected representatives, in the presence of all the residents. We do not know exactly how the execution was accomplished, probably each of nine people cut off a part of the body of the guilty with an ax. In the end, the dead man’s remains were destroyed. This assumption is connected with the fact that among requests of the relatives of the dead we do not find the body issuing requirements. Meanwhile, the practice of burning a dead body of a criminal existed in Russia of that time. For example, tsar Dmitrii’s (Lzhedmitri I) body was burned, because Muscovites believed that although he «was dead, but his soul with the help of the devil creates sorcery» [11]. During the rising in Moscow in June 1648 the body of the official L. Pleshcheev, who was killed by the crowd after being accused of numerous bribes, was burned [1, с. 36, 50].

After this event, for a few days elected government was in power until a new Kozlov governor V. Volynin took control of the situation in the ostrog. He freed jailed representatives of local authorities, and wrote to Moscow about the murder of T. Chubulov. Children and grandchildren of the murdered demanded a fair trial.

Soon to investigate the incident a special detective from Moscow E.I. Buturlin came to ostrog. During interrogations, nobody denied the murder, but everyone unanimously believed that the punishment was a fair retribution for crimes against people. As a result, E.I. Buturlin just sent to prison eight conspirators, the ninth escaped. The guilt of the arrested was that they attacked and beated the authorities and the priest. Nobody was accused of the murder of T. Chubulov.

So we see an interesting incident in history. It reflected the specificity of local community consciousness which put the interests of the collective above laws and regulations. For the residents of the ostrog the decision of people’s court had greater legitimacy than the current legislation [3; 4; 8]. It is interesting, that Chubulov was not just murdered by his debtors. This improvised «execution» was preceded by many things: the gathering, the prosecution, the trial. All events were accompanied by drumbeats. Even the execution of Chubulov was collective: all elected representatives of the people («mir») took part in it.

This case shows that for the population of the southern Russian frontier collective public interests were above private ones. Surely, this factor contributed to the success of military colonization of the steppe spaces by Russian population. To violate the law for the benefit of social justice was a valid action for the residents of Russian frontier.

Список литературы:

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  12. Poe М. What did Russians Mean When They Called Themselves “Slaves of the Tsar”? // Slavic Review. 1998. No 57 (3). Р. 585-606.
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References:

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