Great Muscovite Law Code

(1649)

The Ulozhenie, or Great Muscovite Law Code, was Muscovite Russia's main legal code, issued by Alexis I Mikhaylovich (“Alexei Mikhailovich” in the document) in 1649. Its full title, Sobornoe Ulozhenie, literally means “Collected Code of Laws.” It replaced the Sudebniki (law codes) of Ivan III Vasilyevich (1497) and Ivan IV Vasilyevich (1550). These codes had promoted state centralization and the rise of state and legal bureaucracies. The Ulozhenie—a complex document running well over two hundred pages in modern printings—continued this process. It is primarily known, however, for its passages on serfdom, which take up only a few pages. In this, the code represented the legal climax of a long historical process whereby Russia's once-free peasants (about 90 percent of the total population) had been reduced to a form of serfdom often compared to slavery. The new code terminated the few remaining rights of movement left to serfs from earlier legislation; ended time limitations...