‘Let us distribute lands fairly and deservedly’: land distribution system establishment in russia in the 15th–16th centuries

Mikhail Bentsianov

Abstract


The author studies the establishment of the land distribution system in the Russian state between the 15th and mid-16th centuries. Referring to a vast variety of sources (cadastre books, gentry military lists, letters patent, legislative acts, etc.) the author analyzes the appearance and further development of the system of land distribution. Comparing materials from different parts of the country, the author describes the complexity and ambiguity behind the creation of the said system. Its basis was the mass distribution of lands in compliance with lists in the Novgorod Land in the late 15th – early 16th centuries and was later applied in other territories, facing a number of objective difficulties. In the centre of the country plots of land were distributed in places with advanced estate landownership which seriously impeded its growth. There was no effective control over the redistribution of lands, while repressive measures led to no results. After a few decades of land distribution and due to the decrease in the lands available and the drastic increase in the number of landowners initiated by the central government, it lost control over the provision of lands to the service class, which resulted in numerous changes both in internal and international affairs. The land distribution system was re-initiated in the mid-16th century and it took a few decades for it to include all the service class men. As a result, there appeared a discrepancy between the land distribution in theory and its actual implementation. Fair distribution of land as well as the control over service and redistribution of lands led to the emergence of a central management body. The land distribution system played a similarly important role for the development of gentry as a class. Being a major factor in the centralization policy, the land distribution system laid the groundwork for the development of the Russian state being a basis of its intensive expansion policy.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15826/qr.2016.1.150

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