moral values

Law and Church in Russia during the late middle ages


  • Russian Pravda

The first arrival of the ‘Russian Pravda’ appeared to be in 1016 and reached its completion in 1170s. In fact, those series of documents were regarded as the most fundamental principle of Russian law until 1546.

The document started as a court handbook in order to provide protection of the people in Novgorod against the various Vikings’ oppression. Throughout the years, many new chapters took place in it , considering different aspects of the Russian society. For instance, Vladimir Monomakh’ (1113–25) was particularly concerned about the debts and how they were paid, since he introduced a new accretions to the document concerning that problem. Furthermore, around 1176, a new chapter was added regarding the status of the ‘slaves’ – which claimed for the first time that the slaves were not animals,but human beings like everyone else with true characters. Despite the existence of those fundamental affairs, it is quite astonishing the fact that by and large the document was consisted of oral evidences written down. But for Pravda, Russian law would have continued its path as providing only oral evidences with questionable faithfulness.

However, according to the document, the possibility of banishment and exile was as strong as the corporal punishment and execution. In its principle the Russian law was somewhat unfair regarding the women, for example if there were no heirs, the land was passed to the prince. It was not permitted to the wives to inherit anything, neither the children of female slaves. On the other hand, another major function of the law was to preserve the Christianity and protect it, facilitating male superiority, but providing protection towards the helpless women and enforcing the feeling of collective responsibility.

Indeed, as every political document, Russian Pravda took over questions as supporting the military power,private property and business trade.


  • Church law

The Church was another major body of the political and social structure of mediaeval Russia with its own laws and rules. The church of Russia was almost as powerful and with inhospitable predominance as in other places around Europe at that time, in terms of staying above the ruler of the country.

In fact, there are to major points ,which are worth to be mentioned in relation with the status of the church law. First of all, the Church people (which population consisted not only by the clergies, bishops,monks and priests, but also widows, beggars and free men) were not permitted to be juridical subjects. In other words , they were not allowed to impose decisions and making judgments regarding the crime in the country. As an quite opposition to the previous prohibition, the second point illustrated how the Church was given right to impose its judgment over some family and common issues, which was viewed by many people as sheer violation of the communal law.

During the 15th century, many questions were raised in close relation with the succession of the dynasty or in correlation with the conflicts between the representatives of the Old Testament, but above all the most important one was the role of the Orthodox Church in the world. Gaining more and more land, the Church in Russia at the very end of 15tth century owned around third of the populated land of Muscovy. This refracted with little sympathy and outrageous rage among many people, who urged that the major objective of the church should have been anything, but the souls’ salvation of the people.

As usual , there were two major views of those who accused the church of Godless by its actions and those who interceded it.  The first called themselves ‘nonpossessors’ , they believed in the holiness of the Church’s image, in the simplicity in which monks should have to lived and in the disengagement of everything, but searching for spirituality. On the second front were the so-called ‘possessors’ whose argument was that in possessing a land, the church was involved in responsibility of regulating society’s needs, those needs included in themselves the schools and the hospitals. Joseph Volokolamsky,fervent defender even said ‘God’s holy churches and monasteries must not suffer injury or violence, and their lands and belongings must not be taken away. … For all Church and monastery property, as well as the fruits of the monks’ labor, are dedicated to God. … He who takes away anything that belongs to a monastery is an offender, and the holy regulations curse him.’

However, we should not take those words as a face value and turn a blind eye on the situation, but consider the both sides with equal judgment. In 1508, Vasilii (Vasily or Basil) III (1479-1533) ascended the throne and became grand prince of Moscovy. According to the historical records, he made everything possible to expand the Church authority and refused to consider the ‘nonpossessors’ objections. It is pretty obvious, how his actions worked in completely unison with his intentions to reinforce his authority and secure his centralization at the same time.  Vassian (Ivan) Patrikieev, who appeared in the court of the prince in order to raise his voice against these misjudgments, said ‘Where in the tradition of the Gospels, Apostles, and Fathers are monks ordered to acquire populous villages and enslave peasants to the brotherhood? …. We look into the hands of the rich, fawn slavishly, flatter them to get out of them some little village. … We wrong and rob and sell Christians, our brothers. We torture them with scourges like wild beasts.

Here we have either one unsolved question whether one of the speculations was untrue and absolutely unfair or we could see how , not for the first time and surely not for the last, the authority works against the common good of the people.


Vasil-Levski-12На днешната дата 18сти Февруари (по нов стил 19сти Февруари)  бе погубен един от най-видните българи живели някога -Васил Левски. Този ден е ден на траур за всеки българин ,защото бележи смъртта на една личност ,която е имала възможност да прозре характерът,битът и нравът на всеки един българин по онова време. Имайки кураж и смелост ,той не се е страхувал от смъртта ,за Левски тя била само началото на неговото дело. Затова той е напътствал със същата тази борбеност всеки друг българин да тръгне по неговият път,да прозре,види и разбере истината за своята същност-да бъде ковач на своята съдба.

Левски е притежавал остър и бърз ум за да съзре какво се случва на българска земя и какво искат от нас другите народи ,никой не чува словото на апостола как илюзията на заблудата във времето ,в което живеят българите ‘Кой ли не иска да ги грабне българите,та да му робуват во веки?’ ,кой ли? Само в едно единствено изречение той е формулирал образът ,който другите държави са гледали към нас,изгодата ,която те могат да извлекът от това да бъдем под една или друга чужда власт.

Искайки да предотврати всичко това Апостолът на свободата е търсил нови съюзници в своето дело, карайки ги да коленичат и да се закълнат във вярата си и отечеството си.Опитвайки се да съживи пламъкът в душата на българина и да пречупи робските окови ,той  обикалял село след село,град след град ,търсейки истински и смели сърца,който да обедини под един свод и да нарече тях ‘народ’. Ала ,апостолът е знаел и виждал как делата му ту отиват на добре ту на зле (народната работа върви “като жаба през угар- днес наред,утре без ред ,други ден никаквата’ ). Той съзирал как душата на българина е изкривена под студените и мрачни дни на робството,как малко по малко пламъкът на един народ е горял и пламтял ,ала във времето когато е нужен е бил клечка кибрит. Страх и несигурност е била налегнала тази клета България , чакайки помощ от някой ,някой да я спаси и да я излекува от прокажените турска отрова. Българина е бил отровен ,умът му сломен – там е нямало волята .която е трябвало да съществува за подобно намерение като ‘всенародно български освобождение’. Защо ли Левски изписва “Народе???’ в своето тефтерче със три препинателни знака,защо ли…

Вдъхновена от думите на апостола ,написах няколко куплета .


Февруарски ден,злокобен мрачен-

пропит със кръв и тъмнина.

Последен тътен на сърце в една героична мъжка гръд затуптя-

Отиди си Апостола…

последни думи на уста ‘Отечество,идеали,свобода’!

Родино,ще милееш вечно за тоз гигант,за тоз твой син.

Той падна ,други паднаха след него-

в една борба за правдина.

След тях ,другите дойдоха

потъпкаха те бързо твойта свята гордост, българино!

От роб свободен теб направиха ,

само за да те превърнат в роб с окови нови!

Раздадоха и земята ти ,Българио,

нарекоха те с чужди имена ,по-нови !

После ,плюха и още плюят върху всичко

що Апостолът нарече свято!

Но,спи дълбоко българино,

ти,не дей се буди…

да чуеш как децата ти забравят за дедите си

и как съдбата ти през пръстите ти като пясък все се губи!

И няма вече кой знамето да вдигне

и няма кой веч да се провикне “Смърт тиранино,живей Българио!

Апостол  означава ‘пратеник’ -Апостолът на Свободата,а къде е тя?

What if…we were wrong about Machiavelli?


Niccolò Machiavelli one of the most famous people who ever had lived on the Earth, is still well-known even today after 500 years since he wrote his infamous pamphlet “The Prince”.

Do you know what it says?  It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved, what do you think of that? Do you find it amusing,alluring,exiting or even provoking? The question is not how it is perceived or recognized in a certain ways ,but why? Why so much people regard that “Prince” as one of the most useful books of all the time ,especially the politicians or those who have a great influence?The answer is simple : because it is not only reveal the reality as it is ,but it opens the Pandora’s box – throwing away all virtues just to be substituted by the vices. This book is a perfect excuse why we should behave badly in certain ways ,even when it is confronting with our inner sense of morality,just in the name of our ambitions and goals.This book put into test our moral values and question  us how far we could go to fulfil our ambitious dreams.

Let’s make that clear,shall we? This book “teach” as two things : how to gain power and how to keep it. It was a scandalous spectacle for that time something like that to be written,even more it was regarded as a sin. Not surprisingly not only “The Prince” was banned by the Catholic Church ,but all Machiavelli’s writing.

But to whom was addressed the prince and who is the prince himself?

Interestingly, when it was first written the book did not have a title at all ,only the name of one person “To Lorenzo di Piero de‘ Medici “– the new ruler of Medici’s dynasty who gained control and power over Florence again around 16th century. The title of the book was invented five years after Machiavelli’s death ,after being widely published and copies were at dispense to many people.

What we could assert from that fact is something astounding ,something more than it meets the eye ,indeed. We have a person to whom the book is dedicated ,specific person who was an inspiration for it, without whom that “book of art” might have not existed at all.Two words only- devotion and dedication.

Why it was written?

 The book is written in 1513 ,where was Machiavelli at that time? He was imprisoned and ( subject of unfair treatment and falsely accused of conspiracy against the Medici’s family) and tortuned, he protested his innocence still the end. Being deprived from the office he retired to his estate and write political philosophy.  The reason of the pamphlet is hidden behind the false accusation ,in the face of humiliation and reasonable desire for revenge and justice. Machiavelli wanted vengeance and he knew how to get it!

He was traumatized by the sudden change that took place in his life ,it was not only sudden,but a big one. So ,it is absolutely probbable  after that for him to be angry and to hold resentment , he needed a way in which he could unleash all that negative thoughts in his mind. And so he did it.

Have you read the pamphlet?

 that Princes

who have set little store by their word, but have known how to

overreach men by their cunning, have accomplished great

thing, and in the end got the better of those who trusted to

honest dealing” .

Machiavelli extremely precisely depicted that prince as a cunning, deceitful and unmoral, that Medici’s bastard . It is quite understandable , since he was in favor of the Borgia ‘s family who made him well-known ambassador,suddenly out of nowhere the Medici came into power and they were not willing to show mercy. He was ambitious man with great ideas into his head ,he was clever and resilient and just like that he unfairly dispossessed from his rank. Such a pity,such a tragedy ! But he would mock that Medici’s son who deprived him  of everything, he would put a stain on his reputation and the justice might prevail!

“It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.” He put emphasis on the corruption nature of the politics itself indeed ,but with his “lessons” how to be a good politician he expressed his disgust and repel against it rather anything else.

Since his heart was armed only with the hope of revenge and hatred.

How it is interpreted today?

 Awfully wrong! In my opinion ,of course, because of it many historians or philosophers might not look at me with  respect.I sincerely apologize!

As a matter of fact many worldwide leaders were genuinely aspired by “The Prince” ,possibly because they had perceived as “an ultimate guide how to concur the world and to be in power FOREVER”. Not surprisingly, among them were J.Stalin,Tacher and Musollini –not anyone loved by the people at all. What they represent –a great dictatorship , evilness and mercilessness. They were not at all Machiavellians ,they were Medici!

Since ,what if Machiavelli gave us an unique portrait of the cruel ruler ,possessing only vices and not a single goodness in his heart?

What if he ,with his cunning smile on one of portraits , said to us “I will give a tool how to conquer the world and an ample excuse why you should not to be good ,but evil?

Equality -lesson

Many people today are easily confused by the concept of equality itself,thus explain why so many of them associate the equality of freedom and liberty with the one of income.Yes ,such a thing as “equality of income” really exists and it’s completely different from the liberty of speech and freedom for example.

When Tomas Jefferson wrote the declaration of Independence ,he pointed out that “”all men are created equal’’ in the eyes of God and something more “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Nothing is said about the distribution of wealth or any other form of materialistic form (money,property and so on). Therefore ,our attention has to be concentrated on the key elements in this statement : life,liberty and pursuit of happiness. He emphasized on such private perceptions of everyone’s happiness or idea of happiness and this explain the diversity of it.

Indeed ,some people might associate the happiness with the social income and the amount of money they own ,which gives a completely wrong meaning of the liberty and happines’s concept and triggers many forms of discrepancies and misunderstandings.

Men are all equal before God, we have a right to live our life as we find the most appropriate way to do so,without interfering someone else’s freedom and rights. Without violations over someone else ,we are free to choose how to live and which goals we want to pursuit as a part of our own happiness. Moreover, we should have a dignity of being unique as a person and under no circumstances making someone being inferior to us. In this sense,we are all equal.

The biggest paradox is that Jefferson didn’t talk  about the abolition of slavery ,he even was a slave-owner . He didn’t mean to abolish this type of government , but he bore in mind more fundamental right of the people at all.Even after the abolition and the civil war the true justice had not took place, the truth is we live in unfair world and we have curved conceptions of it.

Nobody has a right to violate our concept of happiness or your attempt to be happy,but whether we all have equal opportunities and abilities is another question.The nature itself is unfair by granting someone with more and taking another’s vital ability. Who is responsible for someone being blind and another is not-the mother “Nature”.

My point is that we live in a world where the concept of justice and freedom exists,but it has a different meaning from what we think it should have.Unfair world,where the equality is such a dubious thing…equality

The Hunger games of the 19th century-THE QUEEN v. DUDLEY AND STEPHENS’s case

This article will not serve as an interest for those of you who want to know the law side of the case ,but only it will serve as a moral judgement of the murder itself.

First of all ,I would like to represent a brief description of the case.

“On July 5,1884, the prisoners, Thomas Dudley and Edward Stephens, with one

Brooks, all able-bodied English seamen, and the deceased also an English boy, between seventeen and eighteen years of age, the crew of an English yacht, a registered English vessel, were cast away in a storm on the high seas 1600 miles from the Cape of Good Hope, and were compelled to put into an open boat belonging to the said yacht. That in this boat they had no supply of water and no supply of food, except two 1 lb. tins of turnips, and for three days they had nothing else to subsist upon. That on the fourth day they caught a small turtle, upon which they subsisted for a few days, and this was the only
food they had up to the twentieth day when the act now in question was committed. That on the twelfth day the remains the turtle were entirely consumed, and for the next eight days they had nothing to eat. That they had no fresh water, except such rain as they from time to time caught in their oilskin capes. That the boat was drifting on the ocean, and was probably more than 1000 miles away from land. That on the eighteenth day, when they
had been seven days without food and five without water, the prisoners spoke to Brooks as to what should be done if no succour came, and suggested that some one should be sacrificed to save the rest, but Brooks dissented, and the boy, to whom they were understood to refer, was not consulted. That on the 24th of July, the day before the act now in question, the prisoner Dudley proposed to Stephens and Brooks that lots should be cast who should be put to death to save the rest, but Brooks refused to consent, and it was not
put to the boy, and in point of fact there was no drawing of lots. That on that day the prisoners spoke of their having families, and suggested it would be better to kill the boy that their lives should be saved, and Dudley proposed that if there was no vessel in sight by the morrow morning, the boy should be killed. That next day, the 25th of July, no vessel appearing, Dudley told Brooks that he had better go and have a sleep, and made signs to Stephens and Brooks that the boy had better be killed. The prisoner Stephens agreed to the act, but Brooks dissented from it. That the boy was then lying at the bottom of the boat quite helpless, and extremely weakened by famine and by drinking sea water,
and unable to make any resistance, nor did he ever assent to his being killed. The prisoner Dudley offered a prayer asking forgiveness for them all if either of them should be tempted to commit a rash act, and that their souls might be saved. That Dudley, with the assent of Stephens, went to the boy, and telling him that his time was come, put a knife into his throat and killed him then and there; that the three men fed upon the body and blood of the boy for four days; that on the fourth day after the act had been committed the boat was picked up by a passing vessel, and the prisoners were rescued, still alive, but in the lowest state of prostration. That they were carried to the port of Falmouth, and
committed for trial at Exeter. That if the men had not fed upon the body of the boy they would probably not have survived to be so picked up and rescued, but would within the four days have died of famine. That the boy, being in a much weaker condition, was likely to have died before them. That at the time of the act in question there was no sail in sight,nor any reasonable prospect of relief. That under these circumstances there appeared to
the prisoners every probability that unless they then fed or very soon fed upon the boy or one of themselves they would die of starvation. That there was no appreciable chance of saving life except by killing some one for the others to eat. That assuming any necessity to kill anybody, there was no greater necessity for killing the boy than any of the other three men.” But whether upon the whole matter by the jurors found the killing of Richard Parker
by Dudley and Stephens be felony and murder the jurors are ignorant, and pray the advice of the Court thereupon, and if upon the whole matter the Court shall be of opinion that the killing of Richard Parker be felony and murder, then the jurors say that Dudley and Stephens were each guilty of felony and murder as alleged in the indictment.”

Such a lovely story,doesn’t  it? The question we will try to find answers to is whether the action of the murder of the young boy is justifiable or not.

Let’s first consider the consequence or more specifically the lack of food and water for seven days and nights after the catching of the turtle. Medically speaking, you could go up to eight weeks without food if you consume water (badly they didn’t have any water,only the ocean). As a matter of fact,if you have a slow metabolism ,you might starve far more longer due to your extra body fat.There are several symptoms which appear when you don’t consume food : weakness,confusion,irritability,bad decision making ,immune deficiency and the following if you ‘re put into starvation for a long time : hallicunations,muscle spasm and irregular heartbeat. Far more problematic in this case is the water shortage and more specifically the complete lack of it. It’s widely known that without water our body couldn’t work properly ,the main risk is that without it  your body temperature will continue to rise and you probably suffer from heat stroke. According to many people ,we could survive without water for 5 days plus or minus depending on the situation and the person’s health condition.For instance, a Japanese hiker survived for 24 days in cold weather without food and water in October 2006, that’s almost a month which is considerably impressive. In our case, the four survivors were in quite cold weather in the middle of the ocean and they presumably could have avoided the murder of the young boy, but neither had they had scientific knowledge or rational thinking regarding the situation to do so. I’ve mentioned the consequence of both water and food supplies just to make my argument more clear : they had a great change of surviving without the act of murder.

Let’s take a look at the profile of these three of the passengers in the story. We have two prisoners (Thomas Dudley and Edward Stephens) and one of the ship’s crew (Brooks). The crimes that both prisoners had done were not mentioned with the vague assumption we could suspect that they were not the most honourable men on the Earth.Well, my point is that once becoming a criminal, your moral boundaries become lower and you’re more inclined to commit another type of crime. (Every man for himself.) Therefore, it’s not surprising the fact that one of them (Dudley) proposed the idea of a lottery , sacrificing one of them in the sake of the others.According to the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham and the idea of utilitarianism ,this type of action is justifiably one. However , neither Stephens or Brooks agreed to the idea which could help us understand their moral values.

Then there was a conversation about the families of our survivors and it had been made clear that all of them had dependents except the boy, which was another reason why he had to be sacrificed in the name of their lives. Some people consider this factor as a justification of the murder and accept it as a morally right thing to do. Indeed,this is a fair point ,but what about the young boy who just had an unfortunate chance of crashing at his first voyage. The fact that he had no family or relatives gives us a reason to take his life so easily and deprive him of the chance of making a family and live happily some day.I don’t think so!

Oh,but he was sick ,he could have died anyway ,some of you might say. But still the chance of healing him after rescuing all of the people in the boat exists.It’s is morally unacceptable to take someone’s life without good reason and quite good reason doesn’t exist.

Indeed, Jeremy Bentham might not have agreed with me,but I don’t agree with him,too.According to him , during our life we are prisoners to two masters : pain and pleasure and the principle of utility means  maximizing the pleasure in life ,regarding the greatest good of the majority of the people. I don’t doubt that our survivors were in agony and pain ,but what kind of pain they endured to think about murdering someone.What if the people were 10 or 100 and killing only one could save the others ,now it’s still unjustifiable.

We could argue all day about that case ,but the truth is that it’s not easy to put ourselves in someone’s shoes,we could only make deductions about our possible reactions in such a case,but we couldn’t be 100 % sure what might happen. There is a proverb : “Put someone in a dangerous situation and you could easily define their limits” .images