The Evolution of Novegrad's Government (to 1925)

Novegrad's government has a long and complicated history. It has gone back and forth between periods of more autocratic and more democratic rule. Of particular interest is the period of the "feudal republic", where the state was governed by fundamentally democratic principles at a time when the rest of Europe was locked in feudalism and autocracies and had developed a very unique system of governing its vast territory.

See also: History of Novegrad

Proto-Government through Kievan Rus' (c. 800-1136)

The city of Novegráde Velíkei predates Kievan Rus' and the development of states in the region. It originated, likely sometime in the 9th century, as a confederation of three tribes. These three tribes, the Slavic Slově́nje, the Baltic Krivíči, and the Finnic Meria, each founded a small settlement near the source of the Vółhove River—Slavno, Liudin, and Nerev, respectively. They would gather together to discuss issues of common concern, such as trade and security. A citadel was constructed in the center of the three settlements, where the Krémene stands today.

According to the various Ruthenian and Novegradian Chronicles, in 859 the Varangians came from Sweden and began exacting tribute from these three tribes, as well as from others. In 862 they revolted and threw off Varangian control, but the region quickly descended into chaos as the various tribes began fighting one another. The people of Novegrad asked the Varangians to return and restore order. One of them, Riúrike, became prince of Novegráde Velíkei. This was the beginning of the Rus' state. His successor, Ólege, expanded his rule southward towards Kiev and then moved its capital there. Kievan rule was extended to neighboring tribes over the next two centuries, culminating in the Golden Age of Kievan Rus' under Prince Iároslau (978-1054). However, even at this point, the Novegradians, who had already developed a very strong sense of individualism, led the way in the struggle for guaranteed personal rights. It was at their insistance that Iároslau codified the first Ruthenian law code, the Rússkaia Práuda, which stipulated punishments for various crimes; however, the death penalty was not present.

When Iároslau died in 1054, Rus' was divided amongst his sons. The kingdom did not complete disintegrate, however. It was replaced by a very loose federation of principalities, each of which saw the Grand Prince in Kiev as, at the very least, the greatest position of honor. Each principality was centered around a city, one of the largest of which was Novegráde Velíkei. These principalities were fiercely competitive, each wanting to reunite Rus' under their own control.

Novegrad at this point was ruled by an autocratic prince. Aiding him were the pozádnike, a representative of the Grand Prince in Kiev, the druźína, the Novegradian prince's personal guards and aides, and the veche, an assembly of landowners that would advise the prince. The veche was the descendent of the old Slavic tribal mír, a tribal assembly, that had been adapted to urban life.

The city was divided into ten sótnji ("hundreds") under the prince's control. These were originally military districts, each of which was to provide a hundred men for a volunteer militia should one be needed. Each was headed by a sóteskei ("hundredman"), and the ten soteskíje were led by a princely appointee, the tiźíckei ("chiliarch" or "thousandman"), the head of the volunteer militia.

In addition, the three original towns forming Novegrad remained as the first three "ends"—Slavéneskei, Ludínei, and Néreuskei. Reflecting their origins, these districts (overlapping with six of the hundreds) maintained their own individual veches responsible for local affairs. For all intents and purposes it may be said that the hundreds organized the people and were responsible for issues such as tax collection, while the ends organized private property and were responsible for administration.

However, the office of prince became more and more distrusted by the common people as the years went on. The concept of "divine right" had never truly taken hold in Novegrad, and so the people valued skill and ability in their rulers above all else. On several occasions they brought petitions of weakness against their leader, and found themselves increasingly in support of the boyars of the veche rather than the prince. Even before the Revolution of 1136 the veche had gradually been increasing in power. Under Mestisláu Monomáhe (r. 1088-1094) the pozádnici began being drawn from the boyars instead of the druźína, and in 1126 the veche itself elected the pozádnike.

The Feudal Republic (1136-1417)

In 1136 the people of Novegrad revolt against Prince Véhevlade, who is forced to flee to Pleskóve. He was not allowed back into the city, but was allowed to retain his office by signing the Charters of Iároslau, which greatly reduced his power to little more than a judicial and military function and guaranteed basic rights to the Novegradians; this was 79 years before the Magna Carta was signed in England and significantly more far-reaching. From this point on all princes were required to swear by the so-called Réd "Series [of Oaths]". However, Véhevlade was not allowed to return to the city, and he and his retinue took up a new residence at Gródiśkje, several kilometers outside of the city. 1136 is traditionally viewed as the year of Novegrad official independence from Kiev.

The power of the prince continued to erode as the veche gained power. Distrust of the princedom was further exasperated by other principalities' attempts to control the Novegradian prince, especially the neighboring Principality of Vladímire-Súźdali. The tiźíckei was also wrested from the prince in the 12th century and became an elected executive post, along a redefined pozádnike now functioning more like a mayor.

While not entirely so, the veche did have a strong democratic character. It could be summoned by any free male citizen by ringing the veche bell, and operated on the principle of majority rule. The city veche was likely dominated by landowning boyars, but not entirely so. The end veches had a much greater degree of participation from the common people. Also in the city veche were several representatives sent from Novegrad's largest "satellite cities", including Pleskóve. The central Novegradian veche had the power to appoint or depose any government officeholder, including even the prince or the archbishop.

As the prince was losing more and more power, most of his former territories were consolidated by the powers or by the Novegradian church. The city's hundreds came under boyar control and were merged to form two new ends, Plotníceskei and Zagródeskei. The rest of the country, outside of the city proper, was divided into five pétini ("fifths"), and each pétina was assigned to one of the five ends to govern. Other territories to the far north and east, the vlostijá, Novegrad's true colonial lands, were under the administration of the central Novegradian veche.

The veche system was even extended to several of Novegrad's satellite cities. The Pleskóve veche, for example, was responsible for most Pleskovian affairs. The city was also divided into six ends much like Novegráde Velíkei: Obóceskei, Blavíneskei, Bogoiauléneskei, Torgóuskei, Gradéceskei, and Ostro-Lavíteskei.

In the 13th century there was a restructuring of the Novegradian government. The office of pozádnike was replaced by a pozadnícestuo, a shared office of six pozádnici (one elected by each end, except for Ludínei, which elected two); out of these six one would act as the "upper pozádnike", a position they would usually cycle through. In 1291 a second assembly was added to the city, an upper house to complement the veche, known as the Council of Lords. It consisted of present and past town officials, including present and former pozádnici and tiźickíje. It was chaired by the vladíka, the archbishop of Novegrad, who had effectively become the new head of state.

The Boyar Oligarchy (1417-1505)

The 15th century saw the Novegradian government increasingly dominated by certain wealthy boyar families at the expensive of democracy; this is commonly referred to as the Rule of the Oligarchy. In 1417 a number of constitutional reforms were issued, reducing the term of the pozádnici down to six months and increasing the number of pozádnici to 18, and then to 24 by 1423. This helped to ensure that various boyar families could hold a more or less permanent position in the Council of Lords. The office of tiźíckei was also appropriated by the boyars; all high offices were now firmly in boyar hands.

The veche was also increasingly marginalized as the real power shifted towards the Council of Lords. The end veches, while still in operation, were slowly losing their authority as well.

As Muscovy and Lithuania's influence in the region was growing in the mid 15th century, the boyars became increasingly factionalized. The clunky city administration in the overpopulated pozadnícestuo resulted in the government frequently grinding to a complete halt. Lack of agreement led to new veches being called to decide issues, and when one voted unfavorably, the result would often be the formation of a shadow veche on the other side of the river. The boyars had split into pro-Moscow and pro-Lithuania factions. Finally, in 1471 a treaty with Lithuania was signed, and Muscovy declared war on Novegrad.

The war ended in a decisive Novegradian victory and a huge anti-Muscovite backlash in Novegráde Velíkei. Many of the pro-Moscow boyars were slaughtered and the city fell into civil strife. A small group of roughly ten boyars took direct control over the city as the "Council of All Great Novegrad", hiring mercenaries to restore order by force. The Council of Lords and the pozadnícestuo were abolished. No veche was ever called during this period of largely military rule.

The New Principality (1505-1611)

In 1505 the people of Novegrad revolted against the strict rule of the Council. A city-wide veche was called and the people chose to submit themselves to and appeal to the prince, Alékśeie I. With the backing of almost the entire city, his private army quickly takes control of Novegráde Velíkei and captures the Council boyars.

He is declared prince-pozádnike, a new office for life that guaranteed his executive authority across the nation. The veche is established as a standing assembly whose members were all personally approved by him.

The early part of the 16th century, up until 1535, was marked by a new struggle between prince and boyars. Initially a peaceful arrangement, the prince's successors were not able to keep the support of the veche boyars, resulting in a series of assassinations carried out by both sides. This was finally ended by Prince Vladímire (r. 1535-1555), who forcibly subdued the veche. He and his successors, particularly his son Véhevlade, began a new process of reforming the Novegradian government. As relations with Sweden deteriorated and the Novegradian land continued to expand and face new threats, the prince managed to gather more and more power for himself.

The Tsardom (1611-1852)

When Mécislau I came to the throne in 1611, he did not take the title of prince as had all of his predecessors, but declared himself the Tsar of Novegrad, based on the Russian model.

However, the system was not as absolute as in Russia. The boyars of the Novegradian veche, pointing to the Réd the prince was still subject to, gained a few special privileges for themselves. The vlostijá were to be administered by the veche, while the prince was forbidden from even purchasing land in these territories; in times of war, however, the prince could temporarily take direct control. The veche also had final say in granting titles, levying taxes, making internal boundary changes, and certain financial issues.

The administrative divisions of the tsardom largely remained intact. The five ends of Novegráde Velíkei remained, but each was governed by a pozádnike appointed by the prince rather than by an elected veche. Each of the pétini gained their own governors and were thus separated from the ends of Novegráde Velíkei. As the population of the pétini increased and new territory was added, they were divided into smaller districts, the óblostie. As the vlostijá increased in population and acquired their own governors they would come under the tsar's control, but most of Siberia except for a few cities was never completely in his hands.

Russian Rule (1852-1925)

In the period 1852-1870, the Tsardom of Novegrad remained nominally independent, although the Tsar of Russia was also Tsar of Novegrad. The veche and other institutions remained in force. However, for most practical purposes, a governor-general was appointed by the tsar to administer the territory, although he maintained his residence in Moscow.

In 1870, however, Tsar Konstantíne incorporated Novegrad as an autonomous region, leaving it in a position much like Congress Poland. While its autonomy was real at first, after an attempted revolt in 1875 its autonomy was increasingly curtailed. In 1875 the veche was disbanded. In 1878 the vlostijá were eliminated and became regular óblostie. In 1889 the territory lost its autonomous status and was renamed the "Novgorod District" (Russian Novgorodskij kraj). In 1894 Russian was made the official language.

These changes only served to increase nationalist sentiment in Novegrad, which would erupt come the Red Revolution.

See also: History of Novegrad