Russian veche: what is it and how to define this phenomenon?


Anyone who has studied a school history course knows the concept of "veche". What is this phenomenon is easy to explain. This is an ancient form of social management. However, this form of relationship between people is so interesting that it is worth talking about it in more detail.


The word "veche" comes from such words with the same root as "know" (that is, "know") and "ved" (that is, "advice"). The people's assembly was a form of popular council in a tribal society, preserved in Ancient and Medieval Russia.

Often, this form of meeting is called Slavic democracy, when men called for the bell on the square and, by direct and open vote, they decided which prince or governor to place over their city, whether to fight with enemies or make peace with them, pay tribute or surrender and other

Modern historians therefore study the form of the "veche" that such a collection of respected men actually managed their community on an equal basis.


The tasks that faced the national assembly

The first Russian chronicles already mention that one or another prince was chosen to reign with the help of the veche, that such a rule of this prince was God's chosen one (God and the people in the Russian consciousness were always bound by strong ties). Historian I.Ya. Froyanov believes that such a form of government was present in the whole of the Old Russian state, and not only in Novgorod and Pskov.

Some historians believe that the traditions of the veche were so strong that during the period of the Tatar-Mongolian yoke there was a certain diarchy, on the one hand, the princes appointed the Golden Horde, but on the other, the apprentices of the veche were elected. Thus, it was the duty of the prince to collect tribute for the Khan, and it was the duty of those whom the council appointed to rule the people. Gradually, the princes took away part of the power of the “Vecnihs” (appointed by the people’s assembly), and competed with them, which led to discontent among the citizens and popular revolts.


Who entered the veche? Veche traditions

According to the tradition dating back to the tribal system, heads of large families and heads of clans were included in the composition of the veche. Gradually, however, the "great" and "small clans" began to stand out as part of the veche. Subsequently, the opinion of "small births" actually ceased to be taken into account.

In addition, veche traditions were used not only in the big city council, but also in small street ones, where vital issues were solved for residents of the street or several houses.

Scientists find similarities between the Old Russian assembly and similar meetings of respected elders in European countries. For example, such meetings were practiced in Medieval England (they were called “vitenehemot”), in Scandinavia (“ting”), in Prussia (meeting of elders), and so on.


Old Russian Chamber. What is the "original Russian democracy"?

Some historians also believe that this concept meant not only a completely legitimate meeting of citizens attracted by the sound of a bell, but also rebellious gatherings of people who turned into the overthrow of princes and boyars who in some way did not suit ordinary citizens of the country.

From this it becomes clear that the Russian veche was quite effectively coping with its functions in the era of feudal fragmentation and began to hinder the development of the state during its centralization. Hence the dislike of the great Russian sovereigns for this kind of gatherings and the imposition of a ban on them (in the history the sad fate of two Russian cities, Novgorod and Pskov, in which veche traditions were especially strong, these cities were subject to punitive expeditions from both Ivan III and his grandson of Ivan the Terrible).


Why did the old Russian and medieval veche cease to exist?

All historians agree that the popular assembly ceased to exist in Medieval Russia due to the fact that it could not stand the competition with the prince's power. This form of government was unprofitable for the princes who aspired to a centralized state subordinate to their power. Therefore, the Russian monarchs conducted a merciless struggle against such meetings, beginning in the 15th century.

At the same time, small chambers that gathered as gatherings of rural communities continued to exist in our country until the beginning of the 20th century. After the destruction of the traditional peasant way of life these forms are a thing of the past, but at the stage of collectivization they were replaced by communist assemblies, etc.

At the present stage of Russia's existence, the highly modified forms of veche democracy continue to be used in governing the country: there is an elective system for appointing central authorities, the State Duma, elective local governments, so we can say that the “great assembly” has not completely disappeared, its traditions live in the consciousness of the Russian people, closely intertwining with the ideas of justice and truth.

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