Magdeburg Law

The history of Belarus, numbering more than one millennium, is an important component of the Slavic, European civilization. Being a part of the Great Lithuanian princedom, the country mastered the achievements of Western cultures. On the territory of Belarus, the norms of political and legal life typical for Europe developed. In particular, the importance of organization of local government.

In the Middle Ages in large settlements, the population was multinational. This, of course, contributed to the development of cultural relations. In the 13th and 14th centuries, many foreigners, especially Germans, settled in the cities of Belarus. So, for example, in Polotsk there was a Hanseatic factory. In Grodno and Brest there were many merchants and artisans from Germany. The Germans, in forming a free community, used their Magdeburg law. It gave them more advantages than other townspeople had.

To help large settlements develop in the trade and crafts, and also to attract new residents, Magdeburg law began to spread to all the largest settlements princes. Along with this philistines attracted new rules. City law exempted from control and court of the Grand Duke's administration or from the landowner.

The first city to receive a diploma was Vilna (in 1387). After Magdeburg law was secured in Grodno and in Brest. By the 15th century, the cities of Belarus, such as Minsk, Polotsk, and Slutsk, had received letters of commendation.

The eastern lands received the Magdeburg law much later than the western ones. Historians attribute this to the highly developed volost system and the veche system in the Pridvini and Dnieper regions. Here, the old territorial centers, in particular Vitebsk, Polotsk and Smolensk, maintained contact with the volosts for an extended period.

At the beginning of the 16th century, the urban community and volost system in the eastern part of Belarus began to disintegrate. So, in Polotsk the boyars began to refuse from duties. The social struggle began. In this situation, the authorities of large settlements themselves sought to obtain a certificate of self-government.

German law was adopted wherever social interests were primarily interested in it.

After receiving certificates, the settlements started developing under new conditions. However, in fact, no one gave guarantees that the elders and voivodes would not interfere in the life of the city.

The diplomas allowed the petty bourgeois to engage in free trade in the country. At the same time, they were exempted from customs fees. In addition, at their disposal a significant territory was transferred around the settlement. The burghers were also given the right to enter private forests and water for the preparation of firewood, grazing, fishing, hunting. According to the Magdeburg Privilege (Law), they were allowed to collect profits from shops, shops, build public buildings, and in some cases even locks.

In large settlements, located on important commercial roads, there were built guest houses for foreign merchants.

At the same time, the responsibilities of cities with literacy were not very extensive. The philistines had to pay taxes to the treasury of the state, including Ordynschina and silver (military expenses) in case they were imposed on the state. Thus, residents of large cities, endowed with Magdeburg law, were considered a special privileged layer in medieval Belarus.

The certificates practically completely removed from settlements both financial and legal dependence on the Grand Duke's authority.

From an administrative legal point of view, German law clearly delimited the village and the city. The new system has been organically integrated into the life of the population of Belarus.

German law was abolished by the order of Catherine II.

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