history of law

The Right of Blood Revenge In a Medieval Ukraine

“… immortal revenge …”, – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Volodymyr Machuskyy Sr.

The idea and practice of blood revenge existed in ancient societies around the world. But there were not so many countries in which the right of blood revenge was enshrined in a legal written code.

In 1016, the legal code “Rus’ka Pravda” (Rus’ka Truth) was drawn up and approved in a medieval state called  Kyivan Rus’. The capital of this state was Kyiv. Nota bene: such a famous city as Moscow did not exist at that time yet.

The first article of “Rus’ka Pravda” is quite indicative: “When a man kills a man, the brother of the slain, or the father or the son, or the brother of the eldest son, or other brothers, must take revenge.”

Hence, punishing the killer was not only the right of relatives, but also their duty. There was a personal relationship between the relatives of the murdered man and the murderer, which could be realized only in the form of blood revenge.

This state of affairs led to the existence of endless revenge or immortal revenge. And in due course blood revenge is replaced by monetary redemption. Such monetary redemption is a surrogate of blood revenge.

The relatives of the murdered are deprived of the right on the life and the death of the murderer, and the right to demand payment for the head of the murdered remains only.

At the same time, a blood revenge does not disappear without a trace in countries where the death penalty is used. At its core, the death penalty is an impersonal blood revenge.

The Right of Blood-Revenge in a Medieval Ukraine: The Concept and the Evolution