May 01, 2004

By Axe, Rope and Bullet

160 years ago, in May 1744, Tsarina Elizabeth imposed a ban on the death penalty. It was the first such ban in Russia and it lasted sixty-nine years. The anniversary offers a pretext for reviewing Russia’s history of the death penalty.

Pagan Rus’ did not know the death penalty as such, but tribes did engage in private vendettas. Blood feuds were later replaced with a system of fines that varied by social rank.

The Charter of Dvina (1389) is the first written Russian law that mentions the death penalty. The penalty was imposed only for the third incidence of theft.

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