Sobornoe Ulozhenie of 1649

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sobornoe Ulozhenie of 1649


(Assembly Code of 1649; also known as the Code of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich), a code of laws of the Russian state, adopted by the Zemskii Sobor of 1648–49 after uprisings in Moscow and other cities. A special commission, headed by the boyar Prince N. I. Odoevskii, worked on the compilation of the Ulozhenie. The Ulozhenie’s sources included the Sudebnik (Code) of 1550; the ukase books of the Pomestnyi Prikaz (Office of Land Grants), Zemskii Prikaz (Zemstvo Prikaz), Razboinyi Prikaz (Justice Office), and other prikazy; the collective petitions submitted by the Moscow and provincial dvoriane (nobility), posadskie liudi (merchants and artisans), and other groups; the Kormchaia Kniga (Orthodox church law); and the Lithuanian Statute of 1588. In all, the Ulozhenie of 1649 consisted of 25 chapters, containing 967 articles. It dealt with questions of the state’s real and criminal law and procedure.

Several chapters were devoted to questions of state law. Chapters 2 and 3 developed the concept of crimes against the state, which meant primarily actions directed against the person of the monarch and against tsarist authority. For actions “in concert and conspiracy” against the tsar, boyars, voevody (military governors), and other government officials, “death with no mercy” was prescribed. Chapter 1 was devoted to a defense of the church’s interests against “rebels within the church” and to a defense of the dvoriane, even if they murdered slaves and peasants. Evidence of sharp social differentiation and the state’s defense of the interests of the ruling class is seen in the different fines for “dishonor”: 2 rubles for peasants, 1 ruble for guliashchie liudi (freed slaves), and 70-100 rubles for those in the privileged estates.

The chapter “Courts of Law Concerning Peasants” contained articles that definitively established serfdom—permanent hereditary dependence of the peasant was introduced, the time limit (urochnye leta) for the recovery of fugitive peasants was abolished, and a large fine for harboring fugitives was set. The Ulozhenie of 1649 denied seigniorial peasants the right of judicial representation in property disputes. The chapter “Concerning Posadskie Liudi” eliminated private slobody (tax-exempt settlements) in the cities and restored those people formerly in social categories exempt from state taxes to the taxable estates (podatnye sosloviia). The Ulozhenie provided for massive pursuit of fugitive posadskie liudi; the population of the posady (merchants’ and artisans’ districts) was bound to the posady and subjected to state taxes and levies. The status of kabal’nye kholopy (“debt” slaves) was regulated in the chapters “Concerning Seigniorial Lands” and “Concerning Votchiny (Patrimonial Estates),” both of which were devoted to questions of gentry landholding.

The longest chapter, “On Courts of Law,” dealt with questions of judicial procedure. It specified investigative and judicial procedures in detail, set the amounts of the various court costs and fines, treated questions involving premeditated and deliberate crimes, and regulated property relations, for example, property disputes. The chapters “Concerning the Military Service of All Military People of the Muscovite State,” “Concerning Redemption of Prisoners of War,” and “Concerning the Strel’tsy (Musketeers)” were devoted to the organization of the country’s armed forces.

The Ulozhenie of 1649 was a landmark in the growth of the autocracy and the serfholding order—which explains its longevity. It retained the force of law in Russia until the first half of the 19th century.


Tikhomirov, M. N., and P. P. Epifanov. Sobornoe ulozhenie 1649 g. Moscow, 1961. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.