Lithuanian Statutes

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lithuanian Statutes


feudal law codes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania; confirmed in 1529, 1566, and 1588. The most detailed of the statutes, that of 1588, remained partially valid in eastern Byelorussia until 1831 and was finally abolished in other areas of Byelorussia and in Lithuania only in 1840. The statutes were written in Byelorussian. Their sources were the norms of common law; the Law Code of Casimir of 1468; the charters of 1447, 1492, and other years; judicial decisions; and Roman, Polish, and German law. In preparing the statutes of 1566 and 1588, the compilers used current legislation and judicial rulings, as well as previous statutes.

The Lithuanian Statutes reflected the evolution of the political structure of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from a monarchy dominated by the magnates to one run by the gentry (szlachta), which was associated with the growing economic and political strength of the petty and middle gentry. The statute of 1529 still reserved the dominant position for the magnates, confirming their leading political role and special jurisdiction. However, the issuance of the first general state code was the first step toward limitation of the arbitrary rule of the major magnates over the gentry. The statute of 1529 contained a list of conditions necessary for inclusion in the gentry estate, as a result of which several strata of the population were excluded. The statute of 1566 placed the whole gentry under law and made obligatory their attendance at the district dietines. The statute of 1588 formally created a single estate of enserfed peasants by combining servants and various groups of peasants.

The criminal articles of the Lithuanian Statutes were directed at the defense of movable and immovable feudal property (particularly real estate). Above all, monopoly ownership of land by the gentry of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was protected against encroachment by Polish magnates. The Lithuanian Statute of 1588, as opposed to the Lublin Union of 1569, preserved a significant amount of state and political independence for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was prepared as a general state code of law for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania both as part of a federated state with Poland and as a state capable of existing independently.


Vremennik imperatorskogo Moskovskogo obshchestva istorii i Drevnostei Rossiiskikh, books 18, 19, and 23. Moscow, 1854–55.
Statut Velikogo kniazhestva Litovskogo 1529 g. Minsk, 1960.


Lappo, I. I. Litovskii statut 1588, vols. 1–2. Kaunas, 1934–38.
Picheta, V. I. Belorussiia i Litva XV-XVI vv. Moscow, 1961.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.