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a. a payment by one ruler or state to another, usually as an acknowledgment of submission
b. any tax levied for such a payment
2. (in feudal society) homage or a payment rendered by a vassal to his lord
3. the obligation to pay tribute
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



originally a requisition in kind or in money collected by victors from conquered tribes or states. Sometimes, to avoid a war tribute was also rendered at the approach of hostile forces. With the consolidation of conquered tribes under the authority of one tribal leader (prince) and the formation of the early feudal state, the tribute levied on these tribes took on a new meaning, that of a tax. As the right to collect this tax was granted to the members of the prince’s retinue, to the clergy, and to secular lords, tribute was transformed into feudal rent.

In Russia, tribute was known from the ninth century onward. After subjugating a certain tribe, the prince would impose tribute on it (in money or in kind, including furs). The growth of feudal landed property led to the feudal lords’ usurpation of the right to levy tribute, and it became a part of feudal rent. From the 13th to the 15th centuries princes often exempted privileged landowners from the payment of tribute. With the formation of the united Russian state at the turn of the 16th century, tribute became an obligatory tax levied on the chernososhnye (state) and dvortsovye (palace) peasants and on the posadskie liudi (merchants and artisans). Tribute was abolished in 1679, after the most important direct taxes were merged into one, the so-called streltsy money. The patriarch, metropolitans, archbishops, and bishops collected tribute from the parish clergy (a part of the income from contributions of parishioners). From the 13th to the 15th centuries a special form of tribute was levied on the Russian lands by the Golden Horde, the so-called horde vykhod.


Lappo-Danilevskii. A. S. Organizalsiia priamogo oblozhentia v Moskovskom gosudarstve so vremen smuty do epokhi pre-obrazovanit. St. Petersburg, 1890.
Miliukov, P. N. Spornye voprosy finansovoi istorii Moskovskogo gosudarstva. St. Petersburg. 1892.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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(6.) Giovanni Andornino, "The Nature and Linkages of China's Tributary System under the Ming and Qing Dynasties," Global Economic History Network working paper 21 (2006).
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