Hi, all–I’m the newest blogger here. In principle, I’m supposed to add in more Imperial-era coverage. And, well, in practice, that is what I’m doing. I thought I’d start with something I’ve recently come across in passing that keeps making me think, but about which I have no particular conclusions. Perfect for a blog?
Specifically, I’ve been spending a lot of time with the Polnoe sobranie zakonov, a process made much more pleasant because of the utterly fantastic fact that the Russian National Library has scanned the whole thing and put it up online. Even when I’m looking for something specific, though, I find myself randomly reading other laws in large part because they tell me things I didn’t know. I learn that Peter the Great made a law to restrict the sale of wax candles for use in churches to the churches themselves, and forbade the practice of random other people selling such candles on the street outside churches.[1. PSZ vol. 6, no. 3746 (February 28, 1721)] Or I learn that Anna was so upset to hear that people were being trampled by people galloping through the streets of St. Petersburg (on horses, of course) that she banned galloping in the city–and furthermore announced that anyone caught galloping would be punished by being beaten with the cat-o-nine-tails “mercilessly.”[2. PSZ vol. 10, no. 7170 (February 6, 1737)]
And then there’s Catherine the Great. Now, obviously, she was a woman who liked laws, what with her famous “legislomania” and all that. But she also had a thing for commemorating major events (military victories, putting up the Bronze Horseman [yes, really]) by releasing Manifestos to All Her People, granting them all sorts of things.
One in particular shows up in a number of discussions of her reign. On March 17, 1775, in honor of making peace with the Ottoman Empire, she released a Manifesto giving “mercies to various sosloviia” in recognition of God’s mercy in granting her and her state victory, peace, and the respect of other nations.[3. PSZ vol. 20, no. 14275 (March 17, 1775)] She wondered (she wrote) how best to honor that divine intervention, and decided that according to the Lord’s words, He preferred mercy to sacrifice, and so mercy she would give.