My M. A. (Magister Artium, roughly equivalent to a Master’s) thesis that I submitted at the Philosophical Faculty of Heidelberg University in 2012. Translation of the title: The Consequences of the Administrative Reforms of the Grand Principalities of Lithuania and Muscovy in the 15th and 16th Centuries for Their Common Border. Size: 155 pages.
Abstract: After the Union of Kreva in 1386 the Lithuanian dynasty attempted to implement a series of changes to the administration of the Grand Duchy. While these were largely successful in the core territories – namely Lithuania proper and Samogitia –, they met with strong resistance in those regions with predominantly Slavic population that were incorporated during the phase of rapid expansion in the 13th and 14th century. Initially the Gediminid princes benefited greatly from the compatibility of their own customs of distributing power – clan-based and largely informal – with the centuries-old legal tradition of their Slavic subjects (starina). In the 15th century, the liberal adaption of local customs that served the Lithuanian conquerors well during expansion now proved a great obstacle to the intended transformation. One particularly controversial objective, for example, was the reform of the existing zemli, or “lands”, into voevodeships (województwa) according to Polish terminology. It implied not only a change in nomenclature but the abolishment of dynastic power monopoly held by members of the Gediminid family in the regional capitals like Kiev, Smolensk, Chernigov. Replacing (and compensating) the local sub-dynasties was an ongoing and repeatedly stalled process that took most of the 15th century. With these measures Grand Dukes and the Lithuanian aristocracy risked destabilizing the eastern and south-eastern border. While they were busy maintaining the integrity of their territories, their interior problems were taken advantage of by Lithuania’s eastern neighbor. Muscovy, although it underwent a comparable structural transformation in the 15th century, leading to the establishment of the primogenitural succession through a series of bloody feuds, managed to strengthen its position in multiple respects: military-wise it profited from the dissolution of the Genghisid empire, economically it outcompeted the former market center of Novgorod, and territorially it was about to extend its influence over the remainder of Kievan Rus’ that was not conquered by Lithuania. By the end of the 15th century Grand Prince Ivan Vasil’evich had implemented a major administrational reform, the introduction of the system of pomest’ya by restricting it mainly to a certain territory: the recently incorporated Novgorodian land. Besides the legal trick Ivan employed to make this possible – he declared the vast territory of Novgorod his privat possession (votchina) – the most curious aspect of the reform is how he got these incisive measures past the conservative boyar establishment in the capital of Moscow by isolating it. This approach, albeit limited territorially, soon yielded a socio-political transformation that the Lithuanian rulers struggled to implement on large-scale until the Union of Lublin in 1569.