Vasil Varonin. Political system of Polack voivodship in the first half of the sixteenth century.
Some facts make interesting the study of the political system of Polack voivodship of the first half of the sixteenth century. Firstly, this concrete example shows clearly the real situation and the place of a Belarusian land in the structure of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Secondly, the political system of Polack kept many archaic features at that time and so it gives the possibility to elucidate its political system of the previous period till the times of Polack Principality which was liquidated in 1387. This fact is especially important in the view of extremely limited scope of historical sources on Polack Principality.
Relations between Polack voivodship and the central government of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were regulated by a special document called “letters charter”. It is considered that this document was promulgated by the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vitaut between 1392 and 1399. It is known in edition of 1511. It declares wide autonomy of Polack land within the structure of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. But really, in the first half of the sixteenth century, a considerable number of its articles did not work. Particularly, some facts witness that the promises of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania to give to citizens of Polack land the right to elect voivods were not realized. This item was of a great importance for Polack citizens as a voivod had a considerable scope of authorities in the field of administration, self–administration, and foreign affairs (especially in relations with Rоga). The Grand Dukes assigned not only voivods but also officials of local authorities (haradniиy, babroчniиy, charuюy, mastaчniиy and others). Nevertheless, the representatives of Polack noble families such as the Korsaks, the Bystrejskies, the Epimachs were appointed as a rule.
Besides the official appointments in the system of local authorities there existed an old traditional and non–official post called “a senior among the bojars”. It has been known since the times of Polack Principality (1385). For almost 170 years mainly the representatives of the most influential noble family of Polack — the Korsaks — had been seniors among the bojars and the post was probably inherited within the family. Some other characteristic features of the political and legal system of Polack voivodship should be marked too. Among them preservation of certain legal norms of the old Polack law is worth mentioning. For example, in the documents of the late 16th — early 17th centuries evidence about the fines calculated in obsolete coins — silver and gold hryчnas — can be met.
During the first half of the sixteenth century a fight between the nobility and townsmen can be traced. It grew sharper especially in the view of granting of the Magdeburg law to the town in 1498. However, by the fifties of the sixteenth century victory of the nobility became already obvious. Estate policy of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania aimed to the support of nobility played an increasingly important role in that process.
Though the political system of Polack voivodship continued to keep lots of distinctive features in the first half of the sixteenth century there was a tendency in its evolution to all–state norms and standards.