Mest’ (vengeance). In medieval Ukraine (see Kyivan Rus’), the punishment or vengeance exacted for a crime or offense. This legal institution, which was found among ancient tribes, survived in some regions to the beginning of the 20th century. Among the ancient Slavs it was not only the right but the obligation of clan members to avenge wrongs, particularly homicide, done to one of them. Later, mest’ was replaced by pokora, ie, symbolic retribution. Ruskaia Pravda permitted mest’ if it was approved by the court. If it was committed without court permission, it had to be justified before the court. In medieval Ukraine mest’ was not very severe, and it could be carried out only by the victim's closest relatives, and only within a short period after the crime. The victim's family could substitute vykup (compensation) for mest’.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine