Boyar Council

Boyar Council (Boiarska Rada). The council of boyars and higher clergy was, from the 10th century, one of the three agencies—along with the prince and the assembly (viche)—of the central government of Kyivan Rus'. Together with the prince, the council discussed and decided important matters of internal and foreign policy, religion, and legislation. Sometimes it even ruled on the division of princely domains and sat as a court in judgment on princes and members of their families. The Boyar Council was a permanent political-judicial body, which was based on the prince's obligation to confer with the boyars of his domain.

As boyar landownership increased and as the principalities became more numerous, smaller, and weaker, the power of the Boyar Council increased. Its power was determined to a great extent by local conditions, the traditions of the local principality, and its location. The Boyar Council of Galicia had a particularly great and often detrimental influence on state affairs. It even went so far as to elect a boyar of non-princely lineage to the throne, a unique event in the history of Ukraine.

Beyond the Ukrainian principalities, in Suzdal and Vladimir, the Boyar Council was only a voluntarily called, advisory body to the ruler. In Muscovy the council, which was called the Boyar Duma (1547–1711), was an advisory body of the absolute monarch and conducted itself according to the principle ‘the ruler has indicated his wish, and the boyars have passed sentence.’ Only when there was no tsar did the duma exercise its legislative and other powers independently. The Council of Lords in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was modeled on the Boyar Council.

Ya. Padokh

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