Wallachian law

Wallachian law [волоське право; voloske pravo]. Customary law that in the 14th and 15th centuries governed settlements in Wallachia and spread to pastoral communities in Galicia and Transcarpathia. The name is associated with the migration of Wallachian shepherds through the Carpathian Mountains as far west as Moravia. Wallachian law does not have any determinate national traits, and little is known about the nationality of its original carriers. Because of the small number of ethnic Wallachians in the area, it is reasonable to assume that, long ago, Ukrainian communities were also founded on Wallachian law. The law arose out of a pastoral way of life. The village community was headed by a hereditary kniez (literally, ‘prince’), who convened the viche (assembly) to decide communal issues. Several villages governed by the law formed a kraina, a judicial-administrative district headed by a krainyk. The krainyk presided over semiannual judicial assemblies. The community was collectively responsible for the wrongdoings of its members and for various levies. Taxes and other fees were usually paid in kind, in livestock, cheese, or wool; a third went to the kniez, and the rest to the village’s owner. The inhabitants of many villages under Wallachian law were required to do military service. Eventually, many became serfs of the gentry.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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