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Voevode / Waywode

In the seventeenth century the word gorod still retained its original meaning of an enclosure. Fortresses of all sorts were absolutely necessary in a country so exposed to attack from all sides as was Moscovy, the manning and defending the walls of the gorod was one of the chief duties of the population, and the erection of a fortress was the preliminary act of colonisation in every new settlement as the Tsardom encroached on the savage eastern and southern steppes. In the reign of Alexius (1645/76), twenty at least of these gorodui were of stone or brick, not including the strong, walled monasteries, often the surest of refuges ; but the majority were of wood, or earth, or of both combined. In remote and dangerous border settlements the gorod never developed into a town, but remained a naked fortress, e.g., Cherny Yar and Tsaritsuin. The gorod was thus the nucleus of every true town, which gradually grew up around it.

The first personage in the gorod was the voevoda, or governor. His principal duty was to see to the collection of the imperial revenues, but he was also the judge in all civil cases, and the commanding military officer of his district, responsible alike for the defence of the gorod, and the supply of the proper quota of troops to the imperial army.

The office of voevoda was not very highly esteemed. Wealthy people naturally regarded removal from Moscow to some distant voevodstvo as little better than an honourable exile. Such posts were generally reserved for inferior or impoverished sluzhnuie lyudi. The voevoda received no salary, but was " nourished " by the people of his district, who were obliged to supply him, his staff of dyaki and sub-dyaki, and his household with food and stores, often in such quantities that, after supplying all his wants, he was able, by selling the surplus at a considerable profit, to lay up a little fortune by the time his three years' term of office was out, especially as he was also entitled to receive fees from all petitioners at his Court, to say nothing of bribes and forced loans. Innumerable proverbs testify to the injustice and rapacity of the voevoda. Complainants against him had, however, the right of petitioning the Razryadny Prikaz, the headquarters of the voevodui, or the Gosudar himself, and this right was very freely exercised in old Moscovy both by individuals and by whole communities. A special public department, the Chelobitenny Prikaz, or " Directory of Petitions " was appointed to receive such petitions, and thus the Government was enabled, to some extent, to counteract the notorious maladministration and venality of the voevodui and sluzhnuie lyudi.

Waywode (Slav, vol or icoy, war, and vodit or wodzic, to lead), was formerly the title of the military leaders in various Slavic countries. The army leaders were also governors of the provinces, and in Poland called out and took command of the general levies in time of war. In Russia the title was early given to high military officers, and in Muscovy it was also a civil as well as military title. Becman said that the boyars were the upper nobility ; and added that the Czar of Muscovy, in his diplomas, named the boyars before the waywodes. The governors of Moldavia and Wallachia assumed the title of waywode, which they afterward exchanged for the Greek despota, and finally for the Slavic Tiospodar. The title waywode (Hun. vajda) was also in use in Hungary and Transylvania; and Voivodina (waywodeship) was the name of a division of Austria established by Francis Joseph, and later abolished.

Many of the intermediate officials of early days dropped out of proverbial memory, such as the Possadnik, a kind of Burgomaster, and the Xysatsky, or Thousand-man, a military officer, together with many others ; but the Voevode was still remembered. The old Russian Voisko, or army, was divided into polks,' each of which had its Voevode ; the senior, or chief, of these officers being called the 'Head Voevode.' In some towns, as at Novgorod in 1584, there were two principal Voevodes, to whose agreement is allusion made in the adage, 'In one den two bears live not peaceably.' But there were civil as well as military Voevodes, nobles who were given a province from which 'to derive nourishment,' as their petitions for employment expressed themselves. That they behaved in office rapaciously may be surmised from the existence of such proverbs as, 'To be a Voevode, is to live not without honey;' 'It is bad for the sheep when the wolf is Voevode;' 'God has punished the people, He has sent Voevodes.'

Naturally enough it was not easy to obtain redress for an injury inflicted by a powerful noble, especially as the law dealt severely with false accusers, administering 'To the informer the first knout:' many proverbs may, therefore, have once existed, similar to a saying preserved in the Tula Government : 'To petition against a Voevode is to go to prison.' In the Vaga district when a man modestly refuses an office, his protest is said to take the form of, ' To judge and arrange I know not, yet they set me in a place of Voevodship ;' but if a native of those parts blows his own trumpet too loudly, his neighbours cry : ' We won't hear you! you're not the Voevode of Vaga, forsooth!' When the Voevodships were finally abolished in the time of Catherine II., there arose among the common people this touching complaint: ' Formerly we fed a single sow, but now one with a litter."



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