Guba Administrative System

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The guba system made communities partially responsible for their own policing and entrusted the investigation and partial adjudication of felony cases to local elected officials.

In the early sixteenth century the local administration of criminal justice was in the hands of vicegerents (namestniki ) appointed by the grand prince and remunerated with the right to collect their own feeding maintenance (kormlenie ). An increasing number of community complaints that the vicegerents were corrupt or unable to deal decisively with banditry led the government of Grand Prince Ivan IV to begin issuing in 1538 and 1539 ordinance charters permitting petitioning communities to remove criminal justice affairs from their vicegerents' jurisdiction and entrust them to criminal justice chiefs (gubnye golovy ) elected from the local middle service class and criminal justice elders (gubnye starosty ) elected from the more prosperous local peasants and taxpaying townsmen. A guba was the territorial jurisdiction of an elected criminal justice chief or elder, be it an urban posad commune or a rural canton. The elected guba executives and their deputies (tselovalniki ) were made responsible for hunting down and arresting bandits and other felons, investigating and trying felony cases, and carrying out the sentences upon them.

This guba reform appears to have been motivated less by the need to respond to sharpening class conflict than by Moscow's interest in achieving greater specialization in and central control over provincial criminal justice matters than had been possible with the vicegerents. The degree of genuine administrative autonomy it conceded to the recipient communities was limited in that the communities, once given the privilege of electing guba officials, were under collective responsibility for their performance, and their guba officials were required to submit reports and accounts to a supervising commission of boyars at Moscow. By 1555 this supervising commission had evolved into the Robbery Chancellery (Razboyny prikaz ). It is unclear whether guba officials themselves ever had the authority to pronounce death sentences upon felons, or whether the right of verdict in capital cases had to be reserved for the Robbery Chancellery. Some see in the 1550 Sudebnik law code Moscow's intent of universalizing the guba system, but there is no evidence this was accomplished.

The development of norms for guba policing, investigations, and hearings is reflected in a series of sources: the first guba community charters of the 1530s through the 1550 Sudebnik code; the 1555 Ordinance Book of the Robbery Chancellery; the revisions of this Ordinance book produced between 1617 and 1631; Chapter Twenty-One of the 1649 Ulozhenie law code; and the 1669 New Decree Statutes on Theft, Robbery, and Murder Cases. Some elements of traditional diadic justice remained to the end: for example, continued partial reliance on community hue and cry to apprehend criminals, and some continued reliance on community polling (povalny obysk ) to establish guilt on the basis of reputation in the community's eyes. But in these successive ordinances, the shift to a more triadic criminal justice system became more apparent, especially from 1617 on, as seen in increasing emphasis placed on proactive struggle against brigandage and greater use of torture to produce confessions and name accomplices. In the 1669 New Decree Statutes, the guba organs are instructed in how to cooperate with special inquistors sent from Moscow to conduct mass dragnets. The tendency after the Time of Troubles was also to subordinate most guba offices to the offices of the chancelleryappointed town governors (voyevodas ). In 1679 the guba offices were abolished and the town governors given full authority over felony cases. The purpose was apparently to simplify the financing of local government and reduce the number of elective offices in which men might take refuge from military duty. But it had the effect of increasing the workload of the town governors and providing more opportunities to corrupt them, so the guba system was restored in 1684.

See also: collective responsibility; ivan iv; law code of 1649; sudebnik of 1550; time of troubles

Brian Davies

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Guba Administrative System

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