cover image of Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia

Prof. Nancy Kollmann's new monograph, Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia, was published by Cambridge University Press in October. She delivered a book talk at CREEES on November 2 before an audience of more than 60 colleagues, students, and members of the public, in which she situated the work in the context of the historical scholarship of the era, as well as her own career.

The monograph draws heavily upon law codes, court proceedings, correspondence, and vivid anecdotes in order to touch upon the theory and actual practice of the judicial system from the tsars to local trials to sentencing and execution of punishment.  It also challenges commonly held notions of Early Modern Russia as a lawless, anarchical state.

According to Amazon, Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Russia is "a magisterial new account of the day-to-day practice of Russian criminal justice in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Nancy Kollmann contrasts Russian written law with its pragmatic application by local judges, arguing that this combination of formal law and legal institutions with informal, flexible practice contributed to the country's social and political stability. She also places Russian developments in the broader context of early modern European state-building strategies of governance and legal practice. She compares Russia's rituals of execution to the 'spectacles of suffering' of contemporary European capital punishment and uncovers the dramatic ways in which even the tsar himself, complying with Moscow's ideologies of legitimacy, bent to the moral economy of the crowd in moments of uprising. Throughout, the book assesses how criminal legal practice used violence strategically, administering horrific punishments in some cases and in others accommodating with local communities and popular concepts of justice."

This is Prof. Kollmann's third book. She is also the author of Kinship and Politics: The Making of the Muscovite Political System, 1345-1547, as well as By Honor Bound: State and Society in Early Modern Russia.The William H. Bonsall Professor of History at Stanford, she is considered one of the world's most preeminent scholars of Early Modern Russia.  She is now currently working on a fourth book, The Russian Empire, 1450-1801, for Oxford University Press. Kollmann studied at Middlebury and Harvard, finishing her PhD at the latter in 1980. She has taught at Stanford since 1982.