The treaty was signed on September 2, 911 in two languages – Greek (not preserved) and Old Slavonic. It is preserved in later lists of ancient Russian chronicles, in particular, in “The Tale of Bygone Years.” It is the oldest written source of Russian law and contains the norms of the Law of Rus. Copies were kept in the imperial chancery in Constantinople.
To simplify the perception, let’s present the main points of the agreement as described by S. M. SolovyovS. M. Solovyov, “Russian History”:
- 1) In every crime investigation, it is necessary to rely on clear evidence. However, if there is suspicion of false testimony, the accusing party must swear that the testimony is false. Let everyone swear according to their faith and accept punishment if they swore falsely. Then, the number of crimes and corresponding punishments are counted.
- 2) If a Rus kills a Christian, i.e., a Greek, or a Christian kills a Rus, the offender can be killed on the spot. However, if the offender escapes and leaves his home and property, they are given to the slain person’s relatives, except for the portion that the law gives to the murderer’s wife. If the offender flees without leaving his property, he is considered under trial until he is caught and executed.
- 3) The guilty party pays five liters of silver according to Rus’ law for striking with a sword or any other object. If unable to pay the specified amount, the guilty party must give what he can and remove the very clothes he is wearing. He must swear according to the rituals of his faith that he has no one who can pay for him, and then the case is dropped.
- 4) If a Rus steals something from a Christian or a Christian steals from a Rus and is caught in the act, the owner of the stolen item can kill the thief with impunity if he resists and take back what is his. If the thief surrenders without resistance, he must be tied up and pay triple the value of what he stole.
- 5) If a Christian or a Rus forcibly searches and takes something, he must pay triple the value of what he took.
- 6) If a Greek ship is blown by the wind onto foreign land, and a Russian is involved in the incident, they must guard the ship and its cargo, send it back to Christian land, and accompany it through any dangerous places until it reaches a safe place. If contrary winds or shoals delay the ship in one place, the Rus must help the rowers and escort them with their goods if they are close to Greek land. However, if the misfortune occurs near Russian land, the ship is escorted to the last and its cargo sold. The Rus brings the proceeds to Constantinople when he comes there for trade or embassy. If anyone on the ship is killed or murdered by a Rus or anything is lost, the criminals are subject to the aforementioned punishment.
- 7) If a Rus or Greek slave is held in any country and someone from Russes or Greeks happens to be in that country, then the latter must redeem the slave and return him to his homeland, for which he will receive the ransom price or the common price of the slave; prisoners of war are also returned to their homeland, and the captor receives the common price of the slave.
- 8) Those Russes who want to serve the Greek emperor are free to do so.
- 9) If Rus slaves are put up for sale in any country to Christians, and Christian slaves come to Rus’, they are sold for 20 gold coins and released to their homeland.
- 10) If a slave is stolen from Rus’, runs away or is forcibly sold, and if the owner of the slave starts complaining and the justice of the complaint is confirmed by the slave himself, then the slave is returned to Rus’; also, Russian guests who have lost a slave can search for him and take him back; but if someone does not allow a search to be carried out on their property, they have already lost their case.
- 11) If someone from the Rus serving the Christian emperor dies without leaving a will and has no relatives around, then the inheritance is sent to his nearest relatives in Rus’. If he makes a will, then the inheritance goes to the appointed heir in the will, who will receive it from his fellow countrymen going to Greece.
- 12) If a criminal escapes from Rus’, he is forcibly returned to his homeland upon the complaint of the Russes. Russes must also act in the same way towards Greeks.
The contract text
The contract text is presented in the Tale of Bygone Years as follows:
«List from the contract concluded during the reign of the same Tsars, Leo and Alexander. We, from the Russian clan – Karly, Inegeld, Farlaf, Veremud, Rulav, Gudy, Ruald, Karn, Frelav, Ruar, Aktievu, Truan, Lidul, Fost, Stemid – sent by Oleg, the great Russes prince, and by all who are under his hand – the bright and great princes, and his great boyars, to you, Leo, Alexander, and Constantine, the great autocrats in God, the Greek kings, for the strengthening and assurance of the long-standing friendship between Christians and Russes, at the request of our great princes and by the order of all Russians under his hand. Our majesties, desiring above all in God to strengthen and affirm the friendship that has constantly existed between Christians and Russians, have judged in justice, not only in words but also in writing, and with a firm oath, swearing by their weapons, to establish such friendship and affirm it according to our faith and law.
Such are the essence of the contract clauses, for which we have obligated ourselves by faith and friendship. The first words of our contract are to reconcile with you, Greeks, and love each other from the bottom of our hearts and with all good will. We will not allow any deception or crime from those under the hand of our bright princes, as far as it is in our power, but we will strive, to the best of our abilities, to preserve with you, Greeks, an unshakable and unchanging friendship in future years and forever, confirmed by the commitment and dedication of a document. Similarly, you, Greeks, must observe the same unwavering and unchanging friendship towards our bright Russes princes and towards all who are under the hand of our bright prince, always and in all years.
As for the chapters concerning possible wrongdoing, let’s agree on this: those crimes that are clearly proven shall be considered committed beyond dispute, and those that are not believed shall be sworn upon by the side that claims the crime did not happen. And when that side swears, the punishment shall be according to the severity of the crime.
About this: if someone kills – a Russ kills a Greek or a Greek kills Russ – they shall die on the spot where the killing occurred. But if the killer escapes and is found to have property, the relative of the murdered person shall take the part of the property that is due to them by law, and the wife of the killer shall keep what is due to her by law. However, if the fleeing killer is found to be without property, they shall remain under trial until found, and then they shall be put to death.
If someone strikes with a sword or any other weapon, they shall pay 5 liters of silver according to Russes law. But if the offender is without property, they shall pay as much as they can, and even the clothes they are wearing shall be taken away to cover the payment. The rest of the unpaid amount shall be sworn upon by the offender’s faith that no one can help them, and that remaining amount shall not be collected from them.
About this: if a Christian steals from a Russ or, conversely, a Russ stolen from by a Christian, and the thief is caught in the act, the Christian and Russ should not seek the thief’s death. Instead, the victim should take back what was lost. If the thief willingly surrenders, then the thief should be taken by the one from whom the thief stole and be bound until they return triple what was stolen.
About this: if a Christian or a Russ uses violence to take something that belongs to someone else, then they should return triple what they took.
If a ship is thrown by a strong wind onto foreign land and there are Russes there to help save the ship and its cargo and send it back to Greece, then the Russes will guide the ship through any dangerous places until it reaches a safe place. If the ship is delayed by a storm or runs aground and cannot return to its home port, then the Russian sailors will help transport their goods and offer their greetings.
If the same misfortune happens to a Russes ship near Greek land, then the Russes will guide it to Russes land and sell the goods. If anything can be sold from the ship, then the Russess will carry it to the Greek shore. When we, Russes, arrive in Greek land for trade or as envoys to your king, then you, Greeks, will honorably allow the sold goods of our ship to pass. If any of us Russes who arrived with the ship are killed or anything is taken from the ship, then the culprits should receive the aforementioned punishment.
About this: if a prisoner from one side or another is forcibly held by the Russes or Greeks and, indeed, turns out to be Russ or Greek, then let them redeem and return the ransomed person to their country and take the price paid for him, or let a price be offered for him that is appropriate for a servant. Similarly, if he is taken by the Greeks in war, he should still be returned to his country and the usual price for him should be paid, as already mentioned above.
However, if there is recruitment into the army and these Russes want to honor your tsar and as many of them come at any time and want to stay with your tsar of their own free will, then let it be so.
Also, about the Russes, about prisoners. Those who come from any country (Christian prisoners) to Rus’ and are sold back to Greece (by the Russes) or Christian prisoners brought to Rus’ from any country – all these must be sold for 20 gold coins and returned to the Greek land.
About this: if a Russes servant is stolen, runs away, or is forcibly sold and the Russes complain, let them prove this about their servant and take him to Rus’, and merchants, if they lose a servant and appeal, let them demand a trial and when found, take him. But if anyone refuses to allow an investigation, they will not be recognized as right.
About Russes serving in the Greek land under the Greek king. If someone dies without disposing of their property and has no relatives in Greece, then their property should be returned to their closest younger relatives in Rus’. But if they make a will, then the person they have written to inherit their property shall receive it and inherit it.
About Russes traders. About different people who go to the Greek land and remain in debt. If a scoundrel does not return to Rus’, then the Russes should complain to the Greek kingdom, and he shall be seized and forcibly returned to Rus’. Let the Russes do the same to the Greeks if the same thing happens.
As a sign of strength and steadfastness that should exist between you, Christians, and Russes, we made this peace treaty by the writing of Ivan on two charters – Your king and by our own hand – sealed it with an oath before the honest cross and the holy consubstantial Trinity of the one true God of yours and gave it to our ambassadors. We swore to your king, appointed by God as a divine creation, according to our faith and custom, not to violate any of the established provisions of the peace treaty and friendship with our country and anyone else. And we gave your kings this writing for approval so that this treaty would become the foundation of the confirmation and certification of the existing peace between us.
September 2nd, Indiction 15, in the year 6420 from the creation of the world.″.Tale of Bygone Years