Scandinavian and Slavic Medieval Assemblies as Early State Institutions
Historians and other scholars have long discussed the problem of early states, in particular, their establishing and evolution in the Middle Ages. This issue is still very relevant and needs further studying. First of all, there is a need to study the functioning and evolution of various early state institutions, such as rulers, military chiefs, armed forces, religious centers, and assemblies.
Taking all this into account, the paper is devoted to the study of Scandinavian and Slavic meetings, especially to the description of their functioning and tracing their evolution during the 10th–11th centuries.
A comparative method and evolutionary scheme, in particular, the assumption that all societies have gone through similar stages of development were used in the study. The Germans and Slavs living in Northeastern Europe had such processes almost simultaneously.
The functioning of meetings in Norway, Sweden, on the island of Gotland and in Western Pomorie (among the tribes of Liutychi, Obodryty, and Rany) is described in the paper. The activities of Scandinavian and Slavic assemblies are examined in the study to determine how they differed from other early state institutions, such as rulers, chiefs, and armed forces.
Analysis of written evidence and archaeological findings allow us to conclude about the major functions of the assemblies. They formed a public space for representation and contributed to the formation and strengthening of local and regional communities and their further larger-scale integration. The meetings of Scandinavians and Slavs are the most obvious characteristic of their archaic societies, in which power belonged to the whole community. Over time, such social structures fell into decay, but the assembly in general did not disappear from the political arena. Instead, elites and rulers reorganized them for their own benefit. In that way, the assemblies became an important support for the newly created central government. They also helped to create numerous communities and, consequently, they had led to local and regional integration. The other functions of Scandinavian and Slavic assemblies were secondary. That fact distinguished assemblies from other early state institutions.
In the future, it is possible to analyze in more detail the activities of Scandinavian and Slavic rulers, chiefs and armed forces, to expand the chronological framework of the study.
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