Vendetta. Blood feud as a phenomenon
Vendetta. Blood feud as a phenomenon

The tradition of blood feud is rooted in the deep past of humanity. The well-known wording "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" comes from the Old Testament.

Vendetta is an atavism of human society, although in remote places, for example, in the mountain villages of Sicily, it is still practiced. We decided to turn to history in order to understand how this custom was formed, and how blood feud was resolved bloodlessly.

“… What would happen on earth if people, contrary to all the arguments of reason, only knew that they were settling scores with each other? Isn't this the curse of Sicily, where men are so busy with blood feud that they have no time to earn bread for the family. " Don Corleone.

An eye for an eye

The tradition of blood feud is rooted in the deep past of mankind, when not only the concept of law in its modern meaning, but also the concept of the state did not really exist. However, in spite of this fact, there was a kind of primitive, the most primitive and clear on the semi-instinctive level of the concept of justice.

The well-known wording "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" comes from the Old Testament (Leviticus, 24, 20), and is by no means limited to this provision. In addition to it, apart from the parallels in other chapters of the Pentateuch, the wording “fracture after fracture” and “… whoever killed a person must be put to death” is given (Leviticus, 24, 21). The famous laws of Hammurabi adhere to similar attitudes when it comes to people of the same status. Provisions of this kind in ancient legal systems are based on the same principle as the tradition of vendetta - namely, the principle of equal retribution for a crime, according to which the killer must be killed. Further development of power and legal mechanisms led to the fact that the monopoly of the right to impose "justice" remained with the state. The institution of blood feud in the overwhelming majority of cases found itself in the position of a criminalized atavism characteristic of traditional societies (where customs and traditions in public life dominated the system of state laws).

Nordic customs

If we talk about the territory of our country, then in modern Russian criminal law the motives of blood feud in the commission of a murder are an aggravating circumstance that entails a more severe punishment. But at the same time, as in other European countries, this tradition took place on the territory of Russia in the early Middle Ages.

Blood feud in Northern Europe (primarily in the Scandinavian countries) went hand in hand with the right to inherit property - namely, the procedure for avenging a murdered family member in a number of cases had exactly the same sequence as the procedure for obtaining an inheritance (son - father - brother - son of a son, and so on). Parallel to the right to vengeance, there was the right to ransom, which was transferred to the affected family on the same principle. Over time, revenge against the murderer ceased to be binding, turning rather into a right to retaliation with the alternative of taking monetary compensation - and this process took place long before this position was recorded in written sources, remaining in the oral tradition. In the Scandinavian sagas, one way or another concerning this plot, the right to take a debt with blood is much higher than accepting a material ransom for the deceased. In some regional collections of medieval Scandinavian law, there is a provision that a murderer can offer ransom to the family of the deceased no earlier than a year after his deed, and the entire period before that he was automatically subject to revenge without the right to pay off - in fact, he was outlawed and could be killed with impunity. At the same time, men who were slow to take revenge were condemned by those around them, and, first of all, by women of their own kind, who did not have the opportunity to take revenge with their own hands, but who cared about the reputation of the family.

Barbaric truths (codes of law that existed in Europe at the dawn of the creation of statehood) also regulated the procedure for revenge for a murder. As well as in early medieval Scandinavia or in Ancient Russia, the institution of blood feud was gradually replaced by the receipt of monetary compensation by the family of the murdered (wergeld). As for the ancient Russian legal norms, this kind of fine was called vira, and could be paid to representatives of state power by the community on the principle of mutual guarantee. In this case, the fine was called “wild” or “general” vira, but it was levied only if a specific killer was not found (or, in other words, the community chose not to issue it).

Muslim East

In the medieval Muslim world, the payment of a monetary fine, called diya, was also established as a punishment for murder. In parallel with the payment of the fine, the killer was obliged to free the believing slave who was in his service, but if he did not have such an opportunity, he was obliged to fast for at least two months, which could also indicate his repentance to God. It is necessary to take into account the fact that Ayat, which regulates this situation, deals only with what can be called negligent murder: "… a believer should not kill a believer, unless by mistake." And even in this case, the relatives of the deceased may refuse to pay the fine, demanding the execution of the offender. If we are talking about the deliberate deprivation of the life of a Muslim, then, in addition to eternal torment in the afterlife, the killer was prepared for immediate outlawing with subsequent execution.

Vendetta. Blood feud as a phenomenon
Vendetta. Blood feud as a phenomenon


In southern Italy, as well as on the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, the institution of blood feud was very widespread until the beginning of the twentieth century, and in some cases it still exists, which, however, is not very surprising - the well-known word "vendetta" penetrated into popular culture from this region. This phenomenon was also very common in the Balkans, in particular, in Montenegro, where relapses of blood feud still occur. The Montenegrin tradition prescribed revenge not only for murders, but also for crimes against honor, moreover, the duty of revenge was imposed on the whole family, and the offenders were also declared not a specific person who committed the atrocity, but any man from the murderer's clan, which could trigger the mechanism of blood feud for long years. At the same time, a woman could not only raise her children in the spirit of revenge, but also commit an act of retaliation with impunity - the murder of a woman or a child for reasons of blood feud would mean a shame for the avenger that would have been impossible to wash off until the end of her life. Along with this, there was also the custom of reconciliation, which, if successful, was often sealed by family ties between previously warring clans. Of course, over the course of time, this cruel custom has met with sharp condemnation from representatives of both the secular and ecclesiastical authorities of the country. A significant positive shift in the tradition could be called the fact that at some point, retribution only to the murderer, and not to his entire family, was considered just.

At the moment, despite the fact that murder for the purpose of revenge is a serious crime in Montenegro, the avengers often evoke sympathy from local residents - revenge, although not in the law, but in public opinion is still not aggravating, but vice versa. mitigating the circumstances.

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