Christophe v. Werdt. Stadt und Gemeindebildung in Ruthenien. Okzidentalisierung der Ukraine und Weiβrusslands im Spätmittelalter und in der frühen Neuzeit. Forschungen zur osteuropäischen Geschichte, vol. 66. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2006. vii, 326 pp. Cloth.
Urban studies have long been a poor relation in the family of historiographies devoted to late medieval and early modem Poland-Lithuania, not only because the cities were themselves weakly developed. Polish scholarship has focused on social and intellectual elites, seeing these as the carrier of the national idea and the chief contribution to European culture of the time. Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Belrusian historians have devoted somewhat more attention to the cities, again concentrating on the project of nation building and less on the nature of urbanization in the east of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Given these significant gaps, this new study by Christophe v. Werdt (The City and the Formation of Communities in Ruthenia: The Occidentalization of Ukraine and Belarus in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Periods) is particularly welcome.
This is a work of broad synthesis and careful analysis, based largely on normative documents (above all royal and noble privileges and municipal charters) printed in the rich document collections of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Following an introduction that sets out the geographic, temporal, problematic, and methodological parameters of the topic, the book is divided into two larger sections: (1) an examination of the process of urbanization in the ethnically and confessionally mixed territories of the east of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, from the second half of the fourteenth century until the wars of the mid seventeenth century; and (2) an investigation of the types of community formation found in those lands on a scale ranging from the "castle towns" (Burgstädte) inherited from the appanage principalities of Kyivan and Galician Rus' to the cities granted, or newly founded upon, Magdeburg law.
Confessional-cultural transitional zones were formed by the incorporation of territories formerly a part of Kyivan and Galician Rus' into the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The rulers sought to encourage settlement of the newly acquired territories-partially as a means of bringing them more firmly under their control-by the granting of rights of incorporation for cities, mostly under the framework of Magdeburg law. Kulm/Chehnno law was common only in some Crown landsMazovia, Pomerania, Prussia-and to an extent in the transitional zone of Podlachia, which was ruled for a time from Mazovia. The colonization came from without (mostly German burghers) and from "within" (nobles, burghers, and peasants from Crown lands). The twin processes of colonization and urbanization began earliest in (1) Podlachia, Red Ruthenia, and Podolia with the incorporation of parts of Galician Rus' into the Polish Crown in the 1340s. They were at their most intense here. Fifty years later, in the wake of the Union of Krevo, the Lithuanian grand dukes began to emulate Polish practice in (2) the northwestern parts of their lands. Only in the second half of the sixteenth century would (3) the Lithuanian east and the Volhynian-Ukrainian territories that would soon become a part of the Crown (with the Union of Lublin in 1569) be sites of similar processes. In general, colonization and urbanization flowed from west to east, and we find the denser urban networks in the areas settled earliest. …