Medieval Russian Titles and Ranks

by Sofya la Rus

Updated 16 May 2009

In all of the articles linked below, words from old Russian sources have been left in their original declensions (locative, dative, genetive, etc. cases) since Old Russian has so many spelling and grammar quirks it would have been too much work to try to convert all of the terms into nominative case, even if I had the necessary linguistic expertise.

In addition, I have not yet figured out how to get my computer to render certain obsolete letters of the Old Slavonic alphabet, so the yat' has been written as "e", etc.

Detailed information:

Class Structure

Kievan Rus, from Mackenzie and Curran:
  • Princely class - descendents of the House of Riurik.
  • Service aristocracy - "muzhi," upper-class freeman, members of druzhina (wergild 80 grivnas)
  • Non-service aristocracy - old Slavic aristocracy and other wealthy personages (wergild 40 grivnas)
  • Boyarstvo - the service and non-service aristocracy eventually merge to form the boyar class.
  • "Liudi" - middle-class freemen (also 40 grivna wergild).
  • "Molodshie liudi" - lower-class freemen (wergild only 5 grivna).
  • "Smerdy" - rural peasants.
  • "Zakupy" - half-free (not yet serfs)
  • "Cheliad" - slaves.

    Ranks fluid and poorly defined in this period.

Kievan Rus, derived from Andreeva:
  • Knyaz
  • Senior druzhina - knazhnie muzhi, boyars, posadniks, tysyatski, voevodi
  • Junior druzhina - detskie, otroki, gridin, deti boyarskie, dvoryane

Yaroslav I to Mstislav Toropetski (1054-1228), per Solov'ev:

    Starshaya druzhina - aka boyare
    Mladshaya druzhina - aka molod", molodye, molodye liudi, gridej, grid'by
    Servitor druzhina - aka pasynki, otroki, detskie, beginning to be called dvoryane/dvor in the north.
Mstislav Mstislavich to Vasili Temnij (1228-1462), per Solov'ev:
    Starshaya druzhina - aka boyare or bolyare
    • Knyazhnye slugi - lesser princes serving a senior prince, usually outrank other boyars in his service
    • Bol'shie boyare appear as senior members of starshaya druzhina
    • Okol'nichie appear as junior members of the starshaya druzhina
    Mladshaya druzhina - slugi, dvoryane
    • 1st part - deti boyarskie
    • 2nd part - slugi, slugi vol'nye, liudi dvernye, slugi pod dvorskim
    Kholopi - nevol'nye slugi (unfree servants)
    Prostie liudi
Early Muscovite Rus, from MacKenzie and Curran (late 1400s):
  • Sovereign
  • Local/appanage princes (mestnoj/udel'noj knyaz).
  • Boyars - service and non-service aristocracy. Make up the Boyar Duma that advises the sovereign.
  • Dvoryane - gentry, educated commoners, central treasury secretaries (diaki). Came to be members of the Duma - dumnye dvoriane. Also called deti boyarskie?
  • Namestnik (governor) or volostel (district chiefs) that govern former principalities. When replaced by zemskaya system of local self-government, the former governors became voevody (military leaders). A subgroup of the diaki.
  • Merchants - wealthy merchants (gosti) became responsible for tax collecting.
  • Lower-class freement - poorer merchants, artisans, etc.
  • Serfs - newly created class.
  • Kabali - indentured servants.
  • Kholopy - slaves

Time of Ivan III, per Solov'ev:

    Starshaya druzhina aka boyarstvo
    • Knyaz'ya - servitor princes
    • Boyare - including vvedennye & putnye
    • Melkie boyare - same as okol'nichie?
    Deti boyarskie
Time of Ivan IV, per Solov'ev:
  • Boyare
  • Okolnichie
  • Dumnye diaki - council clerks
  • Bolshie dvoryane - aka dumnye dvoryane, dvoryane "first class", young members of even the highest princely families start their service careers here
  • Dvoryane - dvoryane "second class", start to include deti boyarskie

Early Romanov Rus, from MacKenzie and Curran (early 1600s - i.e. OOP):

  • Tsar
  • Boyars - taking over administrative functions previously held by gentry/educated commoners.
  • Okolnichii - just below boyar, heads of a prikazy in the 17th cent.
  • Dvoryane - gentry, diaki.
  • Voevody - regional governors, replaced namestniki.
  • Burghers - got monopoly of trade and manufacturer, but stripped of ability to move to new residences.

Period Sequences of Ranks/Social Classes.

The Russian words are still declined (genetive, dative, locative, etc.) as in the original texts.

From Statute of Prince Iaroslav (1019-54), Item 4 - penalties for throwing out a wife:
    Great boyars (великих бояръ) - [5] gold grivnas
    Lesser boyars (менших бояръ) - 1 gold grivna
    Well-to-do people (нарочитыхъ людии) - 2 rubles
    Common people (простои чяди) - 12 [silver] grivnas

From Statute of Prince Iaroslav (1019-54), Item 7 - payment to redeem a girl from the convent:

    Great boyars (великых бояръ) - 5 gold grivnas
    Lesser boyars (менших бояръ) - 1 gold grivna
    Well-to-do people (нарочитыхъ людии) - 2 rubles or 12 [silver] grivnas
    Common people (простои чяди) - 1 silver grivna or one ruble

From Statute of Prince Iaroslav (1019-54), Item 31 - penalties for insulting another man's wife:

    Great boyars (великыихъ бояръ) - 5 gold grivnas
    Lesser boyars (меншихъ бояръ) - 3 gold grivnas
    Townspeople (городскиыихъ людеи) - 3 silver grivnas/ruble
    Farmer's wife (сельскои жене) - 60 rezanas/3 grivnas [silver]
From The Pravda Rus'skaya (1019-1054) - Item 1, bloodwites:
    80 grivnas - for the prince's man (княжим мужем) or the prince's overseer (княжеским тиуном)

    40 grivnas - for a Rus' man (русин), junior member of prince's retinue (гридин), a merchant (купец), a boyar's overseer (боярский тиун), [the prince's] bodyguard (мечник), someone under the prince's protection (исгой), or a Slav (Словении).

From The Pravda Rus'skaya (1019-1054) - Items 11-17, bloodwites:
  • 80 grivnas - for overseer/steward (дворецкого) or stablemaster (конюшего)
  • 40 grivnas - for prince's page (княжеского отрока), groom (конюха) or cook (повара).
  • 12 grivnas - for prince's estate or field overseer (княжеского тиуна, ведавшего селами или пашнями)
    12 grivnas - for craftsman (ремесленика) or craftswoman (ремесленницу)
    12 grinvas - for tutor (кормильца) a wet nurse (кормилицу), even if slaves (холоп... или раба)
  • 6 grivnas - for a female slave (рабу)
    5 grivnas - for a contract laborer (рядовича) or for a boyar's contract laborer (боярского)
    5 grivnas - for a peasant or male slave (паженного холопа)

From The First Treaty of Novgorod (1264-5), Novgorodians party to the treaty:

    Stareishii (elders)

From The First Treaty of Novgorod (1264-5), limits on princely power:

    Servitors (dvoryane)

1307-08 Agreement between Novgorod and the Tver Grand Prince Mikhail Yaroslavich, Novgorod signatories:

    Stareishii (seniors)
    Menshii (juniors)

Посл. Нил. Псков. ок. 1382 г. [Sreznevskij, under "posad'nik"]
    Благороднiи честнiи бояре (noble honorable boyars)
    мужiе Псковичи ("men" Pskovian)
    сынъ мои посадникъ (son my posadnik)
    соцьскiи (sotski - hundred-men)
    вси дети мои (all children mine)
    прочiи христоименитiи людiе (other Christian people)

From Novgorod Chronicle (1398):

    Posadnik (x2) - посадникъ
    Boyars - бояри
    "Little" boyars - дети боярьскыи
    Men of substance - житыии люди
    "Little" merchants - купечкыи дети

From Novgorod Charter (mid 1400s), Novgorodians party to the treaty:

    Starye posadniki (old posadniks)
    Starye tysyatski (old tysyatski)
    Zhitie lyudi (well-to-do people)
    Kuptsy (Merchants)
    Chernie lyudi (common people)

From Novgorod Charter (mid 1400s), Novgorodians party to the treaty (compare to above):

    "Middle-class burghers"
    "Lower-class burghers"

From Novgorod Judicial Charter (mid-late 1400s), Novgorodians party to the treaty (compare toabove):

    "Ranking Men"
    "Taxpaying townspeople"

From Pravosudie Mitropolich'e (compiled c. 1400-1500), penalties for dishonoring the Grand Prince:

    Lesser Princes (менжему князю)
    Estate Stewards (сельскомоу)
    Tysyatski (тысячьникомъ)
    Okol'nichie (околичникомъ)
    Boyar (воярину)
    Servitor (слузе)
    Abbot (игумену)
    Priest (попу)
    Deacon (дьакону)

From Pravosudie Mitropolich'e (compiled c. 1400-1500), penalties for abduction and rape:

    Boyar wife/daughter (боярская) - 5 grivnas
    Lesser boyar daughter (меншихъ бояръ) - 1 gold grivna
    "Good" people daughter (добрыхъ) - 30 silver grivnas
    Well-to-do daughter (нарочитых) - 3 rubles

From the Domostroi (compiled c. 1550-1620), section 64:

    Tsar's brothers

From Okruzhnaya Gramota Pozharskogo s Tovarishchami v Iyune 1612 o Sozdanii Vtorogo Opolcheniya:

    dvoryane bol'shie/dumnye
    deti boyarskie

References: (Note that terms drawn from "primary sources" and listed throughout this documents may be more representative of the dates of the codexes they were taken from than the years they recorded under, i.e. the entry may be describing events from the year 1204, but the language used may be that of the scribe who re-copied it in 1377. Or not. ;-)
  • 1445-1461 гг. - Грамота Великого Новгорода о предоставлении на год "черного бора" с Новоторжских волостей великому князю Василию Васильевичу. (Certificate of Novgorod the Great... to grand prince Vasili Vasil'evich) Available at (under XIII cent.)
  • Andreeva, A.E. et al. "1448-1461 Грамота Великого Новгорода о предоставлении на год "черного бора" с Новоторжских волостей великому князю Василию Васильевичу." ГРАМОТЫ ВЕЛИКОГО НОВГОРОДА И ПСКОВА.
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COPYRIGHT (c) 2007-9 by Lisa Kies. You may make copies for personal use and to distribute for educational purposes but only if articles remain complete and entire with original authorship clearly noted.

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