Medieval Russian Titles
Master and Mistress

by Sofya la Rus

Updated 21 March 2022


Master [мастер] - skilled craftsmen, master, foreman.
Masteritsa [мастерица] - feminine of the above. See below for my notes to get "masteritsa" added to the official SCA Alternate Titles List

Some other possibilities for Peerage titles:


    per Dal' - Мастак м. мастачка ж. мастер, дока, мастер своего дела, искусник, смышленый ремесленник [clever craftsman], или дошлый делец [cunning operator].

    Not found in Sreznevskij, so would need more proof of use in period to get added officially.


    per Dal' Искусник м. искусница ж. - искусный в чем-либо человек, мастер, дока. [a person expert in something, a master, an expert/authority]


      Стрелы искусникъ его (въ нов.: стрелы разбойниковъ). [Иов. XVI. 9 (Библ. 1499 г.).] 1499 C.E.

      Яко е превлеченiе искуснкикомъ. [Иов. XXV З.т.ж.]

      ПОвелить отъити отъ насъ исоусьникомъ. [Панд. Ант. XI в. (Амф.)] 11th century.

      Мoсли Павла... древле искоусника и потопьника. [Златостр. сл. 9.]

      Отъ еретикъ и зловерныхъ искусникъ и нечестивыхъ сребролюбець. [Кур. Тур. Притч. о чел. душ. 139]

Doka - an expert or authority on something. Used for both masculine and feminine.

    per Dal' - ДОКА об. мастер, мастак, знаток, искусник, делец [law expert], додель, мастер своего дела [synonyms]; иногда и знахарь, колдун [sometimes also a sorcerer, wizard].

    дока - существительное, род: мужской и женский - тот, кто сведущ в какой-либо области, искусен в каком-либо деле (разговорное).
    doka - noun, gender: masculine and feminine - one who is versed in any field, skilled in any matter (colloquial)

    до́-ка (Русский)
    Существительное, одушевлённое, общий род (может согласовываться с другими частями речи как мужского, так и женского рода)...
    Noun, animate, generic gender (can be consistent with different parts of speech both masculine and feminine)...
    Семантические свойства

      Значение - разг. тот, кто сведущ в какой-либо области, искусен в каком-либо деле
      Meaning - colloquial, one who is knowledgeable in any field, skilled in any business
      Синонимы - знаток, умелец, ас, профессионал, мастак, мастер
      Synonyms - connoisseur, craftsman, ace, professional, master, master.
      Антонимы - профан, ноль
      Antonyms - layman, zero.

      Not found in Sreznevskij.


      Dal' - Знаток м. [masc.] знатуха ж. [fem.]
        опытный, искусившийся в каком-либо деле, знающий, смыслящий толк, дело, вещь, качество и доброту; эксперт. Он знаток шерсти, полотна. [Trans: experienced, expert in any matter, the knowledgeable one, one understanding use, the matter, work/goods, quality and goodness; an expert. He is an expert in fur, fabric.
        || Знаток перм. свадебный дружка, обычно знахарь, ведун [wedding friend, usually a sorcerer, vedun ?].
      Not found in Sreznevskij.

Other Forms of Address

See Lordly Titles for a more information about the following titles.

Gosudar [государь] - sovereign, master.
Gosudarynya [государыня] - feminine of above.

    Not used in the official SCA alternate titles list.

    Not just for the Russian sovereign, but often translated as "sovereign".

    Sreznevskij includes the following meaning:

      1.) gospodin", vladelets" (owner)

    (Отписки во время Иоанна III)
    Государю великому князю Ивану Васильевичу всея Руси холоп твoй такой-то челом бьет...
    (Formal address to Ivan III used by boyars and servitors)
    To sovereign grand prince Ivan Vasil'evich of all Rus, kholop (slave) yours that beats with the brow...

    Excerpts on household management from the Domostroi

      "In household daily life and everywhere to any person master [государю] or mistress [государыни] or son or daughter or male servant, and female and to old/senior and junior any matter to begin..."

      "And to himself master [государю] and wife and children and his household to learn not to steal..."

      "mistress of the house [государыни домовная]"

      "and the master [государь] himself or the mistress [государыня] watches"

Gospodin" [господин], also Ospodin" - lord, master.
Gospozha [госпожа], also Gospodyni/-ya - feminine of above.
Gospodichich" [господичичь] - son of the gospodin.
Gospoda [господа] - collective of the above, i.e. equivalent of "ladies and gentlemen" , "master and mistress", etc.

    Not used in the official SCA alternate titles list.

    Used to address higher ranking persons of various ranks.

    In modern Russian it is used as the equivalent of mister when formally addressing foreigners, i.e. Gospodin Lawson instead of Mr. Lawson. (For native Russians, a completely different gramatical structure using the patronymic is used for polite address.)

    Sreznevskij presents entries for the following meanings:

      1.) dominus (Latin) and the same Greek word as #1 under gospod' and gospodar above.

      2.) the word gospodin" in the sense of prince and owner generally, connected to the title or substituted for it.

      3.) as an expression of respect. Eg. Господине брате [Ефр. Крм. Крв. 134.]

    Novgorod Birchbark Letters:

      #84 (1120-1140) - Возьми у госпожи тринадцать резан'
      #67 (1300-1320) - Иди, господин, к Тимофею:
      #23 (1400-1410) - Поклон от Карпа господину моему Фоме. Я был, господин, на Пустоперже, разделил рожь с Олексой и с Гафанком (Огафанком). Не много, господин, ржи [пришлось] на твою долю
      #17 (1410-1420) - Поклон от Михайлы господину своему Тимофею. Земля готова, нужны семена. Пришли, господин, человека сразу же, а то мы не смеем брать рожь без твоего слова'
      #49 (1410-1420) - Поклон от Настасьи господам моим братьям. У меня Бориса [больше] нет в живых. Как, господа, позаботитесь обо мне и о моих детях??

    The Novgorod Chronicle:

      1216 [6724] "slave against master, master against slave" - рабъ на господина, господинъ на рабъ

      1228 [6736] "on our Lady's Day..." - госпожькинъ день.

      1398 [6906] "We cannot, Lord Father, endure this violences..." - господине отче [men of Novgorod addressing their Vladyka]

      1398 [6906] "Sirs, Voyevodas of Novgorod..." - Господо воеводы новгородчкыи [the Vladyka's superintendent speaking to the leaders of Novgorod]

      1418 [6926] "Here, sirs! help me against this miscreant." - а господо... [said by a certain man Stepanko, crying out to the people]

    Gospodin/gospozha seems to be a relatively generic term of respect. It also indicates the independence of the bearer, for example the free city-state of Novgorod used the title for itself - Gospodin Velikij Novgorod, Lord Novgorod the Great. Gosudar/gosudarynia seems to imply a more formal relationship of dependence/fealty. However, there is considerable overlap between these terms.

    According to George Vernadsky in Kievan Russia

      p. 173 – Gospodin, lord, is one of the basic old Russian political terms. It was used in various senses: owner of land, owner of slaves, lord of the manor, sovereign, the bearer of sovereignty. This term of sovereignty was applied not only to princes, but also free city-states such as Novgorod the Great.

      p. 181 - Andrei Bogoliusky and his brother, Vsevolod III had a tendency to treat the lesser princes in their domains as their subordinates, podruchniki (meaning “one who is under the arm”). Such subordinates had to promise to obey his superior. This tendency was resisted by those lesser princes.

      p. 197 – In 1200, the Novgorodians were forced to address Vselvolod III of Suzdal as Gospodin Velikii Kniaz’ although they soon re-confirmed their independence.

      p. 210-1 – Some princes tried to extend notions of seniority in the 1100s, esp. in Suzdal and Galicia. The tendency was to use terms of family relationship to express political seniority. Thus in 1150, Prince Iziaslav II said to his uncle Viacheslav: “Thou art my father; take Kiev and all the land; keep for thyself whatever pleases thee and give me the rest”. Suzdalia developed the idea of suzerainty more. In 1174, Andrei Bogoliubsky, Prince of Vladimir-in-Suzdalia and Kiev was displeased by the lack of loyalty of the Rostoslavichi brothers. They protested complaining that he had addressed them as if they were vassals (podruchniki). Andrei’s brother and successor took this process further in taking the title Velikii Kniaz’ and added the title gospodin to the form of address. In 1180 the princes of Riazan said, “Thou are our lord and father.”

    According to George Vernadsky in The Mongols and Russia, p. 351-2 – Terms of vassalage and suzerainty

      The range of political interrelations between the grand dukes and princes as the grand dukes struggled for supremacy are reflected in the interprincely treaties, many of which survive. Political inequality or equality was usually expressed in terms of kinship, even where no blood relation existed. So Prince Vladimir of Serpukhov was referred to as the “younger brother” of Dmitri Donskoi in the 1367 and 1374 treaties, and as Dmitri’s “son” in the 1389 treaty to show his level subordination to the grand duke, which had increased by 1389. (They were actually cousins.) When princes made a treaty on terms of equality, they used the term “brother” for each other.

      More formal terms of vassalage were introduced by Vitovt of Lithuania in his treaties with East Russian princes. In 1427, Grand Duke Boris of Tver called Vitovt his lord (gospodin). About two years later, the grand duke or Riazan called Vitovt both his lord (gospodin) and sovereign (gospodar) [p 296]. The term “gospodin” was quickly adopted by Vasili II in his 1433 treaty with Vasili of Serpukhov, who had to address Vasili as his “lord, elder brother and father” in an interesting mix of political and kinship terms. After that, the kinship terms seem to have been omitted in favor of the term gospodin. In the 1440s, the Moscow chancery started to try to increase the authority of the grand prince by adding the term “gospodar”. Ivan III demanded that Novgorod recognize him as their gosudar (the Great Russian variant of the West Russian term gospodar) which meant the end of their independence.

Notes to document "masteritsa"

    Once upon a time, master was used for both Master/Mistress in the official SCA alternate titles list.

    According to the 1999 SCA Russian Alternate Titles List proposal, the feminine form, masteritsa, is not found in period and in modern Russian does not convey the same level of skill, mastery, and authority as the masculine form, master.

    I found the term "masteritsa" in the period section of the Domostroi, see below. So that objection to "masteritsa" has been resolved.

    In a patriarchal society, essentially all feminine forms will convey less authority than the masculine forms. Even in contemporary Western society a policeman has carried a different connotation than policewoman. And the wife of the English sovereign is a queen, but the husband of the English sovereign is a prince. If we were to apply a requirement for "equivalent meaning of feminine forms" consistently, we would have to throw away most (all?) of our feminine SCA titles.

    And I don't think there is as much descrepency for master/masteritsa as the Russian Alternate Titles proposal implies. B.A. Kolchin uses "masteritsa" in Древняя Рус: Быт и Культура to describe the skilled "mistresses" of medieval Russian metal thread embroidery workshops.

    Note the various dictionary definitions below.


      мастер муж. [masc.]
        1) master; craftsman, skilled workman
          часовых дел мастер — watch-maker устар.
          скрипичный мастер — violin-maker
          оружейный мастер — armourer, gunmaker, gun-man, gunman, gunsmith
          багетный мастер — carver and gilder
          шляпный мастер — hatter
        2) (цеха и т.п.) foreman; repairman
        3) (знаток) expert; master (of, at)

      мастерица жен. [fem.]; разг. [colloquial]

        (знаток своего дела) a good hand (at)


      МАСТЕР м. [masc.], мастерица ж. [fem.], немецк. [German]
        ремесленник, человек, занимающийся каким-либо ремеслом, мастерством или рукодельем; особенно сведущий или искусный в деле своем; [craftsman, a person who carries out any craft, craftsmanship or handicraft; especially one who is competent or skillful in his/her activity]
        || признанный таким от цеха, получивший право так называться; [one who has been acknowledged as such by the guild, receiving the right so to be called]
        || старший, во всяком ремесленном заведении или по каждой части производства на фабриках, заводах, наблюдающий за подмастерьями и рабочими [the elder, in any handicraft institution or for each part of the production at the factories, plants, that looks after the apprentices and workers].


      МАСТЕРИ'ЦА, ы.
        1. Работница в швейной или шляпной мастерской.
        2. Женск. к мастер в 4 знач. [Feminine form of master in definition 4. See below.] Не мастерица я полки́-то различать.
      МА'СТЕР, а, мн. а́, м. [англ. master].
        1. Старший рабочий, заведующий отдельной узкой отраслью производства. Сменный м. Заводской м.
        2. Квалифицированный ремесленник. Оружейный м. Сапожный м. Часовой м. Золотых дел м. (см. золотой).
        3. Специалист, достигший высокого умения, искусства, мастерства в какой-н. области. В этой картине чувствуется рука мастера. Мастера современной литературы. М. отбойного молотка (выдающийся забойщик). М. спорта. Дело мастера боится. Поговорка.
        4. на что и с инф. Об искусном, сведущем и ловком в каком-н. деле человеке. [Trans: Said of a person who is skillful, competent and adroit in an activity.] М. на выдумки. М. играть на балалайке. М. на все руки (см. рука). Я не мастер рассказывать. Тргнв.
        5. Звание, присваиваемое выдающимся шахматным игрокам; то же, что маэстро (шах.).


      МАСТЕР, -а, мн. [plural] -а, -ов, м. [masc.]
        1. Квалифицированный работник в какой-н. производственной области. [A skilled worker in whatever production sphere]
        2. чего. Спезиалисть достигший высокого исдусства в соем деле.
        3. Руководитель отдеьной специальной отрачли кокого-н. производства, цеха.
        4. в чем, на что и с неопр. Человек, к-рый умеет хорошо, ловко делать что-н., мастак. [Person who can well, deftly make something, an expert.]
      ж. [fem.] мастерица, -ы (к 1 и 4 знач.)

    It is clear to me from the above definitions, that while "masteritsa" does not perfectly match all the meanings of "master" in modern Russian, it matches most of the meanings conveyed in the use of "master/mistress" in the SCA. And some of the meanings of "master/mistress" in English, would be better reflected by the Russian terms "gosudar'/gosudarynya". (See above.)

    The first grammar of the Russian language was written in 1755:

      Lomonosov, Article 242:
        Titles of artisan people of female gender, when mastery to them is attributed, end in –tsa: masteritsa, perevozshchitsa, shaposhnitsa, khlebnitsa, kolashnitsa, [mistress, ferrywoman, hatmaker, baker, kalachi baker]; if simply means the wife of an artisan person for the most part uses –ikha: kuznechikha, sapozhnichikha, [blacksmith wife, shoe-maker wife] however sometimes also –tsa is used.

      Lomonosov also indicates that masteritsa is the generally expected feminine form of master in Article 239:

        Feminine [titles], from masculine derived, for the most part end in –ka, -kha, -tsa, -sha, -nia: pastukh”, pastushka; shchegol’, shchegolikha; general”, general’sha; master”, masteritsa; kniaz”, kniaginia.

    So even if modern Russian dictionaries do not make “masteritsa” equivalent to “master”, in the 1750’s it apparently was.

    The fact that "masteritsa" is hard to find in period documents is undoubtedly a sampling bias caused the general lack of reference to women in period documents. A brief survey of Paul Wickenden's Dictionary of Period Russian Names will quickly demonstrate the lack of women's entries. In addition, even "master" is not a very common term in historical documents, since they focus on the activities of royalty and nobility, not commoners like masters and mistresses.

    There is no entry in Sreznevskij for masteritsa.

    Sreznevskij references for master" with the meaning of nachalnik' - chief, head, boss:

      Сего ради Двдъ и мастеръ воины отлучишя. [Библ. 1499 г. Пар. 1. XXV. 1.]

      И на единыхъ мушiи силныхъ лв иже бiахуся съ верху и внутри мастеръ звери. [Ibid. Мак. 1. VI. 37 (Бусл. 173).]

    Sreznevskij references for master" with the meaning of magistr" - grandmaster of a knightly order:

      Аже боудеть влдце или мастерови или которому соудьи гневъ на которого Немьчица, а въсхочети и казнити, и боудеть тотъ дълженъ Немьчиць Смолняниноу, переже дати емоу тъваръ Смолняниноу, а въ проче его воля. [Смол. гр. н. 1230 г.].

      И убоявцяъ посла (Миндовгъ) таине ко Андрееви мастеру Рижьску и убеди и дарми многимиъ сиречь умоли его. [Ип. Л. 6760 г.]

      Слов Изяслва кнзя Полочько, къ еппу и къ мастерю и къ всемь Вельневице и ратьмано. [Прип. грам. Герд. 1294 г.]

      Поклонъ отъ князя от Федора къ пискоупоу и къ мастероу и къ ратманомъ. [Грам. Смол. кн. Фед. Рост. 1284 г.]

    Sreznevskij references for master" with the meaning of master", remeslennik" - skilled craftsman, artisan:

      Помысли (Володимеръ) создати церквь прстыя Бця (и) пославъ приведе мастеры от Грекъ. [Пов. вр. л. 6497 г.]

      И видевъ преславная чюдеса, како мастери придоша, иконоу носяще. [Пат. Печ. сл. 2.]

      Нача (Данило) призывати приходае Немце и Русь, иноязычникы и Ляхы; идяху день и во день, и уноты и мастере всяции бежаху ис Татаръ, седелници, и лучници, и тулници, и кузнице железу и меди и сребру. [Ип. л. 6767 г.]

      Изискаша мастеры порочниые i начаша чинити порокы въ влчни дворе. [Новг. I л. 6776 г.] (See also the 1268 Novgorod Chronicle entry below.)

      Сам же сы(и) строяшеть чея книгы с многомь тщаныем, на вся дни милуя мастера. [Ефр. Сир. д. 1288 г. запис.]

      Аще хочеть обновити священныа съсуды, да купить преже у мастера орудiя вся. [Вопр. Феогн. 1276 г.]

      Придоша iзъ замория Свеi в силе велице в Невоу, приведоша изъ своеi земли мастеры, iз велико Рима от папы мастеръ приведоша нарочитъ, поставиша городъ надъ Невою. [Новг. I л. 6808 г.] (See 1300 Novgorod Chronicle entry below.)

      А что будутъ црковные люди: ремесленицы кои, или писцы, или каменные здатели, или древяные, или iные мастеры каковы нибуди...., а в то наши никто не вступаютца и на наше дело да не емлютъ ихъ. [Ярл. Узб. 1315 г.]

      Владыка Василии повеле сълiяти колоколъ великъ къ святеи Софiи, и приведе мастеры с Москвы. [Новг. I л. 6850 (по Ак. сп.)]

      На другое место самъ мастеръ Кирилъ постави церковь въ свое имя, святыи Кириль. [Псков. I л. 6881 г.]

      А кого сове вымемь огородниковъ и мастеровъ, и мне князю великому зъ братьею два жеребья, а тобе, брате, треть. [Дог. гр. Вас. Дм. 1389 г.]

      ПОстсави... Еуфимеи полату въ дворе у себе, а двереи у неи 30, а мастеры делали Немецскiи, изъ заморia, съ Новогородскиыми мастеры. [Новг. I л. 6941 г. (по Ак. сп.)]

      У Ондрея у златого мастера. [Прав. гр. Сим. мон. 1462-64 г.]

      А которои масте(р) плотникъ, или наими(м) отстои(м) свои оурокъ. [Псков. суд. гр.]

      А которои мастеръ иметь сочить на оученикы оучебна. [Ibid.]

      Приведоша (послы) съ собою... лекаря мистра Леона Жидовина изъ Венецеи, и иныхъ мастеровъ фрязъ, стенныхъ, и полатныхъ, и пушечныхъ, и серебряныхъ. [Соф. вр. 6998 г. (т. II, 235)]

      Оучиниша мастери ему бочки железныя, и въсыпа в ни злато, и положi ихъ в реку, а мастеро тых посече, да никто увесть соделанно имъ. [Сбор. Рум. XV (Бусл. 704)]

      Казеннымъ портнымъ мастеромъ. [Расх. кн. 1584-85 г.]

    The Novgorod Chronicle:

      1268 [6776] "And they sought out competent men..." - мастеры

      1268 [6776] "Then the expert..." - мастеръ

      1300 [6808] "they brought masters from their own land, and.. brought a special master from great Rome..." - мастеры... мастер... нарочитъ...

    Domostroi, Sylvester Redaction (c. 1550):

      Domostroi, Chapter 41.

        … а тафты косяк или сукна постав или розных поставцов или шелку цветного литра или болши золота, и серебра по тому же, или белки, или всякого запасу коли чему навоз по своему обиходу смотря и по промысълу и по рукоделью и по своеи семьи и по мастерицам и по рукоделником и по своему прожитку, так и покупать, и запасать, коли чево много, и дешево, ино и споро, и прибылно, да толко лучитца мастерок свои портнои и сапожьнои, и плотник, ино во всяком запасе и в остатках и в обресках прибыль будет…

        My word-for-word translation: “… and taffeta bolts or of broadcloth place or of separate storage items or silk of colored litra [unit of measure?] or bolshi [unit of measure?] of gold, and silver and so forth, or squirrel skins, or anything in storage if to anyone bringing in for one’s household depending for trade and for handwork and for one’s family/household and for masteritsa’s and for handworkers and for their survival, so to buy and to store, if something is plentiful, and cheap, it will be successful and profitable, and as much improvement foreman [masterok] own tailors and boot makers, and carpenter, all in any supply and in scraps and in cuttings profit will be…”

        Pouncy translation: “Store bolts of taffeta and other valuable items: silk, gold, silver, squirrel skins etc. Buy what you need for your household, your trading, and your crafts, when items are plentiful and cheap in the market for this will profit you. If you have your own artisans – tailors, boot-makers, or carpenters – you can use the remnants…”

        Interestingly, Pouncy changes the order of the phrase “по промысълу и по рукоделью и по своеи семьи” which literally translates as “for trade and for handwork and for one’s family/household” but she translates as “for your household, your trading, and your crafts”. She also completely excludes the phrase “и по мастерицам и по рукоделником и по своему прожитку” which I translated as “and for masteritsa’s and for handworkers and for their survival”. There is not enough context here to help us define the meaning of masteritsa, other than noting that the text uses masteritsa where one might have expected master.

      Domostroi, Chapter 51:

        а у жен у челяденных и у девок и у робят по тому же, а отрадным людем та же прибавка остатков, столовых государевых и гостиных, а лутчие люди которые торгуют тех государь в стол у себя сажает а коли гости ядят, и они стряпают а после стола едят ествы с прибавкою, и столовых остатков а у государыни мастерицам, и швеям по тому же сама за столом их кормит и подает им от себя…

        My word-for-word translation: “while for women for servants and for maidservants and for slaves the same [food], while to nicer people also addition of remains of the table of the gosudar and guests/merchants, while for the best people who trade with the gosudar at table with him to sit while if guests/merchants eat, and they cook and after the table eat food with additions, and table leftovers while with gosudaryna to masteritsas, and to shveias in the same way herself at the table them to feed and give them from her own…”

        Pouncy translation: “The serving women, maids, children, and other kinfolk, and dependents should get the same food, but with the addition of leftovers from the master’s and guests’ tables. As for the better class of merchants, the master should seat these at his own table. Those who cook and wait at table eat after the meal; they also get leftovers from the table. The mistress honors seamstresses and embroiderers as the master does merchants: she feeds them at her own table and sends them food from her own dish.”

        In this quote, we must determine who the “masteritsas” and the “shveias” are. The text presents the parallel of the gosudar’s table, which is reserved for the best guests/merchants. The context makes it clear, that being fed at the gosudarynia’s table is meant to be a special honor that is not given to the regular servants. So these women are held in special esteem, with the masteritsas, perhaps, outranking the shveias, but we need to know more.

        The common translation of shveia is “seamstress”, and so I wondered if here again, Pouncy had changed to order of the words in the phrase and is actually translating masteritsa as embroiderer, not seamstress. The usual terms for "seamstress" in modern Russian are: shveia, beloshveika (the later term indicates linen work). Both are derived from the Russian verb sshivat', to sew together. The usual terms for “embroiderer” are derived from the Russian verb vyshivat’, to embroider, and include: vyshyvatel’, vyshivatel’nitsa, vyshival’shchik, vyshival’shchitsa, vyshival’nitsa. The verb shit’, to sew (in the most generic sense), is sometimes used for embroidery and gives rise to terms such as shitnitsa, which is listed as a synonym of shveia in Dal’s dictionary. So I’m rather skeptical that the original author of the Domostroi meant masteritsa to mean seamstress or embroiderer since there were other less ambiguous words for that available.

      Domostroi, Chapter 58.

        а в поварнях и в хлебнях и во всяких хоромех и в конюшнях у всякои животины, и в сенникех, у мастеров и у мастериц и у вучеников, и у торговцов и у всяких своих прикащиков всегда всево пересматривати и пытати толко все по наказу ино добро,

        My word-for-word translation: “and in the kitchen and in the bakery and in any rooms and in stables with all animals, and in barns, with the masters and with masteritsas and with apprentices, and with tradespeople and with any of one’s stewards always everything inspect and test that all according to instructions is well,”

        Pouncy translation: “Examine everything in the kitchens, bakeries, rooms, stables and haylofts, among the animals, artisans, seamstresses, apprentices, traders and chancery personnel. Everything should be in accordance with your orders.”

        Here it is clear that Pouncy is translating masteritsa as seamstress. However, no other specific skills or occupations are listed – no bootmakers, tailors, carpenters, etc. – so it’s unlikely to me that the original author would have intended masteritsa as a specific craft. (There are other chapters, #19 and #32, that provide lists of specific household specialties/specialists.) I believe that the second quote clearly uses the term masteritsa as the feminine equivalent of master in relationship to the apprentices.

      To summarize the information from the period Domostroi: Chapter 41 uses the term in a list of aspects of the household economy, where one would actually expect the term “master” to be used instead. Chapter 51 uses the term to refer to specially honored members of the gosudarynia’s household that are different somehow from the shveias (seamstress/embroiderer). Chapter 58 puts the term between master and apprentice in a list of areas of the household that need to be inspected regularly, not a list of household trades and specialties.

      I believe it makes more sense in the above texts to consider masteritsa the feminine equivalent of master, rather than a mere seamstress, and the original Russian texts certainly don’t contradict interpreting masteritsa as simply the feminine equivalent of master.

      Pouncy translates both master and masteritsa with fairly lowly English terms, so if we use her translations to reject masteritsa, logical consistency would suggest that we should exclude master from the Alternate Titles list as well.

    Return to Russian Titles and Ranks
    Return to Russian Materials
    Return to homepage