Medieval Russian Titles:
Royal Officials

by Sofya la Rus

Updated 2 July 2008

Royal Officials

During the Kievan period, royal administrative officials were drawn from the prince's retinue, the druzhina. Princely government was simply considered a part of the royal court. (See also boyars under Social Classes, and druzhina under "Military Ranks".)

S.M. Solov'ev from "Internal relations of Russian society from the death of Yaroslav I to the death of Mstislav of Toropets (1054-1228)."

    We, as before, meet the difference between the elder (starshaya) and junior (mladshaya) druzhina... The elder druzhina is also expressed by the word "boyars." In contrast to the elder druzhina, we find the term "junior guard". They can also be called molod', molodye, molodye liudi, and also gridej, grid'by. The members of the senior durzhina, boyars, were members of the princely duma (council), advisors. Included in the druzhina were his personal staff, who lived constantly with him - the so-called otroki (adolescents), detskie (children), and pasynki (stepchildren) who, naturally, were also divided into senior and junior. So, the druzhina consisted of three parts: boyars, grid'by, and pasynki. The third division of the druzhina, the sluzhnya, the princely servants (slugi), who lived with the prince in his home, in the north started to be called dvor, dvoryane. From the boyars, the prince appointed the tysyastki. The posadniks could sometimes be appointed also from the detskie.

During the reign of Ivan III, late 1400s to early 1500s, the expansion of the territory under the authority of the Moscow state required growth of the Grand Prince's court to administer that territory and form the basis for a centralized bureaucracy. The court in Moscow had an elaborate hierarchy of officials for finances, ceremonies, household functions, horse and weapons. The appointment of officials for these posts was determined by mestnichestvo, based on noble birth and the posts occupied by family members. The central administration was based on the state treasury, whose secretaries (diaki) became more numerous and took on new specializations to handle the growing needs of state administration, finances and foreign affairs. [MacKenzie and Curran, p 143-4]

Ivan III's son, Vasili III, assigned some servitors of the court to military service, often in exchange for estates. This lead to the creation of a service gentry with landholdings that were conditional upon service to the state, called pomestie. [MacKenzie and Curran, p 144]

Ivan III had trouble finding lands with which to reward his new court and administrators. The state lands were either virgin forest, or already fully settled by tax-paying peasants. And Ivan did not dare seize the property of the boyars enmasse, since his administration was still heavily dependent on them. Conquered territories such as Novgorod and Tver presented no such difficulties. [MacKenzie and Curran, p 144]

As noted above, even with the growth of a "service gentry" class, the boyars still held great power in the reign of Ivan III, particularly through their Boyar Duma - the supreme administrative and legislative council that made important decisions with the sovereign. The grand prince appointed its members and determined when they convened, but his appointments were limited by the mestnichestvo system to members of the senior princely and boyar families. As a result, he increased his use of the diaki, usually educated commoners, that he could appoint and dismiss without consulting the Duma. These same diaki were now recognized as members of the Duma. [MacKenzie and Curran, p 144]

During the minority of Ivan IV, the leading boyar families took advantage of his youth and helped themselves to state lands, treasury funds, and increased the authority of the Boyar Duma. Their abuses and unbridled application of the mestnichestvo system alienated the servance gentry and merchant class. Ivan, himself, keenly felt their abuse and did not forget it once he achieved his majority. The power of the princely families of the Boyar Duma was challenged by its members from the state secretaries (diaki) and upper gentry (dumnye dvoriane), who supported central tsarist autocratic authority. The grand prince had begun to demand loyalty oaths from lesser princes and boyars to prevent defections to foreign overlords. An official Book of Genealogies of the noble families was created to regulate and monitor claims of precedence in mestnichestvo. The use of mestnichestvo for making military appointments was restricted and sometimes temporarily set aside for individual campaigns, although not completely abolished. In addition, a new set of army units, the streltsy were created as a standing army completely separate from the old feudal lords to complement the service gentry cavalry created by Ivan III. At the same time, military service was made hereditary which made the accompanying estates hereditary which blurred the distinction between service estates (pomestie) and patrimonial lands (votchina). [MacKenzie and Curran, p 154]

Posadnik [посадник] - deputy of the sovereign, burgomaster.
Posadnitsa [посадница] - female posadnik or wife of the above.

    Currently used for Baron/Baroness in the official SCA alternate titles list.

    In some places, a posadnik is a type of namestnik, a princely deputy. In Novgorod, they are clearly different. The office of Posadnik is filled by the Novgorodians, while the namestnik is sent/chosen by the Knyaz.

    The title, posadnik, is best known as the secular leader of the city of Novgorod, often translated as "mayor". At times in the history of the city, the posadnik-ship changed hands every six months (even in the absence of a revolt). Toward the end of its history as a self-ruling city, several posadniks would serve at the same time on the ruling council, representing different sections of the city. In destroying the autonomy of Novgorod (1478), Moscow grand prince Ivan III Vasilievich demanded that there never be another posadnik or veche (assembly). [Waugh & Petrov]

    Posadniks had a similar role in the Pskov republic as representatives of the local community rather than the ruling prince. [Petrov]

    Posad'nik' has a long entry in Sreznevskij. Posad'nitsa is also listed.

    Appears first in the Novgorod chronicle in the entry for 1118 [6624] - "Dmitri Zavidits, Posadnik of Novgorod, died on July 9, having been sole Posadnik for seven months." It is used many, many more times after that in the Novgorod Chronicle.

    See also "boyar" under "Social Classes".

Namestnik [наместник] - deputy, lieutenant, representative.
Namestnitsa [наместница] - wife of the above.
    Not used in the official SCA alternate titles list.

    In some places, a posadnik is a type of namestnik. In Novgorod, they are clearly different. The office of Posadnik is filled by the Novgorodians, while the namestnik is sent/chosen by the Knyaz.

    In ancient Russian state, an official appointed by the knyaz and supervising in cities the local government along with the volostel’. The post was originally introduced in the 12th cent. and finally established in the 14th cent. It was rewarded for service with the kormlenij (a portion of the local taxes). In the command of the namestnik were administrative personnel and military detachments for local defense and suppression of internal strife. At the beginning of the 16th cent., the authority of the namestnik was limited, and in 1555-56 in accordance with the reforms of Ivan the Terrible was replaced with locally elected zemskij agencies. (Or replaced by the voevoda in the 16th cent.?) [Petrov]

    Per Dal’ – title sometimes used by governors and ambassadors, local ruler of an oblast or kraj

    Listed first in the Novgorod primary chronicle under the year 1215 [6723] "And the Mstisalv Mstislavits... arrived at Novgorod on February 11, seized Yaroslav's lieutenant [namestnik], Knota Grigorevits, and put all the nobles [?] in chains..." It appears many other places after that. I would prefer to translate it as "deputy" or "representative" since "lieutenant" carries military connotations that seem to be lacking from its meaning in the Chronicle.

    The Novgorod Chronicle:

      1420 [6928] "and they sent Knyaz Fedor Patrikeyevich, lieutenant [наместьника] of the Veliki Knyaz..."

      Etc. Etc.

    The feminine form “namestnitsa” is found in standard exhaustive Russian dictionaries such as Ushakova. I have not yet found it in period texts, but it follows a standard pattern of the feminization of ranks with the “-tsa” ending as in Lomonosov. And compare with the current alternate title pomestnitsa, below. [Ushakova & Lomonsov section 240]

Voevoda [воевода] - provincial governor, military commander, general.
Voevodsha/voevodikha/voevoditsa/voevodina [] - feminine/wife of the above.
    Currently used for Baron/Baroness in the official SCA alternate titles list with more military overtones than "posadnik".

    Used during most of SCA period for top military commanders, translated as general, commander, or captain.

    Military leader, ruler of the Slavs, captain, commander, commander-in-chief. In Rus is known from the 10th cent. (recorded in chronicles in capacity of chief of the princely druzhina or leader of militia). From the end of the 15th cent. until the creation of a regular army (beginning 18th cent.) he was the military leader of regiments or troops. In the middle of the 16th cent. voevody supervised city government, with help of city clerks.

    Dal’ also defines as mayor, governor.

    Listed first in the Novgorod Primary Chronicle under the year 1016 [6524] "Svyatopolk's Voyevoda by name Volchii Khvost, riding along the river bank, began to reproach the men of Novgorod..." It is used many other times in the Chronicle, always in the meaning of a high military leader.

    See also "voevoda" under Military Ranks for excerpts from period sources and more discussion of the feminine forms.

    See also "boyar" under Social Classes.

Pomestnik [поместник] - owner of a pomest'e.
Pomestnitsa [поместница] - feminine of the above.
    Currently used for Lord/Lady in the official SCA alternate titles list.

    A pomest'e [поместье] is a temporary grant of land in exchange for service (vs. a votchina which is inherited). The pomestie system was codified in the 1500s, although it had it's roots in the 1400s. (See "Dvoryanin" under Social Classes).

    Katzner has the term "pomestnoe dvoryanstvo" for "landed gentry".

    The term "pomestnik" is first attested in the 1497 Sudebnik, according to the "Large Soviet Encyclopedia".

    It is only attested in the 1497 Sudebnik per Sreznevskij.

    Members of the dvoryanstvo were pomestniks according to the Large Soviet Encyclopedia. See "dvoryanin" under Social Classes.

Gost' [гость] - high-ranking merchant with license for foreign trade.
? [?] - ?.

    Not used in the official SCA alternate titles list.

    In the Russian Primary Chronicle:

      Year 945 [6453] - "Thus... Olga, as she sat in the hall, sent for the strangers [gosti]..."

    The term also appears in a couple of places in the Novgorod Chronicle, distinguished from regular merchants, kupets.

      1215 [6723] "sent Posadnik Gyurgi Ivankovits and the Tysyatski yakun, with ten senior merchant men..." - купьць стареишихъ 10 муж

      1234 [6742] "and the citizens [огнишан] and body-guard [гридба] and some of the merchants [купьць] and traders [гости] drove them out of the town"

Tiun [тиун?] - overseer, bailiff.
Feminine? [?] - ?.
    Not used in the official SCA alternate titles list.

    Appears in the list of bloodwites in the Russkaya Pravda. See "Sequences of Ranks" on the main "Titles" page.

    Listed first in the Novgorod primary chronicle under the year 1228 [6736] "Yaroslav then went from Novgorod... and left his two sons Feodor and Alexander in Novgorod with Fedor Danilovits and Tiun Yakim."

    Volostel' (related to word for authority, vlast’)
      Official in the Russian state in the 11th-16th cent. that directed districts (volosti) in the name of the grand or appanage prince and conducted administrative and judicial affairs. He did not receive a salary, but supported himself off a percentage of the local taxes, a system called kormlenie.

      Dal’ – related to words: Властитель, властительница, властелин м. властелинша, властелинка ж. властель, господин и госпожа; владетель, владелец

    Gorodovyj prikazchik

      Elected from county service people, rulers of cities and counties in Russian in the 16th cent.; subordinate to the namestnik. Managed affairs of service people, construction, repair of city fortifications, weapons, etc. In war time they fulfilled the function of urban military commanders. After the introduction of the position of city voevoda, they became their assistants, appointed directly by the voevoda from the local dvoryane.


      Court official and position in Russian state of 13th-beginning 18th cent. Originally had duty to go on tribute circuit, evently organizing and provisioning the traveling prince and participation in receptions and negotiations with foreign ambassadors. First time the rank is recorded is in 1285. In the 14th-18th cent. okol’nichie joined the Boyar Duma, second in importance (after boyarin) in the Duma ranks. [Petrov]

      Dal’ – from the word “okolo” near, as in near the sovereign.


      Official in princely court, known from the first half of the 13th cent. As shown from chronicles, pechatniki originated from notable people, who equally well used both the pen and the sword. [Petrov]

      Dal’ – keeper of the press/seal, printer.

    Stol’nik (from word for table, stol’)

      Court official, known since the 13th cent. Service as stol’nik was honorable, among them were mostly representatives of the highest aristocracy including the princes Kurakin, Odoevskij, Golitsyn, Repnin, etc. [Petrov]

      Dal’ – supervisor of sovereign’s table

      1245 [6753] "he sent one of his nobles, his steward..." - велмож своих, столкника [Tatar]

      1245 [6753] "And Eldega, the Tsar's steward..." - столникъ цесаревъ [Tatar]

    Postel’nichij (from postel’, bed)

      Official for Russian princely, and later, tsarist court, managing the “sovereign bed”. In Sheremetov boyar book it is recorded first in 1495, but it actually existed significantly earlier that that time under the name pokladnik. The postel’nichij was the closest servant of the prince; he slept with him in the same room, went to the bath, and accompanied him on festive occations. In his command were the stryapchie and spal’niki (from 15th cent.). His responsibililities were exclusively private and domestic. [Petrov]

      Dal’ – boyar that looked after the bedroom of the sovereign.


      Old Russian court official. The name comes from the word “strapat’”, i.e. to do, to work. Yandex – law agent, solicitor, writer [Petrov]

      Dal’ –official to complete missions/errands/various duties.


      Court official in Russian state in 15th-17th cent., subordinate to the postel’nichij. Spal’niki stayed in the room of the sovereign, undressed and dressed him, and accompanied him on journeys. Usually spal’niki were young people of noble ancestry. [Petrov]

      Dal’ – served in sovereign’s bedchamber, in antiquity from spal’nik was granted to postel’nik

    Konyushij (equerry)

      Court official of the Russian state in the 15th-begin. 17th cent – chief of the Equerry prikaz. Lead the Boyar Duma and actively participated in diplomatic and military activities; sometimes lead the government (eg. Boris Godunov). [Petrov]


      Russian court official approximately since the 16th cent. In its duties included supervision of the tsar’s armory. In the court hierarchy, this post was considered very high and to it were appointed okol’nichie or boyars. Of the eight oruzhnichie known in records, four were knyazes. [Petrov]


      Old honorary title of the tsarist armor-bearer and bodyguard (did not carry any rank or salary). It was given to young people (the most strapping and beautiful) from the best families, composed from the stol’nik or strapchij. [Petrov]

      On-line dictionary - armor-bearer- bodyguard with the Grand Dukes and the tsars in the 15th-17th cent. collected from youths of notable origin. During palace ceremonies they stood in ceremonial clothing on both sides of throne with poleaxes on the arms, and accompanied the tsar in the solemn excursions and the military marches


      Court official of the Muscovite state. First mentioned in the very beginning of the 16th cent. Served the sovereign at his table during festive meals. In his charge were the stol’niki, giving out food. Besides overseeing the drink and food, the kravchij supervised the duties of distributing food and drink on festive days from the tsar’s table to the homes of boyars and other officials. In the office of kravchij were appointed members of the most noble families. The term of service of the kravchij did not exceed 5 years. In the lists, they were ranked after the okol’nichij. Kravchestvo was the highest step for stol’niki, was not combined with the highest service ranks – dvoretskij, okol’nichij and boyarin. [Petrov]


      Russian court official approximately since the 16th cent. In its duties included supervision of the tsar’s armory. In the court hierarchy, this post was considered very high and to it were appointed okol’nichie or boyars. Of the eight oruzhnichie known in records, four were knyazes. [Petrov]


      Predecessor of the dvoretskij in the role of directing the princely household until the beginning of the 16th cent. He conducted also the collection of taxes and supervised the completion of judicial sentences.

      On-line dictionaries – old word for steward, in appanage times was member of druzhina close to the prince who was responsible for a whole set of servitors to the prince

      Dal’ – type of prikazchik (steward) over palace volost’ (district), head of princely and episcopal otchin (patrimony)


      Court official of Russian princes and Muscovite tsars. With the development the prikaz system, in the 17th cent. dvoretskij became chiefs of prikazy. The Great Dvoretskij had the management of the court. From 1473 until 1646, in Moscow there was only one dvoretskij. The position was held by boyars (at least after 1646), when 12 boyars were appointed to serve simultaneously, and eventually the title became honorary. [Petrov]

      Dal’ – steward, supervisor of table and food supplies, same as dvorskij and entrusted with entire good of the prince

    Sokol’nichij (from word for falcon, sokol’)

      Official of princely court, known from 1550, conducted falcon hunts, and sometimes also set up all the military-princely hunts. To sokol’nichij usually appointed non-noble people, but occurred that later they received titles okol’nichij or even boyarin (compare with lovchij, replaced the lovchij?). [Petrov]

      So I, prince grand Ivan Danilovich" of all Rus, granted esm' of falconer [соколников] of Pecherskiys khto walks/travels to Pecheru, to Zhilu with companions... [14th century zhalovannay gramota granted by Ivan Danilovich "Kalita".]


      Official of princely court. Lovchie were not only hunters, companions of the prince on the hunt, but also performed various missions, including even diplomatic ones. To the position of lovchij were appointed non-noble people, but some of them later rose to the rank of dumnyj dvoryan, okol’nichij and even boyar. (See sokol’nichij under Muscovite Rus.) [Petrov]

    Mechnik (from word for sword, mech’)

      Official of princely court, chief duty of which was judicial. Besides that, mechniki were entrusted with and supervised diplomatic negotiations. Thus, in 1147, Andrej Bogolyuskij sent his mechnik to Rostaslavich. [Petrov]

      Dal’ – old soldier, executioner


      Servitor. In the ancient Russian state, d’yaki were personal servants of the prince, and therefore often unfree. They kept the princely treasury and conducted record-keeping, because of which they were originally called clerks (pisar’). The formation of prikazy in the Muscovite state in the 14th-15th cent. required a large number of literate and energetic non-noble service people, who became assistants to the boyar who were the prikaz chiefs. In the 16th cent. d’yaki already played a visible role in local government as assistants of the namestnik in all affairs, except military; they were entrusted with government finances. A new major step in the elevation of the d’yaki was their inclusion in the Boyar Duma (apparently on the border between the 15-16th cent.) where they had equal right to vote as the other members, but standing, not sitting. For their service, d’yaki were awarded money and service estates. [Petrov]

      Dal’ – clerk, secretary, leader of an office

    Klyuchnik (from word for key, klyuch)

      Steward. Just like the tiun, that is a slave of the grand prince, but along with them the first person in his household, fulfilling also duties of manager and judge. He had even his own slaves and d’yaki. The wife of the klyuchnik usually managed the female servants. [Petrov]

      Dal’ – household manager, supervises foodstores, court official who manages table utensils, servants, etc.

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