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14638Re: [sig] Question about Boyar's

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  • Lisa Kies
    Nov 11, 2009
      Greetings from Sofya!

      Where do I start...

      I was just going to post a link to my webpage, but I realized that a lot of
      it is still in Russian so I'll try to distill it down.

      The original poster actually posed two questions.
      1.) Are the boyars the Russian equivalent of knights?
      2.) Is Boiarin a reasonable Alternate Title for the title of Knight in the

      Or to put it another way, what is the Russian for a knight (lower case) and
      a Knight (upper case).

      As Sfandra has pointed out, the word "knight" even in English means lots of
      things, and the definition changed considerably over SCA period. From the
      huscarls of the Anglo-Saxons to the legendary Knights of the Round Table to
      Knights Errant to the later period honorary orders such as the papal Order
      of the Golden Spur.

      Definition of "Knight" according to Random House Dictionary of the English

      1. *Medieval Hist.* a. a mounted soldier serving under a feudal
      superior. b. a man, usually of noble birth, who after an apprenticeship
      as page and squire was raised to honorable military rank and bound to
      chivalrous conduct.
      2. any person of a rank similar to that of the medieval knight.
      3. a man upon whom a certain nonhereditary dignity, correspoinding to
      that of the medieval knight, is conferred by a sovereign because of personal
      merit or services rendered...
      4. Chess. a piece shaped like a horse's head...
      5. a member of any order or association of men bearing the name of

      Thus, there are lots of Russian words to translate the word "knight" -
      vityaz, bogatyr (how usually the hero of epic folktales), latnik (lit. one
      who wears armor), konnik (lit. horseman), bozhij dvoryanin (lit. God's
      courtier), kmetij, druzhinnik, etc.

      The problem is that none of these are very common in the period sources.

      Bogatyr has 15 period quotes in Sreznevskij, which makes it rather
      promising, but I haven't found any information about it as a "title of
      rank". It does not appear in references about the social structure of Rus,
      nor is it one of the positions in the princely retinue. Therefore, I did
      not investigate it further in my Alternate Titles research. It may be a
      very appropriate period Russian translation of knight (lower case). In an
      ideal world, I'd research it further.

      Druzhinnik is a strange term. The collective term, druzhina, appears over
      and over and over in period Russian texts. But I have found the singular
      form only once so far. In most of the situations where a text is talking
      about the druzhina, and then talks about the members of the druzhina, it
      usually uses the term boiarin. Maxime Kovalevsky has a nice, if
      dated, discussion of the "knightly class" in medieval Russia. Kovalesky,
      Maxime. "Old Russian Folkmotes." *Modern Customs and Ancient Laws of Russia:
      The Ilchester Lectures.* 1891. (Google it.)

      Someone has argued that, because the Russians didn't have a truly feudal
      system, that there is no Russian word for "knight". In its simplest form,
      fealty is simply a contract - I'll take care of you, you'll take care of
      me. By that definition, Russian had a feudal system, it just organized the
      contracts and the reward system differently. But plenty of scholars
      disagree and that's a whole huge topic of its own.

      It might more helpful be to ask WWIS, i.e. What Would Ivan Say? If Ivan saw
      a well-armored horseman riding through Pskov in the retinue of a prince, he
      wouldn't worry about the fact that the Teutonic knights have a different
      salary package than the Russian druzhina.

      I personally like the term druzhinnik, but I don't have enough evidence of
      how it was used to be confident that it would be WIWS (what Ivan would
      say). But it does convey the idea of a mounted warrior in service to a
      superior noble more than the other terms, which is why I included it in my
      original proposal to revise the Russian Alternate Titles list. But I
      couldn't prove that it was used as a title of rank. The College of Arms
      wants to see something along the lines of "Druzhinnik Ivan served his prince
      well" or "Prince Vasilii rewarded Druzhinnik Boris with a new village". All
      I had was "and the Derevlians came forth... and slew Igor' and his company
      [druzhinniki], for the number of the latter was few..." [Russian Primary
      Chronicle] . I haven't found any new references, yet.

      The collective term, druzhina, is translated into English as retinue,
      men-at-arms, company, etc. As noted in the Wiki article, it comes to
      encompass both a senior druzhina (knyazhnie muzhi, boyare) and a junior
      druzhina (otroki, gridi, detskie, dvoriane, deti boyarskie, etc.) So while
      it may be a nice translation of knight (lower case) since we know that some
      medieval knights were great nobles and others hardly had enough land to
      support themselves, it doesn't fit the SCA title of Knight very well, since
      in the SCA, all our Knights are Peers and considered greater nobility.

      One big problem with having a term on the Alternate Titles Lists that I
      didn't fully realize until after my original submission, was that any term
      on it becomes a _restricted_ term, forbidden for use in any way other than
      as delineated in the Alternate Title List. That's why we don't
      have Webmasters in the SCA, but Web Ministers. Master is a
      restricted/protected term. So I'm actually glad that druzhinnik wasn't
      accepted - that way it can be used for anyone who considers themself in a
      household/fealty/retinue relationship. You'll notice in my signature file
      that I call myself "druzhinnitsa Kramolnikova", since I am in the household
      of my Master Mikhail Kramolnikov. That wouldn't have been allowed if the
      term had been accepted onto the Alternate Titles List.

      *insert big sigh of relief here*

      So that brings us to the title boiarin. It is used over and over
      throughout SCA period for the highest rank of Russian society, whether
      directly in service to a prince or not. Not all boyars were riding into
      battle, it's true, but they all had military responsibilities, even if they
      were "just" wealthy merchants or city oligarchs. The local city boyars in
      Novgorod dominated the veche counsel, although their will was occasionally
      disputed by the lower classes. These local city boyars were in charge of
      the city militia, serving as the posadniks and tysiatski's. They weren't
      sworn to the service of a prince, but to the service of their city, Lord
      Velikii Novgorod.

      The dual role of the Russian royal retinue originated when the members of
      the prince's warband were given administrative tasks between battles. This
      notion of a dual military/administrative function continued into late period
      and through all levels of administration (tysiatsies, sotskis, desyatskis as
      discussed by Vernadsky), although the relative expansion of the Muscovite
      administrative apparatus meant that some boyars in late period were engaged
      more in logistics and administrative support functions than in direct
      combat, just as the grand prince/tsar himself was often _not_ acting as
      a general on the field. But even if the Quartermaster General doesn't shoot
      anyone himself, he is still a critical member of the military apparatus.
      Not much of a knight in shining armor, granted, but by late period in the
      West, not all Knights (capital K) were comfortable in armor, either.

      Because of the fact that the boyar class combined duties/priviledges that in
      the SCA generally belong to the Orders of the Chivalry, the Laurel and the
      Pelican, I have come to the conclusion that the best SCA translation of
      "boiarin" is "Bestowed Peer". Hopefully, the College of Arms agreed with me
      when they considered my re-submission of the titles of Boiarin/Boiaryina
      back in September as alternate titles for Knights, Laurels and Pelicans.
      We'll find out in a month or two.

      So WWIS? I think if Ivan saw a _group_ of armored horsemen riding through
      Pskov in the retinue of a prince, he probably would have called them the
      prince's druzhina. But if Ivan wanted to talk about the horseman with
      the finest equipment (apart from the prince), he probably would have called
      him a boyarin, since expensive armor, etc. would probably belong to a
      greater noble, a Knight (capital K) in SCA terms, and all Knights are
      boyars, even if not all Boyars are Knights. He might have used one of the
      other terms (bogatyr, latnik, konnik, etc.) but boiarin is so much more
      common in the period texts that the odds are in its favor, and it conveys
      the prestige of an elite member of the prince's retinue.


      At your service,


      Lisa M. Kies, MD aka Sofya la Rus, OL, CW, CSH, druzhinnitsa Kramolnikova
      Mason City, IA aka Shire of Heraldshill, Calontir
      "Si no necare, sana." "Mir znachit Pax Romanov"
      "Nasytivshimsya knizhnoj sladosti."

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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