14638Re: [sig] Question about Boyar's
- Nov 11, 2009Greetings 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
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
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]
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>