The RUSSIAN NOBILITY (Russian : дворянство dvoryanstvo) arose in the 14th century. Its members staffed most of the Russian government apparatus until the February Revolution of 1917.
The Russian word for nobility, dvoryanstvo (дворянство), derives from the Polish word dwor (двор), meaning the court of a prince or duke (kniaz ) and later, the court of the tsar or emperor. A nobleman is called a dvoryanin (plural: dvoryane). Pre-Soviet Russia shared with other countries the concept that nobility connotes a status or a social category rather than a title .
* 1 History
* 1.1 Middle Ages
* 1.2 Early modern era: westernisation
* 1.3 Late modern era
* 1.3.1 Non-
* 2 Organisation
* 2.1 Titled nobility * 2.2 Hereditary nobility * 2.3 Personal nobility * 2.4 Estateless nobility * 2.5 Ancient nobility * 2.6 Privileges * 2.7 Acquisition
* 3 Gallery * 4 See also * 5 References * 6 Further reading
The nobility arose in the 12th and 13th centuries as the lowest part
of the feudal military class, which composed the court of a prince or
of an important boyar . From the 14th century land ownership by nobles
increased, and by the 17th century the bulk of feudal lords and the
majority of landowners were nobles. The nobles were granted estates
out of State lands in return for their service to the Tsar, for as
long as they performed service, or for a lifetime, but by the 18th
century these estates had become their private property. They made up
the Landed army (Russian : поместное войско)—the
basic military force of Russia.
Peter the Great
EARLY MODERN ERA: WESTERNISATION
The assimilation of the
As different rulers ascended the throne in the nineteenth century,
each figure brought a unique attitude and approach to ruling the
nobility; yet the cultural impact of the “Greats” – Peter and
Catherine – was set in stone. Ironically, by introducing the
nobility to political literature from Western Europe, Catherine
exposed Russia’s autocracy to them as archaic and illiberal. While
the nobility was conservative as a whole, a liberal and radical
minority remained constant throughout the nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries, resorting to violence on multiple occasions in
order to challenge Russia’s traditional political system (see
Decembrist Revolt ,
Before Peter The Great
Peter the Great
Peter The Great
Peter the Great
Peter’s westernizing efforts became quite radical after 1698, when he returned from his expedition through Europe, known as the Grand Embassy . Upon arriving, Peter summoned the nobility to his court and personally shaved almost every beard in the room. In 1705 he decreed a beard tax on all ranked men in Moscow, and ordered certain officers to seek out noble beards and shave them on sight. He only allowed the peasants, priests, and serfs to retain the ingrained and religious Russian tradition of wearing beards, which the Orthodox populace considered an essential aspect of their duty to convey the image of God. He also reformed the clothing of the nobility, abandoning the long-sleeved, traditional Muscovite robes for European fashion. Beginning in 1699 the tsar decreed strict dress requirements borrowing from German, Hungarian, French, and British styles, fining any noblemen who failed to obey. Peter himself, usually sporting German dress and a trimmed mustache, acted as a prime example. While the nobility universally followed Peter’s fashion preferences at court, they greatly resented these styles, which they saw as blasphemous. Away from St. Petersburg , very few noblemen followed Peter’s guidelines and enforcement was lax.
Peter also demanded changes in mannerisms and language among nobles. In order to supply Russians with a basic set of “proper” morals and habits, he ordered publication of manuals on Western etiquette. The most popular of these was The Honourable Mirror of Youth, or A Guide to Social Conduct Gathered from Various Authors, a compilation of rules of conduct from numerous European sources, initially published in St. Petersburg in 1717. He also encouraged the learning of foreign languages, especially French , which was the foremost political and intellectual language of Europe at the time. For the nobility, these changes felt even more forced than the fashion regulations. As with clothing, there was uniform acceptance of Western mannerisms at court but general disregard for them outside of St. Petersburg. Furthermore, when Westerners visited Peter’s court they found the image and personality of the courtiers to appear forced and awkward. Friedrich Christian Weber , a representative of Britain, commented in 1716 that the nobles “wear the German Dress; but it is easy to observe on many, that they have not been long used to it”.
Between The Greats
While none of the rulers in power from 1725 to 1762 focused as strongly on cultural westernization, Peter sparked a transformation that was now unstoppable. Through their education and travels, some members of the nobility began to understand the extent to which Russia lagged behind Western Europe in the complexity of their political and educational systems, their technology, and their economy. By 1750, the ideas of secular skepticism , humanism , and freemasonry had reached sects of the elite class, providing some with a new worldview and giving Russia a taste of the Enlightenment of which they experienced little. While even the most educated of the nobility still supported the autocracy that upheld the feudal system on which they depended, some considered how to make it more representative and to improve the bureaucracy.
The period between Peter I and Catherine II represents gradual yet significant developments in western culture among the nobility. Catherine I in 1726 and Empress Elizabeth in 1743 further regulated noble dress in a Western direction. In 1755, also during Elizabeth’s reign, advanced secondary schools and University of Moscow came into being with curricula that included foreign languages, philosophy, medicine, and law; the material was chiefly based on imported texts from the west. Most significantly, Peter III freed the nobility from obligatory civil and military service in 1762, allowing them to pursue personal interests. While some used this liberty as an excuse to lead lavish lives of leisure, a select group became increasingly educated in Western ideas through schooling, reading, and travel. As before, these changes applied to few and represented a gradual shift in noble identity rather than a sudden or universal one.
Catherine The Great
When Catherine II ascended the throne, she quickly made her political
and philosophical opinions clear in the “Instruction” of 1767, a
lengthy document which she prepared for the nobility, drawing largely
from and even plagiarizing ideas from the west, especially those of
Jean-Jacques Rousseau . The point she emphasized first and foremost
was that Russia was a truly European state, and her reforms of the
court and education reflect this belief. While Catherine was primarily
preoccupied with impressing westerners (especially the philosophers ,
with whom she corresponded in writing), in doing so she also made
significant efforts to educate the nobility and expose them to western
philosophy and art. She designed an imperial court in the style of
Catherine also made specific reforms in institutional education that pushed the nobility’s culture further westward. She based Russian education on that of Austria, importing German textbooks and adopting in 1786 a standardized curriculum to be taught in her newly created public schools. While many members of the lower classes were allowed into these schools, Catherine hoped that they could become educated enough to rise through the meritocratic Table of Ranks and eventually become nobles themselves. Catherine also established the Society for the Translation of Foreign Books, “to bring enlightenment to those Russians who could not read either French or German.” It is clear that, like Peter I, Catherine the Great desired to construct a new nobility, a “new race,” which would both resemble western noblemen and prove knowledgeable in discussions of modern issues. And, according to accounts from foreign visitors, the noblemen did, in fact, resemble those of Western Europe in their dress, topics of discussion, and taste in literature and performance.
Tsarina Anna gave many privileges to the nobility. In 1730 she repealed the primogeniture law of Peter the Great, allowing the sub-division of estates again. In 1736 the age when nobles had to start service was raised from 15 to 20, service was now for 25 years not life and families with more than one son could keep one to manage the family estate.
LATE MODERN ERA
In 1762 Peter III abolished the compulsory 25-year military or
civilian service for nobles.
Marc Raeff in Origins of the Russian
Intelligentsia has suggested this was not a noble victory but a sign
the state didn't need them as much now that they had plenty of trained
Catherine the Great gave away 66,000 serfs in 1762–72,
202,000 in 1773–93, and 100,000 in one day: 18 August 1795. Thus
she was able to bind the nobility to her. From 1782, a kind of uniform
was introduced for civilian nobles called UNIFORM OF CIVILIAN SERVICE
or simply CIVILIAN UNIFORM. The uniform prescribed colors that
depended on the territory. The uniform was required at the places of
service, at the Court, and at other important public places. The
privileges of the nobility were fixed and were legally codified in
1785 in the
Charter to the Gentry . The Charter introduced an
organization of the nobility: every province (guberniya ) and district
(uyezd ) had an Assembly of
By 1805 the various ranks of the nobility had become confused, as is
War and Peace
Serfs owned by European Russian landlords NO. OF SERFS 1777 (%) 1859 (%)
101–500 16 (101+) 18
21–100 25 35.1
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