UPDATED 4 September 2010

Concerns raised by Istvan Wreath:
I've glanced at it. I've also had Juliana Pelican take a look at it.
You have some good points. However, some of what it looks like you want to do is take the social structure of Russia and force the SCA's rank structure as-is onto the actual Russian one. If we do that, we end up with the wrong titles for meaning, because the SCA rank structure is so wrong that it hurts. "Knight" is a lesser title than "Lord" in medieval Europe, as is Master and the lower level stuff is a mess ...

Relevant Passage from the Governing Documents of the SCA: http://heraldry.sca.org/laurel/admin.html#APPENDIXC
‍Appendix C - Corpora on Titles in the Society (From Section VIII. Personal Awards and Titles)
D. Titles2. The Society's standard titles are defined in (4) below. The Society recognizes that equivalent titles from other cultures may be more appropriate for individual members. Such alternate titles may be used by those entitled to the rank or award associated with them, provided the College of Arms has ruled that the title in question is an equivalent for the rank or award in question. All standard and alternate titles are specific to the Society, and convey no rank or precedence outside it. They may be used in a Society context only by those who have achieved the appropriate rank or award within the Society.
Basic titles for persons who hold Arms by Award or Grant.
Note that the above paragraph specifies that the alternate titles are to be equivalent to the standard titles as defined "below" (not as defined in period) and indicates that the title in question must be equivalent for the rank or award in the SCA, not equivalent to the title in period.

The Current Proposal:

Decision from the November 2008 LoAR:
The last three proposals concern the use of Boiar/Boiarin/Boiarynia [for Master, Mistress, Knight]. Sofya's proposal says: By far the most common term for members of the nobility in period Russian texts is boiare... It is clear that throughout period, the boyars are an upper level of society with various inferior ranks between them and commoners... While it is clear that the boiarin should rank above the dvorianin, it is not clear whether we should restrict the terms Boiar/Boiarynia to the peers and barons of the SCA…

Decision from the September 2009 LoAR:
Over the years, there have been multiple proposals to add Boiarin (masculine) and Boiarynia (feminine) as Russian equivalents of some of our titles.... Consensus has never been attained about what rank these titles correspond… In our opinion, this rank best maps to all bestowed ranks in the Society… Therefore, we will adopt these titles for anyone with an Award of Arms, Grant of Arms, or Patent of Arms. Properly, these titles should not be applied to those with Royal peerages, since the Boiarin had lesser status than that.

The Russian Alternate Titles List has not yet satisfactorily resolved the problem of the Boiarstvo. Based on the September 2009 LoAR, the Alternate Titles for Lord/Lady now include both Boiarin/Boiarynia and Dvorianin/Dvorianka. This is inconsistent with the affirmation in the November 2008 LoAR that the boiare outrank the dvoriane. It is also inconsistent with period Russian practice, when the two social classes never overlapped.

I strongly believe that the titles of Boiarin/Boiarynia should not be used as alternate titles for Lord/Lady. Applying the titles of Boiarin/Boiarynia to all bestowed ranks in the SCA compresses a wide range of SCA ranks into what was a very elite group of Russian society, less than 1% of the population.

It even seems problematic to use Boiarin/Boiarynia as Alternate Titles for Court Baronages, after much debate with my collaborators from other Kingdoms. The majority of Kingdoms rank Court Barons/Baronesses among the AoAs and they have a very different function in our Society than the Territorial Baronages, so it seems best to remove Boiarin/Boiarynia. In this, I am renouncing the position I took in my previous re-submission which was based on period Russian practice regarding the titles of posadnik and voevoda, rather than SCA usage of the titles of Court Baron/Baroness. I understand that there may be bureaucratic obstacles to giving Court Baronial ranks different alternate titles than the Territorial Baronial ranks (although Corpora gives them separate titles) and so I am flexible on this item. To me, the most important point here is that experienced Russian SCAdians argue about where to draw the dividing line of the Boiarstvo in the baronial ranks, not whether Lord/Lady should be included in the Boiarstvo.

Some of my collaborators have been concerned that the titles of Lord/Lady are used inappropriately in the SCA, and imply that the usage of Boiarin/Boiarynia in period Russia would be similar to the correct period usage of Lord/Lady. That may be true, but the College of Arms has not formally addressed this issue, and the Governing Documents of the SCA define Lord/Lady as the basic titles for the ranks of GoA and AoA. Corpora goes on to define the alternate titles as “equivalent for the rank or award in question”. This means that the Russian alternate titles for Lord/Lady must be the period Russian equivalent for the ranks of GoA and AoA in the Society, whether the standard titles of Lord/Lady ought to be used for those ranks or not. Furthermore, it is difficult propose a Russian equivalent of the proper period English usage of the titles Lord/Lady until that proper usage has been determined, which is a problem outside my area of expertise. If and when this problem has been solved, I would be happy to appropriately revise the Russian alternate titles.

Using criteria of "nobility" from Western Europe to determine which ranks were “noble” in medieval Russia is problematic, although historians often use such terminology. (I made the same mistake in my previous proposals.) In Russia, there were no armigerous ranks, no chains of fealty, landedness was independent of titles of rank, and titles were not hereditary. Of course, such criteria do not apply to the SCA very well either.

Although Russian society changed through period, the basic framework of ranks was remarkably stable after its initial development. And when we avoid arbitrary categorizations of “nobility” of either Russian or SCA ranks, convenient correspondences between the two emerge. (Feminine forms omitted to save space.)

SCA Class
Current Alternate Titles
Suggested Russian alternates
Velikii Kniaz, Kniazhich, Kniaz
No change
Royal peers
No change
Bestowed peers
Boiarin, Rytsar, Master.
No change
Territorial Baronies
Boiarin, Posadnik & Voevoda
No change
Court Baronies
Boiarin, Posadnik & Voevoda
Remove Boiarin (?)
Boiarin, Dvorianin, Pomestnik
Remove Boiarin.
Zhitie Liudi
Notional commoners
Prostie Liudi


Features of “nobility” in the West vs. Russia
One of the underlying difficulties uncovered by the September 2009 LoAR is the inappropriateness of applying the labels of “nobles” and “gentry” to the period Russian system of ranks. The September LoAR seems to have taken the position that, since our SCA populace are considered “nobility”, and the two major divisions of Russian “nobility” are the dvoryanstvo and the boyarstvo, then the populace would be in the dvorianstvo, leaving the boyarstvo for anyone with bestowed rank (although Dvorianin/ Dvorianka was left as an alternate title for Lord/Lady). However, Russians in period did not draw bright lines of distinction between the nobility and commoners – any such notions have been imposed by post-period historians.

Few Russian social classes were closed hereditary estates, which is generally part of the definition of nobility (although one that is not relevant in the SCA). The kniazhestvo was closed, as it was restricted to descendents of the House of Riurik, credited as the first ruler of the Rus. But the boiarstvo was open to anyone who accumulated sufficient wealth, whether by inheritance, marriage, good fortune or personal service, and even the eldest son of a boyar did not automatically inherit that title.

Landedness is another feature of nobility in Western Europe. Dukes have duchies, counts have counties, etc. But in period Russia, territory was not divided in this way. The land of Rus was not the property of the sovereign to be loaned out in fief to a series of subordinate nobles. Land that was given by a prince to members of his retinue became their permanent private property, even if they or their descendents left his service. And even peasants owned land. So landedness is not a defining feature for “nobility” in medieval Rus.

Nor did fealty determine a person’s “nobility” in Russia. Historians may bicker about whether or not medieval Russia was a truly feudal system, but it is clear that social rank in Russia was independent of service to a greater lord. For most of SCA period, one could attain the rank of boyar without service to a prince. So rank was not indicated by fealty to a great lord or prince.

There was no college of heralds in medieval Russia, and therefore no system of armigerous ranks to guide us.

Of course, many of the above features of medieval European nobility are not followed in the SCA or else only given lip service. Any notion of inherited rank is forbidden. Landedness is restricted to ruling nobles (Crowns, Coronets, Baronies) per Corpora. We do not have complex chains of fealty determining our relative ranks in the Society. Armory and titles of rank are not a requirement of nobility in the SCA, either, since our populace has neither and yet is considered “noble”.

Survey of Russian social structure:
When I embarked on my comprehensive investigation of period Russian rank structure a couple of years ago after uncovering some wonderful new resources, I fully expected to end up with different lists of titles for each of the three main periods of Russian history (Kievan, Appanage, Muscovite). So I was quite surprised to discover that, while the some of the finer details of the Russian system of ranks did change over time, the basic framework remained remarkably stable.

As previously noted, the members of the princely class, the kniazhestvo, were descendents of the original rulers of Rus. Over time, the fortunes of the various branches changed and some found themselves weakened by the traditional division of their lands with each new generation. So by the end of Kievan period, some of the kniazhestvo were finding it advantageous to join the retinues of greater kniazes. They retained the title of kniaz, but functioned as boyars and were often referred to as boyars (and as kniazes).

The boyar class, boiarstvo, included both service and non-service aristocrats, i.e. both those in service to a kniaz and those who derived their rank independently from their own wealth and power. “Independent” boyars included city oligarchs and major merchants. The service boyars made up the senior druzhina or senior retinue of a prince. The Duma council of the kniaz was made up of boyars. The lower ranking members of the prince’s retinue (see below) only joined the council on special occasions. The boyar class generally supplied the prince’s local “governors”, the posadniks and voevodas (i.e. SCA Barons/Baronesses). By the end of the Kievan period, the boyars had acquired their own retinues. Boyars had no special legal status compared to other freemen, although they did have a much higher bloodwite (80 grivna).

The boyar class was a small, elite group. For example, there were 30-40 boyar families in Novgorod in the 14th-15th centuries (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novgorod_Republic ) out of a population of between twenty-five and thirty thousand people. http://www.russia-ic.com/regions/1744/1745/ These few families apparently owned half the land in the huge territory of Novgorod. According to the Chronicles, there were approx. 1,000 total landowners, “zhitie liudi,” whose lands were confiscated in the late 1400s during the Muscovite conquest of Novgorod. (Skrynikov) So the “zhitie liudi” made up 3-4% of the population of Novgorod, and the boyars were less than 1%.

The population of Moscow in the early 15th century was around 50,000. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/shop_pickandmix/previews/russia-5-moscow-preview.pdf
According to Kollman, during this same period there were some 15 boyar clans in the Muscovite prince’s court. Since generally only the head of the family held the title of “boiarin”, there were, at most, only 15 boyars at any one time in the Muscovite court (this is before Moscow conquered all the other Russian lands). So in Moscow, as in Novgorod, the boyars made up less than 1% of the population.

There is no period in Russian history when the titles of boiarin and dvorianin overlap. There is some overlap between the kniazhestvo and the boiarstvo as already noted. There is also overlap between the ranks of the dvorianstvo and the liudi, which I will discuss below. But there is never any overlap between the boyar class and the dvoriane. In fact, for all of SCA period in Rus, there are intermediate ranks such as the deti boiarskie between the boiare and the dvoriane.

Over time some of the boyar families became unable to maintain their previous level of wealth and power and joined the ranks of upwardly mobile minor landowners and court servitors in an intermediate class of well-to-do Russians called the deti boiarskie (literally, boyars’ children, sometimes translated as junior boyars). Since this class was not restricted to the biological children of boyars, the term does not imply hereditary rank. Russians in period regularly used kinship terms for other political and social relationships, for example, the pasynki (stepsons) and detskie (children) serving in the Kievan prince’s junior druzhina. Like the boyars, the deti boiarskie could either be “independent,” or serve in the upper rank of the junior druzhina, the junior retinue. A syn boiarskii (boyar’s son), like a boyar, was free to leave his current prince’s service, retaining his hereditary property. Doch boiarskaia (boyar’s daughter) is the feminine equivalent.

I have now found examples of this phrase used with a name as a title of rank.
Два бяста убита отъ полку его... единъ же Прусинъ родомъ а другии бяшеть дворныи его (князя) слуга любимы сынъ боярьскии. Михаиловичь именемъ Рахъ.
Тwo rogues (?) were killed from his army… one of them is [named] Prusin by origin and the other rogue (?) is his favorite servitor syn boiarskii Mikhailovich called Rakh”. [Sreznevsky Vol I, p 162, from Ipatevsky Chronicle, 1281.]

Paul Wickenden’s Dictionary of Period Russian Names clearly refers to the above source when it lists “Rakh, boiar’s son. 1281.” Paul confirms that he found so many similar examples in his research that he quit keeping count of the use of this title. Under A in the on-line 2nd Edition, I found 6 examples of “, boiar’s son”. Under B, there are 15 examples, etc. and while generally listed in Wickenden as if it were a descriptive phrase, it was actually being used as a title of rank – “syn boiarskii Mikhailovich called Rakh”.

In most sources, the junior druzhina (retinue) is divided into two levels, with the top level occupied by the deti boiarskie and the lower level made up of the slugi vol'nye (servants voluntary) aka dvoriane. The deti boyarskie and slugi vol'nye had the same right of free departure from the retinues as the boyars, with retention of their property according to Soloviev. According to Vernadsky, the dvoriane also included slugi pod dvorskim.

The lowest ranking members of the druzhina, the slugi pod dvorskim, also had the right of free departure, but if they left their prince's service, they were deprived of their land. Their relationship of greater dependence to their prince became the pattern for the rest of the court in late period when the Muscovite state formalized the service of all its subjects and attempted to make all land ownership dependent on service to the state.

Finally in the princely service (although not considered part of the “druzhina”) we find nevol'nye slugi (unfree servants) also known as kholopi (slaves). They could be used in the same posts as the slugi pod dvorskim.

Of course, not all members of Rus society were in the service of a prince or boyar. We have already mentioned how boyars and deti boiarskie could be independent. Dvoriane, by definition, are courtiers and therefore cannot hold that title independent of their service to a prince or boyar, but there are equivalent ranks of medieval Russian society outside the princely retinue. They are the liudi.

The liudi class is divided into two ranks. The upper ranks are known as zhitie liudi (men of substance) or narochiteye liudi (well-to-do people). They are the landlords, major merchants, city dignitaries, entrepreneurs and prosperous landowners. One of my sources even includes boyars among the “zhitie liudi” (Skrynnikov p2). Most of my source indicate that they are the “civilian” equivalent of the dvoriane and they had the same bloodwite of 40 grivna in the Russkaia Pravda.

The lower ranks of society are known as chernye liudi (black people), prostie liudi (simple people), menshie liudi (lesser people) or chiadi. These are the terms translated into English as “common people”. These lower-ranking liudi are the small-time merchants, craftsmen, and laborers – the “eaters of rye bread” as opposed to the higher classes who were “eaters of wheat bread” according to Vernadsky quoting Soloviev (Dawn of Modern Age, p 38). Their bloodwite was 12 grivna.

Rural farmers make up their own category in Russian society, called smerdy or krestianye, usually translated as “peasants”. They were freemen and seem to have been equivalent in social rank to the liudi with their own "well-to-do" peasants vs common peasants and freeholders, albeit without the political influence of the urban population because of their distance from the urban centers of power.

Below the liudi and the peasants are the zakupi, the half-free. These are indentured servants of various types. And below them are the slaves - called cheliadi, raby, and kholopi.

So now we must try to see how the above system of ranks maps onto our SCA system of ranks.

The current list uses Tsar/Tsaritsa and Velikii Kniaz/Velikaia Kniaginia – no change recommended. The titles Velikii Kniaz/Velikaia Kniaginia were used by the Russian sovereign and his consort from Kievan through Muscovite period and beyond. The title of tsar was not used the late 15th cent. and did not become an official title of the Russian sovereign until 1547, with the title of Velikii Kniaz retained in the style of the tsar.

Crown Prince/Princess
The current alternate title list uses Tsarevich/Tsarevna; and Kniazhich/Kniazhna – no change recommended. Both indicate the children of the above. Kniazhich/Kniazhna provides a useful distinction from the titles of Kniaz/Kniaginia.

Territorial Prince/Princess
The current alternate titles list uses Kniaz/Kniaginia – no change recommended. This exactly follows period Russian practice.

Royal Peers (dukes, duchesses, counts, countesses, etc.)
The current alternate titles list uses Kniaz/Kniaginia – no change recommended. This exactly follows period Russian practice where there were, in fact, former velikii kniazes in Rus on a regular basis.

The current list uses Boiarin/Boiarynia and Master/Masteritsa – no change recommended. Master/Masteritsa are the closest Russian translations of the English terms Master/Mistress, none of which are equivalent in period Russia to Peers of the Realm.
Boiarin/Boiarynia is the closest Russian equivalent of “Peer” and therefore appropriate for this rank.

The current list uses Boiarin/Boiarynia and Rytsar – no change recommended. The title “rytsar” was apparently only used for foreigners, however, there are no closer Russian equivalents that I have been able to find used as titles of rank in period.
Boiarin and Boiarynia are the closest Russian equivalent of “Peer” and, therefore, appropriate for this rank.

Awards of Bestowed Peerage make up 4% of the awards in the Order of Precedence of Calontir as of 12/5/09. Total bestowed ranks = 349 PoA + 829 GoA + 6716 AoA = 7894 with 9203 total awards over the history of Calontir. If the total number of subjects of Calontir over its entire history were approximately 35,000, then Bestowed Peerages would make up 1% of the population, just like Russian boyars. These numbers can only be vague approximations given the existence of double and triple peers, repeat awards, and the lack of precise data regarding the population of Calontir over time.

Landed Baron/Baroness – full title in Corpora “Baron/Baroness (of placename)”
The current list uses Boiarin/Boiarynia, Posadnik/Posadnitsa and Voevoda/Voevodsha – no change recommended.
Posadnik/Posadnitsa are indeed the period Russian terms for the prince’s local lieutenant/representative, especially in early period. Voevoda/Voevodsha indicated military commanders in early period, but the term is used for regional governors later in period, appropriate since military and administrative functions overlapped.
Persons appointed to such positions by the Russian princes were almost always selected from the boyar class, and therefore Boiarin and Boiarynia could be reasonable alternate titles for this rank. However, in SCA Corpora the baronial ranks are not Peerage ranks, and Kingdoms vary widely in their placement of territorial baronial ranks in their Orders of Precedence. Some rank them below the Royal Heirs (Lochac), some ahead of the Royal Peers (West), some ahead of the Bestowed Peers (Middle), some below the Bestowed Peers (Northshield), and some with the GoAs (Calontir, East). My collaborators disagree on whether or not Territorial Baronies should be considered part of the boyarstvo and I do not have a strong opinion on the subject.

Court Baron/Baronness – full title in Corpora “(Court) Baron/(Court) Baroness”
The current list uses Boiarin/Boiarynia, Posadnik/Posadnitsa and Voevoda/Voevodsha – weakly recommend removing Boiarin/Boiarynia.
The roles of Court Baron/Baroness are not the same as Territorial Baron/Baroness, but I have not found any better titles in Russian than Posadnik/Posadnitsa and Voevoda/Voevodsha. However, the difficulties of including this rank in the Boiarstvo are even greater than for the Landed Baronies. My collaborators point out that some Kingdoms rank Court Baronies in the middle of the AoA ranks (West), some at the top of the AoA ranks (Calontir, Lochac), some in either the AoA or GoA ranks (East), some at the top of the GoA ranks (Northshield, Middle), but in all cases, definitely below Peerage rank.

Currently, Boiarin/Boiarynia, Pomestnik/Pomestnitsa and Dvorianin/Dvorianka – strongly recommend removing Boiarin/Boiarynia.
A pomestnik is a member of the gentry who has been given a temporary grant of land, a pomestie, on condition of continued service. Thus a pomestnik is basically a type of late period dvorianin and the title’s inclusion in the Alternate Titles List is reasonable, if redundant. However, at the very end of period, the old hereditary estates of the boyars were converted into pomestie, so they also joined the pomestnik class. In that sense, “pomestnik” is more of a description of land ownership and conditions of government service than a “title of rank”.
The title of Boiarin was affirmed in the November 2008 LoAR to be superior to Dvorianin. Throughout medieval Russian history, the boyars are an upper level of society with various ranks between them and the dvoriane. Unlike the dvoriane, the boyars could freely switch allegiance to a different ruler without penalty, much as our Peers can move to any kingdom and retain full participation in their orders, unlike most lower Orders of Merit. The boyars, unlike the dvoriane, served as the counselors of the Russian sovereign, while in the SCA, only the Peerage orders are given the duty of advising the Crown in Corpora, albeit in a limited fashion. Boyars, unlike the dvoriane, acquired retinues, just as our Peers collect formal households of squires, apprentices or protégés.

Since I have now found period sources using syn boiarskii as a title of rank, the titles Syn Boiarskii/Doch Boiarskaia could be used un-officially as alternate titles for GoA level Lord/Lady instead of Dvorianin/Dvorianka just as many Kingdoms use The Honorable/High Lord/Lady or His Lordship/Her Ladyship. This beautifully matches the period Russian practice of grouping the deti boiarskie and the dvoriane together in the junior druzhina, with the deti boiarskie outranking the dvoriane.

The populace:
The place of our non-titled SCA populace in a plausibly period Russian system of ranks is critical in understanding the proper place of the boiarstvo and dvorianstvo.
The best solution is to consider our populace equivalent to the zhitie liudi. The zhitie liudi have no titles, but are almost identical in rank to the titled dvorianstvo, with the same bloodwite of 40 grivna. The chief distinction between the zhitie liudi and the dvoriane, is that the zhitie liudi are not in direct service to a lord. The zhitie liudi outrank the prostie liudi (simple people) and had a much higher bloodwite (40 grivna vs 12 grivna). So just like our SCA populace, the zhitie liudi were more than just commoners.
Alternately, the SCA populace could be considered the lower level of the dvorianstvo with the “titles” of Dvorianin/Dvorianka (In this case, the GoA/AoA ranks would be deti boiarskie). The difficulty with this is that the SCA populace is not allowed to have titles although it would be useful to release the terms dvorianin/dvorianka for the use of protégés, apprentices, squires and others in household or retinue service.