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Boyar Sons - Who They Were

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Knight at Arms
You can meet term "Boyar Sons" in number of Medieval military themed computer games where they depict Russian military "unit". I have always assumed that these are supposed to be literally sons of boyars (boyar = Russian aristocratic title, roughly equivalent to Count or Duke). Just recently I have found out that that's not what that term means.

First of all, Russian original is "deti boyarskie", which means "children of boyars".

Second, term like "father", "brother" and "son/child" when used in Medieval legal writing meant feudal relations, not family relations. If somebody was called "child" of somebody, it meant that he is his vassal. If word "brother" was used, then they were of equal status (two kings for example could call one another "brother", as long as they acknowledged their kingship). Consequently "father" was suzerain.

Therefore "Boyar Sons" means smaller feudal lords serving under boyar.


Sergeant at Arms
Oh, here you again. Do you still want to know what was actually shapka bumazhnaya made of, if not from papier-mache? I guess you are still interesting in it too. So ok now, I'll tell you, it was made of quilted layers of cotton fabric, not from paper pulp as your link suggested. :smile:

I would add some tiny improvement to your explanation. To the beginning, this term meant slightly different things through the time, thus I am about timeframe between Aleksander the Nevskiy and Ivan III. Before this, the word boyar means literally fighter, and first boyars were elder druzhinnks, erm... decani and centurions (wonder if there are words for десятник and сотник in English). Your definition of this as title is correct to the latter period, for the 15th century and later. What is seems to be equivalent for count title in between, this is думный боярин, a boyar member of prince's council.

"Boyar sons", or "lesser boyars", or "young people" (молодшие люди) weren't lords en masse, at least in European meaning of the title. In the classical European feudalism not every man-at-arms was a knight, and not every knight was a lord. Same here, big if not most part of them were landless, they were not granted with land or serfs, only had their home and land as freemen (see later term "однодворец"). I mean, if they were not a boyars, they had the same land. Another difference, great boyars had inheritance of either part or the whole of their fiefs, see вотчина. Extremely little part of landed lesser boyar had the hereditary right to the lands besides their commoner share. Later, giving the land became more often and, eventually, typical; even later this led to forming the Noblemen estate. However in the described period I'd say they were mostly man-at-arms, not lords.

What is interesting, one of the names of this stratum still exist in present days Russian as polite form of address for more or less young man.

Regarding 'brothers" and "fathers', for Rus's Rota inheritance system to call yourself "lesser brother" meant renouncement of your turn in succession, which was overwhelmingly much.
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