Syn Boyarsky

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A ranking in the Muscovite state service system, held by provincial petty noble cavalrymen who comprised the bulk of the campaign army up to the middle of the seventeenth century.

The syn boyarsky (pl. deti boyarskie ) comprised Muscovy's middle service class, below the metropolitan nobility but higher in status than the contractually recruited commoner cossacks and musketeers. Syn boyarsky literally means "boyar's son," reflecting this group's mixed origins (younger sons of Moscow boyars, slave or free retainers of formerly independent appanage princes, sons of clergymen or peasants, etc.) in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.

The syn boyarsky was legally free in the sense that he was exempt from taxes, and he was entitled to own peasants and to sue in defense of his precedence honor. But he was required to serve the sovereign for life in the field army, in the garrisons, and in the lower levels of provincial administration. A few deti boyarskie owned some allodial land, but most depended primarily upon the sovereign's bounty in service-conditional land and cash and grain issues to outfit themselves and their retainers for duty. The syn boyarsky's bounty entitlements were determined in part by his service capacity as assessed at inspection and in part by his past service, past rank, and the services and ranks of his forebears. The average syn boyarsky owned no more than five or six peasant tenants. Upon retirement his son or another male kinsman usually received part or all of his service lands and took over his service obligations.

See also: boyar; mestnichestvo; muscovy; pomestie; streltsy


Hellie, Richard. (1971). Enserfment and Military Change in Muscovy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Brian Davies