The Empire of the Tsars and the Russians

By Anatole L. Leroy-Beaulieu; Zaenaefde A. Ragozin | Go to book overview

BOOK VI. CHAPTER II.
How the Monopoly of Territorial Proprietorship could not Confer on the Nobility any Political Power--Historical Reasons of this Anomaly-- The Drujína of the Kniazes and the Free Service of the Boyàrs-- Ancient Conception of Property: the Vòt-tchina and the Pomiêstiyé-- The Service of the Tsar the Only Source of Fortune--The Disputes about Precedence at Table--Why no Real Aristocracy could Come out of all this--The Hierarchy of Families Succeeded by the Hierarchy of Individuals--The "Table of Ranks," and the Fourteen Classes of the Tchin--Results of this Classification.

THIS authority, this independence of political aristocracies, the Russian nobility never possessed, not even at the still recent time when it enjoyed the exclusive privilege of owning the soil, and when those who tilled its lands were its slaves. In order to account for this apparent anomaly: a nobility in exclusive possession of the soil, yet debarred from the power which such possession imparts everywhere else, we must work our way back into the past, to the roots of the Russian nobility and the Russian system of property. An aristocracy is the work of centuries, the strength of it can be tested only by the depth to which its roots have reached. Those of the Russian nobility are easily laid bare. From a remote period history shows us the dvoriànstvo under the two aspects it has preserved ever since: as servant of the state and as holder of the soil. History shows us the bond between the landlord and the state functionary; it shows us how the one has always kept the other dependent and subordinate.

Among the ancient Russian Slavs there does not appear to have been either a nobility or an aristocracy of any kind. The original progenitor of the Russian dvoriànstvo is the drujína, which

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