Online Encyclopedia

BOYAR (Russ. boyarin, plur. boyare)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 353 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: it!
BOYAR (Russ. boyarin, plur. boyare), a dignity of Old Russia conterminous with the history of the country. Originally the boyars were the intimate friends and confidential advisers of the Russian prince, the superior members of his druzhina or bodyguard, his comrades and champions. They were divided into classes according to rank, most generally determined bypersonal merit and service. Thus we hear of the " oldest," " elder " and the " younger " boyars. At first the dignity seems to have been occasionally, but by no means invariably, hereditary. At a later day the boyars were the chief members of the prince's duma, or council, like the senatores of Poland and Lithuania. Their further designation of luchshie lyudi or " the best people " proves that they were generally richer than their fellow subjects. So long as the princes, in their interminable struggles with the barbarians of the Steppe, needed the assistance of the towns, " the best people " of the cities and of the druzhina proper mingled freely together both in war and commerce; but after Yaroslav's crushing victory over the Petchenegs in ro36 beneath the walls of Kiev, the two classes began to draw apart, and a political and economical difference between the members of the princely druzhina and the aristocracy of the towns becomes discernible. The townsmen devote themselves henceforth more exclusively to commerce, while the druzhina asserts the privileges of an exclusively military caste with a primary claim upon the land. Still later, when the courts of the northern grand dukes were established, the boyars appear as the first grade of a full-blown court aristocracy with the exclusive privilege of possessing land and serfs. Hence their title of dvoryane (courtiers), first used in the 12th century. On the other hand there was no distinction, as in Germany, between the Dienst Adel (nobility of service) and the simple Adel. The Russian boyardom had no corporate or class privileges, (1) because their importance was purely local (the dignity of the principality determining the degree of dignity of the boyars), (2) because of their inalienable right of transmigration from one prince to another at will, which prevented the formation of a settled aristocracy, and (3) because birth did not determine but only facilitated the attainment of high rank, e.g. the son of a boyar was not a boyar born, but could more easily attain to boyardom, if of superior personal merit. It was reserved for Peter the Great to transform the boyarstvo or boyardom into something more nearly resembling the aristocracy of the West. See Alexander Markevich, The History of Rank-priority in the Realm of Muscovy in the i5th–28th Centuries (Russ.) (Odessa, 1888) ; V. Klyuchevsky, The BoyarDuma of Ancient Russia (Russ.) (Moscow, 1888). (R. N. B.) BOY-BISHOP, the name given to the " bishop of the boys " (episcopus puerorum or innocentium, sometimes episcopus scholariorum or chorestarum), who, according to a custom very wide-spread in the middle ages, was chosen in connexion with the festival of Holy Innocents. For the origin of the curious authority of the boy-bishop and of the rites over which he presided, see Fools, FEAST OF. In England the boy-bishop was elected on December 6, the feast of St Nicholas, the patron of children, and his authority lasted till Holy Innocents' day (December 28). The election made, the lad was dressed in full bishop's robes with mitre and crozier and, attended by comrades dressed as priests, made a circuit of the town blessing the people. At Salisbury the boy-bishop seems to have actually had ecclesiastical patronage during his episcopate, and could make valid appointments. The boy and his colleagues took possession of the cathedral and performed all the ceremonies and offices except mass. Originally, it seems, confined to the cathedrals, the custom spread to nearly all the parishes. Several ecclesiastical councils had attempted to abolish or to restrain the abuses of the custom, before it was prohibited by the council of Basel in 1431. It was, however, too popular to be easily suppressed. In England it was abolished by Henry VIII. in 1542, revived by Mary in 1552 and finally abolished by Elizabeth. On the continent it survived longest in Germany, in the so-called Gregoriusfest, said to have been founded by Gregory IV. in 828 in honour of St Gregory, the patron of schools. A school-boy was elected bishop, duly vested, and, attended by two boy-deacons and the town clergy, proceeded to the parish church, where, after a hymn in honour of St Gregory had been sung, he preached. At Meiningen this custom survived till 1799. See Brand, Pop. Antiquities of Great Britain (19o5); Gasquet, Parish Life in Medieval England (1906) ; Du Cange, Glossarium (London, 1884), s.v. Episcopus puerorum."
End of Article: BOYAR (Russ. boyarin, plur. boyare)
WILLIAM BOYCE (1710-1779)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.