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levels of Russian nobility

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by backspin, Jan 14, 2011.

  1. backspin

    backspin Active Member

    I'm working on a book & one of the characters is a Russian. I want him to be nobility, but not terribly important. I can't find any references or charts showing the hierarchy of Russian titles.

    So -- I know there were Grand Dukes and Dukes. What would be lower than that? This would be around 1900, before the revolution.
  2. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    Counts and princes. Prince or knyaz was more common than the usual title of prince. In Russia what we call royal prince and princess are called Grand Duke and Duchess.
  3. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    The levels went: Tsar, Grand Duke, Prince, Count & Baron. For your purpose, I would imagine Count & Baron would work fine.

    Russian Nobility
  4. Nomad

    Nomad Celebrity cheese-monger

  5. Squibble

    Squibble New Member

    Wikipedia is your friend:


    If you are looking for a hereditary title, it would be baron, not prince. A Russian prince was higher in rank than a count, whereas a baron was lower. However, as the article discusses, there were other, non-titled types of nobility in Russia.

    ETA: Nomad's table of ranks is misleading insofar as it refers to the boyars. The boyars were essentially a noble class, but no one would have been called "Boyar Ivanov" in the was someone else might have been called "Prince Kuznetsov" or "Baron Alexandrov."
  6. backspin

    backspin Active Member

    You guys are awesome!! thanks!

    would a count still be very wealthy?
  7. nerdycool

    nerdycool Well-Known Member

    I imagine he wouldn't be hurting for money. But I wouldn't put him on par with a Grand Duke.
  8. Tinami Amori

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

    ……hummmmm…… even further explanation is required (gosh, I never spoke about Boyars in English, so bare with me…. ).

    The original article/wiki which Nomad listed is correct by listing Boyar as one of the “Russian Nobility titles” through out the History of Russia. There was such title, and even further sub-divisions and ranks with in a hierarchy of Tzar’s court existed, but that’s another subject.

    “Boyar” or to be exact in Russian “Boyarin” for male and “Boyarynya” for female, were a proper and official salutation on their own: “Welcome to our humble home, dear Boyarynya Morozova”. But more common would be ‘Welcome to our humble home, Your Nobility”.

    However, “Boyars” seized to exist under the rule of Peter I (Peter the Great) during the transition from 17th to 18th century.

    So, if the novel about a time period 1700 +, then “boyar” is not an issue.

    What year/century? What location is his estate and his persona? Does he have an occupation? I don’t mean employment, but the ventures he maybe involved in or overseeing which benefit his estate or properties?

    There were famous Counts/Grafs who gabled away their fortunes in the Card Gambling Salons of St. Petersburg… and where looking to marry either a wealthy bride of lower social ranking, or even a daughter of a wealthy merchant without a noble title…

    There were Counts/Grafs who inherited the title but so is an impoverished estates and indebted properties….

    ….it all depends on your story line. But yes, if all was perfect, Counts were wealthy in general.
  9. Squibble

    Squibble New Member

    Ooh, Tinami! How louche! :grope:
  10. Civic

    Civic New Member

    In my long ago Russian history class, I learned that in Tsarist Russia, the title of Baron was often granted to wealthy merchants or bankers who aided the tsarist regime. Many of these barons were either of foreign or Jewish origins. Baron Alexander von Stieglitz, governor of the first State Bank of Russia, is one example. Baron Joseph Gunzburg, a Russian-Jewish banker and philanthropist is another.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2011
  11. Tinami Amori

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

  12. Tinami Amori

    Tinami Amori Well-Known Member

    As far as I recollect…..“Baron” is an ambiguous title, through out the whole Europe and in Russia particularly. The original meaning is similar to “Master”, a free man of some important, property or power.

    In western Europe, in various historic periods, and various geographical regions, one could become “Baron” by Tenure, by Writ, by Patent.

    In Russia the title was introduced by Peter I, who borrowed it from Western Europe, due to his admiration of many things from Western and North Europe. He used it in lieu of “Boyar” eventually.

    Because the term “Baron” was so to say “implanted” into the Russian system, it was consequently loosely used on some occasions. If a man held a title of “Baron” who resided in Russia yet was of Western European origin, the local Russians would probably consider his title to be more authentic and treat it with more respect. If a native Russian held such title, there could be always a suspicion that he “bought it” or was “granted” the title for outstanding service to the country/king/tzar/court.

    Gypsy Band Chiefs were often addressed as “Barons”. Wealthy Jews were also addressed as “Barons” if they came from various locations in Western Europe and had acquired the title by wealth, property and outstanding service to the country/court.

    The term “Baron” is sometimes is used in Russian languages sarcastically, as in “self-appointed authority” or “self-proclaimed nobility”. No such sarcasm is attributed, in general, to other noble titles.

    Joseph Ginzburg, the first of Ginzburg dynasty, was granted a title of Baron not by a Russian monarch but by Grossherzog Louis II von Grossherzogtum Hessen. Ginzburg Family came with that title to St. Petersburg.

    Russian monarchs did not give too many titles to Jews in Russia. Titled Jews in Russia mostly came from Western or Northern Europe, and to be exact mostly from England, or Germanic territories.

    The only standard way to gain “some-kind” of title for a Jew in a Russian hierarchy, was to gain a military title no higher than unteroffizier or colonel, and that could only take place in Russia in the 18th century up to the mid 19th century, to become a Cantonist, by serving in the Russian Army for 25 years, and to show and receive multiple Outstanding Higher than Expected Performance awards/medals/recognitions. That title did not give much nobility privileges but allowed that Jew and his family to live outside of Pale Circle, in the open country or big cities, and to own land and business.
  13. let`s talk

    let`s talk Banned Member

    OP, the title has nothing to do with money. A good deal of Russian nobility was poor as a chuch mouse, due to whatever reasons.

    The title Duke (Grand Duke) in Russian is "gertsog" ("velikiy gertsog"), from German "herzog," and refers only to foreign nobility. The only Russian who ever had this title was Menshikov, the Duke Izhorskiy. While the title of Duke was technically equal to the title of Prince/Serene Highness ("Svetleshiy Knyaz"), still it comes only the second, after the Prince, in the full name of Menshikov. To call Russian princes "dukes" is not stricly right, but some translators don't really bother much and keep using this "duke" while speaking about Russian top nobility.

    OP, you might have noticed that the wiki link about the Russian nobility that was posted here speaks only from 14th century, as if before that the nobilty didn't exist. It did. It just had another name- boyar. They started in 9th century and the title "boyar" refers to oldest Russian families ever, like the Golitsyns or the Dolgorukie. The number of boyar families was from 5 to 51 in different times. But unlikely this info is useful for you since the last boyar died long before 1900- in 1750, Ivan Trubetskoy. What is called "nobility" in English originally was called "dvoryane" in Russia and this word comes form the Russian "dvor" (court). The title showed up in 12th century and refered to the military-ranked people who served in the court ("dvor") of boyar.

    In 1722 Peter the Great/the First introduced the law "Table of Ranks" where the title "boyar" was canceled. Since then and till 1917 the official titles of the Russian nobility were:
    Velikiy Knyaz (Grand/Great Prince) - to the members of royal family, basically all Romanovs, except of course Tsar and Tsaritsa, they had these special titles.
    Knyaz (Prince)- top title, but not a member of Romanovs' family.
    Graf (from German "graf", "count" in English)- introduced by Peter I, the second top title after princes, around 300 Russian families had this title.
    Baron (same in English)- also introduced by Peter I, around 240 families got this title, lower rank nobility.

    And that is all.
  14. backspin

    backspin Active Member

    Awesome! Thank you all again, this was extremely helpful!