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Social Groups in Czarist Russia

11April2003 - History St Petersburg Russia

There were four main social groups during the Czarist rule in Russia. The czars, the nobles, the peasants, and the serfs. Czar- is pronounced "zahr." The czar was the highest ranking of the social groups in Russia at the time. Czar is the Russian word for emperor/Caesar. It was the title that the emperors of Russia used during the time of "Czarist Russia." The title of czar is passed down through a dynasty. The first Russian dynasty was the Rurik Dynasty. But, the first Russian ruler chosen to be czar was Michael Romanov. The last czar was Nicholas II, who ended czarism for good by abdicating in 1917. And thus, communism began.

Boyar- is pronounced "boi-er." The boyar was the second highest ranking social group in Russia. Boyars were warrior nobles. They were the ones who owned most the land and the serfs. The nobles were wealthy families that lived in great comfort. They spent most of their winters in Moscow or St. Petersburg. There they may have had up to 100 serfs working for them. The rooms were filled with guests almost every night. Very often there were dancing parties at which serfs played music late into the night. In the summer, the nobles traveled to their country estates, where they were attended by even more serfs. nobles maintained strict discipline by beating and flogging serfs who were constantly displeasing them.

Peasants- the peasants were the last ranking social group in "Czarist Russia." They were split into two different categories, the peasants and the serfs. The only difference between the two was the fact that the peasants weren't bound to the land like the serfs were. The peasants were free to move among the town and have their own house. They both had literally no rights. The serfs were owned by the boyars who had complete control over them. The nobles bought and sold the serfs as needed. The female serfs usually cooked the food, while the male serfs served the nobles and all of their guests. Few basic foods were eaten by the peasants. Their diet consisted mainly of dark bread, porridge, cereal, or meal boiled in water.

The Russian peasants lived in patriarchal, extended families. The final word was decided by the oldest male of the family. Only men could inherit land. The females had lower status in the home. Tending the garden and animals was the woman's job, along with the household chores. The marriages for the children were based on property, in the middle-class families. Your average peasant family lived in a small wooden house which included a single large room and one or two small storage rooms. An enormous stove that was used for heating and cooking was placed in one corner of the larger room. Older members of the family slept near the stove in the winter. The peasant life in Russia was extremely harsh.


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