Cahiers du monde russe
The later seventeenth century was an era of unprecedented social mobility in the upper reaches of Muscovite society. Prior to the reign of Aleksei Mikhailovich, the boyar duma had been the preserve of a small set of pedigreed families. Aleksei, however, altered the traditional duma recruitment policy in the 1650s and began to promote undistinguished "new men" into the duma. Despite the claims of some historians, the new men were not radicals. It is true that many of them had made their way to the top by virtue of their service and skill, and not due to any hereditary right to elite ranks or offices. They were the beneficiaries of a very mild drift toward meritocratic appointment. But the new men did not necessarily share the principles standing behind the policy that brought them into the heights of Muscovite society. They had been born and bred in a society that took for granted the existence of a class of men who were the natural born leaders of the realm. The new men recognized that though they were among the elite, they were not of it in a genealogical sense. It likely never occurred to them to alter the basic principles of the old status system. The parvenus wanted to become members of the hereditary elite, not to destroy it. Evidence of widespread genealogical falsification by the new men is prima facie indication of this desire and the mentality that stood behind it.
Journal Article Version
Published Article/Book Citation
Cahiers du monde russe, 39:3 (1998): 375-388.
Copyright © Éditions de l’EHESS, 1998. Posted by permission.