Don’t be deceived by the title’s simplicity, the “Domostroi” literally translated to “domestic order” is an extensive manual used to guide a Russian household to the author’s conveyed full potential. Whether or not households actually followed these exact rules is not certain, however, it displays the important aspects of Russian culture.
The Domostroi is an excellent insight into not only the guidelines of 16th Century Rus society, but it also displays what grew to be important to the Rus in the centuries we have covered in class. While loyalty to the nobility and the Tsar were of utmost importance, the Domostroi makes clear in the beginning of the preface what absolutely matters most in this society, Orthodox Christianity. The text opens “This is an admonition and instruction of father-confessors to all Orthodox Christians. It tells you how you must believe in the Holy Trinity, the Immaculate Mother of God, Christ’s Cross, and all other heavenly powers…” The Domostroi gives guidelines on how to properly be an Orthodox Christian, including how to commune with Bishops as well as day-to-day practices such as hosting gatherings.
The Boyars and Tsars also have immense influence in this state. The Domostroi reinforces loyalty to the Tsar above all other people. This is particularly important because the Domostroi, which is heavenly focused on Orthodox Christianity also reinforces the Tsar and nobility as authorities that orchestrate God’s Will.
The authorship of the Domostroi is one that is debated. Although we lack a defined individual, it is clear the author was heavily involved with the Boyars. However, the importance of Orthodox Christianity, which looms over the text, would lead one to believe that this piece was possibly authored by a clergyman. As for the audience of the Domostroi, this seems like a guide that would necessarily apply more to the middle class or nobility, as it stresses loyalty to the Tsar and Boyars, but the literacy rates of the peasantry would indicate that few of them could read this guide.
Overall the Domostroi is an excellent insight into what the Rus themselves thought was important in their lives and society.
- Since the Domostroi was written during Ivan the Terrible’s reign what does this reflect about the society under his rule?
- According to the Domostroi, did women at this time period hold greater power in society or were they simply pawns in a male dominated culture? What powers did women possess and also what were their restrictions?
- What ideal of a man does this text present.
- How does the Domostroi show the relationship between the master and his servants? Refer to 35 and 36 of the Domostroi.
- When the master was absent, he would appoint his most trusted servant to take on specifically his duty of running the household. Since this was regarded to be such an important role in the Domostroi, does this imply that in Moscow all people were viewed to be inherently equal in theory.
- How does the Domostroi show the relationship between the tsar and the church? Refer to number 7 of the Domostroi.
- What were the Russians’ beliefs about God and his involvement in their lives and society?
- Why do you think abstinence (in all aspects of life) was so greatly emphasized in this text? There are countless passages illustrating the importance of abstinence, such as 13,26,27, and 28. However, look particularly at this section retrieved from towards the end of number 24, “If the master or any member of his household commit any of these improper deeds – lechery, unchastity, foul speech, oath-breaking, irrational fury, bearing grudges- and those in charge neither prevent the deeds nor punish them strictly , all will go to Hell together and will be damned in this world as well”. What does this quote add to the significance of abstinence?
- The topic of identifying the original writer is highly debated, who do you think he was; or at least what kind of life do you think he lived? And do you think because it was edited multiple times it made the text more persuasive to the public based on your perception of the original text?
- What was the true purpose of the Domostroi. It is not actually certain whether Russian families actually followed these rules. Was the Domostroi’s purpose more to display to the rest of Europe that Russia was a westernized nation, an actually guide used by the boyars, or perhaps it could’ve been a wealthier writer caught up in some of his fanciful ideas visualizing a perfect Russian society?