Domostroi 12-23

Chapters 12-23 of the Domostroi emphasize the importance of piety at all levels of society, from national politics to household affairs. Chapters 12 – 17 focus on the role of religion in the home and the importance of religious education for children. The man is the spiritual guide of his family, and he is expected to lead evening vespers and morning prayer for his wife, children, and servants. Men must go to church every day, and women and servants ought to attend services whenever they have relief from their domestic duties (Chapter 12). Children must observe religious rites from an early age: chapter 14 commands children to respect their father-confessors, and that they must invite him into their home, be revealing about their sins, and look to him for examples on how to live a good, useful life. Though children have spiritual guides within the community, parents are ultimately responsible for their children’s religious development and must protect them from sin. If a child sins, the whole family and village are implicated. Chapters 15 and 16 offer gendered guidelines for raising children: if a man has daughters, he must begin to amass her dowry as soon as she is born. If he has sons, he must “break them in early” when they are young and begin to beat them at a young age if they misbehave.

Chapters 18-22 describe relationships within the household, and show how behavior in the household is an extension of one’s devotion to God. Children must respect their parents in order to be blessed God, and a wife’s service to her husband and children are tantamount to her service to her Lord. Men must be devoted to God to be successful in their work. Slaves and servants should always respect their master, and will receive mercy from God if they go to church.

Chapter 23 reflects the belief that the fate of the Russian state depended on the piety of its citizens. All disasters and diseases are “caused by God’s wrath.” If citizens are not devoted to God, the nation will be “captured and slaughtered by pagans” who will burn their churches. An angry God may “cause the Tsar to seize our property in anger,” suggesting that Ivan’s caprice was the result of divine intervention. Citizens could avoid such fates by practicing charity and, “above all, commit[ing] no evil” (page 125).

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