Familial Relations in post-Kievan Russia

Looking at The Second Testament of Moscow Grand Prince Dmitrii Donskoi allows the reader to gain a better understanding of the post-Kievan society. Specifically, one can learn through this primary source about the practice of “partible inheritance”. This term refers to the system of bequeathing one’s holdings among members of the next generation. While this certainly included the sons of Dimitrii, the prince’s wife, referred to as “my princess” throughout the text, would receive considerable rights in this will. Dmitrii Donskoi was a post-Kievan era prince who ruled from 1359 until his death in 1389. Now a Saint in the Russian Orthodox Church, Dimitrii was a hero of the early Muscovite history. His reign was significant; he was credited with forcing the Mongol army into a draw, and subsequently promising the eventual defeat of these peoples. In his last will and testament, Dimitrii divides his holdings among all his children, and gives specific consideration to his wife throughout the document.

What I found to be the most intriguing aspect of this primary source was how one could derive from the source certain family values that were beginning to develop during this age. For example, there are many references to the prince’s widow (the princess) throughout the piece. The prince notes countless times where his wife receives a share along with all of their sons. In addition, he emphasizes the importance of respecting and obeying their mother, saying “And I have committed my children to my princess. And you, my children, heed your mother in all things, and do not go against her will in anything. And if any of my sons does not heed his mother and goes against her will, my blessing shall not be upon him” (90). This line could imply that within the family unit, there was a hierarchy, with both parents demanding respect from their children. The fact that the sons were expected to not only take notice of their mother’s wishes, but also not go against her implies perhaps that mothers were held in high regard and respected. I found this to be intriguing, because in other cultures, women and mothers were simply seen through their role of childbearing, with little else to offer of importance. I found it interesting that the princess was not only guaranteed rights through this document, but was also ensured respect by her children.

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