1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 02

1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 02

Life went on in the village, with Father Yulian ministering to the needs of his flock. To those with a need to learn, he taught reading, writing, mathematics, and other things. Increasingly, political philosophy found its way into his teachings, both from the pulpit and during his private counseling.

Ruzuka, Russia

April 1636

Stefan looked out at the fields. The crops were in the ground, but the children weeding the fields had a gaunt look about them. With the end of winter, the men had finally gotten to come home from the factory in Poltz to do the necessary work in Ruzuka.

Stefan stayed busy at his forge, and whenever he could he made the bits and pieces for a wagon and hid them away. He looked around again. Anatoly was working in his shop, making handles for the new reapers. It was a hot day for April which was part of the reason Stefan had stepped outside. Vera waved as she lead Vasily and Eva to the well. He’d almost told Vera about his plan a dozen times in the last few months, but he held back. The truth was that he was afraid that she would not want to leave her friends. Afraid that if he gave her time, she would talk him out of it and they would wait till it was too late to run. They were one of the wealthier families in the village, in part because Stefan had built his own drop hammer and that had saved him a great deal of time in the repairing of farm equipment, which in turn meant that there was more time to gather the iron ore and make the wrought iron. It let them trade for more food, more clothing, and they would be even better off if Vera didn’t insist on feeding half the village children.

Things were especially bad this summer. Sheremetev had taken power in Moscow, apparently with the acquiescence of Czar Mikhail. And the colonel, as one of Sheremetev’s deti boiarskie, wanted to prove himself by making the village produce. The only good news was he was doing it by mail, being busy in the army and his son, Nikita, with him. That meant that only his wife, Elena, and daughter, Izabella, were here. Father Yulian seemed to have a great deal of influence with them. Stefan grinned at that thought, because Vera had told him how that influence came to be. Father Yulian was a man who had plenty of stamina, Stefan had to admit. He’d been ministering to the women of the village for a long time. Even to Vera, back before she had decided to marry Stefan.

There was one other thing that Stefan had to respect about Father Yulian. He didn’t coerce the women of the village. They went to him. Once Vera had decided that she didn’t want to play anymore, Father Yulian had been fine with her decision.

Ruzuka, Russia

May 1636

“Might I have a few words with you?” Father Yulian asked Stefan as he was leaving the church one Sunday.

“I guess so, Father. Do you need new hinges for the church door?” Stefan looked at the door in question. The hinges were a bit rusty, but seemed in good enough shape.

Father Yulian just smiled and waved him toward the cabin next to the church.

***

“So,” Yulian asked, in his deep baritone, once Stefan was seated on a wooden bench by the stove, “when are you planning on running and where do you intend to go?”

Stefan blinked. “What?” The priest was grinning at him, his left eyebrow raised. He had dark hair and rough-hewn features. There was just a touch of gray at his temples. His beard had a little dash of gray too.

“I’m not blind, man,” Father Yulian said as his grin mellowed into a smile. “You have been making extra parts for a wagon and squirreling away dried meat and vegetables. At first I thought you were just preparing for the winter like any industrious man should, but then it came to me that your choice of goods are as light and compact as you can manage. You want things that you can carry with you.”

Stefan’s hand, almost of its own accord, crept toward his belt knife. This was a disaster. The priest might tell anyone — the colonel’s wife, the headman, Kiril Ivanovich. And Stefan would be strung up and beaten half to death, maybe all the way to death. Then what would happen to Vera and the children?

“You realize that leaving would leave the whole village in peril? Your debt would be applied to everyone left in the village. How do you think that’s going to make Vera feel?”

“Better than burying our children would,” Stefan said angrily, but his hand had stopped its creeping toward his knife.

Father Yulian nodded, but continued. “Probably. But better is not the same as good. Wouldn’t it be best to take the whole village?”

“The whole village! You’re crazy. There is no way. Besides, what makes you think that they will all want to go?”

“You don’t give me credit for knowing my flock, Stefan. There are a few who will actively oppose any attempt to leave. Kiril Ivanovich, for instance. Aside from the fact that he hates me personally, he believes that some are made to be serfs and some to be boyars, and that as a serf, his goal should be to be a good serf. At least, that’s what he tells himself. The truth is, he is a horrible coward who will yield to anyone with a whip.” Father Yulian went through the village, telling Stefan who would be willing to run when the time came but couldn’t keep their mouths shut, who wouldn’t want to go but would continue on if they started, and finally those who he thought they could trust to be a part of the preparations. Mostly women, Stefan noted, in that last group.

But, in spite of it all, Stefan wasn’t convinced. “Look, Father, that’s all fine, but how do you expect to move a whole village through Russia without anyone noticing? And the ones that we force to go along . . . they will turn on us the first chance they get. How do you plan to deal with that?”

“No, not most of them. Once we leave, their only choice will be to go with us. They will already be Cossacks, runaways, according to Moscow. Especially with Sheremetev in charge. You know what the colonel has been doing since Sheremetev ‘retired’ the czar.”

And it was true. There had been whippings on each visit by the colonel since Sheremetev had taken power, and two girls of the village had been forced by the colonel’s son, Nikita.

***

They didn’t come to any agreement that day, but when Stefan got home, there was Vera waiting for him, and it was clear that Father Yulian had told her of his suspicions before he had brought the matter up with Stefan. She had many of the same questions, but she also wanted to know just where he planned on dragging her and the children.

“I’m not entirely sure,” Stefan admitted. “The Cossacks to the south, or east to the goldfields. I figure I can make us a good living making mining tools. The Cossacks are closer, and once I prove I can take it, they will leave you be.”

“We are not going to live with those animals. They have no law but strength and that’s not how I want Vasily growing up.”

“East to the goldfields then,” Stefan agreed. “After the harvest.”

“And we will take the looms and spinning wheels. The miners will need clothing as well as tools.”

“Are you crazy? Do you know how big a loom is?”

“No, tell me. I spent all of last winter in front of one. Do tell me how big they are. A loom may be taken apart and the parts can be stowed in a wagon, just like a blacksmith’s tools.”

 

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19 Responses to 1637 The Volga Rules – Snippet 02

  1. Randomiser says:

    In February Stefan doesn’t have a drop hammer. He gets home in March and by April his family is already one of the wealthier families in in the village because of the medium to long term effects of his drop hammer!?! That’s some continuity error over a couple of pages.

    The priest is ‘ministering’ to the colonel’s wife and, presumably, teenage daughter (‘strange new feelings’ in snippet one)? Has he a death wish or what? How likely is it that the colonel has left them in this village anyway, if it is only his ‘salary’ for his military position and not part of his family’s lands. Don’t know much about the social position of village priests, but seems unlikely that the local ‘noble’ ladies would let him near them. What’s the penalty for adultery that disgraces your husband’s family name in C17th Russia? Yep, thought so.

    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “Don’t know much about the social position of village priests, but seems unlikely that the local ‘noble’ ladies would let him near them.”

      Of course they wouldn’t. Given the clout associated with belonging to the deti boyarskiye stratum they’d have their own confessor at the estate – which would be a sizeable, different entity (votchina, literally – “the land inherited from one’s fathers”) from pomestye (literally – “something where you are placed upon”).

      “What’s the penalty for adultery that disgraces your husband’s family name in C17th Russia?”

      That’s a good question! In 17th c. it meant an instant divorce (ROC allowed divorce) and the woman proved to be adulterous would therefore barred from marrying (again) ever. But before, because the adultery was covered under the clerical jurisdiction, she’d have to serve a penance in the monastery for up to 15 years.

      Given that the man committing the adultery (father Yulian in our case) was a member of the clergy it would mean several thing for him. The best case scenario – a penance for several years (up to a decade) in some hostile environment monastery like Solovki. The limit of the penance would be determined through reviewing of his appeals and letters from the abbot approving/dissuading the notion. Bad scenario – he’d defrocked. That’s sounds trivial but in reality it means to become a classless outcast with no ties to any support group (which meant live and death at the period) whatsoever.

      In the worst case scenario there will be an “accident” awaiting father Yulian courtesy of the noble landlords men. Incidents happen. Who’s gonna prove otherwise?

      Adam Olearius in his travel notes also described the sexual mores in Russia of that period. He wrote:

      “Adultery among them is not punishable by death and is not called adultery, but simply fornication if the married one is staying the night with the other’s wife. They call an adulterer only those who fornicate with a another man’s wife.

      If a woman who is married has committed an adultery and she will be accused and convicted, then she will be punished with a whip for this. The guilty one must spend a few days in the monastery, feeding on water and bread, then she is sent back home, where she is beaten again by the master of the house for the neglected work at home.

      • Bret Hooper says:

        “What’s the penalty for adultery that disgraces your husband’s family name in C17th Russia?”

        None, if you don’t get caught.

      • Andy says:

        Apparently father Yulian isn’t married and not sleeping with any unmarried women.

        It’s also apparently not a secret to anyone in the village.

        Let’s not forget that the priest isn’t catholic, but orthodox, so maybe they don’t have celibacy? In catholic priests, sexual relations are actually quite common, and often the women and their children are supported by the church. After all, if they even protect child molesters, it would be a bit hypocritical to throw the book at broken celibacy.

        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “Apparently father Yulian isn’t married and not sleeping with any unmarried women.”

          Yeaaaaaah, rrrriiiight. To quote the snippet:

          “…That meant that only his wife, Elena, and daughter, Izabella, were here. Father Yulian seemed to have a great deal of influence with them. Stefan grinned at that thought, because Vera had told him how that influence came to be. Father Yulian was a man who had plenty of stamina, Stefan had to admit. He’d been ministering to the women of the village for a long time. Even to Vera, back before she had decided to marry Stefan.

          There was one other thing that Stefan had to respect about Father Yulian. He didn’t coerce the women of the village. They went to him. Once Vera had decided that she didn’t want to play anymore, Father Yulian had been fine with her decision.”

          Again. ROC priesthood was not celibate, because they were required to be married (in that time period) before becoming members of the White Clergy. Not married but want to be a member of the holy orders? To monastery with you.

          P.S. Your spiel about RCC’s priest as some sort of child molesting hive-mind was totally OT.

          • Andy says:

            Well, “child molesting hive-mind” is your interpretation. I merely invoked well known instances of the catholic church being very lenient with its priests about more serious transgressions. Without passing any judgement.

            That particular leniency is very on-topic, as we were discussing the consequences of breaking clerical mores and laws.

    • Bret Hooper says:

      In February Stefan doesn’t have a drop hammer. He gets home in March and by April his family is already one of the wealthier families in in the village because of the medium to long term effects of his drop hammer!?! That’s some continuity error over a couple of pages.

      What continuity error? Stefan doesn’t have a drop hammer in Poltz. Do you think he would have carried his drop hammer to Poltz with him? Had he been stupid enough to, do you think they would have let him take it back home to Ruzuka with him?

      No, it stayed in Ruzuka where he built it, and believe it or not, it was still there when he got home.

      • Randomiser says:

        Book opens with Stefan in Polz operating someone else’s drop hammer. He thinks about what he would be doing back home
        ‘He looked back into the fire of the forge and checked the color of the blobs, then waved for more pumping. Then he thought about how fast he could stamp out various parts if he had a drop hammer.’ i.e. he wishes he had a drop hammer back home, so he can’t have one. See first snippet.

  2. Lyttenburgh says:

    “It was a hot day for April which was part of the reason Stefan had stepped outside.”

    Okay, All-Mighty Google! Humor me! The query is “Little Ice Age”.

    [not to perpetually unsatisfied fellow commenters – if you post a direct link in your comment, then the blog will file it under “awaiting moderation” file which might take… forever. DIY]

    My-my! What we have here! Bosporus freezing completely in 1621-69 period. Unbelievable heavy snowing in Padua during 1620-21 winter (yes – in Italy). Thames freezing over for months one (see the paining by Abraham Hondius). Charles X Gustav of Sweden successful march on Copenhagen (see “March across the Belts”).

    But enough of that! What was the climatic situation in Russia? What-what?! Moscow river freezing for half a year serving as a place for the shop vendors to set up their enterprises? Snow as early as in August, and, in some parts of Russia, still no thaw even in early May?

    [I refer you to the diaries of the general Patrick L. Gordon, who kept meticulous records of everything that transpired in his life. Will learn a thing or two about 17 c. warfare – or about the beginning and the end of winters in different parts of the Eastern Europe].

    Tl;dr. The agrarian season during the described time period in Russia was 160-170 day (as opposed to 210-230 days in Europe). Go ahead and prove to me that there was possible to have a “warm” April back then.

    “Vera waved as she lead Vasily and Eva to the well.”

    “Eva”? Not appropriate name for the Russian naming traditions. At. All.

    “The truth was that he was afraid that she would not want to leave her friends.”

    Totally uncharacteristic thoughts for 17 c. man. Normal thoughts for the modern man, but not for someone born in that time period. He’s the master of the house. All the rest – wife, children, elderly – will do as he says. See: “Domostroy”.

    “…which in turn meant that there was more time to gather the iron ore…”

    “Gather” – where? How? In 17 c. Russia depended on the import of the iron ore from Germany and Scandinavia.

    “It let them trade for more food, more clothing, and they would be even better off if Vera didn’t insist on feeding half the village children.”

    If she wouldn’t insist on that then the village mir will insist on that. The peasant communities operated on a thought that the rich(er) folk MUST help all others and share their fortune.

    “Father Yulian was a man who had plenty of stamina, Stefan had to admit. He’d been ministering to the women of the village for a long time. Even to Vera, back before she had decided to marry Stefan.”

    That’s another proof that the authors don’t know how Russian White Clergy operates. See my previous comments. Father Yulian could not be unmarried – period.

    “Aside from the fact that he hates me personally, he believes that some are made to be serfs and some to be boyars, and that as a serf, his goal should be to be a good serf.”

    That’s anachronistic view… for father Yulian to express. Like – no one would do that in that time and age.

    “We are not going to live with those animals. They have no law but strength and that’s not how I want Vasily growing up.”

    Again – a fine example of modern woman. Not of someone born and raised in 17 c. People (commoner, that’s it) didn’t view Cossacks as “animals”. And, yes – they did have law besides the strength.

    • Johnny says:

      “Cold climate” doesn’t mean “impossible to have a single day regarded as hot”, Lytt. You’re as scientifically illiterate as climate change deniers who see a single snowy day in November as proof the earth can’t be even remotely warmer.

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        ““Cold climate” doesn’t mean “impossible to have a single day regarded as hot”, Lytt.”

        What would you regard as “hot” for April in 17 c. Russia? Oh, let me guess – the one where the snow has already thawed! How can you have a hot day when you snow shows no desire to melt away because, you see – it’s cold here?

        • Doug Lampert says:

          I’ll not comment on “hot” for that time and place, given the little ice age and general climate I’m dubious about there being a hot April, but I will say that I have walked on snow and ice outdoors in 80 F weather. Hot days happen even in cold climates, and it takes TIME for snow and ice to melt when the amount is non-trivial.

          The idea that unmelted snow on the ground and frozen rivers means that it is not hot is just wrong.

          That’s natural snowpack I’m talking about, snow piled up by a plow can easily not melt till late summer in areas that get lots of snow, even if that means months of consecutive hot weather.

          • Lyttenburgh says:

            I’m replying to all three of you in this particular branch. Considering “hot” in the context – what are they doing at the moment? That’s right:

            “Stefan looked out at the fields. The crops were in the ground, but the children weeding the fields had a gaunt look about them.”

            Do you have any idea about agriculture? Peasants back then surely do. They won’t start planting so early if the cold will kill the seeds. There won’t be any weeds to remove if the climate is too cold as well. Yet, these two sentences imply as much for the period of April – in Russia.

            As I mentioned earlier, colonel (later – general) Patrick Gordon left his diaries for us to study. He was meticulous and incredibly honest. He mentioned everything that happened to him day in – day put. He mentions when he challenges (bullies in sort) another officer into a duel. He mentions the problems of feeding and maintaining discipline during his first command. He mentions nearly every time he got so drunk he had trouble waking up till midday. He described day by day in excruciatingly dry yet painful details the sickness of his 2 y.o. baby daughter Jane, her death and burial – while also maintaining all necessary records about salary allocation for his regiment troopers. She died late at night, on 24/25 March.

            And he mentions weather – all the time. We can’t simply claim that there were no evidence – here it is right before you. He mentions first signs of the thaw on 4th of April. Next he mentions the pond coming totally free from the ice on April 24. Three days later, he mentions Czar’s travel by boat via Moscow river, presumably, now ice free and safe for navigation.

            The absolute minimum of the acceptable planting period for the rye (typical bread corn for Russia) is 10 C/50 F, more optimal: 15 C/60 F. Now, given the previous information about the typical weather in April, can we in good faith surmise that the peasants would risk their lives and plant the seeds so early?

        • dave o says:

          Currently the average temperature in the Moscow area in April is 5.8C. I have been able to find no evidence of the extremes. There is a great deal of Russia south of Moscow, which is presumably be warmer. And I have no way to evaluate the effect of the little ice age. But it is at least possible that snow has begun to melt.

          Lyttenburgh would have been correct if he said that a warm day in April is unlikely. He is wrong when he says it’s impossible. Climate is not weather.

          • Randomiser says:

            ‘It was a hot day for April ‘ implies the character thought it was unusually hot. Compared to what he was used to, that is. I was recently on holiday in Italy, from Scotland, wearing light trousers and a short sleeved shirt. A black man passed, on his bike, yet, wearing a heavy shirt, sweater, puffy padded jacket and woolly beanie hat. I reckoned it was a warm day, he obviously didn’t!

        • Johnny says:

          How about, oh, 80 degrees or so? That’s around the record high for Moscow (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Moscow)
          and Nizhny Novgorod (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nizhny_Novgorod#Climate). Even 65 degrees, in a humid climate, feels oppressively hot right after being used to highs of 40 or so.

          Lytt, I live in Wyoming. Our daily lows are lower than about half of European Russia in the winter and fall, and the cities that get inversions are significantly colder than, say, Moscow is.

          We still have occasional hot days in April.

  3. Lyttenburgh says:

    “How about, oh, 80 degrees or so? That’s around the record high for Moscow”

    Yes, obviously! Because, ha-ha, the Little Ice Age was totally not the thing back in the day!

    Oh, wait…

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