Author Topic: How were serfs/servants referred to by social superiors?  (Read 4121 times)

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Offline Rachael89

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How were serfs/servants referred to by social superiors?
« on: July 28, 2014, 12:16:28 PM »
While it's easy to find out the formal modes of address for royalty and nobles, it's quite difficult to find out how serfs/servants were addressed by people higher up the social ladder. Would they have been referred to by their name and patronymic, or by their first name only?

I'm asking because I'm writing a story set in mid-18th century Russia, and it features house serfs/servants quite prominently. I'd like to depict the power relations between them and their masters as faithfully as possible, so if anyone could advise on this topic I'd appreciate it.
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Re: How were serfs/servants referred to by social superiors?
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2014, 12:33:08 PM »
Servants were usually by their last name only. "Demidova, fetch my slippers".  .  A very long time family servant after many many years might be referred to by first name and patrynomic, "Alexei Sergeievich"...

Offline Mike

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Re: How were serfs/servants referred to by social superiors?
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2014, 02:15:12 PM »
In mid-18th century Russia a house serf was usually addressed by a diminutive-derogatory form of his/her first name, eg: Van'ka instead of Ivan, Mashka instead of Maria, etc. When a master wished to show special respect to distinguished or talented servants, he might address them by their full first names: Ivan, Maria, etc. Another form of respectful address of elderly and distinguished servants was by their patronymics, eg Petrovich, Egorovna etc. Addressing servants by family names was very unusual at that time.

Offline Превед

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Re: How were serfs/servants referred to by social superiors?
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2014, 02:24:58 PM »
 Was it usual also in Russia to adress serfs and / or servants in the third person, i.e. он / она instead of ты, like in Germany and Scandinavia?
Берёзы севера мне милы,
Их грустный, опущённый вид,
Как речь безмолвная могилы,
Горячку сердца холодит.

(Афанасий Фет: Ивы и берёзы, 1843 / 1856)

Offline Mike

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Re: How were serfs/servants referred to by social superiors?
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2014, 03:34:10 PM »
Was it usual also in Russia to adress serfs and / or servants in the third person, i.e. он / она instead of ты, like in Germany and Scandinavia?
No. Probably some ethnic German nobles, which were many, did so, but definitely not ethnic Russians.

Offline Rachael89

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Re: How were serfs/servants referred to by social superiors?
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2014, 04:12:40 PM »
In mid-18th century Russia a house serf was usually addressed by a diminutive-derogatory form of his/her first name, eg: Van'ka instead of Ivan, Mashka instead of Maria, etc. When a master wished to show special respect to distinguished or talented servants, he might address them by their full first names: Ivan, Maria, etc. Another form of respectful address of elderly and distinguished servants was by their patronymics, eg Petrovich, Egorovna etc. Addressing servants by family names was very unusual at that time.

Thank you! That's a great answer and very helpful.

Thanks to you all for your responses  - I haven't been on this forum for a few years but it's great to come back and be met with such helpful replies!
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