Ah, coincidence! First it was the name-days; in my ongoing reading of Eugene Onegin and War and Peace, the other night I hit both the name-day celebration of Tatyana in the first and that of Natasha in the second, with parallel descriptions of long tables, the seating of guests, wines drunk, and lively conversation (though only one leads to a duel). Then it was the bastardy. I had just gotten to the discussion of Pierre’s illegitimacy and how it would affect his inheritance from his father, Count Bezukhov, when I got an e-mail from historian Cherie Woodworth, with whom I’ve been corresponding, mentioning an interesting question she’s been investigating for a paper: why is bastardy a nonexistent concept in pre-Petrine Russia? As she puts it:
…[B]astards do not play the prominent political and social role in medieval and early modern Russia that they do in Europe at the same time. In fact, they seem to play no role at all; they are invisible. They are not mentioned in the chronicles; they are not noted in the genealogies; the nickname or epithet “bastard” (vybliadok) does not appear in any variant among the princes’ names. …[T]hey do appear in the law code, though not until the Sudebnik of 1589, and it referred to the common people, not the princes or boyars.
She says “I am trying to pin down the first use of the word ‘bastard’ in Russia, in the literal meaning of a child (usually male) who has no legal rights as an heir because his parents were not legally married.” Anybody know?