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Article

The Tomilovs, Siberian Petty Noblemen: Career, Social Connections and Lifestyle at the Age of Transition from Tsardom to Empire

Cahiers du Monde Russe. 2016. Vol. 57. No. 2-3. P. 423-456.

The article reconstructs the lives of Siberian deti boiarskie Ivan and Fëdor Tomilov and their immediate descendants within the framework of the current historiographical debate on the descriptive principles of Russian society in the early modern era. From the mid seventeenth century to the early 1720s, the Tomilov brothers specialized in running peasant settlements (slobody). They very often got appointed in settlements where they had vested economic interests. Their careers are characteristic of only part of Siberian deti boiarskie: this points to the existence of variations in the types of service and in lifestyles within this social category. It comes out from the various descriptions of conflicts recorded in the Verkhotur´e governor’s office and Siberian Chancellery archives that the Tomilovs enjoyed support from members of various social groups who, for some of them, were relatives. At the same time, opponents from lower rungs (belomestnye cossacks, peasants) did not forget their lower social status. The Tomilovs, thanks to their connections with members of other social groups, successfully adapted to the state’s social legislation, which sometimes proved disadvantageous. However, after Peter’s reforms, Ivan’s descendants, who served in the newly formed Tobol´sk Dragoon Regiment, had less difficulty keeping their privileged status than Fëdor’s, who held on to their traditional way of life as deti boiarskie running settlements. Thus, biographical and microhistorical approaches permit both to problematize and corroborate the “grand narratives” of social history based on traditional terminology and focusing on state policy.