Burning Pedigree Books in 1682

In Russian history, Mestnichesvo (Russian: Местничество - Mestnichestvo) was a feudal hierarchical system in Russia from 15th till the 17th century. The name comes from "Место" (Mesto - place) in Russian. Mestnichestvo was revolving around a simple principle: the boyar who estimated that his origins were more ancient and his personal services to the tsar more valuable could claim a higher state post. This often led to disputes among nobles about their ancestry and their services to the monarch.

Because of the mestnichestvo, otherwise qualified people who could not boast a sufficiently extended ancestry had no hope of getting an important state post. On the other hand, a boyar from an old and respected families could get an important promotion even if his personal qualities were not up to it.

With the developing Russian absolutism, which central principle was the creation of the central bureaucracy reporting directly to the czar and not spending time fighting each other, the role of the mestnichestvo was progressively reduced. Moreover, increasing defense interests needed the top military posts being occupied by bright officers, not "ancestry-proud" but inept boyars. Consequently, the mestnichestvo was abolished in 1682.


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