Domostroy or the guidelines of how we should live

2:17 AM / Posted by Linda McGregory /

Domostroy (home building) was a regulation book for behavior of people in everyday life, a monument of the high written language in the 16th century in Russia. Domostroy was written in the first half of Ivan the Terrible’s reign. Its author is a priest, an associate and a tutor of Ivan the Terrible, Silvestre. When writing the list of rules, Silvestre used Russian and western “teaching collections”. Articles XXIX, XXXIV, XXXVI play a very important role, because they are concerned with upbringing the children, including the rules of upbringing children (girls had to be busy with needlework and boys had to do “male” household duties). The mistress was called “The gracious lady of the house”. Domostroy taught women how to please their husbands, to be honest and take care of family and children. Due to Domostroy, women were real autocrats, who controlled all the expenses, cooking, organized duties of the family members and servants (cleaning, water delivery, spinning, tailoring and etc.) All the members, except the head of the family, had to help the mistress, doing everything what she asked about. The head of the family, according to Domostroy, was a “thunderbolt” for the family and punished them very hard including “breaking ribs” of his wife and children. They could be whipped as well. The cruelty of Domostroy doctrines concerning relations with wife and children was quite typical of the morale of the late Middle Ages and didn’t differ much from the west European books of the same type.

Domostroy consisted of three parts: attitude of a Russian man to the church and throne; interfamilial atmosphere; organization and doing household duties.
“Be afraid of your Tsar and serve him devotedly and always pray about him” Domostroy says. “And if you serve devotedly and are afraid of him, you’ll learn at the same time to be devoted to your God…” Thus, service to the Tsar was the same as service to the God. There is a part of Domostroy which tells about the way “the Christians live with their wives and children and other members of the family, the way to punish and teach them, and to save their souls through fear…”

On the whole there is everything in Domostroy. There are some very touching guidelines of how “children should love their parents, be obedient and help them in everything”. It also says that “if God presents you a good wife, then think of her as if she is the most expensive stone in the world. There are practical advices about the way a woman must wear her dress, about gardening, laying the table, but all of them have religious character. The language of the book is very subtle and simple, calm and easy.The abstract from Domostroy:“Every evening a wife and a husband and the members of their family, if they are literate, should pray in the silence and very attentively, standing on knees. Afterwards you should not eat, drink or talk…. At midnight you should get up from your bed and pray as long as you can. Every Christian must pray about his sins, health of the Tsar and Tsarina, their children, brothers, sisters, help against any enemies, release of the prisoners and about the saints…”

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