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Ascensions, déclassements et stabilités

The Tomilovs, Siberian Petty Noblemen

Career, social connections and lifestyle at the age of transition from tsardom to empire1
Les Tomilov, cadets de province de Sibérie  : carrière, liens sociaux et mode de vie au moment de la transition à l’empire
Viktor E. Borisov
p. 423-456


The article reconstructs the lives of Siberian deti boiarskie Ivan and FëdorTomilov 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.


Anmerkungen der Redaktion

Translated from Russian by Deniza Mansurova

Anmerkungen des Autors

1The study was implemented in the framework of the Basic Research Program at the National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) in 2015.

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The Tomilovs in Verkhotur´e
Conflict with Governor Ivan Eliseevich Tsykler
Service in Tobol´sk
Entrepreneurial activity


Although such approaches as microhistory, Alltagsgeschichte or community studies have already been implemented in a significant number of papers in Russian social history, researchers have apparently not lost hope of reaching new conclusions by using these methods.

In this respect, the discussion on the “soslovie (estate) paradigm” recently revived by Michael Confino is remarkable. It was launched with a rather radical thesis: “[…] soslovie as a tool of social analysis is inadequate and insufficient for imperial Russian society at any time.” However, most commentators (Elise Wirtschafter, David Ransel, Alexander Kamenskii) have left aside the question of the heuristic significance of the estate paradigm, preferring instead to emphasize the uncertainties connected with the use of this, and other terms (klass or chin), to describe Russian society. Nearly all their suggestions for a “better solution” are illustrated with more or less detailed case studies. Elise Wirtschafter draws upon...




Viktor E. Borisov, « The Tomilovs, Siberian Petty Noblemen », Cahiers du monde russe [Online], 57/2-3 | 2016, Online erschienen am: 01 April 2019, Besucht am 18 Januar 2018. URL :



Viktor E. Borisov

National Research University ‑ Higher School of Economics,



© École des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris.