On the translation of Поместье


Родовое поместье was translated as “Family Homestead” by Marian Schwartz and Susan Downing, the translators hired by Polina Megre to enable the publication of Звенящие Кеды России books in the United States and other English speaking countries. Поместье has h​​ad a meaning in Russian for a long time, different to the compound phrase Родовое Поместье.

According to ЭСБЕ, a un​​iversal encyclopaedic diction​​ary, Поместье dates back to the Kiev period (9th – 13th century) and refers to land allocated by a sovereign, sometimes in mass allotments, for the use of free servants in return for past and future service. “Distribution of Поместье is mainly in the nature of a salary for service to the state”, “The amount of the salary depended on the available land: homestead, pasture, meadows and forest were allocated in appropriate sizes”. The поместье could be taken away if it were abandoned, and a 1685 Act forbade its sale.

According to Ключевски, a leading Russian historian of the late imperial period, usage of the word поместье arose in the 15th century, but had its roots in the earlier Kiev and Mongol period. Поместье was a type of land ownership derived from the Greek and Byzantine society, where a land owner’s rights were subordinate to a universal territorial sovereign. Klyuchevsky notes that this was a concept foreign to the Rus, who considered their land to be their own. Nonetheless, land was allocated as поместье, and the system enforced, after the Mongol invasion, on the basis of the Khan’s authority.

Owners of поместье – помещики – were responsible for indentured servants, or peasants, who were not allowed to own land under the state system, but in practice may have enjoyed long stewardship of a particular plot though not legally guaranteed. According to ЭСБЕ, they were meant to be treated fairly. Collectively, the помещик and their peasants were expected to contribute money, labour and produce to the local authorities when required. The помещики, but not the peasants, were also required to perform military service.

At first, unlike a fiefdom which was a separate category of land ownership, a поместье was for lifetime use by the person designated by the sovereign. It could not be passed on to an heir. However, the custom of designating an heir to inherit a поместье was gradually developed and had become ordinary by the 17th century, thus converting the large amount of поместье land into effectively private property. Thus, the помещик was comparable to a British baron, and the поместье to a manor or estate. To summarise, the concept of поместье is a historical form of land ownership which existed throughout feudal Russia.

Reading between the lines, we can imagine that the feudal application of поместье was essentially a system of dispossessing land from the native people, and reallocating it to selected “bosses” who were trusted by the prince to keep the others in line.

Given what we know about Russian history from Anastasia, it is also possible that there is an earlier history of the term that has been erased. Whether or not Vedrus referred to their land as поместье I do not know.

In the modern era поместье appears to represent a well-endowed country estate.

Oxford dictionary translates поместье as “estate”, which brings up similar imagery to поместье and is almost an exact analogue with the term’s British history.

In the context of the United States, “homestead” is the closest historical match to поместье, having been a legal measure to allocate land to a manager-owner who took responsibility for employees in order to make the land productive and pay tax. “Homestead” also has a significant overlap with the imagery of поместье.

​The word “homestead” has also been used in Australia to refer to the farmhouse on a rural property, many of which were allotted by the state in return for service. Thus, “homestead” is also appropriate in the Australian context.​

In the case of ​both ​Russian поместья, American​ and Australian​ “homesteads”​, as well as ​British “manors” or “estates”, the previous pagan owners were forced to comply with the new order and submit to the hierarchy of ownership as decided by the sovereign power.

Accepting that a perfectly exact translation is impossible, the word “homestead” appears, at least after this research, to be the most precise equivalent to ​​поместье in American English.​

The compound phrase Родовое Поместье refers to the one hectare territory of an extended family line (one’s clan or kin) and the accompanying dimension of love consisting of features described by Anastasia in the book “Co-creation”, by Vladimir Megre (1999). This plot of land should not be bought or sold, should be able to be passed on by inheritance, and should be allocated for free. Anastasia’s confident assertion is that people will act to create Родовое Поместье, and that such action will collectively transform the Earth into a blossoming garden.

It is important to note that Родовое поместье is an original, perhaps novel type of поместье, different to the feudal one, due to the addition of the concept род, which Oxford translates as “family, kin, clan”. This word will have to be the subject of a subsequent report.


One thought on “On the translation of Поместье

  1. why the amount of the salary depended on the available land: homestead, pasture, meadows and forest were allocated in appropriate sizes”. The поместье could be taken away if it were abandoned, and a 1685 Act forbade its sale?

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