Forensic Fashion
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>Costume Studies
>>1552 Muscovite pomeschik
Subjectpomeschik noble cavalryman
Culture: Muscovite Russian
Setting: Muscovite empire, Russia mid-late 16thc
Evolution1242 Rus' druzhnik > ... > 1552 Muscovite pomeschik 

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Gorelik 1995 p42
"...[T]he 16th century ... saw the formation of the Russian kingdom and the beginning of Russia's conquest of the Volga region, the Urals and Siberia and subsequent transformation into empire.  During this period, the form army [sic], a predominantly cavalry force, of the united state took shape.  Tens of thousands of noblemen and their armed bondmen, the Muscovites and those originating from the former independent duchies, the christened Tatars and subjects of Rzechpospolita, the Lithuanians, Poles, Russians, Cossacks and even burghers received estates in exchange for their military service as cavalrymen, cavalry being the dominant force on the battlefields of Eastern Europe.
​    "Such a system allowed the Muscovite state to have enormous contingents of heavy and medium cavalry since every landowner was duty bound to go to war fully armed, accompanied by several fully armed bondmen.  All the horsemen were on the rolls according to their grades and had to have weapons appropriate to the grade.  They received fixed salaries proportionate to the standard of weaponry and the number of fighting men supplied."

* Fredholm von Essen 2018 p17-18
"Within the Grand Prince's own domain, the Muscovite population traditionally fell into two categories: those who performed military service (sluzhilyye lyudi) and those who paid taxes (tyaglyye lyudi).  The latter included the Church, except in the frequent cases when Church representatives made themselves exempt from taxes for spiritual reasons.  Among those who performed military service, the upper-level members, the boyars (boyarin, pl. boyare) or nobility, were, above all, a warrior elite akin to the princely retinues of the Middle Ages.  They early on were granted temporary rights to collect their own 'feedings' (kormleniye, pl. kormleniya), in lieu of salaries, from the taxpayers they governed on behalf of their sovereign.  But not all servicemen belonged to this category.  Those who performed military service were subdivided into a socially inferior group of men who had been recruited into service or had contracted to serve in exchange for payment ('contract servicemen', sluzhilyye lyudi po priboru) and the more prestigious 'hereditary servicemen' (sluzhilyye lyudi po otechestvu) who themselves were divided into provincial or middle service rank and the Moscow-ranked or upper service rank.  All hereditary servicemen served on the basis of land ownership, either an inherited patrimonial freehold (votchina, pl. votchiny; 'in the family') or a service land grant (pomest'ye, pl. pomest'ya) which was conditional on lifelong and unlimited military service.  Service landholders of the later [sic] category were known as pomeshchiki.  The land grant privilege, too, was heritable; however, although a son was entitled to a land grant, it would not necessarily be the same land that his father had held.  The service landholding system, which came into general use in the 1500s, was the result of the persistent problem of how the Muscovite government could mobilise and use resources that were both limited and scattered over a vast territory, without at the same time allowing centrifugal forces to break up the recently unified Muscovite state.  The land grant system, like the previous 'feeding' rights, may have been adopted from the similar system employed within the Horde.  There was a common understanding that in times of war, 'should anyone show himself to be courageous in battle and stain his hands with the blood of the enemy, he would be honoured with gifts, both movable and immovable.'  The immovable gift would be a land grant."

* Fredholm von Essen 2018 p25
"On the battlefield, the Muscovite army had embraced Mongol tactics.  Highly mobile horse archers were used for harassing slow-moving enemy forces.  When confronted with enemy cavalry, the Muscovite cavalry aimed first to engage with archery, then withdraw in feigned flight until the pursuing enemy could be attacked in the flank by other Muscovite cavalry or rashly followed all the way into the range of fire of the Muscovite artillery or arquebusiers, or into an ambush by the infantry.  Raiding and looting were frequently used as a weapon of terror, to reduce the enemy population's will to fight.  Many of the enemies of Muscovy concluded, wrongly, that the raiding served no other purpose than destruction.  This was not quite true, although it has to be admitted that a number of campaigns consisted of little but the raiding, looting, and burning of border villages."

* Vuksic/Grbasic 1993 p116  
"From the second half of the fifteenth century, a growing role in the Russian army was assigned to the nobility (boyars), who were bound to service by possessions of fiefs.  This system in the armed forces became particularly strong during the rule of Ivan IV ('the Terrible', 1530-84).  Reforms carried out in the mid-sixteenth century tied the small nobility to the emperor (tzar) by the granting of fiefs.  These men were the foundation for increasing absolutism.  As early as 1550, a special caste of nobles under military obligation from other parts of the country, who were the majority, held subordinate positions and were called 'city obligators'."

* Tallett/Trim eds. 2010 p12 (Frank Tallett & DJB Trim, "An overview of change and continuity," p1-26)
"In what became the Russian Empire, the boyars (roughly the equivalent of the western nobility, though in reality the descendants of independent princes who had been gobbled up by Muscovy) proved disloyal, unreliable, and a political threat in the sixteenth century; the boyars refused to acknowledge the son of Ivan IV (1530-84) as his heir when Ivan thought he was dying.  He therefore attempted to sideline them; pomestie land was granted to retainers of the Tsar in return for military service.  Ivan IV in particular made use of pomeschiki (holders of pomestie land), both in his military campaigns and as administrators.  Ivan also took more direct measures against the boyars, expelling some from their land and killing others.  However, although pomestie land, like the medieval fief, was not meant to become hereditary, in practice this was what happened; and pomeschiki owed their status to military service."

* Fredholm von Essen 2018 p14-17
"Giles Fletcher (1546-1611), an English diplomat in Muscovy, described the Muscovite mounted archer: 'The common horseman hath nothing else but his bow in his case under his right arm and his quiver and sword hanging on the left side, except some few that bear a case of dags or a javelin or short staff along their horse side.' But the nobles presented a different and considerably more splendid view. Fletcher continued:
The under captains will have commonly some piece of armour besides, as a shirt of mail or such like. The general with the other chief captains and men of nobility will have their horse very richly furnished, their saddles of cloth of gold, their bridles fair bossed and tasseled with gold and silk fringe, bestudded with pearl and precious stones, themselves in very fair armour, which they call bulatnyy [of Damascus steel], made of fair shining steel, yet covered commonly with cloth of gold and edged round with ermine fur, his steel helmet on his head of a very great price, his sword, bow, and arrows at this side, his spear in his hand, with another fair helmet and his shestopyor or horseman's scepter [six-flanged mace] carried before him.
​   "Fletcher noted that both weapons and tactics were of eastern origin: 'Their swords, bows, and arrows are of the Turkish fashion.  They practice like the Tatar to shoot forwards and backwards as they fly and retire.'  In other words, the Muscovite, an excellent mounted archer, commonly employed the Parthian shot as a tactical device."


* Czars 2002 p69
"From the 15th to the 17th century the term saadak referred to the complete set of armaments, including a bow in its case, or naluch, and the arrow in its case, or kolchen.  In the 16th century, this was the main weapon of feudal horsemen."

* Fredholm von Essen 2018 p13-14
"The Muscovites' chief weapon was the Inner Asian composite bow, which like the accompanying bowcase and quiver was of Mongol type.  In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Muscovy, a complete set of cavalryman's armament, including a bow in a bowcase and a quiver full of arrows, was known as saadak."

* Fredholm von Essen 2018 p17
"The contemporary English merchant George Turberville (1540?-1610) noted the same.  In a letter in verse, written in 1568 or 1569, he described the Muscovite bow further:
Their bows are very short, like Turkish bows outright,
Of sines made with birchen bark in cunning manner dight.
Small arrows, cruel heads, that fell and forked be,
Which being shot from out those bows, a cruel way will flee."


* Czars 2002 p91
"Mail shirts, formed with interlocking wire rings, first appeared in Russia in the 13th century and gradually replaced the heavier chainmail, so that by the 16th or 17th centuries they had become the most widely used armor in the Russian cavalry.  The flexibility of the shirt meant that it could be used with other protective covering.  A thick quilted garment was normally worn beneath it.  The breast and back were protected by additional lames, or plates; the upper arm was protected by an armored plate called a rerebrace, and the lower arm by a vambrace."

* Shpakovsky/Nicolle/McBride 2006 p11
"The main strength of the Russian army during this period remained the cavalry drawn from the noble landowning class.  Their incomes differed with their holdings, so each rider dressed has he could afford, though the government demanded uniformity in their armament: every cavalryman should have a sabre, a helmet and mail armour.  In addition to a conventional mail shirt the cavalryman might wear a tyagilyay, a thickly quilted kaftan lined with mail and metal scales or lamellae.  Those who could afford it were also armed with an arquebus or carbine with a smooth or rifled barrel.  Poorer riders had a pair of pistols, though the government urged men to acquire carbine for longer range shooting.  As such weapons took a long time to load and often misfired, cavalrymen generally had a bow and arrows in addition.  The main close combat weapon was an ordinary lance or a sovnya, which was a polearm with a curved knife-like blade."

* Gorelik 1995 p42
"[I]n the 16th century the appearance of the Muscovite cavalry became orientalised.  All the foreign observers who had had the opportunity to see the Muscovite army noticed this phenomenon. ... Defensive armour included helmets of the Turko-Persian type, often with a finial gonfanon, the so-called misyurkas (Egyptian helmets from the Arabian Misr - 'Egypt') consisting of mail tippet and a convex iron disc on the top.  These were often worn beneath a helmet or a cap.  Ring mail was widely used.  Splint-mail armours (bakhtoretsyushmans) were especially valued as well as kuiaks, that is armours whose soft base was reinforced wiwth steel plates from both sides.  Mail was usually worn beneath splint-ring armour as well.  The 16th century became the century of quilt both in civilian and military life.  There were several types of quilted armour worn either on their own or with mail-coats and cuirasses.  the quilted armour designated by the Mongolian word tegiliai could be used as a modest protection by a poor warrior, but quite often it was covered with velvet, brocade and silk, and became a rich and smart armour.  It provided excellent protection since, between the layers of cloth and leather, metal strips were often sewn in."

* Dmytryshyn ed. 2000 p292 (Richard Chancellor, describing Moscow and the court of Ivan the Terrible 1553)
"The horsemen are all archers, with such bows as the Turks have, and they ride short as do the Turks.  Their armor is a coat of plate, with a skull on their heads.  Some of their coats are covered with velvet or cloth of gold; their desire is to be sumptuous in the field, and especially the nobles and gentlemen, as I have heard their trimming is very costly, and partly I have seen it, or else I would scarcely have believed it."

* Fredholm von Essen 2018 p14
"Those who could afford it wore mail or scale armour of traditional Turco-Mongol type, with metal plates, joined by straps, to protect the chest, back, arms, and legs, such a suit of armour being known as zertsalo ('mirror'). If this was beyond their means, Muscovite cavalry instead often wore a short-sleeved, high-collared, densely padded hemp coat (tegilyay, from the corresponding Mongol term), a type of armour which indeed grew more common in this period until metal armour fell out of use among all except the highest and most wealthy nobility.  Sometimes the tegilyay included iron bands or even armour plate fastened inside.  A related type of armour was the brigandine (kuyak, again from the corresponding Mongol term), a garment of cloth or leather reinforced with metal plates from both sides, of the type commonly used by Mongols.  Like Tatars and Mongols, those Muscovites who could afford it wore silk garments under their armour.  The conic, spiked iron helmet, too, was of Mongol, or to be more specific, Turco-Persian type.  It was known as misyurka (from Misr, Arabic for 'Egypt').  originally quite tall, helmets over time gradually grew more flattened.  Some who could not afford an iron helmet instead wore a padded cloth or brigandine (kuyak) helmet with a metal nasal sewn on."

* Vuksic/Grbasic 1993 p116
"Noblemen made up the cavalry, which numbered about 25,000 towards the end of the sixteenth century; in times of war, this could increase to 40-50,000.  In appearance, Russian cavalry followed the eastern pattern.  Mail or plate armour was worn, with eastern-type helmets and forearm vambraces; retainers did not have this protective equipment, but wore padded clothes which could stop an arrow.  Fur and silk and jewels were worn, while the armour was richly ornamented with inlays; sometimes, the mail was made of silver.  Weapons included lances, javelins, scimitars, maces, and, in the late sixteenth century, pistols.  The principal weapon was, however, the composite bow."


​* Fredholm von Essen 2018 p24
"[E]ven the clothes worn by Muscovites at the time were of Inner Asian design, ranging from the caftan, a long narrow gown, to the high, soft boots associated with equestrian nomads."

* Dmytryshyn ed. 2000 p322 (Giles Fletcher, writing in 1588)
"They apparel themselves after the Greek manner.  The nobleman's attire is on this fashion.  First, a tafta, or little night cap, on his head, that covers little more than his crown, commonly very rich wrought of silk and gold thread, and set with pearl and precious stone.  His head he keeps shaven close to the very skin, except he be in some displeasure with the emperor.  Then he suffers his hair to grow and hang down upon his shoulders, covering his face as ugly and deformedly as he can.  Over the tafta he wears a wide cap of black fox (which they account for the best fur) with a tiara or long bonnet pur within it, standing up like a Persian or Babylonian hat.  About his neck (which is seen all bare) is a collar set with pearl and precious stone, about three or four fingers broad.  Next over his shirt (which is curiously wrought, because he strips himself into it in the summer time while he is within the house) is a zhupan, or light garment of silk, made down to the knees, buttoned before, and then a caftan, or a close coat buttoned and girt to him with a Persian girdle, whereat he hangs his knives and spoon.  This commonly is of cloth of gold, and hangs down as low as his ankles.  Over that he wears a loose garment of some rich silk, furred and faced about with some gold lace, called a ferris.  Another over that of chamlet or like stuffed called an alkaben, sleeved and hanging low, and the cape commonly brooched and set all with pearl.  When he goes abroad he casts over all these (which are but slight, though they seem to be many) another garment, called an honoratka, like to the alkaben, save that it is made without a collar for the neck.  And this is commonly of fine cloth or camel's hair.  His buskins (which he wears instead of hose, with linen folds under them instead of boot hose) are made of a Persian leather called saphian, embroidered with pearl.  His upper stocks commonly are of cloth of gold.  When he goes abroad he mounts on horseback, though it be but to the next door, which is the manner also of the boyars or gentlemen."The boyar's or gentleman's attire is of the same fashion, but differs in stuff; and yet he will have his caftan or undercoat sometimes of cloth of gold, the rest of cloth of silk."

* Rosenthal/Jones 2008 p408 (Cesare Vecellio, writing in 1590)
"The clothing of the highest noblemen (as seen in our time in Venice, worn by an ambassador coming to visit Pope Gregory XIII ...) is of silk, satin, damask, velvet, and other types of fabric.  Their hats are of sable and so are their overgarments, and they are lined with other kinds of fur, from martens and other animals.  Their sleeves are long and they like to use them to cover their hands.  Under this they wear a garment in the style of a Greek casacca, belted and somewhat shorter than their overgown.  The colors they wear are black, pavonazzo and rovano.  Some men, however, wear a different kind of hat, pointed and tipped with gold, in the shape of a loaf of sugar."


* Czars 2002 p90
"The mace is one of the oldest weapons known to man, but in the early 16th century, use of the mace as a weapon diminished, and it became more a symbol of power and might."

* Государева Оружейная палата 2002 p190, 192


* Shpakovsky/Nicolle/McBride 2006 p11 
"[M]ost riders carried sabres of Turkish or Polish-Hungarian style copied by Russian swordsmiths; Oriental sabres with strongly curving blades of damascene steel had broad back edges."  


* Shpakovsky/Nicolle/McBride 2006 p11
"The straight-bladed palash was ... popular, and in richly decorated form was associated with the noblest warriors; its blade resembled that of a European broadsword but was narrower that the swords of medieval times.  Another form was the suleba, which had a broad but only slightly curved blade."


* Государева Оружейная палата 2002 p181
"[The name of the] Russian battle knife of the early 16th century ..., saadaq, most likely reflects the way in which it was carried, suspended on the belt under the quiver or saadaq cover fastened to the horseman's belt."


* Fredholm von Essen 2018 p17
"Muscovite cavalrymen rode horses in the Mongol style, with short stirrups that allowed them to stand clear of the saddle.  They used Mongol saddles and stirrups, and relied on a Mongol-style short whip instead of spurs.  Horses were unshod.  Many rode midsize Noghai horses acquired from the Tatars of this name who controlled vast territories north of the Caucasus.  This was indeed the most common horse breed in Muscovy.  The Noghai was a small but sturdy steppe breed, of up to 141/2 hands (145cm).  It was not suitable for heavy shock cavalry but could endure extended journeys, foraging on the way.  Turberville reckoned that they easily rode 80 km per day, which corresponds with known travel times.  In fact, the Noghai influenced Muscovite horsemanship to the extent that even the whip became known as a nagayka, from the Russian pronunciation of Noghai."