In the 16th and 17th centuries, Russians from all ranks of society were bound together by a culture of honour. In this voluem, the author explores the intricate and highly stylized codes that made up this culture. Nancy Shields Kollmann describes how these codes were manipulated to construct identity and enforce social norms - and also to defend against insults, to pursue vendettas and to unsettle communities. She offers evidence for a new view of the relationship of state and society in the Russian empire and her approach is intended to enhance knoledge of statebuilding in pre-modern Europe. By presenting Muscovite state and society in the context of medieval and early modern Europe, she exposes similarities that blur long-standing distinctions between Russian and European history. Through the prism of honour, Kollmann examines the interaction of the Russian state and its people in regulating social relations and defining an individual's rank. She finds vital information in a collection of transcripts of legal suits brought by elites and peasants alike to avenge insult to honour.
The cases reveal the conservative role honour played in society as well as the ability of men and women to employ this body of ideas to address their relations with the tsars - tolerated a surprising degree of local autonomy throughout their rapidly expanding realm.