Women’s Testaments of Cossack Officers’ Families of 17th – 18th Centuries

Keywords: testament, Cossack officers, woman, family, Hetmanate

Abstract

The testaments of the Cossack officers’ (starshyna) female family members in the Hetmanate are studied in the paper. Testamentation was one of the stages of preparation for a ‘good’ death. The Cossack officers, inheriting the traditions of the previous day, tried to follow them, especially in rituals associated with death.

The aim of this study is to analyze all currently known testaments of women from Cossack officers’ families of the 17th – 18th centuries. In the paper, the testaments are a source of information about women’s property rights, their relationships with family/relatives, women’s temperament, their moral virtues, and education or ignorance. The subject of the study is the realities of life of women from Cossack officers’ families through the prism of their testaments. Much attention is paid to the testament as a historical source.

Scientific novelty. For the first time, 62 currently available testaments of female representatives of Cossack officers’ families are systematized and analyzed.

Conclusions. Women’s testaments of the 17th – 18th centuries contained a lot of information about the material culture of that historical period. Predominantly, women’s testaments included lists of clothing, jewelry, and household utensils allocating among the descendants. The testaments comprised many helpful details that allow us to clarify and expand the inventories of the Cossack officers’ families of the Hetmanate. Testaments become especially useful when used in combination with other sources of that historical period. The testaments of that day were characterized by a prudent nature. There was a calm perception of the fact that life was finite. All testaments comprised instructions to provide money or other property for remembrance of the dead in prayer in temples and monasteries. However, only 12 testaments have clear instructions about the place of burial. That was either a church in the place of residence or a large monastery for which benefactions had been made. Most women left that issue to the discretion of their relatives. In the vast majority of cases, testaments were made by widows in advanced years and they disposed of both their own property and the husband’s inheritance. Of the 62 testaments in 10, we find the information of two marriages, in one – of 3. Most women, even from the upper echelons of society, in the 18th century were illiterate. This is evidenced by the analyzed selection of testaments. Of the 51 in 20 documents, there is a clear indication of the illiteracy of the testator. And those were women from the most prominent families of the Hetmanate. The books were not mentioned in any of the women’s testaments. The peculiarity of women’s testaments was in the clear dominance of affections for relatives, despite the proximity of their own death.

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Published
07.07.2022
How to Cite
KryvosheiaI. (2022). Women’s Testaments of Cossack Officers’ Families of 17th – 18th Centuries. Eminak: Scientific Quarterly Journal, (1(37), 7-24. https://doi.org/10.33782/eminak2022.1(37).568
Section
Modern History