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One of the most important thing you should have known, if you had wished to live in the Russia Empire, was the system of estates (social classes) - to which estate you and everybody around you belonged and how you should behave towards them. No doubt, the most important characteristic of an individual in the Russia Empire was his hereditary or nonhereditary estate. I wrote "his estate " instead of "his/her estate " not because of being sexist. Women in the Russia Empire were referred to as a "daughter of... " or the "wife of... " or the "widow of... " and then the estate and the name of the appropriate man followed.

In practice no official document contained only the name of a person without mentioning an estate. The system of estates changed all the time, and it was finally abandoned only in the first months of independent Latvia by the relevant Acts of the government, however it took pretty good time till the legislation that was borrowed from the Russia Empire was cleared of the remains of the estate system..

The system of estates was quite complicated. Each estate had various subestates, in some cases a person could choose one of several estates, various laws existed to regulate the moving either upside or downside or aside on the social ladder of estates and so on.

The estates are important to a family history researcher first of all because one of the main information sources - the revision lists were organized by estate, but as in general the life of an individual in the Empire depended seriously on his estate, one should know the estates of the ancestors in order to try to imagine their social milieu.



Estates The system of estates in the Russia Empire for beginners.
Urban residents The information about the estates of Urban residents (e.g. merchants, honorary citizens etc.) was singled out of the general overview just for making the latter shorter.
Free Latvians A short review of the ways how Latvians could become free at the beginning of 1800s, when the vast majority of them were serfs.
Baltische Adel

Baltische Adelsgeschlechter Familien. The names of the Baltic nobility from the list of the German center of genealogical investigations in Leipzig. 268 Names

Statistics Statistics of estates in Riga and Latvia. Some information for the first half of the 19th century and the estates by ethnicity in 1897.
Rank Table The Rank Table of the Empire and the rules related to it are explained here.


Particular documents of importance for understanding of estate system:

Fugitive family A leaflet with information about a wanted fugitive (1800). 7 Names: Ekarts (Eckardt), Krikmeijers (Krickmeyer), Karomalins, Miklašovskis, Omancovs, Richters, Švarcs (Schwartz)
Fugitive group The publication about a group of fugitives from the Pastor's manor in Suntaži [Sunzeln] (1802). 6 Names: Ekarts (Eckardt), Karomalins (Karomalyn), Lāze (Lāže?), Mažāns, Richters (Richter), Švarcs (Schwartz)
Capitals The capitals of guild merchants that they had to have if registered in one of three guilds (1807).


© Bruno Martuzāns. 1995-2002