This essay concerns a common rite of conviviality among the seventeenth-century Muscovite elite — the presentation of dependent female family members (wives, married daughters, servants) to guests during banquets.1 This ritual stands at the nexus of private and public life in Muscovy, for while it occurred within the confines of the home it was designed to offer strangers an idealized representation of domestic relations. The first section below points out that indigenous Muscovite sources for private life, banquets, and the family-presentation ritual are problematic, and then goes on to argue that foreign accounts provide good (though neglected) information on these topics. The second section continues this line of argument by substantiating the credibility of the foreign descriptions of the family-presentation ritual. The third section surveys the descriptions themselves and variations among them. The final section offers an interpretation of the symbolism of the family-presentation ritual and its meaning for the Muscovite elite.
Kaiser, Daniel H, Gary Marker, Marshall Poe, and Susan Rupp. Everyday Life in Russian History: Quotidian Studies in Honor of Daniel Kaiser. Bloomington, Ind: Slavica, 2010.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/marshall_poe/40/