The integration of regional elites into a single political body was one of the key challenges for the Early Modern rulers. Just like the contemporary states, Muscovy was created by the gradual acquisition of the surrounding independent duchies. Historians have long attributed the stability of that new political association to the “despotic nature“ of the Russian autocracy and focused on the forced resettlements as the only method of dealing with local communities. In the paper, I critically examine the existing theories of integration in Muscovy and concentrate on the alternative ways of treating local elites.
My paper provides the results of the first comprehensive prosopographical study of the social elite of the Ryazan Duchy. This border territory was annexed (in 1521) using a ‘soft’ integration strategy without forced resettlements. The specifically organized system of the state service played a vital role in the successful integration of the Ryazan elite into a new political community. The Ryazan boyars did not receive privileges as the ruling elite of their native territory, but were turned into yet another group of the general state service class. The transformation observed in the early 17th century showed that it was not native region but rather the Muscovite royal court that became the main point of attraction for high-rank Ryazan clans.