The Influence of the Christian Church on the Formation of Reproductive Behavior ...

The Influence of the Christian Church on the Formation of Reproductive Behavior in the Old Russian Family

Svetlana V. Omel'yanchuk
Full text:
The article examines the role of the church in the formation of reproductive behavior in the Old Russian family. The historiographical analysis of the problem shows that it has not been
solved in either domestic or foreign literature. Christianity played a significant role in maintaining the importance of childbearing in ancient Russian society, proclaiming the appearance of offspring as the main purpose of marriage. This position of the church was close to the laity, for whom the birth of an heir meant the opportunity to pass down the acquired property, social status and power to children, to ensure prayer for the dead. In medieval society, the responsibility for the absence of children was assigned to a woman. Her childlessness was often followed by taking the monastic veil, sometimes forcibly. Taking the veil by his wife was the only opportunity for a man to terminate a childless marriage and get a chance of hope for fatherhood in a new marriage. Given the importance of procreation, married couples tried to have the long-awaited offspring by any means. To solve the problem of childbearing, they turned for help not only to the Christian church but also to pagan rituals, thus causing discontent of the church, which opposed the manifestations of paganism in matters of conception. From the Christian point of view, the birth of a child is a gift from God, and therefore it can be obtained only with the help of faith and prayer. The priests waged a fierce struggle against any means of preventing pregnancy and its termination. The husbands whose actions threatened to terminate their wives’ pregnancies were severely punished. Even more decisive actions were taken by the church in the fight against the murder of newborns. It constantly tightened the mother’s responsibility for this crime, from strict penance to the death
penalty. The author comes to the conclusion that in ancient Russian society the church assumed the function of forming reproductive behavior. It was reduced, on the one hand, to encouraging large families with many children and combating any actions aimed at preventing pregnancy or getting rid of a child and, on the other hand, to countering any vestiges of paganism, even if they were used to overcome the problem of infertility.
Svetlana V. Omel'yanchuk
Candidate of Historical Sciences, Associate Professor of the Department of History, Philosophy and Literature
Russian Institute of Theatre Arts – GITIS, Moscow, Russia
Ariès, Ph. Rebenok i semeinaya zhizn' pri Starom poryadke [The child and family life in the Ancien Régime]. Translated from French by Ya.Yu. Startsev. Yekaterinburg: Izdatel'stvo
Ural'skogo universiteta, 1999. (In Russian)
Dobryakov, A. Russkaya zhenshchina v do-mongol'skii period [The Russian woman in the pre-Mongol period]. St Petersburg: Tipografiya V. Bezobrazova i kompanii, 1864. (In Russian)
Dolgov, V.V. “Detstvo kak sotsial'nyi fenomen v kontekste drevnerusskoi kul'tury XI–XIII vv. Otnoshenie k rebenku i stadii vzrosleniya” [Childhood as a social phenomenon in the context of Old Russian culture of the 11th – 13th centuries. Attitude to the child and the stage of maturation]. In Sotsial'naya istoriya. Ezhegodnik. 2007 [Social history. Yearbook. 2007], edited by N.L. Pushkareva, 67–85. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2008. (In Russian)
Dolgov, V.V. “Predstavleniya o prichinakh zabolevanii v obshchestvennom soznanii Drevnei Rusi XI–XIV vv.” [Ideas about the causes of diseases in the public consciousness of Ancient Rus in the 11th – 14th centuries]. Vrach-aspirant, vol. 62, no. 1 (2004): 52–58. (In Russian)
Fakhrislamova, R.T. “Fenomen zhenskoi bezdetnosti v Rossii: istoricheskie i sotsial'nye predposylki” [The phenomenon of female childlessness in Russia: Historical and social
background]. Sotsiologicheskii zhurnal, no. 3 (2014): 33–54. (In Russian)
German, F.L. Vrachebnyi byt do-petrovskoi Rusi (materialy dlya istorii meditsiny v Rossii) [Medical life of pre-Petrine Rus (materials for the history of medicine in Russia)]. Iss. 1. Kharkov: Izdanie Adol'fa Darre, 1891. (In Russian)
Levina, E. “Seks i obshchestvo v mire pravoslavnykh slavyan 900–1700” [Sex and society in the world of the Orthodox Slavs 900–1700]. In “A se grekhi  lye, smertnye. . .” Lyu ov', erotika i seksual'naya etika v doindustrial'noi Rossii (X – pervaya polovina XIX v.) [“And these are wicked, mortal sins. . .” Love, erotica and sexual ethics in pre-industrial Russia (10th – first half of the 19th century)], edited by N.L. Pushkareva, 239–491. Moscow: Ladomir, 1999. (In Russian)
Malakhova, A.S. “Chelovek i bolezn' v povsednevnoi zhizni Drevnei Rusi (X – nachalo XVII v.)” [Man and sickness in the everyday life of Ancient Rus (10th – early 17th century)].
PhD thesis. Stavropol State University, 2011. (In Russian)
Malakhova, A.S., and S.N. Malakhov. Fenomen bolezni v soznanii i povsednevnoi zhizni cheloveka v Drevnei Rusi (XI – nachalo XVII veka) [The phenomenon of sickness in the mind and everyday life of a person in Ancient Rus (11th – early 17th century)]. Armavir: Dizain-studiya B, 2014. (In Russian)
Mirskii, M.B., and N.A. Bogoyavlenskii. Meditsina Drevnei Rusi [Medicine of Ancient Rus]. Moscow: Rodina, 2018. (In Russian)
Momotov, V.V. Formirovanie russkogo srednevekovogo prava v IX–XIV vv. [The formation of Russian medieval law in the 9th – 14th centuries]. Moscow: ZERTsALO-M, 2003. (In Russian)
Moroz, E. Veselaya Erata: Seks i lyu ov’ v mire russkogo Srednevekov’ya [Jovial Erato: Sex and love in the world of the Russian Middle Ages]. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2011. (In Russian)
Nevolin, K.A. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii [Complete works], 6 vols. Vol. 3, Istoriya rossiiskikh grazhdanskikh zakonov [History of Russian civil laws], pt. 1, Vvedenie [Introduction], bk. 1, O soyuzakh semeistvennykh [On matrimony]. St Petersburg: Tipografiya Eduarda Pratsa, 1857. (In Russian)
Nizhnik, N.S. Pravovoe regulirovanie semeino-brachnykh otnoshenii v russkoi istorii [Legal regulation of family and marital relations in Russian history]. St Petesrburg: Yuridicheskii tsentr Press, 2006. (In Russian)
Popov, G. Russkaya narodno-bytovaya meditsina. Po materialam etnograficheskogo byuro knyazya V.N. Tenisheva [Russian folk and home medicine. Based on the materials of the
Ethnographic Bureau of Prince V.N. Tenishev]. St Petersburg: Tipografiya A.S. Suvorina, 1903. (In Russian)
Pushkareva, N.L. “Mat' i materinstvo na Rusi (X–XVII vv.)” [Mother and motherhood in Rus (10th – 17th centuries)]. In Chelovek v krugu sem'i. Ocherki po istorii chastnoi zhizni v Evrope do nachala Novogo vremeni [Man in the family circle. Essays on the history of private life in Europe before the beginning of the Modern Era], edited by Yu.L. Bessmertnyi. Moscow: RGGU, 1996. (In Russian)
Pushkareva, N.L. “Reproduktivnoe povedenie drevnerusskikh zhenshchin (X–XV vv.): povedencheskie normy tserkovnykh knig skvoz' prizmu traditsii i emotsii” [Reproductive behavior
of ancient Russian women (10th – 15th centuries): Behavioral norms of church books through the prism of traditions and emotions]. In Materinstvo i ottsovstvo skvoz' prizmu vremeni i kul'tur: materialy Devyatoi mezhdunarodnoi nauchnoi konferentsii RAIZhI i IEA RAN (Smolensk, 13–16 oktyabrya 2016 g.) [Motherhood and fatherhood through the prism of time and cultures: Proceedings of the Ninth international scientific conference of Russian Association for Researchers in Women’s History (RARWH) and Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology Russian Academy of Science (IEA RAS) (Smolensk, October 13–16, 2016)], 2 vols., edited by N.L. Pushkareva, and N.A. Mitsyuk, vol. 1, 196–99. Moscow: IEA RAN; Smolensk: SmolGU, 2016. (In Russian)
Pushkareva, N.L. Zhenshchiny v Drevnei Rusi [Women in Ancient Rus]. Moscow: Mysl', 1989. (In Russian)
Romanov, B.A. Lyudi i nravy drevnei Rusi. Istoriko-bytovye ocherki XI–XIII vv. [People and customs of Ancient Rus. Historical and everyday-life essays of the 11th – 13th centuries]. Moscow; Leningrad: Nauka, 1966. (In Russian)
Shashkov, S.S. Istoriya russkoi zhenshchiny [History of the Russian woman]. St Petersburg: Tipografiya A.S. Suvorina, 1879. (In Russian)
Simonyan, R.Z. Istoriya meditsiny: s drevneishikh vremen do sovremennosti [History of medicine: From ancient times to the present]. Cheboksary: Sreda, 2020. (In Russian)
Smirnov, S.I. “‘Baby bogomerzkie’” [Impious women]. In “A se grekhi zlye, smertnye. . .” Russkaya semeinaya i seksual'naya kul'tura glazami istorikov, etnografov, literatorov, fol'kloristov, pravovedov i bogoslovov XIX – nachala XX veka [“And these are wicked, mortal sins. . .” Russian family and sexual culture through the eyes of historians, ethnographers, writers, folklorists, jurists, and theologians of the 19th – early 20th centuries], 3 vols., compiled by N.L. Pushkareva, and L.V. Bessmertnykh, vol. 2, 265–96. Moscow: Ladomir, 2004. (In Russian)
Vishnevskii, A.G. “Evolyutsiya rossiiskoi sem'i” [Evolution of the Russian family]. Ekologiya i zhizn', no. 7 (2008). Accessed May 5, 2021. (In Russian)
Vladimirskii-Budanov, M.F. Obzor istorii russkogo prava [Review of the history of Russian law]. Kiev: Izdanie knizhnogo magazina N.Ya. Ogloblina, 1915. (In Russian)
Yushkov, S.V. Obshchestvenno politicheskii stroi i pravo Kievskogo gosudarstva [Socio-political system and law of the Kievan state]. Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatel'stvo
yuridicheskoi literatury, 1949. (In Russian)
Zagoskin, N.P. Vrachi i vrachebnoe delo v starinnoi Rossii [Doctors and medical practice in ancient Russia]. Kazan: Tipografiya Imperatorskogo Universiteta, 1891. (In Russian)
Christianity, paganism, family, children, infertility, pregnancy, contraception, abortion
For citation:
Omel'yanchuk, S.V. “The Influence of the Christian Church on the Formation of Reproductive Behavior in the Old Russian Family.” Historia Provinciae – the Journal of Regional History, vol. 7, no. 1 (2023): 72–107.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

ISSN 2587-8344 (Online)