Researchers of matrimonial relations, speaking about the ability of a woman in Russia to independently choose a husband, distinguish two historical periods when this problem was looked at differently.
Marriages that took place during the times of polytheism and after the adoption of Christianity differ not only in ceremonial, but also in the boundaries of the freedom of expression of the will of the fair sex.
Abduction of the bride
Among the ancient Slavs, who worshiped pagan gods, there was a rite of abduction, that is, the abduction of the bride. This act in those distant times was considered a fun act, which, according to Rambeau, had a symbolic meaning, since it was performed exclusively by the girl's free will.
This fundamental condition indicates that in pre-Christian Russia, the individual interests and opinions of a woman who was involved in matrimonial affairs were taken into account. The chronicler Nestor in The Tale of Bygone Years, describing the abduction ritual, narrates that it was usually carried out from mid-spring to mid-summer, between two holidays dedicated to the goddess of love Lada and Ivan Kupala.
The girl, who had given her consent to the marriage in advance, allegedly accidentally came to the water, where she was "treacherously" kidnapped by the waiting betrothed. Since everyone around knew about the impending abduction, this action was regarded not as a crime, but as a staging, hence the expression "to play a wedding."
The historian Tsitovich is convinced that there was no obvious violent element in the ceremony of abducting the bride, but the girl's free will to marry is clearly traced: his betrothed."
And Shpilevsky notes that even if the abduction took place without the knowledge of the bride, the woman still had the right to independently choose whether to return to her father's house and subject the kidnapper to trial, or stay with her husband.
In her book "Women of Ancient Rus" Pushkareva notes that the tradition of abduction among the upper classes came to naught with the baptism of Rus in the 10th century, although it existed among the common population until the 15th century. This fact is evidenced by numerous songs, epics, as well as church penances that sought to eradicate this pagan custom.
The tragic fate of the Polotsk princess Rogneda eloquently proves that in pre-Christian Russia the free will of a woman was taken into account by the parents when concluding a marriage. When the still unbaptized prince Vladimir decided to marry her, he sent matchmakers to her father, but Rogvolod, before giving an answer, turned to his daughter, whose opinion was decisive.
Rogneda, being in love with his half-brother Vladimir, refused the prince, and in a very offensive form, saying "I do not want to take off the son of a robicich (the son of a slave)." Although Rogneda's parents did not go against her will, which confirms the woman's right to the personal choice of her husband, she nevertheless became Vladimir's wife.
The crowned marriage
With the adoption of Christianity in Russia, that is, since 988, the clergy began an active struggle against pagan traditions, including the abduction of brides.
The custom of abduction was replaced by a wedding marriage, which had to be formalized with the consent of the parents of the newlyweds exclusively within the walls of the church.
The sacrament of the wedding was preceded by an engagement and a marriage conspiracy, which, as Pushkareva notes, almost equally did not take into account the aspirations of both women and men, since for the most part they were a property transaction.
Parents chose a couple for their children based on their interests, regardless of their feelings and desires, which is why it cannot be argued that in the 10th-15th centuries there was an infringement of the marriage rights of only girls, since young men also did not possess self-will. The bride and groom selected by the relatives could not meet in private, discuss the details of the marriage affair or announce the engagement, the relatives did everything for them.
Although in the 50th chapter of the Kormchey book - a collection of religious and secular canons that guided the government of the church and in the church court, the consent of young people of both sexes to a union was a prerequisite for marriage.
Charter of Yaroslav the Wise
The articles recorded by Yaroslav the Wise in the collection of laws "Russian Truth" tell about the possibility of women to take part in their own destiny.
In the 24th article of his Charter, Yaroslav the Wise decided to punish parents with both a ruble and a church penance if a child who entered into marriage under their compulsion, regardless of gender, "what he will do over himself", for example, tries to commit suicide or commits it.
Article 33 of the same legal act prohibits forcing a girl into an unwanted marriage, and if “the girl marries her, but does not give her father and mother,” to impose monetary penalties on them. But despite the laws, many marriages were still forced by relatives.
Not the first time
Investigating matrimonial relations, Pushkareva found out that women who married not for the first time could independently choose a spouse, without agreeing on his candidacy with relatives.
In general, repeated weddings in Russia were not welcomed, but if a young woman became a widow with young children or could not give birth to a child in a previous marriage, then remarriage was quite possible.
Not wanting to put up with the choice of their parents, some girls ran away from home and entered into an independent marriage with the chosen one of the heart. This method of marriage was called "rolling" and was performed by the church secretly, without observing protocol and unnecessary ceremonies.
Having become legal spouses, the newlyweds went to their father and mother for a blessing, and if the husband's parents quickly put up with the fact of disobedience, then the wife's relatives could never forgive their daughter for this offense.
Along with the traditional marriage, when the wife went to live in her husband's house after the wedding, there has been a union since ancient times when the son-in-law moved to the wife's house.
At the same time, the groom and the bride seemed to change places and responsibilities: the girl herself went to woo the guy who prepared a dowry for herself and collected not a bachelor party, but a bachelorette party on the eve of the wedding. It was believed that this young man, who was popularly called the Primak, "is getting married" and has less rights than his wife.