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Words new to me: мыза

April 29, 2016
The main building of the Мыза Вазалемма (or Vasalemma mõis) in Estonia. Picture by Iifar.

The main building of the Мыза Вазалемма (or Vasalemma mõis) in Estonia. Picture by Iifar.

A мыза (mýza) is “a country house or dacha that produces its own food (in areas adjacent to Finland).” It’s a borrowing from Estonian or Finnish or another Finno-Ugric language (“Из эст. mõiz, род. п. mõizа ‘двор, имение’, водск. mõiza, лив. moiz, фин. moisio” — “водск.” evidently stands for the Votic or Votian language, “лив.” for Livonian).

In A Thousand Souls (Тысяча душ, 1858), Kalinovich and Prince Ivan are waiting to board a ship to take them to what the Prince has called “a dacha past Peterhof” that belongs to his cousin Polina, who has recently inherited a fortune:

“Shipping is a fine investment,” he said. “It pays from fifteen to eighteen per cent. How nice it would be if we could put my cousin’s money into the company!”

“And can’t you?” asked Kalinovich.

“No,” replied the [Prince] in tones of vexation. “It lies in the bank in the most idiotic manner — just in the very place where, whatever anyone says, it is both foolish and immoral for it to be, in an enterprising age like ours. But what’s to be done? Woman-like she is in ecstasy over this farm [мыза] she has bought, with its fishing and grass and cows. And yet it’s a mere plaything, a drop in the ocean, considering her capital, which ought to be set free, since, with just a little ingenuity and proper administration, it would bring in a steady hundred thousand a year — why, you could buy up a German duchy for that! Just think!” (this is Ivy Litvinov’s translation, p. 317. She has “Count” instead of “Prince” for князь.)

— Славное это предприятие — пароходство, — говорил он, — пятнадцать, восемнадцать процентов; и вот, если б пристроить тут деньги кузины – как бы это хорошо было!
— А они не в оборотах? — спросил Калинович.
— Нет, — отвечал с досадою князь, — пошлейшим образом лежат себе в банке, где в наш предприимчивый век, как хотите, и глупо и недобросовестно оставлять их. Но что ж прикажете делать? Она, как женщина, теперь вот купила эту мызу, с рыбными там ловлями, с покосом, с коровами – и в восторге; но в сущности это только игрушка и, конечно, капля в море с теми средствами, которым следовало бы дать ход, так что, если б хоть немножко умней распорядиться и организовать хозяйство поправильней, так сто тысяч вернейшего годового дохода… ведь это герцогство германское! Помилуйте! (part 3, chapter 9)

I don’t think Litvinov’s “farm” quite gets it, though Polina does enjoy personally playing at agriculture at her mýza. It seems to be a luxurious manor house that doesn’t rely on food being brought in from elsewhere.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2016 1:44 pm

    Thanks for this post. I learned finally the meaning of the word мыза (never had enough time to look it up in a dictionary). Actually, there’s a part of my home city called Мыза ( ) but I never associated it to Finnish 🙂

    • May 2, 2016 1:47 pm

      Other interesting names from my city that can be found as landmarks in other places are Мещера and Печоры.

  2. May 19, 2016 10:45 am

    In a broader sense, it was more or less the Baltic equivalent of a Russian поместье — a manor farm — a farm estate with a manor house. The word has a distinct Baltic taste – the owner would typically be a Swede or a Baltic German. The word was usually applied to estates in Latvia, Estonia, and Old Finland (the parts of Finland annexed by Peter I and Elizabeth).

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