"generations of boyars"

 The boyars were land and serf-owning nobles, the highest ranking class of feudal Russia after the royal family. They were a hugely powerful and influential class up until the time of Ivan the Terrible (1530-1584), who brought them under his control. The boyars originally served a similar function in Russian society to western Europe's knights, as they were responsible for providing military might in times of trouble. However, over time this function was also eroded.