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"We're only Vor because some dead Emperor declared one of our ancestors so. Why not start the custom up again, as a reward for merit? Better yet, declare everybody a Vor and be done with the bloody nonsense forever."
Aral Vorkosigan[src]

The Vor, otherwise known as the Vor class, were the military caste and the aristocracy of the planet Barrayar. Barrayarans who were not Vor are occasionally referred to in the books as plebes or proles. Vor status is considered genetic, hereditary, and inescapable. All Vor surnames began with the syllable Vor-, often prefixed to a recognizable surname from some Earth nation (e.g. Vorsmythe).

The prefix Vor- was dropped during the officer candidacy exams for the Barrayaran Imperial Service (though not in the service itself) to emphasize the ideal of meritocracy. While Vor men are generally involved in military or government service, Vor women are traditionally responsible for running the estates and household.

One Vor privilege was the right to own swords. The traditional armament of a Vor warrior was a set of two swords, a longsword and a short sword. Officers who were Vor wore the two swords with their Imperial Service parade uniforms. Vor women carried a Vorfemme knife and men in a Count's family sometimes carried a Vor seal dagger.

History of VorEdit

The Vor caste was originally open to new members and the Emperor could declare a family Vor. This practice ceased over time; by the time of the reign of Dorca[1], it had ended.

Function of Vor Edit

The Vor functioned as the aristocratic caste, and were given privileged military status. Historically, no Vor could be denied a commanding role in the military, regardless of competence, though Aral Vorkosigan's Regency shifted the military into much more of a meritocracy: a saying was "no twice-twenty-years Imperial Service man need yield to any Vor for his place in our military caste."

During the Time of Isolation, it was a crime for a non-Vor male have a Vor woman lover; it was considered "stealing her honor", and punishable by death though in real life - as opposed to romantic fiction - the matter was rarely pushed that far presumably because few Vor families wished to make their women's peccadilloes public.However, suggesting that an high-ranking family like the Vorkosigans may have some ancestors in common with the Caravanserai people is very insulting.

Levels of VorEdit

High VorEdit

The term "High Vor" does not appear to have official standing within Barrayaran society, but was used informally by characters to refer to the upper-most, aristocratic portion of the Vor. The Vor were a military caste, and while all Vor had certain legal privileges and responsibilities Vor status did not necessarily denote wealth or political power. All aristocrats were Vor, but only a small portion of Vor were aristocrats. Other terms used to indicate types of Vor included "Old Vor" and "Rural Vor".

There were sixty Districts on Barrayar, each governed by a Vor with the title Count. On Barrayar, Count derived from accountant, as they were originally Imperial Tax Collectors and Accountants.

Members of a Count's immediate family were also titled. The heir, usually the eldest son of the Count, was Lord (Surname); his wife was Lady (Surname). Other children of a Count were called Lord or Lady (Forname) (Surname), e.g. Lord Mark Vorkosigan or simply Lord or Lady (Forname) if the surname could be inferred from context.

According to the author, other Vor could be referred to as Lord (Surname), and considered High Vor, as a mark of some other form of authority or historical idiosyncrasy. For example, Ivan Vorpatril was not heir to the Vorpatril Countship, but he, and especially his mother, Alys Vorpatril, were High Vor because Padma Vorpatril, Alys's husband and Ivan's father, was descended from Prince Xav Vorbarra (and thus next in line after Aral Vorkosigan as a potential claimant to the throne)[2] and also because Alys's role as Gregor's social caretaker gave her a measure of power and respect. In some cases the title was tied to a position, notably the Imperial Auditors were styled Lord Auditor (Surname).

If a person also had a military rank or held an Imperial appointment, their rank preceded the title: General Count Piotr Vorkosigan, Prime Minister Count Aral Vorkosigan, Imperial Auditor Lord Vorkosigan etc.

Oaths of the VorEdit

The Vor caste offered varyingly strong oaths and promises, ranging from an oath of service to the emperor and the Imperium when they entered the Military up to that of being a vassal secundus to their Emperor.

Additionally, Armsmen swore an oath for life to their Count when taking up their service. Any man could offer his own personal promise[3]. How serious this was could vary but it was usually equivalent to "I promise".

The Vor had a particularly high regard for an ideal of honor. When they swore by "their word as Vor_name" it was much more equivalent to a serious and heartfelt "I swear to God." This was so strong that men, including Aral Vorkosigan, had been known to kill others for calling them on their word.

Vor NamesEdit

The Vor CountsEdit

The following is a list of all Vor names that are confirmed to have a district associated with them. There are 60 such districts, but there are not yet 60 names known to go with them.

  • Vorbarra - The Imperial family, their name comes fourth in an alphabetical listing of counts.
  • Vorbataille - Lord Vorbataille is mentioned as Count's heir in Winterfair Gifts.
  • Vorbohn - He is identified as a count in Barrayar. Lord Vorbohn the Younger commands Vorbarr Sultana's municipal guard.
  • Vorbretten - Friends of Miles, the current Count was discovered to have a Cetagandan ancestor, leading to an impeachment trial before the Council of Counts, and it also led to him being ridiculed, often called René ghem-Bretten. The Vorbrettens born after the Cetagandan occupation manifested musical talents, no doubt a result of inheriting carefully designed Cetagandan genes.
  • Vordarian - Soon after the death of Emperor Ezar, the then Count Vordarian attempted to usurp the throne from the child Emperor Gregor. The Vordarian's District is one of the most modernized on Barrayar.
  • Vordrozda - Miles Vorkosigan exposed a Count Vordrozda as a traitor, who attempted to have his cousin Ivan conveniently disappear as the opening act of a Byzantine plot to become heir to the Imperium.
  • Vorfolse - From a family that reliably chose the wrong side of any conflict, the current Vorfolse names himself independent of all parties and ekes out a rather impoverished living in an apartment in Vorbarr Sultana.
  • Vorgarin - The Count is a friend of Henri Vorvolk. Their district is known for stroganoff.
  • Vorhalas - Compensating for the treason of his sons Evon and Carl in Vordarian's Pretendership, the current Count Vorhalas is the most loyal, upright and conservative member of the Council, but no friend to the Vorkosigans.
  • Vorharopulos - A count who is primarily known for an unfortunate livery, namely chartreuse and scarlet.
  • Vorinnis - A potential contender for the Imperial throne; during Vordarian's Pretendership, he attempted to name himself as a neutral and play "both ends against the middle."
  • Vorkalloner - One of the stiffest old sticks in the Conservative Party.
  • Vorkosigan - A line of ten Counts (Miles will be No. 11), but few collateral descendants. Thanks to former Regent Aral Vorkosigan, the family enjoys special favor with the Emperor.
  • Vorlakial - The count was one of the few men Aral Vorkosigan could name as his superior in strategy; he was mysteriously killed shortly before Vordarian's Pretendership. Darkoi is in Vorlakial's District.
  • Vorloupulous - Famous for Vorloupulous's Law which limits each Count to only 20 armsmen and makes starting a private army treason for a Vor Lord.
  • Vormercier - A count named in Captain Vorpatril's Alliance.
  • Vormoncrief - Currently the leader of the Conservative Party.
  • Vormuir - A count whose district has been losing people and who tried a radical solution to the problem.
  • Vorob'yev - Lord Vorob'yev was the Barrayaran Ambassador to Cetaganda. Vorob'yev" is an actual Russian surname derived from vorobey meaning "sparrow. Vorob'yev house livery was red and black.
  • Vorpatril - A large clan with a link to the Vorbarra line through Ivan Vorpatril's late father, Padma Xav, a grandson of Prince Xav Vorbarra.
  • Vorpinski - A Count who used to be close friends to Donna Vorrutyer.
  • Vorreedi - Lord Vorreedi was entitled to wear a House uniform
  • Vorrutyer - A large clan infamous for erratic or insane personalities. Aral Vorkosigan's first wife, who took lovers on the side and committed suicide when her relationships were learned of, was a Vorrutyer, as was Aral's male lover, the corrupt and sadistic Ges Vorrutyer. Aral himself was descended from Count "Le Sanguinaire" Pierre Vorrutyer, or Bloody Pierre. The last Count Vorrutyer, Pierre Vorrutyer II, was eccentric if not actually mad. His sister Lady Donna went to Beta Colony to be surgically changed into a man so she could inherit the title as Lord Dono, over her malicious cousin Richars, while her foppish drunkard cousin Byerly used his contacts to lay the groundwork at home.
  • Vorsmythe - An industrialist family; Miles Vorkosigan told his clone-brother Mark to speak with Vorsmythe about his "Butter Bugs". Another member of this family is mentioned in Memory as a General and an Imperial Auditor.
  • Vortaine - A count who was unlikely to vote for René Vorbretten or Dono Vorrutyer.
  • Vortala - Count Vortala was the last of Emperor Ezar's Prime Ministers and served as Prime Minister to Aral Vorkosigan during his Regency. He was a reformer who mistakenly tried to fix Barrayaran society from the top down, and the likely founder of the Progressive Party.
  • Vortashpula - The heir to the countship chose to become engaged to Lady Cassia Vorgorov.
  • Vortienne - The current count is infamous for never attending Council sessions.
  • Vortrifrani - The current Count Vortrifrani was suspected of a plot to crash an empty space freighter onto the Imperial Palace, though ImpSec were unable to link him to the actual saboteurs.
  • Vortugalov - Mentioned by Miles and Elena Bothari-Jesek as a possible successor for Gregor in The Vor Game. He would be supported by the Russian-speaking population of Barrayar.
  • Vorvolynkin - A usually-reliable member of the Conservative Party.
  • Vorvayne - The sixth Countess Vorvayne starved herself to death at her husband's feet after he was convicted of treason and himself starved in a stockade.[4]
  • Vorville - Mentioned by Miles and Elena Bothari-Jesek as a possible successor for Gregor in The Vor Game. He would be supported by the French-speaking population of Barrayar.
  • Vorvolk - The current Count, Henri, is one of Emperor Gregor's close friends and one of only a few Counts near in age to the Emperor.

Other Vor namesEdit

The following is a list of Vor names that come up during the series but do not appear to have a district on Barrayar associated with them. While it is possible that all Vor names represent a district, the novels have been very ambiguous with respect to these names. A brief description is given of any individual known to be associated with that Vor name.

Behind the scenesEdit

"Vor does mean 'thief'!"
―Duv Galeni[src]

These are obscure, but the word exists in Russian, one of four languages spoken on Barrayar. As вор "Vor" means thief. Most aristocracies arise from warlords, who in turn tend to arise from competing bands of brigands, so this explanation is plausible.

The Russian "dvor" means "court", and "dvoryanin" were the "new nobles" created by Ivan the Terrible and Boris Godunov to counterbalance the boyars (old nobles).

In the Russian translations of the Vorkosigan saga, though, Vor is rendered as For (Фор); the novel The Vor Game is called Igra Forov/Игра Форов ("The Game of the Fors") in Russian.

In addition, in modern Russian language there is an expression "Vor v zakone" ("Вор в законе") - verbally "A Thief by Law" meaning a noble and respectful leader of big group of gangs, 'responsible' of big areas or even whole towns, kind of "Mafia Don" in Russian.

Notes and referencesEdit

External linksEdit

Vor of Barrayar on Wikipedia

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