Architecture and Infrastructure
Serfs live in turf roofed wooden villages whilst the stone architecture of the Boyars' keeps is more rounded with squat onion-domed towers. As the serfs are bound to the land they tend not to travel except for the trusted few with the privilege of shipping and selling his master's produce. Only the lords and their Hetmen travel for social reasons. The roads are mostly unpaved except for a few Royal Highways, connecting Novomsk to other kingdoms for trade, so sleds are pretty common especially during winter.
Culture and Gender Roles
Everyday dress for male serfs is knee-boots, baggy trousers, high collared shirt, embroidered waistcoat and sheepskin jacket. Women wear knee or calf length skirts, embroidered blouses and aprons, beribboned head-dresses or coloured scarfs.
This is a more traditional, male dominated society, women can hold property but it is expected that their father will rule it until she marries when it becomes her husband's property. Widows who inherit (there being no direct heir, or named in the will) can rule in their own name if they remain unmarried but if its a particularly wealthy estate there will be pressure put on them to marry. However a few determined Kizinas and Boyarinas have retained their independence, particularly if they are relations of the ruling Khazar and on good relations with him or if they are acting as regent for their own children.
Serfs of course do not hold property, they are bound to the land but cannot be bought and sold individually. Illiteracy is high among them but not in the upper classes.
History and Foreign Relations
The Khazarate resisted the Empire through a combination of luck, stubbornness and fierce fighting. The Empire had reached its political and cultural zenith and was beginning to decline just as its reached the borders of Vaarta. Religious fervour whipped up among the serfs against the heretical outlanders and the skill and bravery of the ferocious hetmen regiments which the Khazar had commanded to unite combined to form vast armies that repelled the technically superior Empire forces. Combined with severe winter conditions and a scorched earth policy by the Kizen, the distances were too far apart for the Empire to maintain supply lines for a sustained war especially as they were through the extremely troublesome Tlaxu lands
The Vaartans are rabidly isolationist and suffer from a deep religious intolerance, they pretty much dislike all outsiders but they reserve a particular hatred for the neighbouring Tlaxu whom they view as demon spawn, particularly the solitary and mysterious mountain kind. These Mountain Tlaxu are viewed as some sort of unholy demon spirits, while the plains Tlaxu are merely mortal enemies who frequently raid farms close to the borders.
The Volkolaki and the Tlaxu hate each other even more, one Common Legend describes how two heroes of the two races meet in battle and of course both cultures claim to have won the encounter.