What do the terms “Dynast” and “Non-Dynast” mean?
A dynast is a member of a reigning or formerly reigning dynasty. A Russian dynast is a member of the Russian Imperial House. Today, the only living dynasts are the Grand Duchess Maria, Head of the Russian Imperial House, and her son, the Grand Duke George.
Under the Russian dynastic laws, a Russian dynast had to marry a spouse from a royal or sovereign house in order for the children of the marriage to be dynasts. This was called an equal marriage or dynastic marriage.
A Russian dynast is in the line of succession to the throne, has the right to the title of Grand Duke or Prince of Russia, and to the surname Romanoff.
A dynast may be contrasted with a non-dynast. Under the Russian laws, a dynast who married a non-royal wife (a wife who was not a member of a royal or sovereign house) was said to have contracted a non-dynastic marriage – also called a morganatic or unequal marriage. The children of the marriage were not dynasts.
The two marriages of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia (younger brother of Alexander III) provide a useful illustration. His first marriage was a dynastic marriage to a royal princess, Princess Alexandra of Greece. The son born to the marriage, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, was therefore himself a dynast. Grand Duke Paul’s second marriage was to a commoner, Madame von Pistohlkors. Because she was a non-royal spouse, the marriage was non-dynastic. The son born to the marriage, Vladimir Pavlovich, was a non-dynast. He was not a member of the Russian Imperial House, had no right to the throne, and had no right to the title of Grand Duke of Russia or Prince of Russia. He had no right even to the last name Romanoff, and so on 8 August, 1915, Nicholas II granted a new title, surname, and arms -- those of Prince Paley.
The only dynasts who contracted dynastic marriages after the Revolution were the three children of Grand Duke Kirill, Head of the Russian Imperial House from 1918 to 1938 (his two daughters and his son, Grand Duke Wladimir) and the only child of Grand Duke Wladimir, Head of the Russian Imperial House from 1938 to 1992 (Grand Duchess Maria, current dynastic head). All the many other post-1917 marriages contracted by Russian dynasts were non-dynastic, and the children of these marriages were non-dynasts.