Imperial Russia

Radicals or graft, revisited

So, the Senate returned to this question of what was going on in the Archive of Old Business (and elsewhere) a year and a half later (PSZ I, vol. 31, no. 24258 (June 13, 1810)).

The initial investigation called for in the fallout of the decision I last posted about showed that A LOT of soul-tax-payers were being brought into the bureaucracy illegally; it was a particular problem in the Archive, but also in Kiev province (the decree just mentions the province, not any one particular office there, so it was perhaps rampant?).

As far as the Senate was concerned, this was a problem for two reasons.  First, “the greater part of these people chose this kind of civil service only in order to be taken out of the class of tax payers,” which meant losses to state coffers.  And second, the discoveries of these practices had made every bureaucracy’s complaint that it needed to hire more people “doubtful.”

The answer was more fact-finding. The decree included two draft forms to be filled out, giving counts of state servitors, their social origin, and their current occupation (or absence).

(For the non-Russian readers, a rough translation.  The first few lines ask for the numbers of nobles and officer’s children; bureaucrats and “other free people, not among the tax-payers”; townspeople, artisans, state peasants, and freed serfs, “confirmed by the Senate”; and the same “not yet confirmed.”  The second set of lines ask for those currently actually working, those who have been on leave for more than a month; those under 15 years of age; and the number of those from the tax-paying population who have been let go in the past three years.)

So, when I go to RGIA next month, if I manage to order everything I need to order on my actual research project (ha), perhaps I’ll look to see if these forms actually got filled out and sent in.

By Alison Smith

Professor, University of Toronto, Department of History;

Author of For the Common Good and Their Own Well-Being: Social Estates in Imperial Russia (Oxford University Press, 2014)

2 replies on “Radicals or graft, revisited”

I’m still interested–and I see a shadow of the famous (future) Soviet bureaucracy here. Which sort of begs the question: how much really did change with the Revolution? Some things, obviously, but others?

In my studies of late-Imperial and early Soviet periods has led me to conclude that while Lenin and his Bolsheviks brought new social change and governance to the scene in Russia, they could not simply eschew the entire inertia of Imperial policies and mindset. Look at the ‘Red Army’ in the early period- the reliance upon former Tsarist officers as ‘specialists’ was only an outward sign indicating the ‘borrowing’ new Soviet leaders used.

The ‘affirmative action’ policies of the Soviets, well documented by Terry Martin in his work ‘Affirmative Action Empire’, took their cue from previous mindsets regarding reform on a large scale = the idea that ‘one size fits all’, which, in reality, only perpetuated and exacerbated growing issues with minority populations and the over-bearing presence of central government. I think you can safely say that the the dividing line between Tsarist regime and Soviet regime, especially in those early years, is indeed very blurred.

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