The military commissars of Peter I

The military commissars of Peter I



As called in the Russian army in the era of Peter's reforms

All interested history Russia knows that from the time of Peter the Great and until the era of armies by mass conscription, the armed forces of our country were recruited not by hired soldiers, as in the countries of Europe, but by recruiting kits. But how in reality the system of recruitment was organized and acted upon, is thoroughly known only to narrow specialists-historians.

The Russian Planet will tell you what this system was, created by Peter I and allowing not only to defeat the Swedes in the Northern War, but also to make the Russian army the strongest in Europe.

From coachmen to sailors ...


Until the end of the XVII century, the basis of the Russian troops were the noble militia and archers. But for the war with the regular armies of Europe, noblemen-militia were no longer suitable, and after a series of riots, Moscow archers were partially dissolved, partially transferred to distant garrisons.

Initially, the young Tsar Peter tried to recruit new regiments for the regular army, as in Western Europe - the usual hiring of volunteers. That is how the first "amusing regiments" were assembled, from which the Russian Guard later arose. However, for the creation of a large professional army, Russia at that time trivially lacked neither money nor people.

At the beginning of the reforms of Peter the Great, our country did not yet have a developed manufacturing industry and was cut off from the most convenient trade routes, so the treasury simply did not have the money to hire professional fighters for 100 000. For comparison: at the beginning of the reign of Peter I, the state budget of Russia was 14 times smaller than the state budget of France.

By the beginning of the 18th century, Russia was still a country with a small population — in all the territories under Moscow’s control, at that time no more than 13 million people lived. For comparison: in the same France in those years there were more than 21 million citizens, the whole population of Western Europe then exceeded the population of Russia eight times. Therefore, the usual European way of recruiting an army by hiring soldiers was unacceptable for Russia, and Tsar Peter began to look for other solutions.

The basis of the Russian economy then were peasants-plowmen who directly worked on the land, but in the possession of secular and church feudal lords there were many servants, courtyards and servants who were not engaged in arable land. It was these people who became the first recruits of Peter I by the decree on the recruitment of “douching people” of November 16 from 1699.

Formally, the decree was justified by the ongoing war with Turkey, but in reality the war plan with Sweden over the exits to the Baltic was already formed, for which the country required regular troops. The royal decree provided for a complex system of recruitment into the army - nobles in state or military service exhibited one person from every 50 peasant households of their estate, not employed in the service nobles gave one person from 30 yards, and the church and monasteries - one from 25 yards . At the same time, the decree directly forbade the registration of peasants as “from arable land” as soldiers, so as not to affect the fundamentals of the economy, they only recruited servants, artisans and other serf workers from the non-agricultural sector to the army.


"Farewell recruit parents." Artist I.M. Lviv


Across Russia, by this decree, 31 people were drafted into the army. And the first five years of the outbreak of war with Sweden, even despite the defeat near Narva, the king managed these soldiers. Only in 692 for the newly created fleet announced recruitment among coachmen - one recruit "from two residential yamschitsky yards." In fact, the tsar then sent half of the youth from this class to sailors (coachmen who traveled a lot around Russia were considered more developed and intelligent than ordinary peasants and even townspeople).

By 1705, the prolonged and difficult struggle with Charles XII, that is, in fact, with one of the best regular armies in Europe, required extraordinary measures. And the first general conscription was announced by royal decree from 20 February 1705. At the same time, for the first time in Russia, the European term “recruit” appeared (from the French recruter - to recruit, recruit), who came from the army of French King Louis XIV, the most numerous then in Europe.

Peter's decree “on recruiting recruits from 20 households per person” extended to all categories of tax-paying people and took 15 – 20 years into the army for life, for a period of time “until strength and health allow”. The only exception was made for married people - they were exempted from the set.

The large scale of this set made such a strong impression on the population of Russia that it was from that moment that the counting of all recruitment sets in the country began, which was carried out until the abolition of "recruitment" in 1874 year. Soon in all official documents, such large recruitment kits began to be called by these numbers, starting with the first set of 1705, the first set, the second set, etc.

Beginning in 1705, the first six “numbered” and several emergency recruits in five years gave the troops about 160 thousands of ordinary soldiers. The history of the regular Russian army began with them, it was they who defeated the Swedes near Poltava.


"Battle of Poltava". Artist A. D. Kivshenko


"The office counts in the recruit cases"

After the Poltava Victoria 1709 of the year, after the Baltic States were finally occupied, the need for such a large set of soldiers disappeared, and after 1710, such a heavy norm - one recruit with 20 peasant households - no longer under Peter I. Recruit duty became a little easier: in different years they recruited one person from 25 yards, from 40, 50 yards, or even from 75. In 1711 – 1718, about 100 thousands of recruits were taken to the army, from 1719 to Peter I’s death, about 70 thousand people were recruited: that is, for the following 15 years, the army recruited as many soldiers as in the first four years the existence of recruitment.

At that time, the first military registration and enlistment office created by Peter was in charge of the army conscription: Dumny clerk Avton Ivanov, 5 clerks and 74 clerks. For those times, a hundred officials is a huge bureaucratic machine.

When Deacon Avton Ivanov, this first Petrovsky “military commissar”, died in 1709, it turned out that there was no one to replace him - only the deceased owned the entire recruiting accounting department. Perplexed, Peter for some time even tried to entrust the central leadership with the recruitment of his son, Tsarevich Alexei.

The Tsar’s heir failed, failed to cope with the assignment, and the task of recruiting was entrusted to the governors of the newly formed provinces with 1711, and a special Recruitment Office was created for the central government, or, as they said, the Recruitment Office. Officially, it was completely named as follows: the Office of the counting in recruit cases, and in the pay office.

Peter I coped with the shortage of recruits in an elegant way - the tsar personally fined the governors at the rate of one ruble for each "not surrendered" according to the "recruit" plan.

According to the royal decrees, when recruiting, a recruit was to be supplied by his landlord or peasant community, from which he was "exposed", outerwear - knitting kaftan for one year and a fur coat for two years. On a hat, mittens, shirts and shoes (“cheriki”, as stated in the Peter's decree, that is, primitive shoes made of untreated leather) for the recruit should be taken to the treasury for one ruble per year. Subsequently, the funds for recruits were called "recruit money", which constituted one of the most important national taxes.

At first, all recruits recruited were delivered by typesetters with the help of soldiers seconded to them to Moscow and placed in “recruitment stations” - assembly points, fenced by a barrage of barracks. By the beginning of 1710, in the Moscow province there were already 15 of such “recruitment stations”.


"Seeing a rookie." Artist I. Repin


Shackles for draftees

Recruit was supposed to be paid for food, 45 kopecks per month (already serving soldier was supposed to 60 kopecks per month). At the "recruitment station" recruits underwent initial military training. Then, at the request of the army units and garrisons, "teams" were formed, headed by a "warden" officer, who were escorted by recruits to the regiments. Sometimes such teams reached numbers of several hundred or even thousands of people. For example, in March 1711, 2588 soldiers of the Moscow garrison were assigned to transfer 208 recruits from Moscow to Riga, that is, about one convoy on 12 – 13 recruits.

It was just a convoy - because of the fear of escaping the recruits, they were led to shackles in the newly conquered Riga. The spectacle of almost three thousand soldiers in shackles made such a strong impression on the West European merchants, who were many in Riga, that “the governor of Livonia and Estland,” Alexander Menshikov, a man not at all inclined to humanism, even wrote a letter to the Senate asking him to treat recruits better, so as not to dishonor the country in front of foreigners.

Fearing escapes, the Senate still ordered “to forge a recruit into shackles”, however, from now on only overnight stays, and from 1712 onwards, to obstruct the escapes of recruits, he ordered to mark recruits with tattoos - “on the left hand to puncture needles with crosses and rub gunpowder” .

Initially, the lands of the Urals and Siberia were freed from recruiting. This was due both to the small number of the Russian population and to great distances. Suffice to say that the delivery of recruits on carts from Irkutsk district, the center of eastern Siberia, to Moscow took more than a year, and if the recruits were not transported on carts but led on foot, such delivery would be delayed for an even longer period.

The archives preserved for history the name of the first recruit from the Siberian city of Kuznetsk (now Novokuznetsk, Kemerovo Region) - Prokopy Nikiforovich Krasulin, or, as it was then written according to the rules adopted in relation to the lower strata, "the plowed peasant Procopius Nikiforov Krasulin". He got into recruits on the 12 set of 1715 of the year, for that year in the Kuznetsk prison there were only 53 peasant and posad courtyards.

The royal decree required 1 rubles to be paid for travel to the 60 recruit, but to get to the provincial center of Tobolsk (about 1000 km in a straight line), this would not be enough, therefore, “for runs” (that is, for transportation and food on the road) for recruits from all over the city collected 8 rubles 30 kopecks. He was also given a horse with a sleigh and two escorts to Tobolsk, “Kuznetsk service men” by Ivan Oksyonov and Rodion Verigin.

In times of Peter the Great, usually from diseases and shoots, up to 10% of the total number of recruits was lost. However, monstrous cases periodically occurred that even Peter I, who was far from humanism, was affected. In the spring of 1719, 2008 recruits sent to the belligerent army in Finland were sent to 499 people — one out of four died on the way. Most of the dead accounted for the team of Ensign Zverev.

Tsar Peter considered such cases as criminal negligence in dealing with scarce and necessary material. The initiated investigation revealed a picture of blatant corruption - Ensign Zverev sold a third of the foodstuffs received for the recruit team back in Moscow through the intermediary of clerks and scribes of the Moscow provincial office, which arranged this corruption scheme for a percentage of the sale.

The ensign, who was supposed to be recruited on the road, was also not fully issued by the ensign. The money stolen in this way, according to his testimony to the investigation, he simply drank. The transfer of recruits to the new capital took place in the spring thaw, and therefore it took a lot of time, significantly exceeding the usual three-week period of movement from Moscow to St. Petersburg. And even if the ensign did not steal such a significant proportion of food for recruits, then with a very long path it would still not be enough for normal food on the road.

As a result, from the whole team in 400 a man died on a 121 recruit and ran 26. Many who reached St. Petersburg were severely exhausted and died already in the new capital, because Ensign Zverev, trying to come up with an excuse before the authorities, did not represent the recruits of the Military Collegium for some time and, accordingly, did not put them on the garrison's allowances. By the way, Zverev, like all the soldiers and recruits of his ill-fated team, judging from the materials of the investigation, could not read and write, was completely illiterate.

Emperor Peter I sentenced the commander of the convoy and his most savage noncommissioned officer Kindyakov to the recruits to death - they were wheeled right in front of the Moscow provincial office for the edification of corrupt officials.

"Borrowers" and aliens


It is not surprising that, with such morals, heavy recruitment duty was perceived worse than penal servitude, and the peasants in every possible way tried to evade it. During the reign of Peter, even a peculiar business emerged to avoid recruiting. Firstly, often the peasants instead of their sons and relatives hired volunteers for recruits for money. Under Peter, the price of such a “deputy” ranged from 10 to 30 rubles, the archives even kept several agreements on such transactions between peasants and hired recruits.

Secondly, entire gangs of such professional “deputies” quickly developed who, having received money from the peasants, signed up for recruits, but with the help of accomplices they ran along the path to the “recruit yard” and due to the lack of personal documents at that time they were hired again.

Therefore, already in 1715, the appointment of a deputy (“hirer”, according to the lexicon of the time) was prohibited by Peter’s decree. Sly peasants from the estates of the Trinity-Sergius Monastery after this decree tried to illegally surrender such "mercenaries" as recruits, calling them by their own names and posing as local villagers. When the trick came to light, they took 20 rubles from the guilty for each undelivered recruit and another 20 rubles for a fine (huge money for the villagers at that time). After this incident, the king ordered to punish those guilty at the opening of such facts by collecting a three-year soldier's salary, and at a relapse - whipping and whipping and referring to penal servitude.

For escapes from conscription by decree of 27 of September, 1700 was ordered to hang caught runaway recruits, but the recruits who had voluntarily left their escape were released from punishment. In January, 1705 of the year, on the eve of the general recruitment sets, the king softened the punishment somewhat - now only every third runaway recruited caught by lot was hanged, while others were beaten with a whip and exiled to penal servitude.


Officer, scorer and fuseler of the 1712-1720 artillery regiment. Figure A.I. Vilborga


His relatives (fathers, brothers, uncles) and in-laws (nephews, sons-in-law, testers, etc.) were also punished for fleeing the recruit; However, even such draconian measures only partially held back from desertion — in the times of Peter the Great, they ran and evaded service no less than 10% of recruits.

Every thirtieth


Before 1720, the heavy recruitment duty extended exclusively to the Orthodox Russian population. Surprisingly, the Finns were the first non-Russian recruits of a different religion. There were quite a few of them in the Swedish regiments, and the Russians, according to the experience of the war, considered the natives of Finland to be good soldiers. Therefore, in 1720, Tsar Peter ordered a recruitment enrollment among Finnish peasants and townspeople.

Finland was then ravaged by the Russian-Swedish war, and, to the surprise of the Russian command, recruitment in the Finnish villages passed without difficulty. Already by the autumn of 1721, the recruitment plan was fulfilled, taking a person to the 2171 service. In this case, most of the Finnish recruits were sent to serve at the other end of the empire, in Astrakhan.

Immediately after the end of the Northern War, Tsar Peter decided to go to Persia. The way there began with the Volga, and the tsar noticed that numerous non-Russian peoples of the Volga region were still not subject to recruitment. As a result, by decree of 19 in January 1722, Peter I ordered to take recruits from the Cheremis (Mari) and Mordovians on common basis with Russian. This was explained by the fact that Mari and Mordovians were already considered baptized, whereas the Chuvash still remaining pagans, the Udmurts and Kazan Tatars who professed Islam, did not receive recruitment under Peter.

Despite all the burden of recruitment, it was she who gave the peasants and representatives of the lower classes the only chance to climb the social ladder. Soldiers who had served in the Petrovsky regiments to the first officer's rank received a noble rank. As Tsar Peter himself wrote in one of his decrees: "All officers who came not from the nobility, and their children, and their descendants, are nobles, and they should be given patents for the nobility."

At the end of the reign of Peter the Great, a third of the officers of the Russian army were former recruits who deserved nobility and commanders in battles and campaigns. In total, for the first quarter of the 18th century, thousands of recruits were recruited into the 284 army in the Russian Empire — about one out of every thirty men.
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  1. RiverVV 9 July 2015 15: 56 New
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    The second Mudischev was called Savva
    He became famous under Peter
    For the fact that in the battle of Poltava
    He .... cleared the guns.

    Somehow, they forgot to mention between peasant troubles that the Russian nobility of their children entered the guard or the army immediately after birth. For example, Potemkin and Suvorov service (albeit in much later times) began service in the lower ranks. This order was established in Peter's times. Not that the nobleman could not "slope" ... He could if desired. But only military service opened the way to a poor nobleman in civilian ranks.
    1. Prometey 9 July 2015 18: 12 New
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      Quote: RiverVV
      Somehow, they forgot to mention between peasant troubles that the Russian nobility of their children entered the guard or the army immediately after birth.

      This has already begun to be practiced since the time of Anna Ivanovna, who was the first to give relief to the nobility.
  2. YaMZ-238 9 July 2015 16: 16 New
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    interesting article)))
  3. Andrey591 9 July 2015 16: 38 New
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    Informative article.
  4. Prometey 9 July 2015 18: 25 New
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    Be that as it may, the recruiter was the hardest state duty. It should be added that the state treasury was cracking at the seams, trying to contain a huge army that grew during the Northern War. The position of the Russian soldier was one of the worst of all European armies, while the Russian army was distinguished by the high mortality of soldiers, which could only be reduced in the second half of the 18th century. A commonplace was the permanent malnutrition of soldiers. The quartermasters tried to deal with this problem by stationing battalions in the villages. However, the peasants were clearly not enthusiastic about this venture. Already in the mid 20-ies of the 18th century A. Menshikov wrote that there were often cases of peasants fleeing from villages when soldiers approached them. To deal with this, they began to constantly shelter the regiments at the place of their deployment.
  5. strannik1985 9 July 2015 18: 55 New
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    Quote: RiverVV
    The second Mudischev was called Savva
    He became famous under Peter
    For the fact that in the battle of Poltava
    He .... cleared the guns.

    Somehow, they forgot to mention between peasant troubles that the Russian nobility of their children entered the guard or the army immediately after birth. For example, Potemkin and Suvorov service (albeit in much later times) began service in the lower ranks. This order was established in Peter's times. Not that the nobleman could not "slope" ... He could if desired. But only military service opened the way to a poor nobleman in civilian ranks.

    And under Catherine 2 it degenerated into a sweet custom to record newborns by soldiers in the Guard (in some cases even before birth, embarrassment was when a girl was born). As a result of the undergrowth of 16-17 years, not serving in the army for a day received the rank of guard lieutenants. In the Life Guards Preobrazhensky Regiment, for 3 soldiers there were 500 colonels, 8 lieutenant colonels, 26 non-commissioned officers of the nobility. At the same time, only one major and several clerks were regularly seen in the regiment.
    Funny picture?
    But when Pavel 1 dismissed from the ranks 333 generals and 2061 officers for official incompetence, they organized a "apoplectic blow with a snuffbox on his head."
  6. Woldemar 22 July 2015 20: 33 New
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    The article is interesting and informative.
    This was especially impressive:
    "It was exactly the convoy - because of fear of the shoots of the recruits they were brought into service in the newly conquered Riga, shackled.
    They led like criminals to hard labor.