Escaping in Twentieth-Century Russia
Keywords:migration; migration pactices; seasonal labor; urbanization; unauthorized migrants; career migration; deportees
This article considers the escapees who populated Russia’s twentieth century in astonishingly large numbers. By escapees, the authors mean not only those who had been incarcerated, exiled, and deported, but also others who ignored or willfully violated regulations limiting movement – peasant settlers moving “irregularly” to scarcely-populated or recently depopulated areas; seasonal workers making independent employment arrangements; migrants to the city without the proper papers but desperate to access resources unavailable in the countryside; officials keen to avoid inferior assignments; refugees and evacuees deviating from assigned destinations. These evasive practices are characterized as migrant repertoires, that is, the relationships and networks of contact marked by geographic origin, gender, kinship, friendship, and professional identity that permitted them to adapt to or evade particular migration regimes. State-organized regimes of migration set the terms and resources of movement for all sorts of migrants, from settlers to deportees. The range of migrants surveyed confirms the ambition of Imperial and especially Soviet authorities to manage their peoples, but also the limited capacity of these states to do so. Thus the article suggests that the assumption of people’s powerlessness in the face of overwhelming state power should be reconsidered.