The Phenomenon of “Razboy” in Russia in the Early 17th Century: On the Typology of Rebel Movements


  • Vladimir Arakcheev



early 17th-century Russian history; robbers’ movement; peasant revolts; slaves; famine


This article considers the robbers’ (Rus. razboy) movement, a social phenomenon of the early seventeenth century that has not been studied thoroughly. The author conducts a critical review of the existing historiography, providing a comprehensive analysis of the facts concerning the government’s reaction to the rebel movement, the dynamics of enslavement in the lands of Novgorod, and the spread of famine in Russia between 1601 and 1603. The author puts forward a hypothesis explaining the reasons why military servitors left the suites of boyars and nobles. The heirs of a deceased master did not hire their predecessor’s military servitors, nor did they agree to provide them with serfs corresponding to their status (amounting to 15 roubles). The article provides facts testifying to the low prices for bread in the patrimonies of the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery, proving that the famine was by no means nationwide. The author proposes a new explanation for why expeditions were dispatched to fight brigands in the late autumn of 1602 or in the winter of 1602–1603. In late autumn, the robbers left the forest by road, as they could no longer count on the abundance of vegetation that protected them from being noticed in summer: they stayed in their accomplices’ houses, waiting for the frost to end and haggling over their trophies. The author concludes that the robbers formed a network, which meant the inclusion of peasants and townspeople into the insurgent bands. Additionally, the author compares the robbers’ movement and the activity of peasant militias in 1609, emphasising the fundamental difference between the two phenomena. Relying on renegade peasants and landless labourers (perhaps the poorest) from villages and suburbs, the robbers’ movement of 1602–1603 opposed communities of feudal tenants owing obligations in labour and in kind. The actions of peasant militias in 1609 were based on a key social institution of the pre-industrial era, i. e. the community, and were driven by the ideology of royal pretendership.

Author Biography

Vladimir Arakcheev

Dr. Hab. (History), Head of the Department of Social History, Institute of History and Archaeology, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

16, S. Kovalevskaya Str., 620990, Yekaterinburg, Russia.


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How to Cite

Arakcheev, V. (2018). The Phenomenon of “Razboy” in Russia in the Early 17th Century: On the Typology of Rebel Movements. Quaestio Rossica, 6(4), 972–983.



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