Patents, Charters, and Certificates: What Preceded the Enlistment of Foreign Nationals into the Russian Service by Contract?




contract, agreement, patent, charter, diplomatics, foreigners in Russia, era of Peter the Great


This article considers the genesis of contractual relations between the Russian state and individuals, more particularly, international specialists. The author traces the similarities, interconnections, and differences between bilateral contracts with reciprocal rights and obligations and other acts totally or partially devoid of synallagmatic features (i. e. legal attributes of reciprocal agreements). The sources referred to include contracts concluded with foreign nationals, “capitulations” (“conditions of service”, which were not full contracts in terms of form yet), and various acts created in the process of recruitment or presented by foreigners during the enlistment procedure, such as patents, charters (Rus. zastupitel’nyye “intercessions”, confirming qualification, and Rus. proyezzhiye “passing” charters, etc.), and certificates (Rus. svidetel’stvovannye pasy, “certificate passes”, Rus. svidetel’stvovannye pis’ma “certificate letters”). Chronologically, the paper covers the epoch of Peter the Great, because contracts became the key form of hiring international specialists at the time, though their form was still unstable. The author reveals the characteristics of patents granted to international specialists, determines their differences from traditional “rank patents”, and shows the features that make foreigners’ patents similar to service contracts. In general, this type of source represents a rank granted by the sovereign, not a bilateral contract. At the same time, patents contain an indirect synallagmatic bond realised through structural elements about Russian obligations to foreigners (for example, concerning the amount of money to be paid). Source study analysis of the charters and certificates granted by European monarchs and presented by foreigners in the Ambassadorial Prikaz demonstrate that such acts were used by Russian administrators as examples for drawing up contracts and documents while recruiting international personnel. On the one hand, the synallagmatic bond, which usually determines the essence of a contract, was absent or insufficiently developed in some letters of grant. However, a number of texts do have features indicating the reciprocity of rights and obligations, which allows us to consider them possible prototypes of contracts. The Russian contract incorporated the properties and features of various acts of Russian and, to a greater extent, Western European origin.

Author Biography

Olga Ermakova

PhD (History), Research Fellow, Institute of History and Archaeology, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Senior Researcher, Laboratory for the Study of Primary Sources, Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin.

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

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-2095-1001


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How to Cite

Ermakova, O. (2020). Patents, Charters, and Certificates: What Preceded the Enlistment of Foreign Nationals into the Russian Service by Contract?. Quaestio Rossica, 8(5), 1685–1694.