Raising Militias in 1806–1812 in the Context of Social Relationships (St Petersburg and Moscow Provinces)





meshchane communities, social relationships, district town, militia of 1806–1807, people’s militia of 1812, Patriotic War of 1812


The subject of this study is the social contradictions in meshchane communes in district capitals in the early nineteenth century which transpired when recruiting men for military service. The object of the study is the appointment of militiamen during 1806–1807 and 1812, when far more men were recruited than during regular recruit levies. The author examines the communes of three district centres, i. e. Serpukhov, Novaya Ladoga, and Gdov. The article considers practices and motivations adopted by families, communes, town councils, and governors. The article refers to previously unpublished documents from council archives (communes’ verdicts, minutes of town councils, correspondence with governors). The author identifies two major issues: accusations of dissolute behaviour; and 2) conflicts between big and small households aggravated during mass recruiting to the militia in 1807. During the first militia, the traditional system of supplying recruits by commune proved insufficient to meet the needs of mass war. The author examines recruits’ age, marital status, family size, and reasons for being nominated. A suggestion is made that meshchane were more inclined to nominate older men than peasant communes: the role of nomination as a means of social cleansing seems to have been more significant in towns. The article considers the reaction of the government to delays and problems that arose during raising militia in identifying two response measures: the nomination of the dissolute was revised in 1808–1809 as a direct reaction to massive abuse recorded during the first militia – and the establishment of the official system of family recruit groups under the recruitment manual of 1810. Referring to the militia levy of 1812 and recruit levies of the 1810s, the article demonstrates that the new rules reduced conflict and delay in communes. During the Patriotic War of 1812, the nomination and dispatch of militiamen went considerably faster than in 1807. Additionally, the author supposes that with changes in legislation in 1808–1810, mass recruitment in the early nineteenth century, which made the position of small families more secured, could be a factor that encouraged the transition to the nuclear family in towns.

Author Biography

Mikhail Belan

PhD (History), Dr Student, Oxford University.

Oxford, OX1 2JD, UK.

ORCID 0000-0002-9899-1089



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How to Cite

Belan, M. (2022). Raising Militias in 1806–1812 in the Context of Social Relationships (St Petersburg and Moscow Provinces). Quaestio Rossica, 10(3), 884–902. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2022.3.707



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