The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a term that was used in Russia to designate all persons holding official rank or employed in state service. This class of state functionaries, or chinovniki, grew out of the administrative system of prikazy (offices) that arose in the Russian state in the 16th century.

The hierarchy of ranks that developed within the prikaz system—including the rank of judge (or chief administrator), dumnyi d’iak (duma clerk), d’iak (clerk), and pod’iachii (lowest-ranking administrative official)—was soon extended to the local official state bodies as well. The prikaz judges, namestniki (vicegerents; until the mid-16th century), voevody (military governors), and d’iaki were appointed by the tsar and the Boyar Duma. They were given fiefs and serfs as rewards for service. The pod’iachie were appointed by the Razriadnyi Prikaz (War Office). The d’iaki and pod’iachie multiplied in number with the growth of the state’s administrative machinery. In the early 17th century the total number of d’iaki was 55; in 1676 there were 103 d’iaki in the prikazy and 35 in the district offices; in the 1680’s approximately 2,000 pod’iachie served in 37 prikazy.

With the establishment of absolutism in Russia in the early 18th century the prikazy were replaced by the collegia (kollegii). Peter I introduced legislation establishing obligatory lifelong service for noblemen; former clergymen, merchants, members of the lower middle class, and state peasants were encouraged to enter state service. The status of the chinovnichestvo was formally legalized in the first quarter of the 18th century. The higher functionaries—namely, the collegium presidents and the provincial governors (gubernatory)—were appointed by the tsar and the Senate; after 1711, when the Razriadnyi Prikaz was abolished, the lower ranks were appointed by the Senate.

The General Statute of 1720 established a uniform structure and a prescribed system of activities for the collegia and other government institutions. The Table of Ranks of 1722 introduced a unified system of ranks and legalized appointments to army and state positions on the basis of individual merit, ability, and experience (see Table 1). The chinovnichestvo was divided into the tabel’noe (registered) and vnetabel’noe (unregistered) chinovnichestvo; the former consisted of the 14 classes listed in the Table of Ranks, and the latter, of the state functionaries not included therein (clerks, copyists, and junior clerks).

Beginning in 1764, the functionaries’ state salaries were paid in money; in addition, however, such incentives as royal grants of inhabited state lands to members of the upper chinovnichestvo remained in use until the early 19th century. Although the Manifesto on Freedom of the Nobility of 1785 abolished compulsory state service for members of the nobility, they continued to be drawn to such services because of the chinovnichestvo’s privileged status.

By the middle of the 18th century the number of state functionaries was close to 5,000. Approximately 150 of them—namely, senators, collegium presidents, heads of the most important bureaus

Table 1. Table of Ranks (with amendments and addenda, 18th to early 20th centuries)
ClassMilitary rankCivilian rankCourt rank
1General field marshalAdmiral generalChancellor 
   Active privy councillor, first class 
2General in chief (1716–96)AdmiralActive privy councillorHigh chamberlain
    High marshal of the court
 From 1796  Senior gentleman squire
 General of the infantry  Senior huntmaster
 General of the cavalry  High master of the court
 General of the artillery  Over-butler
 General of the engineers  Senior gentleman of the chamber
    Senior gentleman carver (from 1856)
3Lieutenant general (from the 1730’s to the late 18th century the term poruchik was used instead of “lieutenant”)Vice admiralPrivy councillorMarshall of the court
Gentleman squire
Master of the court
Senior gentleman of the chamber
Senior gentleman carver (from 1856)
4Major generalRear admiralPrivy councillor (to 1724) 
   Active civil councillor 
5Brigadier (1722–99)Commodore admiral (1722–99)Civil councillorGentleman of the chamber (from 1884)
6ColonelCaptain, or captain first classCollegial councillorKamer-fur’er (to 1884)
7Lieutenant colonel
Host starshina (from 1884)
Commander, or captain second classAulic councillor 
8First major and second major (1731–97) Until 1884Captain third class (18th century)Collegial assessor 
 Host starshina From 1884   
Lieutenant commander (to 1884 and in 1907–11)  
 EsaulSenior lieutenant (from 1912)  
9Until 1884   
Lieutenant commander (18th century)Titular councillor 
 Esaul From 1884   
 Staff captain   
 Staff rotmistrLieutenant (from 1884)Collegial secretary 
 Pod “esaulSenior lieutenant (1907–11)  
10Poruchik captain (1705–98)Lieutenant (to 1884)  
  Michman (from 1885)  
 Until 1884   
 Staff captain   
 Staff rotmistr   
 Pod “esaul   
 From 1884   
11Until 1884   
 Ship’s secretary (originally a naval rank) 
12Second lieutenant and sub-lieutenant (18th century)Michman (to 1885)Provincial (gubernskii) secretary 
 From 1884   
13Ensign Subprovincial (provintsial’nyi) secretary 
 Until 1884   
 Cornet Senatorial registrar 
 Khorunzhii Synodal registrar 
   Cabinet registrar 
14Fendrik (18th century)Michman (18th century)Collegial registrar 

and offices, and provincial governors—made up the first four classes of the Table of Ranks. The next group consisted of fifth- to eighth-class functionaries—prosecutors, provincial voevody, and members of various bureaus (numbering approximately 600). Classes 9 to 14 constituted the bulk of the executive manpower in state institutions. Two-thirds of the chinovnichestvo consisted of functionaries not registered in the Table of Ranks. Almost 80 percent of the last two groups were former members of the nonprivileged estates.

The first half of the 19th century saw a rapid acceleration of the bureaucratization of the state’s administrative machinery. The establishment of the ministries between 1802 and 1811 led to the rise of bureaucratic agencies with a complex internal organization and elaborate paper work. The number of registered functionaries grew from approximately 13,200 in 1804 to 71,800 in 1850 and 82,300 in 1856. Similarly, the number of unregistered functionaries grew from 26,300 in 1850 to 31,600 in 1856. The system of service appointments and promotions, as well as the rewards, incentives, penalties, and retirement provisions, were defined in 1832 by the Statute on State Service.

In the first half of the 19th century the chinovnichestvo was divided into four groups. The first group, comprising classes 1 to 5, was made up of the upper levels of the bureaucracy, which in effect determined government policy. The second group, made up of classes 6 to 8, included functionaries holding executive positions. Members of these two groups enjoyed great privileges and drew high salaries. The third group—classes 9 to 14—consisted of clerks and lower-level executives. The fourth group, which comprised the unregistered functionaries and was employed for technical work only, differed from the registered groups in both material and legal respects. During the rapid increase in the total number of functionaries, this last group was the most immediate source of recruitment for the registered chinovnichestvo.

Until the early 19th century, no educational qualifications were required for appointment to state service. As stipulated in a ukase of 1809 proposed by M. M. Speranskii, a certain level of education was required of state functionaries; for promotion to classes 8 through 5 they had to present a university diploma or pass a series of examinations. The following terms of service were established for promotion to a higher class: three years of service in each class for classes 14 up to 9, four years of service in class 9, five years in class 8, six years in class 7, four years in class 6, five years in class 5, and ten years in class 4. Promotions to classes 2 and 1 were granted at the personal discretion of the tsar and without term-of-service requirements.

Between 1836 and 1843 approximately 7,200 persons were promoted to eighth-class rank, which conferred hereditary nobility; approximately 4,700 of them were not of noble birth. Beginning in 1845, hereditary nobility was conferred on sixth-class ranks in the military service and fifth-class ranks (fourth-class from 1856) in the civil service; personal nobility was conferred on ninth-class ranks.

The upper levels of the prereform chinovnichestvo were chiefly composed of the landed nobility. In the words of V. I. Lenin, “the noble landowner had ruled in the absence of a ’plutocracy’ . . . and in the absence of a growing third element” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 21, p. 81). Inasmuch as the chinovnichestvo was viewed as the underpinning of the autocracy, those who were regarded as compromised in terms of their service or found to be politically unreliable were expelled from its ranks. Article 3 of the law of Nov. 7, 1850, gave the authorities the right to dismiss subordinates without explanation; there was no right of appeal.

The organizational form of the chinovnichestvo system as it had evolved in the first half of the 19th century was maintained in the subsequent period of capitalist development, when the regime took the first step toward a bourgeois monarchy (see ibid., vol. 20, p. 165); nevertheless, while the upper strata of the chinovnichestvo were still made up of the landed nobility, the middle and lower ranks were now enlisting the wealthier elements of the bourgeoisie—that is, the plutocracy.

The new local self-government bodies—established during the city reform of 1870 and the zemstvo (district and provincial) reform of 1864-employed hired personnel (such as doctors, teachers, technicians, and agronomists) who came to be known in bureaucratic circles as the third element. In the late 1860’s several state agencies began hiring women. In 1897 the number of women employed in various offices was 38,000 (including 28,900 women working in educational institutions); this figure amounted to almost 9 percent of all functionaries, who numbered approximately 440,000. In 1901 the number of functionaries in Russia was close to 500,000, including 120,000 to 125,000 not listed in the Table of Ranks.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as Russia entered the age of imperialism, close contacts were established between the monopolies and government institutions. Individual monopolists served as consultants at various levels in the ministries of Trade and Industry, Communications, Finance, Army, and Navy, as well as in the Main Administration for Land Tenure and Agriculture.

Among those formally included in the chinovnichestvo were members of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences and Academy of Arts, professors of the universities and other higher educational institutions, Gymnasium teachers, and certain other cultural and scientific figures who had a given class rank and were considered to be in state service.

The Revolution of 1905–07 forced the autocracy to grant the right of admission into state service to members of all the estates (excluding some of the non-Russian peoples). In actuality, because of class barriers and educational requirements, this right did not extend to workers and peasants. As early as 1903, V. I. Lenin compared the chinovnichestvo to a dense forest through which “a mere worker can never make his way” (ibid., vol. 7, p. 137). The changing social composition of the chinovnichestvo in the early 20th century affected the political reliability of some of its members. A special ruling by the Senate on Apr. 30,1908, affirmed that state service was incompatible with revolutionary and oppositionist activities.

Even after the Revolution of 1905–07 the upper ranks of the chinovnichestvo retained many of the elements and traits of the bureaucratic landowning nobility. As Lenin wrote in late 1911, “the bureaucracy is . . . recruited . . . from the old, very old, not only pre-revolutionary (before 1905), but even pre-Reform (before 1861), landed and office-holding nobility”; and this bureaucracy “lends its bourgeois activity a tendency and a form that is purely and solely feudal” (ibid., vol. 21, p. 58).

During World War I a great number of military functionaries filled the ranks of Russia’s chinovnichestvo; at the same time the various state offices made greater efforts to recruit women into service. The third element grew in numbers and in strength throughout the public and state agencies concerned with war supplies and services—particularly the All-Russian Zemstvo Union, the All-Russian Union of Cities, the Zemgor, and the war industries committees. Tsarist functionaries worked together with members of the bourgeoisie in the special conferences, thus initiating the gradual merging of the state apparatus and the imperialist monopolies (seeSPECIAL CONFERENCES).

The old state apparatus and the chinovnichestvo were retained by the Provisional Government after the February Revolution of 1917. While the government was forced to replace certain state functionaries—for example, in the administrative sphere, in the police, and to some extent in the courts—most of those who were dismissed continued to receive government salaries, supplemental allowances, and sizable pensions. The state service system continued to be governed by the Table of Ranks and the Statute on State Service.

After the October Revolution of 1917 the functionaries of the central state institutions began sabotaging the Soviet government, but the counterrevolutionary chinovnichestvo failed in its attempt at nationwide sabotage. Many of the saboteurs were fired, and the ringleaders were arrested. At the same time the Soviet government raised the salaries of the lower-ranking employees and offered them jobs in the institutions set up by the soviets. Russia’s landowner-bourgeois chinovnichestvo was abolished by the first decrees issued under Soviet power—the decree of Nov. 10 (23), 1917, which abolished the estates and state service ranks, and the decree of Dec. 16 (29), 1917, which gave equal rights to all members of the military services. The establishment of a new type of state and of a state apparatus based on new principles signaled the disappearance of the chinovnichestvo as a distinct social group and its replacement by the institution of Soviet state employees.

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Spravochniki po istorii dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii: Bibliografiia. Moscow, 1971.


Lenin, V. I. “Zadachi russkikh sotsial-demokratov.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 2.
Lenin, V. I. “Vnutrennee obozrenie.” Ibid., vol. 5. Pages 327–35.
Lenin, V. I. “Kderevenskoi bednote.” Ibid., vol. 7.
Lenin, V. I. “Staroe i novoe.” Ibid., vol. 21.
Evreinov, V. A. Grazhdanskoe chinoproizvodstvo v Rossii. St. Petersburg, 1888.
Karnovich, E. P. Russkie chinovniki v byloe i nastoiashchee vremia. St. Petersburg, 1897.
Troitskii, S. M. Russkii absoliutizm i dvorianstvo v XVIII v.: Formirovanie biurokratii. Moscow, 1974.
Eroshkin, N. P. Istoriia gosudarstvennykh uchrezhdenii dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Leikina-Svirskaia, V. R. Intelligentsia v Rossii vo vtoroi polovine XIX v. Moscow, 1971.
Mamsik, T. S. “Nekotorye voprosy formirovaniia vysshei biurokratii v Rossii XVIII v.” In Bakhrushinskie chteniia, 1971, fasc. 2. Novosibirsk, 1971.
Solov’ev, Iu. B. Samoderzhavie i dvorianstvo v Rossii v kontse XIX v. Leningrad, 1973.
Zaionchkovskii, P. A. Rossiiskoe samoderzhavie v kontse XIX st. Moscow, 1970.
Zaionchkovskii, P. A. “Vysshaia biurokratiia nakanune Krymskoi voiny.” Istoriia SSSR, 1974, no. 4.
Zaionchkovskii, P. A. “Gubernskaia administratsiia nakanune Krymskoi voiny.” Voprosy istorii, 1975, no. 9.
Zaionchkovskii, P. A. Pravitel’stvennyi apparat samoderzhavnoi Rossii v XIXv. Moscow, 1978.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Redin's discussion of the persistence of "feeding" extortion (kormlenie) is particularly nuanced, recognizing its dual nature as a form of official malfeasance and a bargaining tool of the subject community, and making the interesting argument that in the Urals region the formation of officialdom (chinovnichestvo) as a social and state-service identity occurred in part through the failure of Peter's law on salary remuneration, leading Siberian officials to define themselves as a privileged order entitled to feedings by analogy with serf owners entitled to peasant rent.