Compulsory Service Recruitment

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Compulsory Service Recruitment


(rekrutskaia povinnost*), the system of recruitment for the regular Russian Army of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The transition to the compulsory service recruitment system began with changes in the composition and mode of selection of datochnye liudi (conscripts for life) introduced by a ukase in 1699. The new system was finally established by the Ukase of 1705. All the tax-paying estates were subject to the system, which involved conscription of recruits (rekruty) by the community for lifelong military service. Serfs conscripted into the army by the system were emancipated. The dvorianstvo (nobility and gentry) was exempt from it and served in the army under other arrangements. At a later date, the merchants, families of church officials, honored citizens, and the inhabitants of Bessarabia and remote Siberian areas were also exempted from the recruitment system.

In 1858, 23.5 million of the 29.5 million males in Russia were subject to compulsory service recruitment. Originally, recruits were conscripted for life. From 1793 they served for 25 years, and from 1834 they served for 20 years and were then placed on “indefinite leave” for five years. From 1855 to 1872 the length of service was again reduced, first to 12, then to ten, and finally to seven years, and the period of indefinite leave was correspondingly lengthened to three, five, and eight years. Prior to 1708, recruits ranged in age from 17 to 32 years; from 1708 to 1726, they were from 20 to 30 years old; and from 1726 to 1766, they were “of all ages.” From 1766 to 1831, recruits ranged from 17 to 30 years old; from 1831 to 1855, 20 to 35 years old; and from 1855 to 1874, up to 30 years of age.

Prior to 1724, the conscription rate was one recruit per 20 households. From 1724 it was based on a census of individuals rather than households. Conscription was carried out according to need, and the number of conscripts varied. Annual conscription was introduced in 1831. Distinction was made between regular conscription of five to seven recruits per 1,000, intensified conscription of seven to ten per 1,000, and extraordinary conscription of more than ten per 1,000. During the Crimean War of 1853–56, the rate of conscription reached 50-70 per 1,000, not counting the volunteer corps. There was no conscription from 1856 to 1862. From 1863 to 1874 the conscription rate was four to six per 1,000, which produced 140,000-150,000 recruits annually.

The selection of recruits was carried out by the urban or rural community, but in the case of pomest’e (estate) peasants the selection was completely under the control of the pomeshchik (landlord). In the other tax-paying estates, the selection of recruits was governed by the Recruitment Regulations of 1810 and was based on a complex and detailed calculation of the labor force in each family.

The compulsory service recruitment system was an exceedingly heavy burden for the peasant households, which led to the practice of hiring volunteers paid by the community and by individuals. In the 1840’s the government took into its own hands the hiring of volunteers: for each volunteer hired, a receipt for payment of 485 rubles was issued, the purchase of which exempted one individual from the recruitment system. In 1874 compulsory service recruitment was replaced by the compulsory military service system (voinskaia povinnost’).

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.