Military Settlements

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Military Settlements


a special form of organization of the army in Russia from 1810 to 1857 that combined military service with agricultural tasks. It was introduced by Alexander I in order to create a reserve of trained troops without increasing expenditures for the army.

The first military settlement was established in 1810 by A. A. Arakcheev (who became the official head of the military settlements in 1817) in Klimovichi District, Mogilev Province. Beginning in 1816 the establishment of military settlements was carried out on a broad scale. The settlement troops were composed of married soldiers who had served no less than six years and of local inhabitants—men (for the most part, peasants) who ranged in age from 18 to 45. Both groups were called settler-proprietors (poseliane-khoziaeva). The remaining local inhabitants of the same age who were not included in the troops but were fit for service were enrolled as assistants to the proprietors and were included in reserve military subdivisions. The sons of the military settlers were enrolled from the age of seven and were known as kantonisty; at the age of 18 they were transferred to the military sections. At the age of 45 the settlers retired but continued to serve in hospitals and at economic tasks. In each military settlement, consisting of 60 house-groups, a company of 228 men was stationed. Placed in each house-group were four proprietors with a common economy. Life in the military settlements was strictly regulated. The peasants underwent military training all year, and farm work was not necessarily conducted at the most favorable times. Corporal punishment was common.

The military settlements were established on state lands, which brought about the open resistance of state peasants. For example, in 1817 there was peasant resistance in the Kholyn’ia and Vysotsk volosts (small rural districts) of Novgorod Province, and during 1817-18 disturbances occurred among troops stationed along the Bug River. But Alexander I declared, “The military settlements will be continued even if the road from Petersburg to Chudovo [100 km] has to be paved with corpses.” By 1825 military settlements had been established in the provinces of St. Petersburg, Novgorod (along the Volkhov River and near the town of Staraia Russa), Mogilev, Slobodsko-Ukraina, Kherson, Ekaterino-slav, and elsewhere. Military settlements constituted almost one-fourth of the army (according to other data, one-third), and they had a capital of 32 million rubles, but they did not provide a sure supply of recruits for the army. Far from being a weapon in the struggle against the liberation movement, they themselves became one of the sources of that movement. In June 1819 there was an uprising of the Chuguev Regiment (the center of the Slobodsko-Ukraina military settlement), and in August the revolt spread to the district of the Taganrog Regiment. The insurgents demanded to be returned to their former status, seized the lands which had been taken from them, and attacked and evicted their chiefs. Rough justice was meted out to the insurgents under the personal supervision of Arakcheev; of more than 2,000 persons arrested, 313 were court-martialed. Of the 275 men (according to other data, 204) sentenced to the punishment of running the gauntlet (where each man received about 12,000 blows), 25 men died; the remainder were sent to the Orenburg Corps.

In July 1831 in the military settlement near Staraia Russa there took place one of the largest soldiers’ uprisings in the Russian Army during the first half of the 19th century. A cholera epidemic served as an initial cause; this brought about a number of “cholera uprisings.” The town passed into the hands of the insurgents, who set up a court on the square and executed their chiefs. This uprising spread to most of the military settlements in Novgorod Province. A battalion which was sent to put down the revolt went over to the side of the rebels. The government reprisal was cruel: a third of the inhabitants of the villages that had taken part in the uprising had to run the gauntlet and were then sent to Siberia; many others were sent to Kronstadt Fortress, where they had to perform forced convict labor.

These outbreaks among the military settlers became part of the antifeudal struggle of the Russian peasantry. In 1831 many military settlements were renamed as districts of farming soldiers, and this led to the de facto liquidation of most military settlements. In 1857 all military settlements and districts of farming soldiers were abolished.


Lenin, V. I. “Katorzhnye pravila i katorzhnyi prigovor.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 5.
Evstaf’ev, P. P. Vosstanie voennykh poselian Novgorodskoi gubernii v 1831 g. Moscow, 1934.
Fedorov, V. A. “Vosstanie voennykh poselian v Chugueve v 1819 g.” In the collection Istoricheskie zapiski, vol. 52. [Moscow] 1955.
Fedorov, V. A. “Bor’ba krest’ian Rossii protiv voennykh poselenii (1810-1818).” Voprosy istorii, 1952, no. 11.
Gr. Arakcheev i voennye poseleniia 1809-31. St. Petersburg, 1871.


References in classic literature ?
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