(Russkaya Starina. Vol. 130. 1907, Part 2. Pages 327-30. “Iz rekrutskikh del vo vremya otechesvennoi voiny.” Submitted by S. Chikachev.)

A Conscription Episode During the Patriotic War of 1812

Certain documents in the archives of the Trubchevsk town hall [gorodovyi magistrat] and lower local court [nizhnii zemskii sud] provide an interesting and colorful depiction of contemporary local life during the Patriotic War. Those documents, produced by those institutions, concern searching for and apprehending townsmen who hid themselves from conscription with the help landowners.

The townspeople as a body directed the town council to send out town citizens as special “catchers” [“lovchie”] to search for townsmen hiding from conscription. Sending out these “catchers” always required significant expenses that fell exclusively on the town commune, and these expeditions were not always successful, sometimes even ending with very deplorable consequences. We have the opportunity to acquaint readers with one of these affairs.

This took place at a time when “the enemy, having invaded Russia, was bearing arms inside our country and striving by force and blandishments to shake the country’s equanimity with the evil intention of destroying its glory and prosperity, when he with cunning in his heart and flattery on his lips was carrying eternal chains and fetters for our nation” (Highest Manifesto of 6 July 1812.) Then down from the throne came a Highest Order addressed to all Russian social classes to help destroy Russia’s enemy with our united and undivided might.

On 16 June 1813 the following report was submitted to the Trubchevsk town council by townsmen Petr Biryukov, Ivan Gorbachev, Aleksei Sivaev, Athanasii Samoilov, Yakov Shakin, and Maksim Krysin:

In accordance with the legally based directive from the town council, we were sent to various places to find Trubchevsk townsmen absent without written permission, who had not paid government or family taxes, and were subject to being turned over as conscripts, all because there is a shortfall of recruits in our commune for the 18th conscription call-up. And consequent to orders we received, we searched for persons in different places and were returning last June 14th on the main highway from the town of Bryansk to Trubchevsk and turned onto a country road leading to the village of Salova-Sosnovka. We saw Trubchevsk townsmen at a brick works [kirpichnyi sarai], a little distance to the left of the road. We did not know who owned the works. These men were all subject to being conscripted, being Yefim Gubin, Thedor Germonov (who had already been selected as a recruit but before being sent off had run away to Orel), and Makar Biryukov. We went up to the works and took hold of Gubin and Germanov, but Biryukov ran away. We were leading the two men to the road to put them in carts, but Germanov broke loose and fled. Gubin was conducted to the road, put in irons, and placed in a cart. We intended to bring him to Trubchevsk, but when we were moving away from the works toward the main highway, the landowner, Lieutenant Nikolai Faddeevich Salov, who lived in the village and shared an estate with his brothers Vasilii and Yakov Salov, galloped up to us in a carriage pulled by three horses, accompanied by his peasants. There were three mounted on the horses holding knouts [knuty, heavy whips] and about twenty men on foot carrying wooden clubs. Salov himself came out of his carriage with the most angry look on his face and with his people stopped us, seized Biryukov by the lapels of his sheepskin coat, tore it, beat him inhumanely on the cheeks with his hands, and then grabbed him by the hair, pushed him to the ground pulled him along. In addition, of the people sitting with him, Salov, in the carriage, the driver slid down from the carriage and whipped Biryukov with his knout. After Salov dropped Biryukov he beat Yakov Shakin about his head, grabbed him by the ears, pushed him onto the ground, kicked him, and lastly threatened to beat all of us and whip us with knouts. He ordered his people to take Gubin back from us, which was done with Salov taking part. He freed Gubin from his irons and then by means of his people’s threatening clubs he detained us and Gubin as if we were criminals under guard. He lead his people to the village of Sosnovka and his own house, not beating us any more while we were on the road, fearing at last that while he had been assaulting us and traveling with his people along the main Bryansk road, passersby Petr Fil’kov, Ivan Logginov, and Savva Logginov, homesteaders from the Trubchevsk streltsy settlement, may have seen the incident. When we had been brought to his house, Salov shouted at his people to prepare stocks [kolodki] and put them on us. At this time Salov’s brother Vasilii Salov was using his hands to beat Biryukov about the ears and hitting his face with the soles of his boots. Nikolai Salov angrily demanded from us our written authorization, so we gave him the council’s orders to us. He took it and ordered his people to take us under guard to the kitchen, taking the council’s orders with him into the master bedrooms. Soon afterward Salov ordered his people to get horses ready for a rabbit hunt. Horses were brought up and out of the big house came the former Trubchevsk local police officer [zemskoi ispravnik] Ivan Vepreiskoi, who mounted a horse and rode off. Then Salov’s brothers Vasilii and Yakov also mounted horses and rode off. Nikolai went out to ride off after them, and as we saw him leaving we went out of the kitchen into the courtyard and asked him to release us, but he said, “Give me a written statement that I did not harm you and will not file any claims against me, and I’ll let you go.” But we did not agree to give him such a paper and he rode off while we remained in his house in the kitchen and spent the evening under guard. Salov and his brothers returned home from their hunt at one o’clock in the morning. The next day, as we started to ask to be released, he threatened us with beatings and punishments and demanded a paper stating that he had not harmed us in any way, that we would not lay charges. In fear of Salov’s threats, and not knowing what else to do, we were forced to give up such a document in the presence of some church sextons [d’yachki] there, whose names we do not know. Afterwards Salov let us go, but our townsman Gubin remained with him at his house, as well as Germanov and Biryukov who had fled their obligations. We caught sight of them at the house but seeing all the Salovs’ frightfulness and so many of his people and peasants around him, we were unable to take them. Rather, upon being freed, we had to save our own lives and barely reached our homes. We most respectfully report this to the council, and ask that this incident be dealt with according to the law.

A full session of the town council heard this report and directed that the provincial administration be informed of what had happened and requested that legal proceedings be initiated in regard to the affair and the guilty be brought before the law. The council also requested the Trubchevsk lower local court to immediately demand from landowner Salov the conscript townsmen he was hiding and that he send them to the council under appropriate guard.

The town council did not limit itself to this. It sent six more townsmen to Salova-Sosnovka to capture conscripts hiding there, but this expedition had even more sad results.

From the report of the townsmen sent out (Ivan Gamov, Semen Sednev, Mikhail Krysin, Koz’ma Khatuntsov, and Ivan Sakharnyi), submitted to the council on 21 June 1813, it is seen that when they arrived at Salova-Sosnovka on 19 June and tried to collect the townsmen hiding from conscription at landowner Salov’s same brick works-Gubin, Germanov, and Biryukov-they were set upon by more than 15 of landowner Salov’s peasants armed with clubs and with the clear intention of murdering them. Seeing this, they were forced to save their lives by fleeing to their horses. They were able to reach their carts, but their comrade Prokop Sushkov was unable to get into a cart before being attacked by the first fugitive conscript Germanov, who laid him on the ground with the blow of a spade. The peasants who then ran up began to beat Sushkov with clubs. Sushkov’s current whereabouts, and whether he was alive or dead, were “unknown, since to save our own lives were had to ride away in haste,” concluded the expedition’s townsmen in their report.

From further documents relating to this incident we know that Sushkov died shortly after being beaten and that the fugitive conscript Germanov was caught on 6 July in a ravine near Trubchevsk. Under questioning by the town council he stated that he and his comrades, with the intention of hiding from the draft, hired themselves to landowner Salov to make bricks and for the entire time were on his estate in the village of Salova-Sosnovka. Where his comrades were now, he did not know, but he had made his way to his home it order to collect some clothes but had been seen and captured by townsmen Simonov and Legchilin.

After the provincial administration had the lower local court investigate this affair, the case was forwarded to the Orel criminal court [Orelskaya palata ugolovnago suda].


Translated by Mark Conrad, 2005.