Goal of research: to describe the role of family and kinship in processes of social mobility, social interactions and constructing of social identities of Russian Empire.
Methodology: critique of historical sources, concept analysis, prosopography, genealogy, descriptive statistics.
Empirical base of research: published documents and archival sources from Russian State Archive for Ancient Acts (RGADA), The Russian State Military-Historical Archive (RGVIA), Russian State Historical Archive (RGIA), Archives Nationales de France, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal. Archives de la Bastille, State Archive of Ryazan’ Oblast’ (GARO), State Archive of Tula Oblast’ (GATO), Russian and foreign historiography.
Results of research: In 2016 the project was devoted to the exploring of family and kinship in the context of Russian social history. As a main source of information we used the records of civil and criminal cases. First of all, we analyzed the judicial procedures in accordance with which the cases were composed. We revealed that the Office of Criminal investigation (Sysknoi prikaz) used torture regardless of suspect’s gender. However, we can trace some doubts of officials in efficiency of torture since 1750s.
We also revealed some reconsideration of boundaries between public and private spheres in practice of Moscow Lawer’s Council (which was created in accordance with Judicial Reform of Alexander II). Although the Council only regulated professional issues it could also handle family disputes if the reputation of the lawer’s profession as such was in question.
On the second line of the research we focused on drawing the family-related information out of different kinds of judicial records. The analysis of the records of the Preobrazhenskoe and the Judicial Chancelleries (Preobrazhenskii and Sudny prikaz) confirmed that the formation of petrine guards regiments contributed to social diffusion. The wives of the guards who belonged to different social groups received common social status – soldier’s wives (soldatki). The women of different social background had active communication not only within their circle but also with the householders’ families due to the practice of billeting (postoi).
A comparative study of infanticide trials in Moscow and London of the 18th century revealed that in both cases the defendants were socially unprotected, alone women (virgins, widows or wives separated from their husbands). Among the reasons of committing the crime there were inability to abort unwanted fetus legally, strongly negative attitude to the sexual relations and pregnancy out of wedlock in the public opinion. However the reasons of being socially unprotected are not totally the same. The majority of British defendants were hires servants and were unmarried. The majority of Russian defendants consisted of household and rural serfs (dvorovye i krepostnye) and only then – of soldiers’ wives who were often hired as servants. The share of married women among the Russian defendants were significantly higher.
A study of the trials of the Secret Chancellery regarding the Frenchmen confirmed that they enjoyed the favor of the Russian nobles and were highly-demanded as private teachers. However, they were very adherent to the French fraternity.
On the third line of the research two case-studies were performed. Avraam S. Sverchkov (1687 or 1692 – 1755), a prominent office-holder whose parents belonged to one of liable to tax social groups, claimed to bequeath his belongings only to his descendants of nobility (he had two daughters who were married by members of well-known noble families). If both of the daughters died childless Sverchkov would rather leave his belongings to Moscow University than to non-noble relatives. A nobleman Grigorii S. Korob’in (1741 – 1807) on the contrary had much in common with his relatives (namely brothers): similar career line as artillery officer, similar matrimonial preference to women from noble families of comparable wealth whose parents were often rather educated. These traits prove that the education was considered as an important value. If so, Korob’in’s famous speeches in favor of the serfs in the Legislative Commission of 1767 - 1768 seem to be a little bit less surprising, although the education of course did not usually led to reconsideration of serfs rights at that time.
The exploration of the problems mentioned above led us to pay special attention to the role of the State in establishing social relations and ideas. This issue was addressed in a case-study of a conspiracy by a group of nobles against Catherine II which took place in 1769. It was revealed that ideas, which were presented in laws and Nakaz by the Empress, provoked these nobles’ (noteworthy, there were two former deputies of the Legislative Commission) hostility. However, these people adopted some of her rhetoric and vocabulary (“the public benefit”, “common good”) and thus, presumably, some of her ideas, too.