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Article

The Role of Social Status In Poor Relief In a Modernizing Urban Society: The Case Of Sheremetev's Almshouse in 1802–1812

The Russian Review. 2017. No. 2. P. 224-252.

Sheremetev’s Almshouse was the first private institution of social welfare in Russia which openly proclaimed that not all the poor deserved relief and exposed the applicants to inspections by the administrators. The study demonstrates that the recipients of the Almshouse relief did not belong to the lowest tiers of Moscow population but originated from its middle stratum. They were clerks and ranked officials, the military of middle ranks, and priests, or their families. Considerable number of them had additional sources of income before they obtained allowances from the Almshouse, only for a few of them the relief was crucial for survival. This paradox can be explained by examining the reports on the recipients written by an administrator of the Almshouse. The document reveals that the Almshouse supported those Moscow dwellers who were involved in the network of patronage or were connected by the relations of military or civil service with the administration of the Almshouse and with Moscow aristocracy. The support from the patrons served a better guarantee for the Almshouse’s administration than the evidences of the neighbours or relatives. On the basis of the unearthed archival documents, the study brings out that the Almshouse was an institution deeply rooted in the Moscow patronage and protective network which connected people of middle stratum and the aristocracy. Selecting recipients of relief, the administration of the Almshouse was guided by the logic of privilege and assertion of status opposed to economic definitions of poverty.