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Regular version of the site

Article

Билет в новую жизнь или о том, как якобы вернуться из-за рубежа

Горностаев А. В.

The article examines the unexpected effects of the May 5th 1779 Manifesto on the formation of deception practices among Russian peasants residing near the Swedish and Polish-Lithuanian borders. In the Manifesto, Catherine the Great invited fugitives to return to Russia, offering them an opportunity to change their social status and become state peasants, townsmen, or merchants, as well as to receive a six-year tax waiver. To achieve this, they needed to obtain returnee passes at border outposts, specifying their future status and residence. However, this decree proved appealing not only to the official returnees from abroad, but also to the peasants inside the country who sought to exploit it. The article proceeds to explore individual instances of deception and one peasant uprising in 1780 in Novgorod and Tver gubernias. Through bribery, forgery, and lying, several peasants managed to unlawfully register in towns along the western border and near the Volga. In turn, thousands of rebels illegally obtained authentic returnee passes through the mediation of a certain Lieutenant Palander, serving at a Russian outpost near the Swedish border, and claimed to have freedom from their landlords. The analysis of several specific cases lies at the heart of this article, which seeks to demonstrate the importance of the interplay between various informal practices and the understanding of legality by rural inhabitants.