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Any non-Slavic subject of the Russian Empire, such as Finns, Germans, or Armenians.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the term inorodtsy carried pejorative overtones. First used in a legislative project of 1798, the word was given a precise legal definition by a legal statute of 1822. Here it was used to refer to groups of Russian subjects for whom the fundamental laws of the Empire were deemed inappropriate and who therefore required a special, protected status. While under the protection of the state, they would be gradually "civilized," becoming more like the settled Russian population. Initially applied to peoples living in Siberia, the category also came to include newlyannexed peoples of Middle Asia (Kazaks, Kyrgyz, Turkmen), some of whom had a long tradition of permanent settlement and high culture.

With the exception of the Jews, the inorodtsy were indigenous peoples who inhabited areas of Siberia and Central Asia. (Thus, the common translation of this term in English as "aliens" is misleading; "natives" might better convey what the term implied to Russian colonizers.) They included the Kyrgyz; the Samoyeds of Archangel province; the nomads of Stavropol province; the nomanic Kalmuks of Astrakhan and Stavropol provinces; and the Kyrgyz of the Internal Hordes of Middle Asia (the regions of Akmolin, Semipalatinsk, Semirech, and the territory beyond the Ural mountains).

The Statute on the Inorodtsy of 1822, associated with Mikhail Speransky's enlightened administration of Siberia, sought to protect the traditional hunting and grazing areas of native peoples from encroachment by Russian settlers. The Statute placed all inorodtsy into one of three categories: settled, nomadic, and wandering huntergathererfishermen. Each category received special prerogatives and levels of protection thought appropriate for its level of culture and its economic pursuits. The inorodtsy were permitted local selfadministration, which included police duties, administration of justice (based on customary law), and the collection of taxes in money or in kind, as appropriate. Administration was placed in the hand of the local elites, generally tribal elders and chieftains.

With a few exceptions, such as some groups of Buryats, inorodtsy were generally exempted from military service. The military reform of 1874 began to erode this privilege. A Bashkir cavalry squadron was created in Orenburg province in 1874, while in the 1880s a growing number of native peoples in Siberia were subject to some form of service. Some groups were permitted to substitute service with a monetary tax, while others were recruited on an individual basis, with the assurance that they would be assigned to specific regiments. An attempt, announced on June 25, 1916, to end the tradition of a general exemption from military service of many Middle Asian peoples and to draft 390,000 inorodtsy into the army for support duties, triggered a vast anticolonial revolt in Middle Asia, which was put down with great brutality.

Jews were included in the category of inorodtsy by a statute of 1835. This categorization was entirely anomalous. The general tendency of Russian legislation towards the Jews was to promote their sliyanie (merger) with the non-Jewish population, yet their designation as inorodtsy placed them in a special, unique category. All other inorodtsy received special privileges and exemptions as a result of this status, while for the Jews it was a vehicle for the imposition of liabilities. The inorodtsy of Siberia in particular were viewed as living at a lower cultural level, as followers of animistic, pagan belief systems. (Many of the inorodtsy of Middle Asia were Muslims.) The Jews, in contrast, were adherents of a "higher" religion. Most inorodtsy were in the eastern regions of the Empire; the Jews were resident in the RussianPolish borderlands; indeed, they were largely barred from settlement in those areas where most inorodtsy were to be found. The most distinctive privileges of the inorodtsy were their own institutions of government, and exemption from military service; the Jews were made liable for military service in 1827, and the autonomous Jewish community, the kahal, was abolished in 1844. There was an ethnic component of inorodets status, since any inorodets who converted from paganism to Christianity retained all the rights and privileges of an inorodets; Jewish converts to Christianity lost the legal status of "Jew" and the disabilities that it carried. Nonetheless, this bizarre anomaly endured until the demise of the Russian Empire, when the Provisional Government not only granted full equality to the Jews, but also abolished all special legislation for the inorodtsy.

See also: jews; nationalities policies, tsarist


Baumann, Robert, F. (1987). "Subject Nationalities in the Military Service of Imperial Russia: The Case of the Bashkirs." Slavic Review 46:489-502.

Baumann, Robert F. (1986). "Universal Military Service Reform and Russia's Imperial Dilemma." War and Society 4(2):31-49

Kappeler, Andreas. (2001). The Russian Empire: A MultiEthnic History. Harlow, UK: Longman.

Klier, John D. (1989). "The Concept of 'Jewish Emancipation' in a Russian Context." In Civil Rights in Imperial Russia, eds. Olga Crisp and Linda Edmondson. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Sokol, Edward Dennis. (1954). The Revolt of 1916 in Russian Central Asia. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.

John D. Klier