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The clerk (podyachy ), who wrote, filed, and handled government documents of the seventeenth-century Russian central and provincial administration.

Little-known during the 1500s, chancellery clerks expanded: 575 in 1626, but 2,762 in 1698. After 1700, their numbers plunged. Divided in three salary groups (senior, middle, junior) by service record and seniority, clerks' pay varied from 0.5 to fifty rubles; the mean decreased from 11.5 to 9.5 rubles. Most earned from one to ten rubles. Pay was also in service land and kind. Clerks could receive supplements for special assignments, holidays, and other needs, and resort to bribery. Signatory (podyachy so pripisyuu ) and document (podyachy so spravoy ) clerks were elite senior clerks. Clerk novitiates between ages ten and fifteen learned skoropis (cursive longhand) and documentary formulae, and acquired office sense; many were washed out. During the 1600s, the number of clerks working without regular pay, thanks to budgetary constraints, increased significantly.

Numbers varied from 446 in the Service Land Chancellery to one in several smaller chancelleries; median and mean figures per chancellery were ten and nine (1620s) and twenty-three and fifty-two (1680s). Between three percent and ten percent were promoted to dyak. Not part of the Moscow service group, they were nonetheless respected for their expertise. Central clerks were dispatched into the field (land surveys, military headquarters duty, diplomatic service, etc.); mortality was high.

The number of provincial clerks varied from 750 (1640s) to nearly 1,900 (1690s). They worked under the town military governor (voyevoda ), subordinated to the chancelleries. Working in Moscow and the provinces, the private scribe (ploshchadnoy podyachy ) read and wrote private documents for a fee.

See also: chancellery system; dyak


Brown, Peter B. (1978). "Early Modern Russian Bureaucracy: the Evolution of the Chancellery System from Ivan III to Peter the Great, 14781717." Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago.

Plavsic, Borovoi. (1980). "Seventeenth-Century Chanceries and Their Staffs." In Russian Officialdom: The Bureaucratization of Russian Society from the Seventeenth Century to the Twentieth Century, eds. Walter McKenzie Pintner and Don Karl Rowney. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Peter B. Brown