NOLTE H.-H. Non-Orthodox Labour in Early Modern Russia


Hans-Heinrich Nolte

Dr. phil., Professor Emeritus for History of Eastern Europe,

Leibniz University Hannover,

Im Moore, 21, D, 30167 Hannover, Germany

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Abstract. While the Tsardom Russia in Early Modern Times till the 18th century experienced a constant demographic loss to slavehunters supplying the markets of Muslim Empires, there also was an influx of Non-Orthodox Prisoners of War (from Muslim Tatars to Protestant Swedes) and socially weak people from annexed territories. Most Jasak-paying communities remained ethnically Non-Russian, but some Non-Orthodox “foreigners” by being sold or selling themselves left their communities and entered the status of peasants respectively kholops. These mostly were integrated into the Russian Orthodox flock. By prohibiting Orthodox people to serve in Non-Orthodox households clergy and government hoped to safeguard laypeople against other creeds, but strengthened the labour-market of Non-Orthodox servants. Muslim estate-owners, Armenian merchants, German doctors, Scottish officers etc. wanted servants in house and garden to care for their households and keep their social standings. Non-Orthodox servants, referred to but not regulated in the basic law of 1649, remained ethnically Non-Russian and confirmed Russia’s character as “multi-ethnic Empire”.

Key words: Non-Orthodox servants, Early-Modern Russia, 17th century, peasants, serfs.

Citation. Nolte H.-H. Non-Orthodox Labour in Early Modern Russia. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2022, vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 84-95. DOI:

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Non-Orthodox Labour in Early Modern Russia by Nolte H.-H. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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