Military settlements

Military settlements (viiskovi poselennia). In 1817–25, to reduce military expenditures while maintaining a self-sufficient standing army, the tsarist regime settled 36 infantry battalions and 240 cavalry squadrons in state-owned villages in Slobidska Ukraine, Kherson gubernia, and Katerynoslav gubernia. The soldiers were allowed to live with their families in carefully planned and reconstructed villages. They supported themselves by farming allotted holdings and operating saw and flour mills, quarries, and stud farms. The peasants already living there were classified as military settlers and placed under a permanent martial law and discipline that combined the worst aspects of serfdom and the most brutal conditions of military life. Although they received better medical care, education, and material benefits than other peasants, they were forced to wear uniforms, to perform military drills and a weekly minimum of three days of corvée (farming and construction) for the state under military command, and to feed and shelter the active soldiers and their families. All aspects of their lives, including marriage and having children, were strictly regimented and monitored by local officers. Violators were severely punished, usually with the knout. From the age of 7 males attended schools and underwent military training, and from the age of 18 to 45 they were kept in military service. From 1831 the military settlers were called farming soldiers. In 1837 the same lot befell peasants living on lands in Kyiv gubenia and Podilia gubernia confiscated from Polish nobles who had taken part in the Polish Insurrection of 1830–1. The military settlements in Ukraine at that time encompassed an area of 2.4 million desiatins with 554,000 inhabitants (including those of the towns of Yelysavethrad, Olviopil, and Uman). The military settlers repeatedly rebelled against the extraordinarily harsh regime imposed on them. Particularly large and violent were the 1817 rebellion of former Cossacks of the Boh Cossack Army; the 1819 rebellion of Chuhuiv (see Chuhuiv uprising) and Tahanrih regiments, in Slobidska Ukraine gubernia, which resulted in the imprisonment of over 2,000 participants, the court-martial and brutal flogging of 273 (who each received 12,000 lashes), and the exile to Siberia of over 400; and the 1829 Shebelynka Rebellion in Slobidska Ukraine gubernia. Because the military settlements, which constituted one-third to one-half of the Russian military forces, failed to fulfill their political and economic objectives, they were abolished in 1857. The active soldiers were incorporated into regular units, and the farmers were reclassified as state peasants.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]

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