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Why soldiers in Russia were considered walking, and what awaited their illegitimate children
Why soldiers in Russia were considered walking, and what awaited their illegitimate children

Soldiers' regiments in Russia were formed in the second third of the 17th century. Servicemen of the Russian army left to fulfill their duty, and their families were left without a breadwinner. The situation is, of course, quite difficult. The service was long, so only very loving wives remained faithful to their husband. Most women understood perfectly well that the chances of their husband returning home are scanty, so after seeing off the army they tried to build their personal lives. Read in the material about the hard life of the soldier women in Russia, how society treated them, why they were considered walking and how illegitimate children were freed from military service.

The hard life of a soldier

The soldier was left alone and had to work and support her family

After the introduction of permanent recruitment at the beginning of the 18th century, the number of female soldiers began to increase rapidly. How did you get this status? This happened if a woman married a soldier, or her husband was drafted into the army, or married a retired soldier. Most often, men were taken into the army, and the peasant women became soldiers, in fact, heads of families. As soon as a woman became a soldier, she ceased to be a serf and could move around the country as she wanted. Naturally, this situation did not suit the landowners very much, because during the recruitment they lost not only strong working men, but also often lost their families.

If the soldier did not have children, then often she followed her husband in order to be closer to him. Then the woman was subordinate to the regimental commander, who determined what she would do in the unit. But about 5% of women left behind their husbands. 80% of peasant women could not afford such travel, as they had children. Many did not dare to change their lives and remained in their village. They lived in the husband's house or returned to their parents, but in either case they could behave quite freely and change their spouse. After all, the soldier was sometimes absent for several decades, and sometimes he did not return. The remaining 15% of the female soldiers went to the cities, looked for work there, entered factories, and often became prostitutes. According to the 13th edition of "Statistics of the Russian Empire", it is noted that in 1889 every fifth soldier was among the officially registered priestesses of love.

Straw widows and why the peasants played their sons' weddings before they entered the service

The peasants tried to marry their sons before they were taken to the service

The number of soldiers who, during the service, could visit the house, see their family, was very small. A peasant woman who accompanied her husband to the service received the status of a “straw widow”. Naturally, such a situation, when there were no meetings with the family, there was no correspondence, and the years of separation were endless, negatively affected the fate of people. Children grew up without a father. Sometimes, when the serviceman returned, he did not find his comrades - they had already left this world, and the wife was already an old woman, sometimes surrounded by other people's children.

If we turn to the statistical records of the Tambov province, then out of 13,000 female soldiers, only 650 peasant women had permission to periodically meet with their husbands. They became a kind of half-widows.A sad tradition arose: the peasants began to marry their sons before they were taken to serve. Young daughters-in-law were left alone, husbands went into the army, and what was left for a woman? She sought personal happiness in the arms of other men.

Why soldiers were considered to be walking, and what is otkhodniki

In some provinces, the betrayal of the soldier women was treated without negativity

Society treated the soldiers negatively. These women were called walkers. However, some understood that such behavior of women was justified, and it was not their fault that they had to live without a husband. In some studies of the ethnographers of the Voronezh province, it is noted that here the relations of the soldiers with other men were not too condemned. There were regions in Russia where otkhodniki existed, that is, a situation in which men looked for seasonal work and left home for a long time. At the same time, society turned a blind eye to the passage of their wives. The same was true of the soldiers' women who have lovers, explaining their fornication by the impossibility of shortening the female nature and the absence of a husband. Sometimes the soldiers entered into an unofficial remarriage. At the same time, in some cases, her husband's relatives even welcomed this fact, since they could transfer the daughter-in-law for full support to another man and relieve themselves of taking care of her financial support.

Illegitimate children of soldiers

Often the soldiers tried to place an illegitimate child in another family

It often happened that the soldier did not have time to give birth to a child from her husband. The joy of motherhood came to her later, when a child appeared from another man. A newborn baby, being illegitimate, immediately fell into the military class. The state did not seek to figure out who was the father of the baby, the main thing is that the army ranks will be replenished. Many peasant women did not want their children to serve as well as their husbands, so they did their best to avoid pregnancy. Often they had an abortion, and they could also give the child to friends for upbringing, to another peasant family. When a soldier returned home, very often he showed a negative attitude towards other people's children, who are attributed to his family. It so happened that the deceived husband was so insulted that a tragedy happened with a bad end - the murder of the unfaithful.

The secular society treated the extramarital affairs of the soldier girls differently. But the church has always condemned them. The attempts of a woman to find happiness were not considered righteous, since only one single married marriage was recognized in the church. The priests, without listening to the voice of reason, recorded all the children of the soldier on her official husband. As a result, the recruit could return home and find that he was the father of a large family. There was only one relief when remarriage was allowed: if the husband was missing, when he was taken prisoner, and at the same time at least ten years had to pass since the moment of this tragic event.

For various reasons, the wives of aristocrats could fall into disgrace. And then they were placed in special prison-chambers, where their fate was broken.

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