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In the state's embrace? Civil acts in an imperial order.

One of the principal characteristics of the modern state has been its aspiration to acquire extensive and detailed information about the population it oversees. As James C. Scott remarks, whereas its premodern counterpart was content with levels of intelligence sufficient for only the most basic practices of governance, "the modern state increasingly aspired to 'take in charge' the physical and human resources of the nation and make them more productive." John Torpey has likewise noted, "In order to extract resources and to implement policies, states must be in a position to locate and lay claim to people and goods." (1) It is only in the past two centuries or so--and in many cases much more recently--that states have developed the administrative capacity to make confident claims on their subjects and citizens. Until then, there were often great discrepancies between the interventions to which states aspired and the instruments available for their realization.

The recognition of such discrepancies enjoins us to focus attention on the processes by which states construct relationships between themselves and their subjects. Torpey has rightly noted that the prevailing analytical tendency to describe states' growing capacity to "penetrate" or "reach into" societies fails to account for the precise mechanisms by which such relationships are forged and sustained. As an alternative, he suggests that we regard states as seeking "not simply to penetrate but also to embrace societies, 'surrounding' and 'taking hold' of their members--individually and collectively--as those states grow larger and more administratively adept." Torpey's emphasis is on the grasp of the state rather than on its reach, on the techniques of governance concerned with the unique and unambiguous identification of individuals that rendered other, more prominent and visible projects--such as conscription and taxation--possible and enforceable. (2)

The present article analyzes a crucial aspect of the Russian state's infrastructural "embrace" of its population: the establishment and operation of a system for maintaining civil acts registering the births, marriages, and deaths of the empire's population. I focus in particular on the "metrical books" that were maintained by religious servitors of the empire's various confessions and that constituted the closest approximation to an order of universal registration. (3) These registers served as the foundation for civil status and the exercise of rights, as well as for the state's claims on its subjects in a growing range of contexts. I argue that even as the state aspired to embrace its population more firmly through the extension of metrical books to an ever-widening circle of confessional groups, administrative weakness compelled the autocracy to effectuate this embrace indirectly, through mediating religious personnel and institutions. Particularly as the state's need for reliable and comprehensive documentation on the identity of its subjects grew, the deficiencies of the resulting order became ever more consequential. My emphasis in the present study is thus on the gradual character of the state's infrastructural growth, the crucial mediating role of confessional institutions, and the complexities that thereby conditioned the development of a comprehensive, if differentiated, civil order in Russia.

At the center of my inquiry is a fundamental tension between universality and particularity in the documentary regime constructed in Russia over the course of the imperial period. On the one hand, metrical books represented the standard method for ascertaining the identity and civil status of the empire's entire population, without reference to social distinction or abode. As imperial law itself indicated, these registers were the one set of deeds that were "common to all statuses" (obshchie dlia vsekh sostoianii). (4) In this respect, metrical books represented a universalistic practice of governance. On the other hand, metrical books remained particularistic in at least two specific ways. First, because they were maintained in almost all cases by religious clergies of the empire's various faiths, these registers were confessionally specific. They recorded events that were often distinct to particular religions--baptism, circumcision, confirmation, and so on--and religious consistories or their equivalents served as registry offices. Second, although metrical books were in principle designed to encompass the empire's entire populace, there were significant segments of the population, usually defined by a combination of confession and geography, that lacked such records as late as the early 20th century. Even as the state's documentary regime expanded to include some of these groups, at no point did metrical books become a truly universal form of registration. Although there was some movement toward civil registration--that is, the transfer of this task from religious clergy to the secular bureaucracy--the state ultimately made only limited efforts in this regard for both ideological and practical reasons. Indeed, as we shall see, after 1905 it moved in the opposite direction, transferring to clergies some of the few records that had previously been maintained by civil or police authorities.

In a broader sense, this article seeks to illuminate one dimension of the incomplete process by which the tsarist regime fashioned a civil order capable of accommodating the empire's confessional diversity. (5) To the extent that the autocracy continued to invest many crucial institutions and practices--such as marriage, oaths, and civil acts--with a specifically religious character, confessional differences acquired profound implications for the nature and operation of civil law in Russia. Those institutions and practices, while undoubtedly similar in function across the different confessions, nonetheless varied in terms of their precise form, the degree of their legal definition, and their cultural relevance to each religious group. (6) The challenge for the autocracy was to construct an order sufficiently unified to establish coherence in the country's civil affairs, while also institutionalizing the confessional differences that it regarded as being politically important and suitable for manipulation. By both endowing subjects with civil status and recognizing confessional diversity, metrical books played a central role in this process.

Metrical Books: Their Significance

Metrical books served as "the fundamental register of identity in imperial Russia," and their importance derived first and foremost from their function as documentation for civil status (grazhdanskoe sostoianie). The data they contained were required to enter state service and certain educational institutions, to become ennobled, to enter into marriage, and to establish the legitimacy of children and thus their property rights. (7) Moreover, many rights could be invoked only on the attainment of majority, which could be most readily ascertained by metrical books, as the primary records of birth. Metrical records became especially important in 1874 with the introduction of universal military service, which in principle rendered every male eligible for service at a certain stage of his life. Only metrical books could establish unequivocally the age of the individual and his eligibility for exemptions offered to those men whose family situation made military service an impossible burden. As recent research has shown, it was difficult if not impossible to conduct the draft among populations that lacked such records. (8) In essence, then, the primary purpose of metrical books was to document civil status, understood as "the position of a person as a subject of private civil rights, and in particular his position in the family or clan unit." (9)

To the extent that metrical books served as the foundation for the exercise of "private civil rights," they also represented an indispensable instrument for the inclusion of various population groups in the empire's emerging civil order. It was partly recognition of this fact that drove the state to seek their extension, if only gradually, to those groups of the population that lacked such records. Thus, when authorities in Mingrelia requested in 1834 that local Orthodox clergy be exempt from the task of keeping metrical books because of their poor education and limited literacy, the Synod's office in Tiflis responded that the introduction of such records "is indispensable for the good of Mingrelians themselves in their exercise of general civil rights and in religion." Later, in 1905, the chancellery of the viceroy of the Caucasus noted that the development of "civil consciousness" (grazhdanstvennost') among Muslims was producing ever-greater need for documentation based on metrical books, while "the absence of those civil acts impedes progress among Muslims"--for example, by blocking their access to educational institutions. (10) Metrical records thus constituted a fundamental precondition for full inclusion in the civil life of the empire.

Metrical books also played a role in determining the specific rights to which different subjects of the empire were entitled and the restrictions to which they were subject. The law positively defined specific "status rights" (prava sostoianiia) that derived from membership in a particular social estate. (11) While metrical books themselves did not explicitly establish such membership, they nonetheless could be used to establish belonging on the basis of family affiliation. (12) Furthermore, significant restrictions, especially as regards place of residence and access to education and certain occupations, were imposed on Jews; and "persons of Polish origin"--a phrase often understood simply to refer to Catholics--faced limitations on their rights to obtain land in the western provinces. (13) Even as state actors and institutions increasingly applied ethnic and national categories to the empire's population toward the end of the 9th century, (14) religious confession continued to operate in many contexts as the handiest basis for discrimination. (15) Religious confession was perceived to be stable, legally defined, thoroughly documented, and therefore not easily susceptible to manipulation. As one observer noted about the supposed propensity of Jews to hide their Jewishness, military draft lists "are sternly based on metrical records, and here you will not be able to hide your nationality and religion." (16) In short, an order of differential collective rights and limitations could function only in the presence of reliable and accurate documentation concerning the confession and estate of each individual.

Metrical records were important for statistical purposes as well. In arguing that Lutheran metrical books be maintained in Russian rather than German, several senators declared in 1888 that "metrical books represent the most reliable source for the extraction of data necessary for statistical analysis of various questions concerning changes in the population." In contrast to other existing records, metrical books also gave clear and continuous indications concerning fertility and therefore future population trends. Religious authorities were therefore instructed to compile data from the books and supply them to provincial statistical committees. In Samarkand, it was notably the Regional Statistical Committee that raised the possibility of introducing metrical books in that region in 1888. (17) To be sure, there were numerous deficiencies in metrical books from a statistical perspective, and many statisticians expressed deep doubts concerning the reliability of the data recorded there. Nonetheless, others were convinced that these registers had a fundamental role to play in the science of statistics. (18)

For all these reasons, the state regarded metrical books and excerpts taken from them with the utmost seriousness. As the legal scholar G. F. Shershenevich commented: "Birth, death, and entrance into marriage represent facts of extraordinary importance from the standpoint of numerous juridical consequences that are connected with them. Therefore, in the interests of legal order a most exact ascertainment of those facts is indispensable." (19) Orthodox clergy were accordingly instructed to maintain the books "with all possible correctness and meticulousness. Any erasure in the metrical books is sternly prohibited; and if a clerical mistake has occurred, then the incorrect entry should be bounded on all sides by lines and then the appropriate writing should continue." Orthodox parish clergy were, moreover, collectively responsible for the correct maintenance of the books and their timely submission each year to the diocesan consistory. These provisions for marking clerical mistakes and imposing collective responsibility were extended to Jewish metrical books, though not (explicitly) to those of other confessions. (20) Nonetheless, Lutheran pastors were instructed that certificates issued to parishioners and government instances "must contain an exact, word-for-word extract from the church book; be signed for by the pastor sub fide Pastorali; and be confirmed by a church stamp." (21) Whatever the variation by confession, the larger point was clear: metrical books were serious records whose maintenance required great diligence. (22)

Metrical Books: Their Origins and Spread

It was a notable feature of Russia's system of registration that religious servitors maintained civil deeds for the vast majority of the population all the way to 9 7. To be sure, registration had religious origins in Western Europe, and the introduction of civil registration there typically involved political struggles of one sort or another. In France civil registration came with the Revolution and the introduction of republican civil status. In Britain the Anglican church maintained a monopoly over marriage and registration--with the exceptions of Quakers and Jews--until 1836, when this major grievance among Dissenters was alleviated. In Germany the introduction of civil marriage and civil registration in 1875 was part of Bismarck's struggle with the Catholic Church in the Kulturkampf. (23) In most countries of western and northern Europe, some form of civil registration (as well as civil marriage) had been introduced by the 1870s or so, rendering Russia's strongly confessional system increasingly exceptional. (24)

The maintenance of parish registers first became a legal requirement with respect to the Orthodox population under Peter the Great. In 1702, parish clergy were instructed to submit weekly lists of births to the patriarchal administration, and a decree of 1722 required the systematic keeping of registers. Still, another half-century or so was required for church authorities to construct a coherent documentary regime for their flock. Even the basic form of such registers was fully standardized only in the 830s. (25)

The extension of this system to the non-Orthodox confessions in the early 19th century required that the state either recognize or define specific groups of the population as "clergies." Already outfitted with priests and pastors and in most cases already subject to some kind of parish registration, Christian populations presented comparatively few difficulties in this regard, although newer groups like the Baptists raised complications that we address below. (26) By recognizing imams and mullahs as a "Muslim clergy" in the late 18th century, the state could impose on them the obligation of maintaining metrical books in 828 (the Volga-Ural region) and 1832 (Crimea). (27) In Transcaucasia, once a statute for the religious affairs of Muslims was promulgated in 1872, provisions for the maintenance of registers appeared shortly thereafter (in 1873). (28) Only in the case of Jews did the obligation to maintain metrical books (1826) temporally precede the definition of their clergy's precise role and relationship to the state (1835), although the two events are best regarded as part of single process of bureaucratization. (29) It was principally because of their duty to maintain metrical books that the recognized "foreign" confessions in Russia came to be regarded as "state institutions," and their religious leaders as state servitors. (30)

In contrast, where military rule persisted and the state made no provision for the regulation of a population's religious affairs--for example, in Central Asia or the North Caucasus--there was no clearly designated group to which the job of maintaining registers could be entrusted. (31) Likewise, there was no "pagan" clergy on which the state could rely, and therefore the sizable pagan population--numbering some hundred thousand persons by 900 in European Russia alone--had confused records if it had any at all. (32) In some cases even the recognition of a clergy--for example, the determination that lamas and other Buddhist figures constituted a "lamaist clergy"--did not lead to the appearance of metrical books. (33) In a unique instance, metrical books were actually eliminated among the nomadic Muslim population of the steppe in 868, as part of a larger state effort to cordon that population off from the "harmful" influence of Tatar mullahs under the jurisdiction of the Orenburg Muslim Spiritual Assembly. (34)

The confessional character of metrical books--and therefore of civil acts--in imperial Russia confirms the proposition that the state in Russia rested on confessional foundations, institutionally as well as ideologically. (35) Basic areas of civil law--especially as concerned marriage and the family--rested on church canon and religious principles, and even reformers were generally reluctant to displace the state and its laws from their religious moorings. (36) From this perspective, there was a distinct logic to the system of registration that the Russian empire had developed by the mid-9th century. The life events recorded in metrical books were usually invested with religious significance: birth was connected with baptism or circumcision; marriage represented a sacrament for Catholic and Orthodox believers; and for almost all confessions death was accompanied by religious rites and the interment of the body in a confessionally specific graveyard. In light of the religious character of these life events, it made sense that they were rendered official by religious institutions. Moreover, for a regime that regarded religion as an indispensable basis for order and the exercise of authority, metrical books had the advantage of compelling Russian subjects to be religiously observant, at least formally. Finally, the existing system allowed the state to impose a burdensome administrative task on local clerics, thereby sparing its own administrative personnel, already thin on the ground, considerable work.

Deficiencies of Particularistic Registration

The existing system nonetheless exhibited substantial deficiencies and with time became less capable of meeting the needs of the state and subjects alike. Broadly speaking, we may identify three distinct but interrelated sources of difficulty. The first had to do with the state's mistrust of many of the groups on which it had conferred the status of "clergies," which was fueled by cases of mistakes and irregularities in the books. Thus in 1834, the state concluded that the Catholic clergy in the western provinces had not only been careless in maintaining their books but were permitting "even deliberate gaps, corrections, erasures, and other forgeries." Such abuses necessitated the formation of local committees to visit all parishes, verify and repaginate existing records, and certify them with new stamps. The government uncovered similar irregularities among Islamic metrical books in the 1870s. (37)

The greatest suspicions fell on rabbis, who were criticized both by state officials and by Jews themselves for maintaining metrical books haphazardly. The problem was compounded by the often blurred lines between the official rabbinate, educated and authorized by the state, and "spiritual rabbis," who lacked official sanction but often continued to enjoy authority among the Jewish population. State and spiritual rabbis sometimes collaborated to preserve harmony in day-to-day matters, but this meant that spiritual rabbis, uninstructed in the art of maintaining metrical books, made gross and numerous errors in making entries. In other cases relations were acrimonious, and the resulting schism of religious authority was scarcely conducive to effective record-keeping. In 1879, the Ministry of the Interior (MVD) organized a committee to investigate Jewish record-keeping practices, but it was forced to recognize that no one other than rabbis was sufficiently familiar with the Jewish community and its rituals to undertake this obligation. The next best solution, adopted by the MVD in 882, was to require provincial governors to supervise Jewish record-keeping more closely by monitoring the integrity of data entry. Yet it seems doubtful that governors were able to undertake such an extensive task of verification in any but the most superficial fashion. (38) Despite suspicions, state rabbis continued to maintain metrical books until the end of the old regime. The consequences of the government's failure to resolve this issue extended well beyond the Jewish population, as the state often postponed the introduction or improvement of record-keeping among other non-Christian groups pending the successful completion of reform in the Jewish case. (39)

The second source of difficulty had to do with the partial nature of the metrical regime, which did not encompass all of the empire's population. As we have noted, the introduction of metrical books was generally possible only where clergies clearly existed or could be established. For various reasons, the state sometimes refrained from institutionalizing non-Orthodox religious affairs, thus leaving large groups of people outside the state's documentary regime. Generally speaking, those lacking metrical books were the populations that may be regarded as "colonized"--that is, recently conquered, perceived as being radically different and decidedly inferior in terms of development, and ultimately regulated by particularistic statutes lacking provisions for organized registration. On the whole, as long as the government could accept this kind of colonial segregation, the existing system was tolerable. But the universalizing aspirations implicit in projects like the military reform of 1874 were certain to be frustrated as long as the documentary regime was not expanded.

The partial character of the existing system was, moreover, problematic not just for the colonial periphery, as the case of the Anglican confession demonstrates. Because initially all its adherents had been British subjects, the affairs of the Anglican Church in Russia were administered directly by the British embassy. By the 880s, however, a number of Russian subjects had legally converted to this confession, but there remained no way of maintaining any effective control over their registration, since the Anglican clergy was not subordinate to the government. (40) In 1875, the London Missionary Society was permitted to conduct missionary work among Jews in the kingdom of Poland, but the Warsaw governor-general found it impossible to grant the power of maintaining civil acts for Russian subjects to foreigners, and the records of Jewish converts were accordingly left with the civil authorities. By English law, moreover, Anglican priests lacked the authority to decide cases of divorce, and because there was no higher Anglican religious authority within Russia, decisions on this issue having important civil consequences had to be made abroad (i.e., in Britain). (41) In 1907, the MVD explicitly invoked the difficulties generated by the Anglican confession--in particular, issues involving divorce and registration--as grounds for new legislation regulating the appearance of not only new sects but entire "confessions" as well. (42)

The proliferation of new sects in Russia had a similar effect. By the second half of the 9th century a whole series of splinter groups had appeared among Protestants, above all in the Baltic provinces. Sectarians themselves often sought to have the obligation of maintaining metrical books transferred to their own leaders, since only then would they be able to terminate completely their dependence on the clergy of their previous confessions. (43) The government, still unfamiliar with many of these teachings and the moral qualities of their leaders, was skeptical that sectarians would maintain the records with the requisite diligence and accuracy. (44) But it was at least as problematic if the state refused to recognize new groups, since their adherents then would have no registration at all and would be denied civil status, with all the attendant complications. (45) On the whole, the metrical question probably pushed the state toward recognizing sects, since sectarians were unlikely to go through the process of legally certifying their families' marriages, births, and deaths if this required them to participate in religious rituals whose efficacy and divine sanction they no longer recognized. Even those officials who considered recognition of a given sect to be "premature" usually agreed that the question of their civil deeds required immediate attention. But the fact remains that for long periods of time, while state authorities debated whether and how to recognize and institutionalize specific sects, the life events of numerous subjects remained unregistered.

Third, the confessionally particularistic character of the books created numerous problems as well. For one, this meant that many people were located at great geographical distances from the institutions that actually archived the books for the purposes of providing extracts. In 1872, for example, Lithuanian Tatars--a small group of Polish-speaking Muslims in the empire's western provinces--complained of tremendous complications in obtaining certification of extracts from metrical books from the Tauride Islamic Spiritual Board in Crimea, to which their religious affairs were subordinated. Documentation arrived so late that young people were often unable to matriculate at gymnasia, and after 1874 they were even taken into the army despite being entitled, in principle, to exemptions. Sending telegrams to the spiritual board to accelerate the process or complaining to the government was prohibitively expensive, and thus their affairs were in disarray. (46)

Moreover, when precise confessional status was in doubt, it was not at all clear how to maintain records. Such was the case with various "apostates" and "recalcitrants," who earlier had been converted to or "reunited with" Orthodoxy for reasons having little to do with religious belief and now wished to return to their previous confessions and religions, whether Lutheranism, Catholicism, or Islam. While the state refused to recognize their religious beliefs--apostasy from Orthodoxy was illegal until 1905--these "apostates" and "recalcitrants" refused to fulfill the obligations imposed by the official Orthodox Church, and thus their marriages, the birth of their children, and even their deaths remained without proper registration. Without legal marriages, children were illegitimate, which limited their property rights and rendered them ineligible for exemptions under the military statute. It was almost impossible, moreover, to state with any certainty the religious confession to which these people actually belonged, forcing authorities to employ bizarre formulations lacking legal significance. During the draft, for example, the offspring of former Uniates were listed as "recalcitrants in Catholicism" (uporstvuiushchie v latinstve), "but this formula invokes the entirely justified bewilderment of the military authorities concerning even the question of how to administer the oath to them." (47) In effect, despite their often-strong religious beliefs, "recalcitrants" legally occupied a confessionless position--that is, they did not really belong to any confession at all. Authorities had to perform a tortuous balancing act of creating an operable documentary order for them without actually recognizing their religious convictions. Ultimately, registration was one of the issues that induced the government in 1905 to permit these "recalcitrants" to belong officially to the religion of their choice. (48)

Religious conversion generally had the potential to create profound complications for confessional registration. In most cases, to be sure, a convert's records were simply transferred from his old clergy to the cleric with authority over the new parish to which he was ascribed, and if whole communities converted--as happened, for example, with some 300 Czech colonists in Volhynia in 1888--metrical books were likewise transferred to the new parishes. (49) But any substantial increase in the incidence of conversion was certain to tax mightily a system constructed on the assumption of stable, even hereditary, religious affiliation.

Indeed, the problem of registration immediately constrained efforts to implement "freedom of conscience" after the declaration of that principle in the October Manifesto of 1905. Already in 1906, the Ministry of Justice recognized the incompatibility of religious freedom with the existing system of civil registration: "In light of the maintenance with us [in Russia] of metrical books by religious authorities and their resulting connection to specific confessions, change of religion can under no circumstances be regarded as the exclusive affair of the conscience of individual persons--as is the case in those countries where the maintenance of civil records is entrusted to administrative organs--but is unavoidably in need of steadfast government registration." As a result, "It is scarcely possible to offer individual private persons--even in the context of the broadest possible freedom of conscience--the completely unlimited right to convert from one confession to another, without informing one or another organ of governmental authority for the purposes of the precise registration of those conversions, since such a situation would merely introduce extreme indeterminacy into the keeping of civil acts, which already suffers from very significant deficiencies." (50) The ministry's concern about registration of confessional transfers even after 1905 turned out to be well founded. The proper registration of conversions that had immediately followed the April Decree of 1905 became an extraordinarily complex task that took almost a decade to resolve. As long as registration remained in the hands of clergy, the state could never relate to questions of confessional belonging and conversion with indifference. (51)

Confessional particularity finally had serious implications for the very languages in which metrical books were maintained. While there was a growing tendency to insist on using Russian in the books, the government had nonetheless been compelled to make certain concessions in this regard. (52) Imams were legally permitted to maintain metrical books in Tatar if they did not know Russian, and the law indicated that rabbis should use Hebrew as well as Russian. (53) In 1872, the government explicitly permitted the Catholic clergy of Transcaucasia, who usually did not know Russian, to continue using Georgian and Armenian for its books. (54) In practice, moreover, many Protestant pastors maintained metrical books in German--until compelled to use Russian in 89--and Anglican priests kept their books in English.

The issue was complicated by the requirement that extracts from books be exact--"word-for-word"--usually interpreted to mean that they be written in the language of the original entry, accompanied with a Russian translation when necessary. To the extent that Russian was made obligatory relatively late, many extracts were still being issued in other languages well into the 20th century. This led to disagreements, for example, about whether Catholic clergy were fulfilling the obligation to use Russian, which had been introduced in 1848. (55) When local authorities in Vitebsk province confiscated Catholic books in Latin and Polish, St. Petersburg had to explain, in light of the need to maintain the books' "integrity and unquestionable authenticity," that authorities should ensure that Russian be used only in the future, leaving all previous books in their original form. (56)

In time, local authorities began to complain about the concessions made to foreign clergies, emphasizing the resulting administrative difficulties. Requested by the Orenburg Muslim Spiritual Assembly to verify Islamic metrical books in Riazan' province, local police complained that it was impossible to do so because the books were written in Tatar. The governor added that not only was Russian not being taught anywhere in mosques' schools, but some mullahs even considered it a badge of honor that they could neither read nor write Russian. (57) Similar complaints were lodged elsewhere, and the governor-general in Vilnius found it "impossible to permit the use of the Polish language among servitors of the territory entrusted to me." (58)

Responses to this problem varied. Imams and mullahs were increasingly encouraged to know Russian, but comparatively little effort was made to force them to use this language in their record-keeping. While admonishing his subordinates to learn and know Russian, Orenburg Mufti S. Tevkelev conceded that mullahs were not at all prepared to maintain the books in Russian and that, because the Tatar language was intimately linked to the rituals that the books were designed to record, replacement of that language with Russian might be construed by Muslims as an assault on their religious freedom. (59) Concluding in 1885 that any measures designed to introduce Russian "should be undertaken gradually and with extreme care," the MVD could offer only to make use of a provision in the law that gave preference in appointing Muslim clerics to those candidates who knew Russian. (60) It is not clear, however, how many such candidates there actually were, and whether this approach led to any notable improvement.

The state was less compromising with Lutheran clerics, partly because their use of German lacked legal sanction but also because the government was determined by the 880s to restrict Baltic regional autonomy. Aside from pointing to tradition, Lutherans defended their use of German by noting that the statute of 832 governing their religious affairs had been translated into German and that this version, with sample forms for metrical books printed in German, was typically the one that new pastors were obliged to uphold when sworn in. (61) Senator A. A. Saburov, in considering this issue, likewise emphasized the need for those maintaining the books to be sufficiently familiar with the language in which they were doing so. Without clear evidence that all Lutheran pastors in the empire knew Russian well, he argued, it would be better to have them use their native or liturgical language and to issue extracts in Russian translation, "for a translation can be verified at any time against an original, while an incorrect or inaccurate entry, once it has been made in the metrical book, can never be corrected." (62)

Most other officials took a different view. They argued that the explicit reference to Tatar and Hebrew in the case of Islamic and Jewish metrical books implied that all others should be maintained in Russian, a proposition that was merely strengthened by the introduction of Russian as the obligatory language of administration in the Baltic provinces in 1885. In this view, the fact that in practice Lutheran pastors had traditionally used German in no way released them from a legal obligation to use Russian. (63) Opponents of German also pointed out that obligatory study of Russian had been established in 1832 at the Theological Department of Dorpat University--the only institution in Russia that trained Protestant clergy--and that now, over a half-century later, it was surely reasonable to expect that virtually all pastoral vacancies had been filled by graduates with a passable knowledge of Russian. Opponents furthermore emphasized that Lutheranism was a confession not only of Germans but also of Finns, Estonians, Latvians, and others. The use of German "would be a measure in no way justified with regard to a significant majority of Russian subjects of the Lutheran confession." Even in the Baltic provinces, where Germans were most adamant in the defense of their language, they constituted only about 0 percent of the Lutheran population. Using German in metrical books, therefore, "could be permitted only as a result of recognizing for the German language in that region the status of a state language on par with Russian. But the law does not afford such a status to the German language in the three Baltic provinces." (64)

One final set of arguments against German truly went to the core of the issue concerning metrical books: the fact that the religious acts that they recorded had crucial civil significance. As the MVD's Legal Department pointed out in 1885, the majority of people "need metrical certificates in the main not for personal use but for presentation at [government] instances"--gymnasia, draft boards, courts, and so on. In essence, if metrical books were confessionally specific, in the sense that they were maintained by clergies, their larger significance was not. As several senators contended, "The maintenance of metrical books, although entrusted to the clergy ... does not pursue any particular confessional or general religious goals, and those books, substituting for civil registration of the population within the empire, have general civil [obshchegrazhdanskoe] and state significance, as the documents by which a person's civil status is verified." (65) Another set of senators likewise commented, "In light of the state, and not confessional, significance of metrical books, they should be maintained in the state language, and not in the liturgical language of one or another church." After all, they pointed out, the Orthodox liturgy was performed either in Church Slavonic or in minority languages (inorodcheskie narechiia), but the obligation to maintain Orthodox metrical books in Russian scarcely required explicit legal formulation. (66) Maintained by clergies and designed to record religiously defined events, the metrical books were nonetheless important to the government, and to individual subjects themselves, primarily in terms of their civil significance. Why, then, did the government not simply introduce civil registration and dismiss the various clergies to administer purely spiritual affairs?

Toward Civil Registration?

It is perhaps a testament to both the scale of the job of maintaining metrical books and the strongly confessional character of the Russian empire that until the early 20th century tsarist officials, even as they recognized the fundamentally secular significance of these books, did not make any serious effort to introduce some universal form of civil registration. Certainly this would have alleviated many of the problems we have considered here, by creating a single statute, eliminating suspicious "foreign" clergies from this important task, and allowing the state to keep track of "apostates" without actually recognizing their "apostasy." It would also, moreover, have created a more singular and inclusive order of citizens, even if elements of discrimination against certain confessional groups were maintained. At the very least, in such a case the empire's entire population might have been incorporated into a single documentary regime. There were some outside the government who advocated civil registration, with the hope that "special considerations" would yield to "general principles" in civil legislation. (67) But even the reformist authors of a proposed new civil code in the early 20th century upheld the principle of confessional books, leaving the job to police and canton officials in the case of Baptists, Orthodox and Protestant sectarians, and pagans. Otherwise, the draft code would merely have introduced somewhat greater order and uniformity into the registers. (68)

Even if in the vast majority of cases metrical books remained confessionally specific, elements of civil registration did make their way into the existing system. From 825 on, the records of all non-Christians in the kingdom of Poland--principally Jews, but also a small population of Muslims--had been maintained by civil authorities, and this system was eventually extended to Baptists in the kingdom as well. (69) Mennonites, too, had a distinct order, whereby the metrical books for each colony were maintained by village and district boards (prikazy). (70) There was also some talk of trying to minimize the participation of clergies in keeping the books and thus introducing certain elements of civil registration. In 1870, the Orenburg governor-general suggested that mullahs no longer maintain the metrical books but merely transmit to civil authorities information about the events to be recorded in them. (71) As we saw above, the issue of replacing rabbis in the process of registration was also raised in the case of Jews.

It was, above all, the existence and appearance of dissenting groups that forced the state to take a more active and direct role in maintaining metrical books. Historically the state had refrained from granting metrical books to Russian sectarians because it was assumed that doing so would represent official recognition of their break from the Orthodox Church. Thus, when sectarians in Moscow requested metrical books in 1837, the government replied that the fulfillment of this request--that is, granting the right for sectarians to maintain records as sectarians--"can give sectarianism the appearance of legality and in this way serve as a basis for the strengthening of sectarianism." (72) It was nonetheless clear that sectarians needed documentation to participate in the civil life of the empire, and the government responded with certain compromises. In 1847, sectarians in Akkerman (Bessarabia) requested that their children be accepted into the district school without metrical certificates, which, as sectarians, they did not possess. Finding that "the spread of enlightenment among sectarians is the best means to effectuate their conversion to Orthodoxy," the minister of internal affairs was prepared to fulfill the request, using "secret data provided by local governors about the birth of those children." Governors were specifically instructed not to affix any particular documents to this effect, however, "since they could have the appearance of official acts, which the government, in accordance with existing directives on sectarians, seeks to avoid." (73) Thus one sees the appearance of a secret form of registration, designed precisely to regulate certain aspects of sectarians' civil life without conferring legitimacy on their religious beliefs.

By all appearances, the prospect of universal military service significantly enhanced the government's determination to design a more comprehensive system for records on sectarians. A commission was formed in 868 to draft a law regulating sectarian marriages, leading eventually to the introduction of metrical books--to be maintained by local police instances and civil authorities rather than clergy--among sectarians in 1874. (74) A similar system was extended to Baptists in the empire in 1879, which in turn served as a model for several other new confessional groups, such as the Mariavites, who separated from the official Catholic Church in 1906. (75)

The movement toward civil registration culminated in 1905, when the autocracy was compelled to make important gestures toward civic equality. It was only logical, in this context, that confession should occupy a less prominent place even in the formal process of determining people's rights and obligations. The confessional foundations of Russia's existing order appeared at best only partially compatible with the "freedom of conscience" explicitly granted by the autocracy in the October Manifesto of 1905. Government entities recognized this, as is clear from a remarkable memorandum on "freedom of conscience" produced by the MVD in 1906. (76) Among the conditions that the memorandum considered necessary for the realization of "freedom of conscience" were the recognition of the right to belong to no religion whatsoever--that is, the legalization of atheism--and the introduction of civil registration (grazhdanskaia metrikatsiia), non-confessional graveyards, civil oaths, and civil marriage. (77) In a bill submitted to the State Duma in 1907, the MVD wrote that the idea of transferring record-keeping to civil authorities "has more than once served as a subject of discussion for the government" and that "at present there is reason to expect that [this question] will receive general resolution for all confessions in the comparatively near future." (78) In a separate bill, the MVD suggested that civil marriage, too, might soon appear, even as strenuous efforts were made, for the time being, to reconcile the needs of the state with the canonical requirements of different confessions. (79)

At other moments, however, the introduction of civil registration appeared rather less likely. Presenting seven bills on "freedom of conscience" to the Duma in February 1907, the MVD noted that the Council of Ministers regarded the introduction of civil marriage as being "very complicated and scarcely amenable to unprotracted resolution." Without a "fundamental review of our civil laws" the resolution of this question was "completely inadmissible." Because the introduction of these measures "is not made necessary by the demands of life," the council had considered it "premature" to decide the course of their resolution, "all the more since [civil marriage] is capable of shaking the morals and manners of the empire's multi-million population." (80) Civil registration thus remained an issue for the future; and the confessional system, with all its defects, was accordingly left in place. (81)

The government was not yet prepared, then, to jettison the state's confessional foundations, something that emerges most clearly with regard to the issue of legal recognition for atheism. While parties like the Constitutional Democrats (Kadets) advocated allowing citizens to abandon any and all religious affiliation, state officials could not quite envision a confessionally neutral citizen or convince themselves of the desirability of bringing such a being into formal existence. (82) In 1906, the Ministry of Justice declared--at least partly with the issue of registration in mind--that the principle of freedom of conscience "can by no means entail the appearance of any new confessional communities not recognized by existing laws, and all the more the formation of a class of people without a confession [confessionslos]." (83) The MVD was willing to consider this issue more seriously but ultimately rejected the idea of "confessionlessness" as being incompatible with the basic structure and character of the state. Full religious freedom, in this view, was possible only in the context of the state's complete indifference to religion--something that remained unacceptable. "The moral rules taught by religion serve as the foundation for the legal order," and therefore "there is scarcely a less desirable element in a state than subjects without religion, that main foundation of morality." This was all the more true given Russia's current state of historical development: "In light of the low level of Russian culture, in light of the absence of even primary education among the overwhelming majority of our peasantry, religious beliefs serve as, if not the only, then at any rate the most effective restraint on the general development of crime." The principle of freedom of conscience, from this perspective, "can by no means entail permission for the formation of a class of people outside a confession [klass liudei vneispovednykh]." (84)

While the refusal to introduce civil registration and to legalize atheism were no doubt rooted in an ideological proclivity, more practical considerations also played a role. As the MVD noted, the secularization of marriage and registration would have required a massive overhaul of the entire corpus of civil law, while the government already had its hands full producing legislation required by decrees of 1904-5. On a more basic level, it was by no means clear which government entities would actually be in a position to maintain civil registers, even if such a transfer were sanctioned by law. In discussing the registration of sectarians, the MVD made clear that, despite the advantages of entrusting the task to local police and organs of city and village administration, "the imposition on these institutions, already overloaded with work, of yet another obligation, and one that requires great attention and accuracy in its execution, in certain cases could represent for those institutions a burden positively beyond their capacity." (85) Thus, even if there had been the political will and the ideological desire to introduce civil registration, it is unlikely that the state would have been prepared, institutionally and practically, for its implementation.

Therefore, if indeed there had been a certain tendency toward the introduction of elements of civil registration, the post-1905 period curiously saw movement in the opposite direction: the transfer of records initially maintained by civil authorities to religious clergies, once the latter had gained a fuller degree of recognition from the state. True, Baptists' metrical books remained in the hands of civil authorities. (86) But once the religious leaders of other Russian sectarians had been accorded clerical status and had been recognized as state servitors in 1905, they could be entrusted with the job of maintaining metrical books. (87) Likewise, once Mariavites had been recognized in 1912 as an "independent religious teaching"--that is, as a confession distinct from Catholicism as opposed to a sect within it--they were granted the right to maintain their own metrical books. (88) Significantly, the transfer from civil to confessional records for these groups represented a distinct promotion that placed them, in this regard at least, on an equal footing with those religions that had had confessional metrical books all along. In effect, it conferred on them the status of fully legitimate confessions; and it was presumably for this reason, in part, that Old Believers and sectarians had repeatedly requested this transfer in the years before 1905. (89) For the government, civil registration had always been a matter of last resort rather than a principled stance--something that it adopted not with the expectation that it would serve as a model for the future but rather with the recognition that there essentially was no other acceptable option for the adherents of a given confession.


Imperial Russia's metrical regime was by no means completely dysfunctional, despite the many deficiencies we have considered. By the mid-9th century it encompassed the vast majority of the population, and experience both before and after 1905 demonstrated that documentary practices based on clerical elites could be extended to new groups of the population with comparative efficacy. Some deficiencies might have been addressed with relatively modest alterations in existing law: for example, by introducing greater standardization for records across the different religions and confessions. (90) Confessionally specific civil acts were in many ways well suited for a diverse polity ruled by an autocracy that upheld differential rights and restrictions and was committed to promoting religious observance among its subjects, whatever their confessional affiliation. By combining elements of particularism and universality, Russia's documentary regime helped promote imperial unity while also preserving the status and identity peculiar to various confessional communities. This system constructed a single civil order that nonetheless recognized and institutionalized difference.

Still, one needs to acknowledge that government officials themselves were not fully satisfied with the confessional system, and many would probably have embraced civil registration--at least by the early 20th century--had its introduction been possible. Most commentators, too, drew attention to the deficiencies of the existing order that derived at least partly from the books' confessional character: the absence of a single coordinating authority, the variety in the books' forms, and the questionable competence and reliability of those entrusted with making the entries. There was a clear consciousness that the state was concerned almost exclusively with the civil consequences of the act being recorded, and that from the state's perspective there was nothing confessionally specific about the entries. After 1905, the MVD essentially acknowledged the necessity, if not the desirability, of civil registration, as well as the likelihood of its introduction in the comparatively near future. It was apparently a recognition of the deep penetration of registration into so many aspects of life regulated by civil law, together with the fear that civil marriage and the legalization of atheism would follow quickly and perhaps inevitably in the wake of civil registration, that dissuaded the government from making any real investment in secularizing the existing documentary regime.

By the early 20th century, the existing documentary order was increasingly at odds with the autocracy's efforts to forge new, unmediated relationships with its subjects. Several innovative studies have recently shown that, whether through the establishment of a universal military service obligation or the introduction of a personal income tax, the autocracy sought to construct a civic nation and to "individualize government" by fostering "a new intimacy with the state" on the part of its subjects. These efforts to constitute a body of citizens--albeit in a form compatible with an autocratic political order--and to connect with individuals rather than with mediating collective institutions represented crucial steps in the autocracy's attempt to institutionalize direct rule and to invest its interventions with greater sophistication and efficacy. (91) The regime's continued reliance on clergies for the recording of civil acts and the retention of a close tie between confession and civil status demonstrates the extent to which the state's embrace of its subjects remained loose, and its reach still greater than its grip.

For their insights on earlier versions of this essay, I wish to thank Charles Steinwedel, William Wagner, Svetlana Smirnova, Eric Lohr, Aaron Skabelund, two anonymous readers for Kritika, colleagues in the History Faculty Seminar at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), and especially participants at the conference "Citizenship, Nationality, and the State in Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union," held on 26-28 March 2004 at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University. For generous financial support for the research and writing of this essay, I wish to thank the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research (NCEEER); the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX); the Sabbatical Leave Committee of UNLV; and the Slavic Research Center at the University of Hokkaido, Japan.

(1) James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 51; John Torpey, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 11. On the relationship between the emergence of population as an abstraction and the art of government, see Michel Foucault, "Governmentality," in The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality, ed. Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991), 87-104.

(2) Torpey, Invention of the Passport, 5, 10-17 (quotation on 11).

(3) Metricheskie knigi is a term that defies easy translation into English. For the Christian confessions it is best rendered as "parish registers," but these records were maintained in some cases by non-Christian religious servitors (where the concept of the "parish" is not strictly relevant) and in some cases by secular officials. In this article I follow the convention established by the few existing works in English that address these registers and refer to them as "metrical books." See Charles Steinwedel, "Making Social Groups, One Person at a Time: The Identification of Individuals by Estate, Religious Confession, and Ethnicity in Late Imperial Russia," in Documenting Individual Identity: The Development of State Practices since the French Revolution, ed. Jane Caplan and John Torpey (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 67-82; ChaeRan Freeze, Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia (Hanover, NH: Brandeis University Press, 2002); and Eugene M. Avrutin, "The Power of Documentation: Vital Statistics and Jewish Accommodation in Tsarist Russia," Ab Imperio, no. 4 (2003): 271-300.

(4) Svod zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii, poveleniem Gosudaria Imperatora Nikolaia Pervogo sostavlennyi (hereafter SZ), 21 vols. (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia II otdeleniia Sobstvennoi Ego Imperatorskogo Velichestva kantseliarii, 1857), vol. 9, article 1559. Other deeds, such as revision lists, lists of clergy, and noble genealogical registers, were presented as either "separate for certain statuses" or "particular acts for the status of rural and urban inhabitants" (ibid.). See also the commentary for a revised civil code, Grazhdanskoe ulozhenie: Proekt Vysochaishche uchrezhdennoi redaktsionnoi kommisii po sostavleniiu Grazhdanskogo ulozheniia, s ob" iasneniiami, kn. 2: Semeistvennoe pravo, vol. 1 (St. Petersburg: Gosudarstvennaia tipografiia, 1902), 370.

(5) For an essentially positive appraisal of this effort, see Jane Burbank, "An Imperial Rights Regime: Law and Citizenship in the Russian Empire," in this issue of Kritika.

(6) For specific considerations of the resulting complications, see Freeze, Jewish Marriage (on bringing "order" to Jewish family affairs); L. E. Gorizontov, Paradoksy imperskoi politiki: Poliaki v Rossii i russkie v Pol'she (Moscow: Indrik, 999), 75-99 (on the problem of interconfessional marriage); Virginia Martin, "Kazakh Oath-Taking in Colonial Courtrooms: Legal Culture and Russian Empire-Building," Kritika 5, 3 (2004): 483-514 (on oaths in their imposed Islamic form); and Abby Schrader, Languages of the Lash: Corporal Punishment and Identity in Imperial Russia (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2002), esp. 51-77 (on the differential application of corporal punishment)--reviewed in Kritika 5, 4 (2004): 735-47.

(7) Steinwedel, "Making Social Groups," 69 (quotation); SZ, vol. 9 (St. Petersburg: Gosudarstvennaia tipografiia, 1899), art. 858.

(8) Joshua A. Sanborn, Drafting the Russian Nation: Military Conscription, Total War, and Mass Politics, 1905-1925 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003), esp. 21-22, 35, 78-79; Avrutin, "Power of Documentation," 283-85; and Dana Ohren, "All the Tsar's Men: Minorities and Universal Military Conscription in Imperial Russia, 1874-1905" (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, ongoing). I thank Dana Ohren for providing portions of her thesis-in-progress. Sanborn's book was reviewed in Kritika 6, 3 (2005): 535-56.

(9) Such was the explanation of the drafters of the new civil code. See Grazhdanskoe ulozhenie, 370. The "private civil rights" noted here were not entitlements deriving from membership in a polity and/or consistently enforceable claims that could be made against the state but "legal capacity granted under civil law to natural and corporate personalities." I borrow the quoted formulation from W. E. Butler, "Civil Rights in Russia: Legal Standards in Gestation," in Civil Rights in Imperial Russia, ed. Olga Crisp and Linda Edmondson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 989), 1.

(10) Sak'art'velos Saistorio Ts'entraluri Saxelmcip'o Ark'ivi (Tbilisi) f. 2, op. 1, d. 3370 (quotation on 23 ob.); and f. 13, op. 23, d. 1624, ll. 10, 11 ob. As noted below, metrical books were introduced among the Muslims of Transcaucasia in 1873; the discussion here pertained to the documentation of events dating from before that time.

(11) These were outlined primarily in vol. 9 of SZ ("Zakony o sostoianiiakh"). See also Burbank, "Imperial Rights Regime." To the extent that such "status rights" had particularistic application--to my knowledge no rights in imperial Russia were universally granted to the entire population--it may be most useful to regard them as "privileges," especially if we construe the latter term literally as "private law." On this score, see Raymond Pearson, "Privileges, Rights, and Russification," in Civil Rights in Imperial Russia, ed. Crisp and Edmondson, esp. 92-93. A valiant attempt to analyze systematically the capacity of different groups in Russia to enjoy rights is provided by K. D. Kavelin, "Ob ogranichenii grazhdanskoi pravosposobnosti v Rossii po sostoianiiam i zvaniiam," Zhurnal Ministerstva iustitsii, no. 11 (1862): 481-544.

(12) See Grazhdanskoe ulozhenie, 370. For the privileged orders there were additional forms of documentation. See SZ, vol. 9 (1857 ed.), arts. 1559, 1626-77.

(13) A nuanced treatment of restrictions on Jews is provided by Benjamin Nathans in Beyond the Pale: The Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). On Poles/Catholics, see Gorizontov, Paradoksy imperskoi politiki, 100-18; and Witold Rodkiewicz, Russian Nationality Policy in the Western Provinces of the Empire, 1863-1905 (Lublin: Scientific Society of Lublin, 1998), esp. 57-129.

(14) Charles Steinwedel has provided a handsome account of this transition in "Making Social Groups" (esp. 78-81) and "To Make a Difference: The Category of Ethnicity in Late Imperial Russian Politics, 1861-1917," in Russian Modernity: Politics, Knowledges, Practices, ed. David L. Hoffmann and Yanni Kotsonis (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000), 67-86.

(15) The Interior Ministry thus remarked in 1907 that in formulating many restrictive provisions intended for members of certain nationalities, lawmakers had resorted to religious confession "simply as the most accessible marker." See the Interior Ministry's bill "Ob otmene soderzhashchikhsia v deistvuiushchem zakonodatel'stve ogranichenii politicheskikh i grazhdanskikh, nakhodiashchikhsia v zavisimosti ot prinadlezhnosti k inoslavnym i inovernym ispovedaniiam," in Katolicheskaia tserkov' nakanune revoliutsii 1917 goda: Sbornik dokumentov, ed. Marian Radwan (Lublin: Nauchnoe obshchestvo Katolicheskogo universiteta v Liubline, 2003), 397.

(16) Dalinskii, Evrei v armii (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia Glavnogo upravleniia udelov, 1911), as found in Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi voenno-istoricheskii arkhiv (RGVIA) f. 2000, op. 3, d. 77, l. 317 ob. I thank Joshua Sanborn for providing me with this quote and reference.

(17) Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv (St. Petersburg) (RGIA) f. 821, op. 10, d. 775, l. 159; ibid., d. 773, ll. 08 ob.-9; I. Segal', "Neskol'ko slov o metricheskoi registratsii na Kavkaze," Kavkaz, no. 95 (13 April 1905): 2; Sobranie uzakonenii i rasporiazhenii Pravitel'stva, izdavaemoe pri Pravitel'stvuiushchem Senate, no. 20 (1866), art. 141 (4 November 1865).

(18) Avrutin, "Power of Documentation," esp. 272-73, 281-82; A. Ia., "Metricheskie knigi," in Entsiklopedicheskii slovar', ed. F. A. Brokgauz and I. A. Efron, vol. 19 (St. Petersburg: I. A. Efron, 1896), 201. For a survey of 9th-century views on the significance of metrical books for statistics, see S. S. Smirnova, "Demograficheskie protsessy v Olonetskoi gubernii v XIX-nachale XX vv.: Opyt komp'iuternogo analiza metricheskikh knig" (Cand. diss., St. Petersburg University, 2002), 49-60. I thank Svetlana Smirnova for providing me with portions of her thesis.

(19) G. F. Shershenevich, Uchebnik russkogo grazhdanskogo prava, th ed., vol. 1 (Moscow: Izdanie brat'ia Bashmakovykh, 1914), 101.

(20) SZ (1899), vol. 9, arts. 866, 870, and 915. In general, legislation provided the most detailed provisions for the handling of Orthodox and Jewish books, whereas the rules concerning the books of other confessions were rather less developed. See A. Ia., "Metricheskie knigi," 204.

(21) SZ (1857), vol. 11, part 1, art. 340.

(22) Yet the law established no specific punishments for the improper handling of metrical books or for failing to report a fact of birth, marriage, or death to the appropriate clergy or other authority. See Steinwedel, "Making Social Groups," 69; A. Goikhbarg, "Metricheskie knigi," Novyi entsiklopedicheskii slovar', vol. 26 (Petrograd: Tipografiia Aktsionernogo obshchestva delo byvshee Brokgauz-Efron, n. d.), 415.

(23) On these developments, see James O'Rourke, Parish Registers: An Historical Synopsis and Commentary (Washington: Catholic University of America, 1934); M. J. Cullen, "The Making of the Civil Registration Act of 1836," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 25, 1 (1974): 36-59; James F. Traer, Marriage and the Family in Eighteenth-Century France (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1980), 79-104; Gerard Noiriel, "The Identification of the Citizen: The Birth of Republican Civil Status in France," and Jane Caplan, "'This or That Particular Person': Protocols of Identification in Nineteenth-Century Europe," both in Documenting Individual Identity, ed. Caplan and Torpey, 28-66.

(24) It is nonetheless worth noting that even today in Denmark all births and deaths are registered through the Lutheran Church, regardless of the individual's religious orientation. See Kare Gade og Claus Vincents, "Praester vil af med civilregistrering," (27 March 2003), at 00004 80:aid=40 07 (last accessed 4 March 2005).

(25) Moreover, the introduction of metrical books for the Orthodox population of Georgia was completed only in 1845. On the appearance and development of Orthodox parish registers, see Shershenevich, Uchebnik, 102-4; Smirnova, "Demograficheskie protsessy," 72-77; A. V. Elpat'evskii, "K istorii dokumentirovaniia aktov grazhdanskogo sostoianiia v Rossii i SSSR (s XVIII v. po nastoiashchee vremia)," in Aktovoe istochnikovedenie: Sbornik statei, ed. S. M. Kashtanov (Moscow: Nauka, 1979), 55-84 (esp. 57-62, 65-70); Gregory L. Freeze, "Bringing Order to the Russian Family: Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia, 760-860," Journal of Modern History 62, 4 (1990): 709-49 (esp. 716-18).

(26) See, for example, the situation in the Baltic region as described in Kh. E. Palli, "Tserkovnoprikhodskoe deloproizvodstvo v Estonii v XVII-XVIII vv.," in Aktovoe istochnikovedenie, ed. Kashtanov, 571-61.

(27) Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii, 2nd ser. (1825-1881, hereafter PSZ 2), 55 vols. (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia II otdeleniia Sobstvennoi Ego Imperatorskogo Velichestva kantseliarii, 1885), vol. 3 (1828), no. 2296; vol. 7 (1832), no. 5770. See also Steinwedel, "Making Social Groups," 70-71.

(28) RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 775, ll. 20-40. In 1832, the government had explicitly refrained from introducing metrical books to Muslims in the Caucasus until the "organization" of their religious affairs. See PSZ 2, vol. 7 (1832), no. 5781.

(29) On this process, see Freeze, Jewish Marriage, 95.

(30) This point was made explicitly in a bill of 1907, "Ob inoslavnykh i inovernykh religioznykh obshchestvakh," in Katolicheskaia tserkov', ed. Radwan, 235.

(31) In neither the North Caucasus nor Central Asia did the state formally institutionalize Islam as it had done in the Volga-Ural region and in Crimea.

(32) RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 779, and op. 133, d. 428.

(33) SZ, vol. 11, part 1 (1857), arts. 1260, 1263, 1285.

(34) Diliara Usmanova, "Mekhanizm realizatsii norm musul'manskogo prava v Rossiiskoi imperii: K voprosu o metrikatsii musul'manskogo naseleniia Volgo-Ural'skogo regiona v XIX-pervoi chetverti XX stoletii," in Islam i pravo v Rossii, no. 2: Materialy seminara "Musul'manskoe pravo v mire i Rossii, Severnom Kavkaze i Povolzh'e" (Moscow: RUDN, 2004), 40-53.

(35) For a broad argument along these lines, see Robert Crews, "Empire and the Confessional State: Islam and Religious Politics in Nineteenth-Century Russia," American Historical Review 108, 1 (2003): 50-83.

(36) Laura Engelstein, The Keys to Happiness: Sex and the Search for Modernity in Fin-de-Siecle Russia (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992), esp. 31-41; William Wagner, Marriage, Property, and Law in Late Imperial Russia (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 59-223; and A. A. Dorskaia, Gosudarstvennoe i tserkovnoe pravo Rossiiskoi imperii: Problemy vzaimodeistviia i vzaimovliianiia (St. Petersburg: Izdatel'stvo RGPU im. A. I. Gertsena, 2004).

(37) "Izvlechenie iz otcheta Ministra vnutrennikh del za 1834 god," Zhurnal Ministerstva vnutrennikh del, no. 8 (1835): 302-3; PSZ 2, vol. 8 (1833), no. 6644, and vol. 9 (1834), no. 7495; N. Varadinov, Istoriia Ministerstva vnutrennikh del, part 3, book 1 (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia Ministerstva vnutrennikh del, 1862), 661-62; RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 775, ll. 42-43.

(38) Freeze, Jewish Marriage, 106-15; Avrutin, "The Power of Documentation," 292-93.

(39) Such was the case for Muslims, pagans, and Buddhists. See Usmanova, "Mekhanizm realizatsii"; and RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 779, l. 22. On Jewish metrical books, see also L. Vol'tke, "Metricheskie knigi," Evreiskaia entsiklopediia, vol. 10 (St. Petersburg: Obshchestvo dlia nauchnykh evreiskikh izdanii, n. d.), 925-27.

(40) A few examples of such conversion from Catholicism are in RGIA f. 82 , op. 10, d. 373, and from Judaism in ibid., op. 5, d. 935, ll. 68-69. In granting permission for such conversions, the department decided, in effect, that the absence of direct government control over the Anglican confession did not override the explicit permission granted by the law for conversion from one foreign (Christian) confession to another (SZ, vol. 11, part 1 [1857], art. 6).

(41) RGIA f. 821, op. 5, d. 935, ll. 45-49, 103-4. This entire file takes up the problematic issue of the nebulous legal status of the Anglican Church in Russia.

(42) See MVD, "Ob inoslavnykh i inovernykh religioznykh obshchestvakh," 242-43.

(43) For example, a new community of "Armeno-Evangelists"--ethnically Armenian converts to Protestantism--made such a request in 884 (RGIA f. 821, op. 7, d. 65, l. 191).

(44) MVD, "Ob inoslavnykh i inovernykh religioznykh obshchestvakh," 240, 264-65.

(45) RGIA f. 821, op. 5, d. 975, l. 0 ob.; d. 020, l. 37.

(46) RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 775, ll. 1-1 ob., 5-5 ob., 138-38 ob., 180-83. With respect to archives, Avrutin also notes that simply finding the space to keep thousands on thousands of metrical books covering several decades was a grand task in itself ("Power of Documentation," 292-93).

(47) As reported by the governor of Minsk in 902. See ibid., d. 252, ll. 09 ob.- 0; and Sbornik materialov po voprosam o smeshannykh brakakh i o veroispovedanii detei, ot sikh brakov proiskhodiashchikh (St. Petersburg: Gosudarstvennaia tipografiia), 32 -39.

(48) RGIA f. 821, op. 8, d. 788, ll. 12-50, 131 ob., 150-51; "Perechen' ogranichitel'nykh postanovlenii po dukhovnym delam inoslavnykh i inovernykh ispovedanii" (1905), RGIA pechatnye zapiski, folder 2349, p. 20. See also Paul W. Werth, "The Limits of Religious Ascription: Baptized Tatars and the Revision of 'Apostasy,' 840s- 905," Russian Review 59, 4 (2000): 502-3.

(49) Ibid., op. 25, d. 3316, l. 24.

(50) Ibid., op. 10, d. 260, ll. 65-65 ob.

(51) I have addressed these post-1905 complications in two articles: "Arbiters of the Free Conscience: State, Religion, and the Problem of Confessional Transfer after 905," in Sacred Stories: Religion and Spirituality in Modern Russia, ed. Heather Coleman and Mark Steinberg (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, due in 2007); and "Trudnyi put' k katolitsizmu: Veroispovednaia prinadlezhnost' i grazhdanskoe sostoianie posle 1905 g.," in Annals of the Lithuanian Catholic Academy of Science, vol. 26 (forthcoming).

(52) For example, in 1836 Uniate clergy began to use Russian for their books, while Catholic clergy were required to use Russian in the empire in 1848 and in the kingdom of Poland in 1867. See Varadinov, Istoriia MVD, part 3, book 2, 239-40; B. I. Stavskii, ed., Grazhdanskie zakony gubernii Tsarstva Pol'skogo, vol. 1 (Warsaw: Izdatel'skaia tipografiia, 1905), 22 (supplement to art. 75 of the Civil Code of 825).

(53) SZ, vol. 9 (1857), arts. 1606 and 1609-10; Freeze, Jewish Marriage, 95.

(54) RGIA f. 821, op. 0, d. 92, ll. 75-77.

(55) Ibid., ll. 34-34 ob., 39-39 ob. Catholic clergy had maintained their books in Latin until 1828. In that year the government instructed them to use Polish and, in 1848, to use Russian. A special commission created in 1866 on the affairs of Catholic clergy surveyed parish records in Kaunas province and found that Russian was being properly used in the majority of parishes. Lietuvos Valstybes Istorijos Archyvas (Vilnius) (LVIA) f. 378 (BS, 1866), d. 1340, l. 35 ob.

(56) RGIA f. 82 , op. 0, d. 92, ll. 41-47.

(57) Ibid., d. 775, ll. 42-43; op. 8, d. 611, l. 148 ob.

(58) Ibid., op. 8, d. 594, l. 108; op. 0, d. 773, l. 1; op. 10, d. 92, l. 39 ob. (quotation).

(59) Ibid., op. 10, d. 775, l. 44; op. 8, d. 611, ll. 87 ob.-88.

(60) Ibid., op. 0, d. 775, ll. 44, 147-48. The cited provision (SZ, vol. 11, part [1857 ed.], art. 1207) in fact applied only to the district of the Tauride Muslim Board and not that of Orenburg. The former, in 1878, had almost 20 times fewer Muslims under its jurisdiction (120,261) than the latter (2,260,638). See RGIA f. 821, op. 0, d. 775, l. 96.

(61) RGIA f. 821, op. 0, d. 773, l. 54 ob. The statute in question is PSZ 2, no. 5870 (28 December 832), which appears also as SZ, vol. 11, part (1857 ed.), book 2. Parish registers from the 7th and 8th centuries contain a combination of German, Swedish, Estonian, and Latin, though German became predominant toward the end of the 8th century. See Palli, "Tserkovno-prikhodskoe deloproizvodstvo," 159.

(62) RGIA f. 821, op. 0, d. 773, l. 109 ob.

(63) Ibid., ll. 42-42 ob., 79-79 ob., 107. On the Russification of administration in the Baltic region, see Michael Haltzel, "The Baltic Germans," in Russification in the Baltic Provinces and Finland, 1855-1914, ed. Edward C. Thaden (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981), esp. 154.

(64) RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 773, ll. 105-15 ob. (quotations from ll. 111-11 ob.).

(65) Ibid., l. 108 ob.

(66) Ibid., l. 110 ob. In effect, all the senators who examined this question, with one exception (A. A. Saburov), believed that using Russian for Lutheran metrical books was desirable. The disagreement concerned principally whether this was already a legal requirement, or whether supplementary legislation was required to make this obligation legally binding.

(67) See, for example, "Vnutrennee obozrenie," Vestnik Evropy, no. 2 (1874): 808-9.

(68) Shershenevich, Uchebnik, 107-8; Grazhdanskoe ulozhenie, 369-88.

(69) RGIA f. 821, op. 0, d. 775, ll. 10-10 ob.; ibid., op. 5, d. 935, ll. 45-49; Stavskii, Grazhdanskie zakony, vol. 1, 28-29 (arts. 92-93 of the 825 Civil Code with supplements), and vol. 2, 70-75 (appendices to arts. 92 and 93).

(70) RGIA f. 821, op. 5, d. 1040, l. 11. Because Mennonites were baptized only as adults, the books registering baptisms were kept by church elders and were not subject to any state control (ibid., l. 11 ob.). On the whole, it appears that Mennonites did not have officially recognized metrical books as such.

(71) Ibid., op. 8, d. 611, ll. 42 ob.-44, 158.

(72) Sobranie postanovlenii po chasti raskola (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia Ministerstva vnutrennikh del, 1875), 204. It appears nonetheless that sectarians and Old Believers had metrical books at certain times and in certain circumstances.

(73) Ibid., 391.

(74) It was at this point that the state also legalized the marriages of Old Believers. On the complicated attitude of the state toward such marriages--and on debates about marriage among Old Believers themselves--see Irina Paert, Old Believers, Religious Dissent, and Gender in Russia, 1760-1850 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2003); and I. G. Orshanskii, "O brake u raskol'nikov," Zhurnal grazhdanskogo i ugolovnogo prava, book 1 (1877): 155-239. Paert's book was reviewed in Kritika 6, 3 (2005): 615-25.

(75) Sobranie postanovlenii, 675-83; RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 780, l. 53 ob.; SZ, vol. 11, part 1 (1896), art. 1108; LVIA f. 378 (BS, 1908), b. 403, ll. 1-13. The 1879 rules pertained only to Baptists of non-Orthodox origin, as "Russian Baptists" had no legal existence before 1905. See Heather Coleman, Russian Baptists and Spiritual Revolution, 1905-1929 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005).

(76) See A. A. Dorskaia, Svoboda sovesti v Rossii: Sud'ba zakonoproektov nachala XX veka (St. Petersburg: Izdatel'stvo RGPU im. A. I. Gertsena, 2001); and RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 39.

(77) Spravka o svobode sovesti (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia Ministerstva vnutrennykh del, 1906), 4-39.

(78) MVD, "Ob inoslavnykh i inovernykh religioznykh obshchestvakh," 265. I have not found specific information on the government's "discussion" referred to here.

(79) MVD, "Ob izmenenii v oblasti semeistvennykh prav," in Katolicheskaia tserkov', ed. Radwan, 336-89.

(80) "O zakonopolozheniiakh, napravlennykh k osushchestvleniiu svobody sovesti," in Katolicheskaia tserkov', ed. Radwan, 135.

(81) See P. S. Tsypkin's unofficial publication of the 899 edition of vol. 9 of SZ (Svod zakonov o sostoianiiakh [St. Petersburg: Zakonovedenie, 9 3]), which includes subsequent modifications of the code to that point. Few changes had been made to the articles regulating metrical books.

(82) RGIA f. 821, op. 0, d. 39, l. 87; Proekt zakona o svobode sovesti, sostavlennyi partiei narodnoi svobody dlia vneseniia v Gosudarstvennuiu Dumu (St. Petersburg: n.p., 1907), point 3.

(83) RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 260, l. 65.

(84) "Ob izmenenii zakonopolozhenii, kasaiushchikhsia perekhoda iz odnogo ispovedaniia v drugoe," in Katolicheskaia tserkov', ed. Radwan, 145-46. A special commission in the more conservative State Council concurred in 909 (RGIA f. 821, op. 10, d. 265, l. 91 ob.).

(85) "Ob inoslavnykh i inovernykh religioznykh obshchestvakh," 264. The complications of civil registration in France in its early years suggest that the MVD's concerns were well founded. See Traer, Marriage and the Family, 95-99; and Noiriel, "Identification of the Citizen," 31-39.

(86) Baptists did, however, request that they be allowed to maintain their own registers (RGIA f. 821, op. 5, d. 1035, ll. 33, 82 ob.).

(87) Polnoe sobranie zakonov Rossiiskoi imperii, 3rd ser., 33 vols. (hereafter PSZ 3) (St. Petersburg: Gosudarstvennaia tipografiia, 1909), (1905), no. 26125, section 2, point 12 (260); B. V. Shtiurmer, V Osoboe Soveshchanie dlia soglasovaniia deistvuiushchikh uzakonenii s imennym Vysochaishim Ukazom 17 aprelia 1905 g. po delam very (St. Petersburg: n.p., 1905).

(88) RGIA f. 1276, op. 2, d. 601, ll. 91-97. This recognition was both dictated by practical considerations and formed part of the larger struggle against Catholicism, in which Mariavites were understood to be a useful ally for the government. See the brief discussion in Ralph Tuchtenhagen, Religion als minderer Status: Die Reform der Gesetzgebung gegenuber religiosen Minderheiten in der verfassten Gesellschaft des Russischen Reiches, 1905-1917 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 995), 219-24.

(89) These groups also simply did not believe that the police should be overseeing the registration of sacred rituals and sacraments. See the discussion of the Committee of Ministers in 905, reproduced in Za pervyi god ispovednoi svobody v Rossii (St. Petersburg: Kolokol, 1907), 76-79.

(90) To a significant extent, the draft civil code of 1902 was designed to effectuate precisely such a rationalization, without terminating the confessional basis of the records in most cases. See Grazhdanskoe ulozhenie, esp. 374-79.

(91) Sanborn, Drafting the Russian Nation; Steinwedel, "Making Social Groups"; Yanni Kotsonis, "'Face-to-Face': The State, the Individual, and the Citizen in Russian Taxation, 1853-1917," Slavic Review 63, 2 (2004): 221-46 (quotations on 222 and 223). On the issue of indirect versus direct rule, see Scott, Seeing Like a State, esp. 76-83; and Charles Tilly, Coercion, Capital, and European States, AD 990-1992 (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992), esp. 103-17.

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