Crime, Society and ‘Revolutionary Conscience’ during the Russian Civil War: Evidence from the Militia Files

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    This article considers the relationship between official discourse and popular perceptions of crime during the Russian Civil War. After the October Revolution all pre-revolutionary criminal law was dismantled, and until the promulgation of a Criminal Code in 1922 Russia had no formal taxonomy of crime. The criminal justice system was to be guided instead by the concept of ‘revolutionary conscience’. Despite the absence of a full formal classification of criminality, people continued to report to the militia (the regular police) what they regarded as criminal activity. The evidence from the militia files suggests that popular notions of criminality were largely unaffected by revolutionary concepts. This did not mean, however, that grassroots crime reporting was detached from the Bolshevik regime because the process required engagement with one of the state’s most extensive organisations (the militia). The article also suggests that the surge in recorded offences during the Russian Civil War reflected a society that was determined to assert moral order in the midst of crisis and that retained some confidence in the capacity of the state to address the problem of crime.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)129-150
    Number of pages22
    JournalCrime, History & Societies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013
    EventStudy Group on the Russian Revolution 38th Annual Conference - Glasgow, United Kingdom
    Duration: 5 Jan 20127 Jan 2012


    • Russian Civil War, crime, criminal justice, revolution, militia, police


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