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seventeen, and who are of the proper size, may be received, by their own consent, in the room of others.
Substitutes are occasionally purchased, and in this case a legal contract is drawn up beforehand, after entering into which, the substitute cannot flinch from his bargain; but before he is received as a soldier, the money, or whatever part of it remains due, must be paid to him in presence of the board, if he wishes a part to be given to any of his family, the person whom he names is immediately called in to receive it; and, finally, a statement of the whole transaction is entered on the minutes. To purchase a substitute costs sometimes not less than a hundred pounds; but the peasants on the crown estates are occasionally possessed of considerable wealth, and can afford to pay thus highly to be exempted from their turn of service.
The peasants belonging to the estates of private individuals afford, comparatively, little trouble to the board, since it has only to ascertain that the recruit is of the proper age and height, and physically qualified for service; it being the privilege of the proprietors to select any of their serfs whom they please as conscripts, and they naturally endeavour to pick out the worst characters and the most useless men for this purpose. If they have no one whom they wish to get rid of for misconduct, they generally make those families draw lots in which there are three or
four grown-up sons, and which, therefore can best spare one.
For every recruit who is received, and who afterwards proves to have been at the time of his enlistment unfit for service, owing to any physical defect, each member of the board is liable to a penalty of five hundred roubles, about twenty pounds.
Bribery often prevails to a great extent in the business of the recruitment; masters paying to have bad characters, who are unfit for soldiers, received; and conscripts who are fit, paying to be rejected. Clerks are sometimes detected in receiving from fifty to a hundred roubles from poor fellows for promised protection, which they have no power to give; and these gentlemen, if delivered over to justice, are punished by being made soldiers themselves. The doctor, too, in examining the conscripts, not unfrequently when he looks at their teeth, finds, not a silver spoon, but a gold piece in their mouths ; this he, of course, is intended to take, and in return to pronounce the man unfit for service.
But the system of bribery is not always confined to these petty offences, the roubles are sometimes paid in thousands, and the receivers are neither the clerks nor the surgeons to the board. It is said, that the President, if he manages matters well, may clear, during the two months of the sitting, upwards of two thousand pounds; and when this is the case, of
course clerks receive their mites with impunity, and gold pieces are quietly transferred from the mouths of the conscripts to the pockets of the doctor, instead of being publicly laid on the table of the board, as happens almost daily here, under the vigilant eye of a president known to be incorruptible himself, and not inclined to overlook the delinquencies and peculations of others.
Having, as I have already told you, attended a sitting of the board of enlistment, I will endeavour to make you acquainted with their manner of proceeding, by giving you some description of the scene.
The members, with the doctors and the secretary, are all in uniform, and wear swords; the civil uniform differing little from the military, except in the absence of epaulettes. A standard measure, which can only be lowered to five feet three inches, is placed in the room, flanked on either side by a tall corporal.
The ante-room is crowded with peasants, and there are a certain number of soldiers and
d'armes in attendance to keep order. I must premise, that when a man is received as a soldier, a patch is immediately shaved on his forehead to mark him: if he is rejected, a patch is shaved at the back of his neck to show that he has been examined, and to prevent his being brought forward a second time. At the conclusion of each day's sitting, the recruits, who have been enlisted, are marched in a body to a church,
where they take the oaths of allegiance and fidelity before a priest.
To return to the proceedings of the board,—we will suppose the business to begin with the examination of the conscripts furnished from the estate of a private individual.
At the president's order, one of the corporals in attendance opens the door into the ante-room, and calls out for the peasants of Ivan Petroitch Pashkoff to be in readiness: the president then reads out A. B., the first name on the list of conscripts sent by Mr. Pashkoff.
“A. B. come in,” shouts the corporal, and in walks A. B., stark naked. He is first placed under the standard, the corporal on each side-taking care that he holds himself upright, which of course he is not very willing to do. “ Five feet four inches,”* says the corporal.
corporal. The president enters the man's height opposite to his name in a book; the conscript is then handed over to the doctor who pronounces him sound and fit for service. The field officer then examines him, to ascertain that there is no peculiarity in his person, such as his being very much bandy-legged or knockkneed, or having an extraordinarily shaped head, which would interfere with his wearing uniform.
* This is expressed in Russian, in a manner which, if literally translated would be unintelligible in English. Five feet three inches, it will be remembered, is the minimum height for a soldier.
He pronounces his approval of the recruit; the president enters everything in his book, and simply calls out “ Lop” (forehead): the corporal instantly shoves A. B. out of the room shouting “ Lop.”—Lop, Lop, is repeated in the ante-room, and the man is taken straight into another apartment where his forehead is shaved, and he finds himself a soldier. In the meantime C. D. appears before the board: he is either too short, (if a sheet of paper can be passed between the man's head and the measure marking five feet three, he is rejected) or the doctor or inspecting officer find that he is physically unfit to be received. The president calls out “zatillac” (neck), C. D. is shoved out of the room, zatillac, zatillac is repeated in the ante-room, the back of the man's neck is shaved, and he is set at liberty. If a man declares himself labouring under any defect, or subject to any complaint unfitting him for a soldier, and the case is such that the truth cannot be ascertained on the spot, he is sent to the hospital for examination, and a report on his case is received the following day. Of course these poor men often counterfeit fits and other infirmities, in order to avoid being enlisted, but if they are discovered, they are liable to severe punishment, and their claim to a discharge after twenty-five years' service, is sometimes taken away.
When the turn of the crown peasants comes, three brothers perhaps enter together, one of whom is to