Lavrinovich Maya

Modernisation of poor relief in Russia: selecting for the “worthy poor” in Sheremetev’s almshouse (the 1800s)

Lavrinovich Maya (2019) "Modernisation of poor relief in Russia: selecting for the “worthy poor” in Sheremetev’s almshouse (the 1800s) ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia II : Istoriia. Istoriia Russkoy Pravoslavnoy Tserkvi, 2019, vol. 91, pp. 28-46 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturII201991.28-46


At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, the new ideas on poor relief began to find their way into Russia. On the one hand, they were based on the assessment of need, and on the other hand, on the moral qualities of the potential recipient. N. P. Sheremetev and A.F. Malinovskiy, who managed the construction of the Almshouse and developed its system of in- and outdoor relief, drew their attention to the “Rumford system” and the related practice of Hamburg Patriotic Society that developed the principles of selection of the recipients of outdoor relief. These systems focused on the “new poor”, i.e. working people whose earnings were not suffi cient to provide for themselves and their families. The adherents of this system did not consider poverty to be a consequence of personal immorality, as the British social reformers insisted. Still, these systems complemented each other. The Hamburg society applied the assessment of need and an individual approach when granting assistance; B. Thompson Rumford taught the inmates of the workhouse labor skills and fed the poor on the regular basis. Sheremetev and Malinovskiy decided to cut off “parasites” and “vagabonds”, because they did not aim to reeducate them, thus having excluded the lower urban strata. They also abandoned the idea of “Rumford soup” but did not abandon the idea of selecting the needy who would be “worth” to be granted allowances. They took into account not only the objective criteria (large family or illness) but also the years of “immaculate” service, one’s industry and “decency”. As a result, the Moscow middle-ranking offi cials and officers, who belonged to Malinovskii’s milieu and had obtained recommendations from the well-known persons, prevailed as the perspective recipients of the outdoor poor relief, and social status turned to be the main criterion of selection.


institutions of poor relief, social status, «worthy poor», Sheremetev’s Almshouse, Nikolai Sheremetev, Aleksei Malinovskii, Benjamin Thompson Rumford, Alexander I, Hamburg Patriotic Society


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Information about the author

Lavrinovich Maya

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in History;
Place of work: National Research University “Higher School of Economics”; 21/4-3 Staraya Basmanaya Str., Moscow 105066, Russian Federation;
ORCID: 0000-0002-1071-1469;
Email: mlavrinovich@hse.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.