Elena Marasinova. "Slaves" and "subjects" in the Russian Empire of the 18th century

In this report, basing on the evolution of the formulary of signature of applications to the Tsar, some conclusions will be made about the governmental channels of social control and about the level of efficiency of such manipulation of the minds of the nobility. 

In 1702, the authors of petitions were prohibited to sign "your servant", "your orphan", "your  hermit": the whole population in relation to the Tsar was united by the name "slave". This formulary was preserved until the decree of Catherine II of 1786 introducing the signature "your humble slave" was to be replaced by "true subject". Such choice of words was a laconic expression of the change of the concept of the relationship between the throne and the nobility, as well as an impetus for the development of the citizenship in the empire that was expanding its borders.

However, the enlightened elite wasn't very enthusiastic about the new privilege. They kept signing "your humble slave", never demanded the political rights they had been granted by the law, but insisted on protecting the independence of the spiritual life of a liberal noble. This process, unique for European history, was paradoxically formulated by Lomonosov and several decades later reproduced by Pushkin. In 1761, the scientist said, "I don't want to be a fool at the table of any earthly lords, nor at God himself who gave me the senses until He takes them back from me". In his 1833–1835 diary, the poet wrote, "But I can be a citizen and even a slave, but no way I'd be a serf or fool even for The Lord".