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This paper contains the following remark:

Recruits were then marched off, without proper care, to a destination that might be hundreds of miles away; initially they were branded and even chained.

Is it true that Russian recruits were at one time chained and branded? When? When did this practice stop?

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I'm pretty sure at least some of them were chained. After all, big amount of recruits in tsar's army were peasants or people of other nationalities forced to join it. F.e. Polish ones, to prevent the next uprising or as a punishment, just like sending to Siberia. It's very easy to imagine they could be chained. Still, no sources, so I add it as a comment. –  Darek Wędrychowski Mar 11 '13 at 15:06
    
if you trust your troops so little you have to keep them in chains, how can you trust them enough to issue them with deadly weapons? –  jwenting Mar 12 '13 at 5:10
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1 Answer

Many sources on the internet support it. For example, here it is claimed that they were chained, put in stocks and in towns they were kept in prisons, so many of them died in the way.

Yet these facts were discovered in the course of an inspection of 1710, so it seems it was a locally-invented practice. A decree issued in 1712 forbade this practice, and instruction of 1719 reorganized the supply of the recruits on their way.

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If there had to be a decree forbidding it, then it must have been happening, no? –  T.E.D. Mar 11 '13 at 13:15
    
There's many things that are prohibited despite never happening, just because people think it should never be allowed to happen, or because of rumours that it happened and people were shocked because of it. Maybe the "recruits" were a group of prisoners marched through, and someone misinterpreted the prison uniforms as army uniforms for example. –  jwenting Mar 11 '13 at 13:21
    
@T.E.D. yes. As I said these facts were discovered in the course of an inspection. Is not it clear from the answer? –  Anixx Mar 11 '13 at 14:35
    
Ah. Perhaps there's some confusion here due to the first sentence in the second paragraph. I (and I'm guessing jwenting as well?) thought the second "it" referred to the story, not an actual finding of this going on. I misinterpreted? –  T.E.D. Mar 11 '13 at 14:59
    
@T.E.D. The inspection of 1710 discovered such facts. What is not clear here? The third "it" refers to such practice. –  Anixx Mar 11 '13 at 21:50
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