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The Russian-American Company, founded 1799, employed some real lowlifes. Golovnin about 1810 found them "composed for the most part of dissolute persons, many of whom have been flogged with the knout and wear the brands of their misdeeds on their faces and nostrils." According to Langsdorff about 1805 their sailors were "adventurers, drunks, bankrupt merchants, and bunglers and even pardoned criminals, of whom some had torn nostrils." Rezanov around the same time recorded "violent people, drunkards and so depraved that any community must be considered fortunate to have gotten rid of them".

The company had to hire these men because of a long-term shortage of promyshlenniki, workers that weren't administrators or native forced laborers. They could be petty burghers, peasants, criminal exiles, natives, creoles, or foreigners. Most often they were recruited and/or impressed in Okhotsk.

A bit later, the promyshlenniki's own sons became a labor resource. The company's creole estate was created in 1821 and I get the vague impression that staffing pressures diminished afterwards.

In its early desperation to recruit, how young a promyshlennik would the Company hire? Was there an Imperial minimum employment age that it would have followed?

  • "If you are short of men, never send a man to do a boy's job". As far as I can tell Russia probably didn't have any child labor laws between 1799 and 1881, the years of the Russian American Company. In most countries it was common for young children to work on their parents' farms and businesses, and slave and serf children would start working for their masters early. So I suspect that the RAC would hire persons as young as they thought would be useful, however young that was. – MAGolding Sep 6 '18 at 17:43

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