This post is part of a series of 10 posts about the British Community in Russia. You can read the complete series HERE
By 1900, the British population in Russia was about 10,000 with many families established in Russia, such as:
- Gibbons in Moscow and St Petersburg
- Carrs in Archangel
- Hills who were scattered across the Country
These families were connected by both trade or marriage. Under Russian law, the third generation to be born in Russia was automatically declared Russian, therefore many pregnant women returned to Britain to have their babies. The travelling was problematic during the Russian winter, when their passage was inhibited by snow, snowdrifts, and ice which blocked the railways. In childhood, many children returned to Britain to attend public schools, which in turn strengthened the link between the family living in Russia and the family living in Britain.
The British living in Russia were mainly middle class. The birth register at St Petersburg’s consulate for the period of 1856-1912 recorded the following occupations:
- Cotton Carders
- Electrical and Mining Engineers
Those living in Russia were able to obtain British goods at a shop in St Petersburg. The Shop sold a variety of goods including tea and shortcake. An English club was also available, where English beer, Scotch Whiskey could be found and drunk whilst playing billiards.
Anglican churches could be found at St Petersburg and Moscow, they had their own chaplains, as did religious venues for other denominations. The British community was large and reasonably affluent, however things were about to change and they would not return.
As the Great War broke out in 1914 there was a huge rush to register children born earlier, with the Consular Registers being located at the National Archives in Kew. Registration as British prevented the Russian call up and provided the means for an exciting route to serve, if needed, because these young men would need to return back to Britain to enlist. In anticipation, a listing of all British men who were able bodied, and able to serve in the military was undertaken.
The English Club located in St Petersburg, although renamed Petrograd, created a fund that sought to support the wives, widows and children left behind following the males returning to Britain to join the military. Many young men left Russia, travelling to Britain via Sweden and Norway.
Russia was not prepared for war against Germany who was modern with a well provided for army. Russia had it’s first Revolutionary War in 1917, here was opportunity to become a real democracy and to be seen as an such, on an equal footing with other European countries. Those that did not believe that, began taking action to move property and family abroad; essentially outside of Russia.
You can read the complete series, of the British Community in Russia HERE.