Natallia Anofranka. Portraits of robbers in the Belarusian/Lithuanian governorates (from the history of everyday life in the 1st half of the XIX century)

Robberies, including violent ones, were widely spread in the Belarusian/Lithuanian lands in the first half of the nineteenth century. These types of crime were committed by members of different social groups, but most commonly the offenders were from the lower orders, e.g. runaway conscripts and bonded serfs. Unable to obtain legal status, they were pushed to resort to a life of crime, engaging in thefts and robberies. Criminals came to control certain areas, where they organised gangs through establishing contact and cooperation with others. They would sometimes pass themselves for other individuals in order to hide from the police by adopting other names and giving false personal details, such as age and address. It was easier to do so if the outlaw kept to his own social group. However, breaking social boundaries turned out more effective. The article explores a case of such social mimicry, when a runaway bonded serf Jaŭhien Čarniaŭski settled in Minsk. He passed himself for a nobleman for a long time, without raising any suspicions among either the local people or the police.