Conscription in the Russian Empire was introduced by Peter I of Russia. The conscripts to the Imperial Russian Army were called "recruits" in Russia (not to be confused with voluntary recruitment), which did not appear until the early 20th century. The system was called "recruit obligation".
Russian tsars before Peter maintained professional hereditary musketeer corps (streltsy in Russian) that were highly unreliable and undisciplined. In times of war the armed forces were augmented by peasants. Peter I introduced a modern regular army built on German model, but with a new aspect: officers not necessarily from nobility, as talented commoners were given promotions that eventually included a noble title at the attainment of an officer's rank. Conscription of peasants and townspeople was based on quota system, per settlement. Initially it was based on the number of households, later it was based on the population numbers.
The term of service in 18th century was for life. In 1793 it was reduced to 25 years. In 1834 it was reduced to 20 years plus 5 years in reserve and in 1855 to 12 years plus 3 years of reserve.
After the Russian defeat in the Crimean War during the reign of Alexander II, the Minister of War Dmitry Milyutin introduced a military reform, with its draft presented in 1862. As part of the reform, on January 1, 1874 , the statute about conscription was approved by tsar by which the military service was made compulsory to all males of age 20 and the term was reduced for land army to 6 years plus 9 years in reserve. This conscription created a large pool of military reserve ready to be mobilized in the case of war, while permitting a smaller active army during the peace time.
Only sons were not regularly conscripted to the army.
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