chapter  11
17 Pages

Greeks Into Privateers

Law and Language of Commerce Raiding Under the Imperial Russian Flag, 1760s–1790s
WithJulia Leikin

The emergence and development of privateers as a separate social category in imperial Russia was neither a foregone conclusion nor an appropriation of Western practices, but rather a result of changes in Russia’s political and imperial culture. This chapter traces this evolution through three developments: the specific vocabulary referring to concrete activities perpetrated at sea under the Russian flag; distinct financial incentives that were codified only during the 1787 Russian-Ottoman War; and, the use of legal instruments and law-based strategies employed to regulate the activities of this specific subclass of combatant. The argument in this chapter begins with an explanation of the historical role of irregular troops in Russian strategy to show how this precedent was first used to organise recruits in the Eastern Mediterranean. It then pivots to an overview of Russia’s approach to commerce raiding and the changes that followed in the 1770s and 1780s. The final part argues that these developments set privateers apart from both foreign recruits and irregular troops.