Street cleaners in pre-revolutionary Russia and the early Soviet Union are not exactly the profession to which people born in the second half of the 20th and early 21st centuries are accustomed. Descriptions of "old school" janitors are now and then found in classical Russian literature and Soviet works.
One of the distinguishing features of those wipers was the presence of a personal number. Why was he needed?
Initially, the cleanliness in the large cities of the Russian Empire was monitored by ordinary serfs, who were brought to work from the roundabout villages. All kinds of servants were also involved in cleaning the streets. The first wipers in the usual sense appeared only in the 18th century. They came from representatives of serfs and bourgeois.
Much less often impoverished nobles fell into the janitors. However, at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, the work of these people was reduced primarily not to cleaning the street, but to caring for the owner's house during his absence.
To the times Nicholas IThere were already so many street cleaners in the cities, cleaning the streets and looking after the lordly property, that it was decided to officially load them with public work. Now every janitor was obliged, in addition to other work for the gentleman, to monitor all visitors and those leaving the house, to report to the police on the movement of people.
The janitors became even more responsible after Dmitry Karakozov's assassination attempt on Alexander II in 1866. After this incident, people with brooms were also ordered to carry around the clock on the streets. True, it only lasted a few years.
After the abolition of serfdom in 1861, strong, tall, agile people from various classes began to be recruited as janitors. Was welcomed to set in the wipers of the former non-commissioned officers or sergeant-major… At the same time, with each decade, the number of duties only grew.
By the 1890s, in addition to cleaning the streets, janitors had to monitor public order, separate small welds and skirmishes, record all the arriving and departing residents of the houses for which they were responsible, in a special book, daily inspect attics, closets and basements, drive away stray dogs, disperse vagrants, report suspicious persons to the police, remove unauthorized advertisements, catch and hand over chimney sweeps to the police without a work permit.
After 1890, janitors were also obliged to be on duty on the streets of cities at night in shifts of 4 hours. They also began to be given bone whistles and numbered tokens, which confirmed the fact that a person is a janitor. Thus, people with brooms were officially equated with the lower state ranks. The word "Janitor" was written on a metal token, the name of the street on which he works, and the number of the house for which he was responsible were stamped.
Also, some of the police functions were shifted to the janitors. They were supposed to participate in the dispersal of the protesting people and in the arrest of the violators of the order. Finally, the janitors had to whistle the policemen from the neighboring streets. Two short whistles signaled an urgent need for help. One long - the escape of the intruder.
At the end of the 19th century, the janitors finally came under the control of the police department. Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Empire… Now they were hired only with the approval of the government department. Like the policemen, the janitors were supposed to have their own uniform: a janitor's vest, a canvas apron, a cap with a lacquered visor, a janitor's badge, a metal sewn-on plaque with the word "Janitor".
In large cities, police assistants with brooms had salaries comparable to those of lower government officials. True, the janitors did not live richly against the background of the majority of the country's population anyway.
By the beginning of the 20th century, revolutionary activity was already in full swing in the Russian Empire. The contradictions between the majority of the population and the ruling regime grew ever stronger. It is easy to guess that the involvement of the janitors by the police, including in military operations against the population, quickly made them shake hands in the eyes of most people, like Cossacks and policemen. As a result, many janitors suffered during the revolution. However, after 1917, their position did not change much.
Even after the NEP times, the “new” Soviet janitors did for the most part everything the same as under the Russian empire. Only now they were helping not the tsarist police and the secret police, but the Soviet militia. Throughout the "Stalin era" people with brooms not only kept the streets clean, but also helped maintain public order. The wipers also retained numbered tokens. It was only in the 1960s that janitors were deprived of the lion's share of their public functions, turning, in fact, into ordinary cleaners. At the same time, the Soviet militia was deprived of the right to involve janitors on night shifts and operations to detain violators.