The article discusses the relations between the state and the society in Russia during the First World War through the example of the so-called refugee relief organization. It is shown that the refugee crisis roused a variety of public forces to be active and led to a clash of their interests as well as the authorities’ interests with the interests of different amateur associations. The key point in their disagreements was above all the question of competence and resources which remained unresolved. Thus, the situation with refugee relief signified a general atmosphere of growing mistrust between the state and the society, in which one could obviously pick up if not a zero consensus, then, at least an extremely low level of their cooperating capacity. Skilfully exploiting interests of various non-governmental unions, the central government was not clearly aware that not only it did not contribute to the solution of the refugee problem, but it also pandered to the atomization of the society and in such a way – to the increase of social tension. However, the experience of refugee relief organization in pre-revolutionary Russia was by no means only negative. It enabled to mobilize not only overt but hidden material, administrative and other resources. Moreover, refugeedom gave rise to a number of amateur initiatives, institutionalized as well as remained informal; it also led to the formation of a circle of experts for whom relief of the socially needy became a profession. Professionalization in this case was accompanied by specialization and, in particular, the formation of the nomenclature of different refugee categories requiring different types of assistance.
Key words: World War I, Russia, refugee crisis, state, society, charity, compromise, conflict, resources, experience.