Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics


Addressing the Ranks

Ranks

Bibliography

Officer Ranks under Peter the Great’s “Table of Ranks” of 1722

By Alexander Mikaberidze, FINS

The Russian official rank system was based on Peter the Great’s decree of 4 February 1722 that provided a system for equivalencies of ranks among the army branches and the civilian service. The Table comprised of 14 classes of ranks and civilian positions, although it did not extend top the lower levels of service. It remained in effect with slight modifications until the October Revolution of 1917.

As Peter the Great launched his reforms in Russia in early 1700s, it became evident that a new system of promotion was required to organize his new army and society. That was particularly important for the nobility who were obliged under Peter’s decrees to serve in the army. In addition, as he formed his army along the European lines, Peter the Great endeavored to simplify the transfers from one branch of service to another as well as determining the precedence of the officials in civilian service and court.

The Table comprised of 14 chins – classes of ranks and included some 262-service titles. It was organized by the military branches (Infantry, Cavalry, Guard, Artillery, Navy), civilian and court positions. The classes were numbered in ascending order from the highest rank to the lowest. A proper system of addressing the ranks was also set up. The Guards, a privileged corps, was given higher classes of ranks than at equivalent rank in the other branches of the military. The Table of Ranks was particularly beneficial for the non-nobles because it allowed sons of secretaries and scribes to achieve promotions through the ranks.

While working with the Table, one must remember to consider the rank (chin) and position (dolzhnost). The Table established a relative correspondence between the two and one could not be considered for a position unless he held appropriate class of rank. In addition, being promoted to a higher class also meant promotion in position. A person had to pass through each rank, while three-four years was an average tenure for each class.

The Table was modified several times over the period of almost two centuries. In the late 19th Century, the table in fact contained twelve ranks and many titles of civilian positions were simplified. The Table of Ranks was abolished by the decrees of 23 November and 29 December 1917 by the Bolshevik government.

Addressing the Ranks

Classes of Ranks

Addressing Form

Classes I and II

Your High Excellency (Vashe vysokoprevoskhoditelstvo)

Classes III and IV

Your Excellency (Vashe prevoskhoditelstvo)

Class V

Your Highly Born (Vashe vysokorodie)

Classes VI, VII and VIII

Your Right Highly Born (Vashe vysokoblagorodie)

Classes XI, X, XI, XII, XIII and XIV

Your Wellborn (Vashe blagorodie)

 

Officer Ranks under Peter the Great’s “Table of Ranks” of 1722

Class

Infantry/Cavalry

Guard

Artillery

Navy

Civil

I

General Field Marshal; Field Marshal

-

-

General Admiral

Chancellor,

Actual Privy Counsellor First Class

II

1791-1796 – General-en-chef; After 1796, General of Cavalry; of Infantry

-

General Feldzeugmeister

Admiral

Actual Privy Counsellor

III

Lieutenant General; General Kriegscommissar

-

Lieutenant General

Vice Admiral, General Kriegscommissar

Procurator-General

IV

Major General

Colonel

Major General of Artillery; Major General of Fortifications

Rear Admiral; Sautbenacht; Ober-zeugmeister

Until 1724 – College President, Privy Counsellor

V

1722-1799: Brigadier, Oberster-Kriegscommissar, General Proviantmeister

Lieutenant Colonel

Colonel of Artillery

1722-1799: Captain Commander, Captain of Cronsdat Port, Intendant, Zeugmeister, Ober-ster- Kriegscommissar

Herald Master

VI

Colonel, Treasurer, Ober-Proviantmaster, Ober-Commissar, General Adjutant, General-Quartermeister-Lieutenant

Major

Lieutenant Colonel of Artillery, Engineer Colonel, Ober-Commissar

Captain (1st class), captain of other ports, Intendant of St. Petersburg warf, Treasurer, Ober-Proviantmeister, Ober-Commissar

College Procurator

VII

Lieutenant Colonel, Auditor General, General-Quartermeister-Lieutenant, General Wagonmeister, General-Helvadiger, General Adjutant to the General Fieldmarshal, Controller

Captain

Major of Artillery, Engineer Lieutenant Colonel, Ober-Controller

Captain (2nd class), Controller

Senior Secretary of Colleges of War, Admiralty and Foreign Affairs

VIII

Major, General Adjutant to full General, General Auditor, Ober-Quartermeister, Zalmeister

In 1731-1797-premier and second majors

Lieutenant Captain

Captain of Artillery, Engineer Major, Ober-Zeichwarter, Controller

Captain (3rd class), Ship Master

Secretary of other Colleges

IX

Captain, Flugel Adjutant to General Fieldmarshal or full General, Adjutant to Lieutenant General, Ober-Proviantmeister, General-Staff-Quartermeister, Ober-Auditor, Field Postmeister

Lieutenant

Lieutenant Captain of Artillery, Engineer Captain, Ober-Auditor, Quartermeister

Lieutenant Captain, Gallery Master

Titular Counsellor

X

Lieutenant Captain

Under Lieutenant

Lieutenant, Engineer Lieutenant-Captain

Lieutenant

College Secretary

XI

-

-

-

Ship Secretary

Ship’s secretary

XII

Lieutenant

Fendrik

Under Lieutenant, Engineer Lieutenant, Wagonmeister

Under Lieutenant, Skipper (1st class)

Provincial Secretary

XIII

Under Lieutenant, Flugel Adjutant to Lieutenant General

-

Junker, Engineer Unter-Lieutenant

-

Provincial secretary, Senate Secretary, Synodal registrar, Cabinet Registrar

XIV

Fendrik, Flugel Adjutant to Major General or Brigadier

-

Engineer Fendrik

Ship Commissar, Skipper (2nd class)

College Registrar

Bibliography:

S.M. Troitsky, Russkii absolutism i dvoriantsvo XVIII v. [Russian Absolutism and the Nobility in XVIII Century] (Moscow, 1974)

Wlater M. Pintner and Don Karl Rowney, Russian Officialdom: the Bureaucratization of Russian Society From the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill, NC, 1980)

James Hassel, “Implementation of the Table of Ranks During the Eighteenth Century”, Slavic Review, XXIX 2 (1970) 283-95.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: September 2003

 

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