Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics



Note from Translator

Officer Ranks in the Russian Army

List of Abbreviations

Notes

 

Chefs and Commanders of the Regular Regiments of the Russian Army: 1796-1815

Introduction

By Alexander Podmazo
Translated by
Alexander Mikaberidze, FINS

The present study is devoted to the chefs and commanders of the regular regiments of the Russian army. The time-frame of 1796-1815 is set because it is the only period in the history of Russian army when the position of chef existed within the regimental structure.

History of the chefs started during the reign of Emperor Peter III, who endorsed the Prussian military doctrine of Frederick the Great and introduced this position into the Russian army on 25 April 1762, ordering to name the regiments after their chefs. However, Peter III was at power for a short period and so this innovation did not take root. Empress Catherine II, having overthrown her husband, initially abolished the designation of regiments after their chefs (5 July 1762) and then, the position of the chef itself. Yet, Catherine later reintroduced the chefs into the regiments. Gregory Potemkin, President of the Military Collegium at the time, specified the basis and goals of the chefs: “Her Majesty’s will is that the chefs attempt to manage the regiments in relevant condition and structure. Their major objective should be training [the troops] to fire, maintaining the troops in good order, providing them with essentials as well as ensuring that the treatment of the rank-and-file is human.”[1] Therefore, the position of chef carried only honorary functions, did not have specific responsibilities and was limited to supervision; besides, the chef was not included into the regimental staff.

As he ascended the throne in 1796, Emperor Paul I initiated a series of military reforms and significantly modified the position of chef. Under the new regimental regulations of 29 November 1796, the chef was considered senior officer in the regiment, who was responsible for the regiment and any issue related to maintenance and service. As a result, the authority of the chef was similar to that of the commander of the regiment. In addition, chef was included into the regimental staff rosters and was ordered to serve with the regiment - under Catherine, he did not have to serve with the regiment and rarely visited his troops. Thus, the regimental commander had in fact power of the deputy commander and was limited in his actions. He was second senior officer (after chef) in the regiment, had a battalion named after him and was chiefly responsible for executing the laws and regulations, educating the officers and drilling the troops, and complying with the orders and instructions of the chef. Commander replaced chef in his absence.

As he further introduced Prussian innovations into the army, Paul changed the designation of the regiments, which now were named after their chefs. Moreover, the change of the designation was not immediate, but in stages, depending when the emperor “remembered” them. Thus, on 27 November 1796, newly formed musketeer regiment was named “Arkharov’s regiment” after its chef; on 29 November 1796, all hussar regiment (except for Izumsk) were named after their chefs; on 25 December 1798, Ekaterinoslavl Cuirassier Regiment was renamed into Count Saltykov’s Cuirassier Regiment, etc. Only on 31 October 1798, Paul ordered to “rename all infantry and cavalry regiments after their chefs.”[2] On 17 March 1800, even Life Guard regiments were renamed. All newly established regiment followed the suit. However, considering the impulsive character of Paul, the names of regiments changed often, because the chefs were dismissed or transferred. This led to a further confusion in the designations and clerical work.

Old designations were re-established only under Alexander I, however the position of chef was retained without changes. The Life Guard regiments were renamed on 14 March 1801; cuirassier, dragoon, hussar, grenadier, musketeer and jager regiments - on 29 march 1801, and garrison regiments - on  3 July 1801.

The reorganization of the Russian army in early 19th Century, led to increasing numbers of positions requiring rank of a general. As a result, the regimental chefs were often appointed to command brigades, divisions, etc. The constant presence of chef at the regiment was not required anymore and his authority was now transferred to commander. Realizing ineffectiveness of the division of authority between chefs and commanders, Emperor Alexander decreed (1 September 1814) that “generals will not serve as regimental chefs anymore, except for the Guard Corps, and all chefs with the rank of a general should transfer their regiments to their senior staff officers.”[3] However, the decree did not clarify situation for the staff-officers with lower ranks, like colonels, who served as chefs. So, on 22 June 1815, Alexander issued another decree which specified that “chefs-colonels will from now on serve as commanders of the regiments.”[4] The position of chef remained only in the garrison regiments until 30 October 1816.[5] Though the position of chef re-appeared sometimes in the regiments in the following years, it only carried honorary features.

In late 18th – early 19th Centuries, the regimental chefs and commander were appointed and dismissed only by the Imperial order. During the absence of the chef, commander assumed his responsibilities without any specific order. However, if chef was absent and there was no commander, the regiment was commanded by senior staff-officer, or officer from another regiment (usually from life guard) who was appointed by the commander-in-chief of the army. In both cases, these commanding officers commanded the regiment temporarily and the position of the commander remained vacant.

While studying the Russian army of early 19th Century, scholars often confuse the chefs and commanders and commanding officers; very often chefs are called commanders and commanding officers are referred to as the regimental commanders; sometimes no information is given about the people in charge of the units. In this respect, G. Gabaev’s book “Rospis russkim polkam 1812 goda…” [Rosters of Russian Regiments in 1812] is on of the most important books on the subject and it provides detailed information on chefs, commanders and commanding officers of all regiments of the Russian army during the opening of 1812 Campaign. However, Gabaev’s work covers brief period of May-August 1812 and it does not consider changes in the regiments that occurred during the campaigns of 1812-1814.  Information about the chefs and commanders of the regiments involved in other campaigns is very scarce. Even regimental histories, published in mass in early XX Century, failed to fill the gaps of information on the contemporary Russian army.

Present study is based on the original orders and rosters preserved in the Russian State Military Historical Archive (RGVIA) and the Russian State Library. It comprises of three parts: first part contains the names of the regiments of Russian army in alphabetical order with their chefs and commanders. Where there are quotation marks on the dates, this  indicate the approximate date. Second part includes the alphabetical list of persons (chefs and commanders) mentioned in the first section. Third part has the list of the regiments named after their chefs at the time of Paul I.

While using this reference, one must consider several factors: first, not all of the Imperial orders are preserved; second, transfers of officers to different regiments were often (especially during war) made by the orders of commander-in-chief; third, in case of retiring, transfer to other regiment or appointment to new position, Imperial orders often did not indicate previous employment; fourth in case of death of an officer, the order of his exclusion from the rosters was often delayed for considerable period of time, sometimes up to six months.

Note from Translator

This is the first English edition of Alexander Podmazo’s volume, originally published in 1997 with the support of the Museum of Borodino. I would like to thank the author for his permission to work on the text for the Napoleon Series.

While working on this reference, I had to consider several factors. Most designations of the Russian regiments are inaccurately translated into English. Thus, Azovski Garnizonii Polk is usually translated as “Azov” Garrison Regiment, though the proper translation would be “Azovski” Garrison Regiment. After consultation with the author, we agreed to include both versions for easier search of the regiments. Also, all dates are given under the Julian Calendar, which was effective in Russia at the time. To convert a date into tge modern calendar, add 11 days to dates prior 1800, and 12 days to dates after 1800.

I made certain abbreviation of the ranks to avoid cramming of numerous names and ranks onto the page. Most of abbreviations are easy to grasp at the first glance. I also gave initials for the first and paternal names of the persons, and, if interested, you can check them in the complete list of the chefs and commanders.

To my knowledge, this is the only volume available in English that deals with the Russian regimental chefs and commanders. If considered with Tony Boughton’s French regimental commanders, this study would certainly be one of the best sources for the military history of the Napoleonic era.

I would appreciate any comments on typos and other inaccuracies in the text.

Alexander Mikaberidze


Officer Ranks within the Russian Army (in order of superiority)

General (general ot infanterii, kavalerii)
Lieutenant General (General Leitenant)
Major General (General Maior)
Brigadier (Brigadir)
Colonel (Polkovnik)
Lieutenant Colonel (Podpolkovnik)
First Major (Premier Maior)
Second Major (Sekund Maior)
Captain (Kapitan)
Lieutenant (Porudchik)
Second Lieutenant (Podporudchik)
Ensign (praporshik)

List of Abbreviations

M- Major
Lt. Col. - Lieutenant Colonel
Col.- Colonel
Brig. - Brigadier
MG - Major General
LG - Lieutenant General
GIF - General of Infantry
GC - General of Cavalry
GFM - General Field Marshal
FA - Flugel Aide-de-camp
GA - General Aide-de-camp

 

 

Notes

[1] V. Potto, Istoria 17go dragunskogo Nizhegorodskogo polka [History of the 17th Nizhegorod Dragoon Regiment] (Tiflis, 1908)

[2] Imperial decree, 31.10.1798 (RGVIA) The Jager regiment were the only exception. They were named after their commander until 17 January 1799, when they were renamed.

[3] RGVIA, f.1, op.1., t.2, d. 3027, l.68.

[4] Imperial decree, 22.06.1815

[5] Order of Chief of Staff, No. 48, 30.10.1816.

 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2003

 

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