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Czarist Rank Insignia

Insignia of rank is worn in all armies to distinguish the various grades of officers and noncommissioned officers. It is usually in the form of epaulets, straps, braid, buttons, or chevrons, and is worn on the shoulder, sleeve, or collar of the uniform coat, according to the custom of the country to which the soldier belongs.

Military uniform did not come into existence until after the Thirty Years' War, The household troops of Louis XIV of France being the first to wear it. Badges of rank were not in general use in the different armies until the latter part of the 18th century, although some regiments had adopted distinctive devices for this purpose long before that time.

In all armies the insignia of rank is such as is prescribed by the government, and all officers and soldiers are forbidden to wear any insignia except such as that to which their rank entitles them. The form of the insignia is always the same for officers or non-commissioned officers of the same rank, but its color sometimes differs according to the arm of the service to which the wearer belongs.

The Russian rank structure was determined by a decree on the Table of Ranks levied by Peter the Great on 4 February 1722. In the 19th Century, the civil service in Russia was absorbed in the general military constitution of the whole empire. It was the custom for any young man of good family to enter into the civil service of the empire as an original profession. All orders of the state were classed and regulated by the gradations of military rank. Besides the generals, there were a vast number of other officers of different ranks upon the head-quarter staff, selected, for intelligence, ability, and education, to fill the minor offices. Every Russian officer must commence his service in the ranks; but although they perform the duties of soldiers for about two years, as in the Austrian and some other services, yet they are on the footing of cadets, and considered accordingly.

Even before the introduction of epaulettes in Russia in XVI-XVII centuries, musketeer troops wore clothing different from ordinary tailoring, weapons, and also had a reed (staff), and mittens or gloves with from wrist. Peter I established a regular Russian army in 1696. Then the shoulder straps served only as a strap holding from slipping off the shoulder gun or cartridge belt pouch. Officers did not have a gun on arms so they need not need shoulder straps. In the regular Russian army created by Peter I, non-commissioned officers (sergeants) were distinguished with ordinary gold braid sewn on the cuffs and around the hat brim; the officers gold braid was stitched on the sides of the caftan or coat, on the edges of the cuffs and pocket flaps. The officers had badges, tri-color scarf with silver or gold tassels and a sword with a gilded hilt.

Shoulder straps as insignia in Russia began to be used with the ascension to the throne of Alexander I, in 1801. They indicated belonging to a particular rank. Depicted on the uniform was a number indicating the number of the regiment in the Russian army, and the color indicated the number of the regiment in the division. In 1801, for officers shoulder straps were replaced by epaulets. Initially epaulettes worn on one or both shoulders (depending on the type of troops), later - on both shoulders; they were sewn or embroidered numbers of compounds, parts or capital letters of their names and monograms, assigned to military units.

Shoulder straps allowed distinguishing a soldier from an officer. The officers' epaulettes were first trimmed with braid (stripe of gold or silver braid on the uniforms). Since 1827 it was the stars that indicate the rank of officers and generals. One star was on the epaulets ensign, two for a lieutenant, major and major-general, three for lieutenant colonel and lieutenant-general, four for the captain.

In 1843 insignia and uniform of the lower ranks were instituted. One Insignia (narrow transverse stripe on the shoulder straps) for a corporal, two for junior non-commissioned officer, three for senior non-commissioned officer. The sergeant got on a transverse stripe with 2.5 centimeters insignia, disposed longitudinally. Sergeants had on their epaulettes - stripes of gold braid, while the non-commissioned officers of the white trimmings.

In 1854, there were changes in the insignia of officers and generals entered the shoulder straps on the daily (marching) uniforms. Officers Ranks were denoted by the number of stars and colored lumen (longitudinal bands) on the shoulder straps. One color was uniform clearance officers to captain and including two lumens in the uniform officers, starting with the major and above. The ranks of generals showed the number of stars and zigzag stripes on the shoulder straps.

Shortly before the outbreak of the First World War on the marching uniform of the Russian army entered straps khaki. Russian Army officers wore their insignia of rank on their shoulders, the distinctive badges being displayed upon shoulder straps extending from the sleeve to the collar, when in undress and service uniform, and on shoulder knots and epaulets when in full dress. The Hussars of the Guard have a special form of shoulder strap but the insignia displayed thereon is the same as that worn by the rest of the army. In addition to the stars, the shoulder straps bear likewise the numbers or letters designating the unit to which the officer belongs. The different colors of the straps denote the various arms of the service.

The following are the designs of the different shoulder straps and the badges of rank worn with them.

    For general officers a strap of zig-zag pattern.
  • General.— No badge.
  • Lieutenant-General.— Three stars.
  • Major-General.— Two stars.
    For field officers, and staff officers of the same rank, a strap containing two stripes.
  • Colonel.— No badge.
  • Lieutenant-Colonel.— Three stars.
    For line officers, and staff officers of the same rank, a strap containing one stripe.
  • Captain.— No badge.
  • Second Captain.— Four stars.
  • First Lieutenant.— Three stars.
  • Second Lieutenant.— Two stars.

According to the scale of the Russian military hierarchy, the various commands (exclusive of the Cossack troops) carry ranks as follows:

  1. Sub-Lieutenant, Cornet, Lieutenant, and Staff Captain in the different Arms were the ranks given to the junior officers in companies, squadrons, and batteries.
  2. A Captain commanded a company or a squadron.
  3. A Lieutenant-Colonel commanded a battalion, a battery, and a cavalry division.*
  4. A Colonel commanded a regiment and a division of artillery.
  5. A Major-General commanded a brigade.
  6. A Lieutenant-General commanded a division.
  7. A Lieutenant-General or a full General commanded an army corps or a military district.

All these ranks were also conferred on officers serving on the staff and in departments. Thus, the rank of Colonel, which ought only to be given to men in command of regiments, is also borne by those on the administrative and police staffs, while generals of all grades, who have never held command of troops or even of small units, fill up the Generals list.

The large number of ranks among the officer class was not required. It was quite possible to reduce them, and to give to these their old Russian names (to which the Cossack troops still adhered), for officers of all Arms doing regimental service— namely, Khorunji, Sotnik, and Esaoul. The rank of Pod-esaoul, which was adopted later, might be excluded. Esaouls would command companies, squadrons, sotnias, and companies (of artillery); Sotniks would command halfcompanies, half-squadrons ; and Khorunjis would command sections. The normal establishment of a company would be one Esaoul, two Sotniks, and four Khorunjis. The same should be done in the cavalry. For those not serving regimentally the ranks of Ensign, Lieutenant, and Captain might be maintained, those of SubLieutenant and Staff-Captain being abolished.

In the Russian army no serious attempt to produce a modern service uniform was made until after the outbreak of the war with Japan in 1904. The impracticability of the old dress was at once appreciated, as it gave the properly uniformed Japanese troops a great advantage. After the war an olivedrab cloth, similar to the British and United States, was adopted.

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Page last modified: 24-01-2017 19:31:58 ZULU