Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Topics - Coldstream

Pages: [1]
Several new books have come out of Russia dealing with the Imperial Guard regiments which are profusely illustrated in color and period photographs.  They can be obtained from Atlantic Crossroads (  Go to their main menu and scroll down to Books and Reference.  Click on it and scan the offerings on Imperial Russia.

The new books are:

    Military Capital of the Russian Empire in Photographs of Late XIX-Early XX C" - Russian text but full of excellent photos of Imperial Guard units and personalities in and around St. Petersburg.  Most of the photos were taken by the famous photographer Bulla.
There is an English entry for each photo at the end of the book. 237 pages.

    Three Centuries of Russian Imperial Guard.  For Faith and Loyalty. - Catalogue of winter 2001/2002 exhibition at the Winter Palace (Hermitage).  271 pages in color.  Russian text.

    Regimental histories of the Chevalier Guards, Life Guard Hussars and the Preobrazhenski Regiment. - Russian text, but illustrated in color.

Atlantic Crossroads also carry other coffee table books on Russian antiques, badges, swords, heraldry, and the Imperial Family.  Bon Appetit!!


The rank designations for officers and enlisted personnel was as follows:

                             ENLISTED RANKS

    Mladshii Unterofitser (Corporal)
    Vzvodnyi Unterofitser (Sergeant)
    Feldfebel (Sergeant-Major)
    Portupei Yunker (acting officer)

    Unterofitser (Corporal)
    Vzvodnyi Unterofitser (Sergeant)
    Vakhmistr (Sergeant-Major)

    Mladshii Feierverker (Corporal)
    Vzvodnyi Feierverker (Sergeant)
    Feldfebel (Sergeant-Major)


    Praporshchik (Ensign)
    Podporuchik (2d Lieutenant)
    Poruchik (Lieutenant)
    Shtabskapitan (2d in command)
    Podpolkovnik (Lieutenant Colonel)
    Polkovnik (Colonel)

I will include cavalry and cossack ranks in another entry to come.


The following bits and pieces were largely taken from a book by Henri Troyat entitled "Daily Life in Russia Under the Last Czar" (Stanford University Press).

Under the reforms of 1874, military service was compulsory for all males between 21-43 years.  All fit men were registered either with the regular army or the territorials (Opolchenie) - Only those chosen by lot served while the others were called up only in the event of war by edict of the Czar.  Service was for 18 years and consisted of 3 years with the colours (active) and 3 in the reserve for cavalry and horse artillery and 4 yrs colour service in the infantry and foot artillery (the remaining service was spent in the reserves).  Prior to 1874, service was for 25 yrs!  Between 270,000 and 290,000 men were called up yearly.

Corps of Pages - Candidate had to be of aristocratic birth (father and grandfather had to have been of "incontestable nobility."  One of them had also to have been a general.  The candidates began their tuition at 12 or 13 yrs of age and continued for 7 yrs.  They usually went into the guards and were vetted by their chosen regiments.  The kammerpages (Pages of the Chamber) were chosen for palace service by the Imperial Family.  Each Page (12 were chosen) was attached to the suite of a particular member of the Imperial Family.

There was compulsory prayer morning and evening in the Imperial Army (and one would assume, the Navy).  Every regiment had a choir.  The choir leader was a tenor and struck up the first couplet with all the others joining in the refrain.  A dancer would sometimes leave the ranks and jump and down in the Russian manner.  A good example of this choral and dancing tradition was displayed in the Russian version of "War and Peace." (I believe it is still available on video.)

Soldier's Diet - black bread, boiled buckweat, meat soup, cabbage and beetroot.  On fast days fish soup was had.

Forms of address - Officers would greet their troops with "Zdorovo rebiaty!" (hullo children) and the troops would reply, "Zdravie zhelaem, vashe prevoskhoditelstvo!" (Good health, your excellency) or "Rady startsya, vashe prevoskhoditelstvo!" (Happy to serve, your excellency).

I would like to give a little background information on the changes in army uniform during the reigns of Alexander Alexandrovich (Alexander III) and his son, Nicholas Alexandrovich (Nicholas II).  When Alexander III succeeded to the throne upon the murder of his father, Alexander Nicholaevich (Alexander II), he began to russify the army's uniforms.  Under Alexander II, the Army wore the French kepi (cap) and had a generally French appearance.

In 1882, all cavalry regiments were converted to dragoons (e.g., they lost their individual identity as hussars, uhlans (lancers), cuirassiers.  Those regiments which were already dragoons remained so) and given a new uniform based on the dress of the peasant.  It consisted of a black (the official regulations stated "dark green," but the enlisted ranks' uniform for all branches of the army was black with the exception of the Guard cavalry regiments which were unaffected) double-breasted tunic fastened by hooks and eyes (no buttons), a fur "shapka" (cap) with a "V" cut in front revealing the unit's facing color and the wings-up State Eagle.  The trousers were bluish grey.  The greatcoats or "shinel" were brown-grey and remained basically the same throughout the Imperial period on into the Soviet era.  The David Lean film "Doctor Zhivago" accurately depicted the dragoon uniform of 1881-1909 in the scene where a squadron charges the demonstrators.

As mentioned earlier, the cavalry regiments of the Imperial Guard retained their distinctive hussar, uhlan, and cuirassier uniforms except for the Life Guard Dragoon Regiment, which adopted the line pattern but kept the Guard's St. Andrew Star on their shapka rather than the line's eagle.

The infantry regiments of the line and the Guard also adopted the double-breasted tunic with black trousers.  The line infantry shapka bore the eagle and that of the Imperial Guard, the St. Andrew Star.  The Life Guard Pavlovsky Regiment was an exception.  They retained the 18th century brass-fronted grenadier mitre cap, which they wore at the Battle of Friedland (1807), as a distinction in honor of their conduct during that battle.  Many of the caps still bore the holes made by musket balls. These distinctive caps continued to be worn until August 1914 when the regiment, together with the rest of the army, marched off to war wearing khaki service dress.  The brimless forage cap (furashka) was worn by the Guard and line for all duties other than ceremonial.  Officers and senior NCO's had peaks to their forage caps.  It should be mentioned at this point that the officer's uniform was a bottle green shade rather than black.

In 1909, as a result of the demoralization of the army caused by their defeat by Japan in 1904-05, a new uniform was introduced in the Guard and line, and the cavalry had their old pre-1881 titles restored in an attempt to restore morale.  The Guard infantry regiments, together with line grenadier units, were given a shako (kiver) based on the 1812 model.  The  tunics remained double-breasted but with brass buttons.  The Guard regiments wore colored plastrons for parade.  The daily headgear remained the furashka, which became the universal headgear for the line regiments (for parade and undress).

The above is very general and there were exceptions to the rule, as was true with any army during the Victorian/Edwardian era.  Should anyone have specific questions concerning Russian uniforms, I will be more than happy to research the answers.  

W. McCaughey

Certain  regiments of the Imperial Guard and the line had members of the Imperial Family as "Chefs" or, as the British would have it, Colonels-in-Chief.  I have come up with the following list of regiments and their chefs.  I am sure there are some omissions.  Perhaps there are some of you out there who could fill the gaps.

Imperial Guard Regiments

-Chevalier Guards Regt of Her Majesty the Sovereign Empress Maria Feodorovna - the dowager empress

-Life Guard Horse Guards Regt - Nicholas II
-Cuirassier Guards Regt of His Majesty the Emperor
-Cuirassier Guards Regt of Her Majesty the Empress -    (the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna)
-His Majesty's Personal Escort (Konvoi) - Nicholas II
-Dragoon Guards Regt - HIH Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (widow of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich)
-Her Majesty the Sovereign Empress Alexandra Feodorovna's Lancer (Uhlan) Guard Regt - Alexandra (there is a well known photo of the Empress in her regimental uniform and mounted. It was taken on the occasion of the unit's Jubilee-16 May 1903)
-Horse Grenadier Guards Regt - The Tsarevich Alexei
-Life Guard Cossack Regt - Nicholas II
-Combined Cossack Guards Regt - Nicholas II
-Atamanski Guard Cossack Regt - The Tsarevich
-Preobrajenski Guards Regt - Nicholas II
-Semenovski Guards Regt - Nicholas II
-Moskovski Guards Regt - The Tsarevich
-Finlandski Guards Regt - The Tsarevich
-2d Tsarskoe Selo Rifle Guards Regt - HIH Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (one of those involved in the murder of Rasputin)
-4th Rifle Guards Regiment of the Imperial Family - Nicholas II

Line Regiments

-2d Pavlogradski Life-Hussar Regt of Emperor Alexander III - Nicholas II (Chef), The Tsarevich (2d Chef)
-3rd Elizvetgratski Hussar Regt of HIH Grand Duchess Olga Nicholaevna - Grand Duchess Olga Nicholaevna
-5th Alexandriiski Hussar Regt of Her Majesty the Sovereign Empress Alexandra Feodorovna - Alexandra
-8th Voznosenski Lancer (Uhlan) Regt of HIH Grand Duchess Tatiana Nicholaevna - Grand Duchess Tatiana Nicholaevna
-9th Kazanski Dragoon Regt of HIH Grand Duchess Maria Nicholaevna - Grand Duchess Maria Nicholaevna
-17th Nizhegorodski Dragoon Regt - Nicholas II
-15th Ukrainski Hussar Regt of HIH Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna (Czar's older sister)
-16th Tverskoi Dragoon Regt of HIH the Tsarevich
-1st Orenburg Cossack Regt of HIH the Tsarevich

Guard and Line Regiments with non-Russian chefs

-Grodno Hussar Guards Regt - The German Empress Augusta Viktoria
-Keksholmski Guard Regt - Kaiser Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary

It might be noted that, in effect, the Czar was chef of all the Guard infantry regiments not included in this list.  His Majesty King Alfonso XIII of Spain was chef of a line Uhlan regiment, and I believe that the King of England was chef of a line infantry regiment.  Perhaps some other contributor could add to the list.

W. McCaughey

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, a wealth of new material on the old Imperial Army began to come out of Russia.  Most are available from dealers in the UK, Russia, or the US.  One very good source is Atlantic Crossroads, Inc ( which also carries books on Imperial Russian Orders and decorations.

As a student of military uniform, I would recommend the following, which are currently available:

"Russian Imperial Guard" by Gerard Gorokhoff - A superb photographic record of the regiments of the Guard from 1894 to 1917.  It has a number of photographs of members of the Imperial Family with their Guards regiments.  It is in English and Russian.

"Russian Line Infantry 1801-1855" by Leonov and Ulyanov - Magnificent work detailing the uniforms and colours (flags) of the line infantry regiments in wonderful color illustrations.  A companion volume detailing the uniforms and colours from 1855 to 1918 is also available.  The text is in Russian.

"Russian Guard Cavalry 1914-1917" by Deryabin and Dzys - Text in Russian, but color plates and photographs are worth the price.

"Russian Junkers" by A. Vorob'yova - An excellent treatment of the Russian cadet schools during the monarchy.  Text in Russian.  Color plates and B/W photos.

"Banners and Standards of the Russian Imperial Army of the late XIX-Early XX Century" - Text in Russian.  Excellent color plates and photographs of the flags.  The book, together with an English translation of the text can be obtained from Gauntlet Publications (it is on the web).

There are other excellent books out there, but these ought to whet your appetite.

W.L. McCaughey

Pages: [1]