Author Topic: Characteristics of Guard Regiments  (Read 8003 times)

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Characteristics of Guard Regiments
« on: February 15, 2005, 11:04:06 AM »
I wonder if someone could help identify the physical characteristics that determined whether one entered the Semenovsky regiment or the Pavlovski regiment?

I ask this as Volkov, in his memoirs on this site, said "
............ since my appearance was much more like that of the typical Semenovsky solider and unlike the typical Pavlovsky ." (Chapter 1)

I asked Rob Moshein, who translated the Volkov memoirs, and he said:
"What he means is that in the Imperial era, each regiment was generally known to all have the same physical appearance and men were usually selected for each regiment based on their height, hair color, etc. One regiment would be all tall blond/fair haired, another medium height, muscular and dark haired, etc etc. So all the men of the Praeobrazhensky regiment looked the same, the Semenonvsky looked the same in a different way, the Pavlovsky yet again. So what Volkov meant was that his physical appearance was far more like a Semenovsky man, and he stood out for looking different than the other men in the Pavlovsky regiment."

It would be interesting is someone out there could expand on the selection process that determined where someone might be placed. I assume that some of the criteria would be based on military 'professionalism' and 'experience' beside a physical 'look'
PS I also assume that these criteria were somewhat watered down post-1914 which would account for the Pavlovsky's poor showing in the early days of the 1st revolution.

Offline Mike

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Re: Characteristics of Guard Regiments
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2005, 01:50:19 PM »
The Semenovsky regiment was traditionally staffed with tall, brown-haired, beardless "handsome" recruites. To be selected for the Pavlovsky regiment, a recruit  had to be pub-nosed (like Emperor Paul I) and not especially tall. Such physical criteria applied primarily to enlisted men, while officers not always met them.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Mike »


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Re: Characteristics of Guard Regiments
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2005, 03:20:00 PM »
The complete rundown on regimental characteristics for the infantry and cavalry is as follows:


Life Guard Preobrazhenski Regiment - Tall and blond.  Other Ranks (ORs) in the 3rd and 5th companies wore beards.

Life Guard Semenovski Regiment - Tall and brown hair.  No beards.

Life Guard Izmailovski Regiment - Dark hair. ORs of the 1st company wore beards.

Life Guard Egerski Regiment - Small and slim. Any hair color.

Life Guard Moskovski Regiment - ORs were red-haired and bearded (this might include mustaches only since photographs of men from this regiment show both clean shaven and mustache only types).

Life Guard Grenadierski Regiment - Dark hair with 1st company wearing beards.

Life Guard Pavlovski Regiment - ORs had pug (turned up) noses with blond hair except for the 9th company which wore brown hair.  Beards were worn by the 5th company.  The pug noses were in memory of Czar Paul I whose nose was turned up, and during whose reign the regiment was raised.  This regiment also wore the old brass fronted grenadier mitre cap, many of which still bore holes made by musket balls during the Battle of Friedland in 1807!

Life Guard Finlandski Regiment - ORs were small and slim.

Life Guard Litovski Regiment -  Tall and blond

Life Guard Kekholmski Regiment - Tall with brown hair

Life Guard Sankt-Peterburgski Regiment (Petrogradski after 1/8/1914) - Dark haired

Life Guard Volynski Regiment - Small and slim

1st Rifle Guards Regiment of His Majesty - Blond hair

2nd Tsarskoe Selo Rifle Guards Regiment - Dark hair

3rd Rifle Guards Regiment of His Majesty - no specific requirements.

4th Rifle Guards Regiment of the Imperial Family - Short nose and thick joining eyebrows.


Chevalier Guards Regiment of Her Majesty the Sovereign Empress - Tall and blond with grey or blue eyes.  No beards except for the kettledrummer of the mounted band.

Horse Guards Regiment - Tall with brown hair and small mustache.  Beards in the 4th squadron.

Cuirassier Guards Regiment of HIM the Sovereign Emperor - Tall, red-haired and long nose

Cuirassier Guards Regiment of HIM the Sovereign Empress - Tall, dark-haired with mat complexion.

His Majesty's Cossack Guards Regiment - Broad shoulders, not tall, bearded with brown or black hair.

Atamanski Guards Cossack Regiment of HIH the heir Tsarevich - Bearded blonds

Combined Cossack Guards Regiment - Tall, dark haired with small mustache.  4th Sotnia (squadron) wore beards.

Horse Grenadiers Guards Regiment - Dark haired with mustache.

Lancer Guards Regiment of Her Majesty the sovereign empress Alexandra Feodorovna - Blond or red hair with long nose and sall mustache.

Dragoon Guards Regiment - Brown haired and beardless.

His Majesty's Hussar Guards Regiment - Brown-haired with beards in the 1st squadron.

His Majesty's Lancer Guards Regiment - Black-haired with small mustache.

Grodno Hussar Guards Regiment - Dark-haired and bearded.

All other regiments not mentioned had no specific requirements.


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Re: Characteristics of Guard Regiments
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2005, 03:32:24 PM »
I'm astonished by the information you have provided and thank you very much for such a detailed response.
It certainly explains the quote.
Let me ask you then about the deterioration in the Guards post 1914. With the Regiments all at the front (and I assume this included the 1st battalion of the Preobrazhensky) this would have left the 'depot battalion' in barracks presumably training up replacements.
Under those circumstances, I assume all those physical criteria were dropped or was that a slower process (many though the war would be over by Christmas 1914) with realisation that this would be a war to the bitter end coming later in 1915.
Is there a point of realisation? A point where Nicholas issued a ukase making it easier to get into the Guard?
Your help greatly apprecaited.

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Re: Characteristics of Guard Regiments
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2005, 03:49:21 PM »
THIS is exactly why I love the forum. I just knew the answer would be complete and come quickly. THANKS Coldstream!


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Re: Characteristics of Guard Regiments
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2005, 06:49:23 PM »
Nigbil, I will try to answer your question as best as I can.   The information which follows was taken from the excellent book by Gerard Gorokhoff entitled "Russian Imperial Guard" and which is available in an English/Russian edition.  The first edition was entirely in French.

Throughout the years 1914 through 1917, the Guards regiments were able to maintain their high standards despite increasingly high casualty returns which especially affected the officers and long serving NCOs.  With regard to officers, candidates for the Guards had to be vetted by their regimental officers.  Eventually, this custom was suspended for the infantry regiments except for the 1st Division to which the Preobrazhenski and Semenovski Regiments belonged.  This enabled these two regiments to "maintain their "esprit de corps" longer than in other units."  Casualties among the officers were replaced by "junkers" (student officers) or cavalry officers (the cavalry suffered fewer casualties than the infantry).  Until 1915, the men were mainly of peasant stock, coming from all provinces of the Empire.  However, by 1915 the transportation system was in crisis and recruits were obtained locally.  For the Guards regiments, this meant that their replacements were former Petrograd factory workers.  These men were already infected with Marxism/Socialism which usually had not infected the typical "muzhik" who was generally illiterate.  These men found themselves assigned to the depot units (reserve battalions) which formed the Petrograd garrison.  The veteran guardsmen were at the front  The Petrograd reserve units were led by "some old officers, young student-officers or convalescents from the front."

Once the strikes and demonstrations began in the city, it was only a matter of time before discipline fell apart.  A company of the Pavlovski Regiment mutinied first, followed by the entire Volynski Regiment.  This regiment "contaminated" the other Guard reserve battalions and began a chain reaction.  The units at the front reacted in various ways.  The Prebrazhenski and Semenovski (the two senior regiments) had no serious incidents and, in fact, saw both men and officers fraternizing.  In the 1st Guards Rifle Regiment, the colonel was murdered!  The cavalry, having suffered fewer losses, were more homogeneous and were not as susceptible to revolutionary propaganda.  Eventually, of course, all the regiments were disbanded by the Bolsheviks after their victory over the Provisional Government.


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Re: Characteristics of Guard Regiments
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2005, 01:58:04 AM »
Thank you for your answer. I'll try to get hold of the book you mentioned.