Civil, Court, and Military Uniforms, and Heraldry During the Reign of Nicholas I


(From Geral’diya Rossii XVIII - nachalo XX veka. By Leonid Yefimovich Shepelëv. Sankt-Peterburg, 2003. Pages 214-273.)


NICHOLAS I. 1825-1855.

All must serve.

Nicholas I, born in 1796, was the third son of Paul I. By law the heir to the throne after Alexander I was Paul’s second son, Constantine (1779-1831), who from the end of 1814 was the de facto viceroy in the Kingdom of Poland. Contemporaries considered that Constantine had inherited many of his father’s negative traits. He lost his rights to the throne when he entered into a morganatic marriage and renounced his claim in 1822. This was kept secret until Alexander I’s death and was one of the reasons why Nicholas I’s ascension to the throne was accompanied by the Decembrist revolt.

Nicholas had received what was mainly a military engineer’s education and for twenty years had held the position of army inspector-general for engineering matters, which latter allowed him to be well oriented in questions regarding the Russian empire’s industrial development.

Having crushed the Decembrist movement by force of arms, Nicholas carefully studied the reasons for the revolt and began to prepare a plan for future reforms. With this in mind the special and secret “Committee of 6 December 1826” was formed.

Yet earlier, immediately after his coronation, Nicholas reorganized His Majesty’s Own Chancellery. This became the agency for overseeing promotions of civilian government officials. In 1836 this mission was recast as general “oversight of the service of all civilian officials.” In 1846 a special Inspection Department for civil servants was formed within the chancellery. It was clear that only an efficient and capable body of officials could guarantee fruitful work by the state mechanism that had been created during Alexander’s reign. Even at this time public opinion regarding the bureaucracy was decidedly negative. Directors of the famous Third Section of His Majesty’s Chancellery saw one of its task as the “stamping out of intrigue within the bureaucracy”—that “gnawing worm” that was a parasite on the people (such were the standard phrases and general theme of documents from that time).

Nicholas I believed that after an epoch of war a time of peace would come for Russia. Significant advancments were achieved in regard to industrial development (mainly in textiles). The 1840’s were marked by the beginnings of railroad construction. The system for managing state peasants, who numbered eight million, was reorganized. Improving their welfare became an objective partly because there would thus be a model for landowners to prepare for the forthcoming abolition of serfdom (under whose yoke were ten million peasants). Palpable achievements were made in developing schools and higher education. An important event was the issuing of the Complete Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire and a systematic Code of Laws.

The ministerial body during the years of Nicholas I’s reign was distinguished by its stability. We name those who occupied one post or another longer than most:

K.V. Nessel’rode—foreign affairs (1816-1852);

A.I. Chernyshev—war department (1827-1852);

A.S. Menshikov—navy (1836-1855);

L.A. Perovskii—Ministry of Internal Affairs (1841-1852);

Ye.F. Kankrin—Ministry of Finance (1823-1844);

P.D. Kiselev—state properties (1837-1856);

V.N. Panin—justice (1839-1862);

P.A. Kleinmikhel’—transportation and communications (1842-1855);

S.S. Uvarov—Ministry of Public Education (1833-1849).

In 1826 the Ministry of the Imperial Court [Ministerstvo Imperatorskogo dvora] was created to bring order to the court administration, at the head of which was Alexander I’s friend Prince P.M. Volkonskii, a Rurikid by family descent. He remained in this post for 26 years and was noted for his extraordinary energy and zeal in applying state resources. He achieved the rank of general-field marshal and received the title of sublime prince.


It was during Nicholas’s reign that a systematic relationship between the emperor and his ministers was defined. Unlike Alexander I, Nicholas personally directed his ministers’ activities, without intermediaries. Finding a suitable candidate for a ministerial post was not easy. Therefore, a minister could rest easy after managing to obtain even the mere appearance of success in his sphere of government responsibility. Yet, the supremacy of the emperor’s power did not mean that ministers were limited to only mutely following his orders. They were the tsar’s advisors within the bounds of their administrative responsibilities. In fact, it was through his ministers that the emperor routinely received his more important information, and paradoxically he was ideologically dependent on them (through the volume and accuracy of the information they offered, their recommendations, and how policies were actually being implemented). All this made it possible for ministers to significantly influence the tsar and propagandize their own views while excluding criticism of their actions. For reasons of prestige the emperor himself usually opposed any criticism of the policies pursued by his ministers. This led to the emperor’s power being used to realize a course of action that some minister or another considered the correct one. During Nicholas’s reign such a relationship arose, for example, between the emperor and his finance minister, Graf Ye.F. Kankrin. When the latter requested permission to retire (1843), the emperor admitted that he was glad to be freed from Kankrin’s authoritative yoke, since in the course of 17 years “he had to blindly and unconditionally confirm everything he proposed on financial matters, since he did not understand any of it…”. Such a situation could only arise when a policy proposed by a minister could in the sovereign’s eyes withstand the criticism of other representatives of the top levels of bureaucracy, or if the force of a minister’s personnel influence on the tsar was strong enough to have an effect in spite of criticism, or, finally, if a minister managed to secretly obtain the tsar’s sanction and present to his colleagues the fact of a decision already made. The emperor’s acceptance of such “casual” decisions in ministerial reports troubled most of all those government officials who argued for harmony in administrative actions. All this notwithstanding, ministers still had to carry out directives from the tsar with which they did not agree.

The emperor’s personal faith in a minister ensured favorable consideration of a policy he might propose and made it easier to create the necessary resources and organization for administrative actions. Support from the tsar, sometimes expressed in an insignificant manner (most commonly by the granting of an honorary rank or simply a present), once it became known in throughout the bureaucracy, facilitated a favorable relationship toward the minister and his department within the government.


The system of strict and all-encompassing control of the operations of the state apparatus became increasingly more complicated (especially under Nicholas I) and resulted in a situation the bureaucrats had not intended. This was the subject of the hand-circulated note “Thoughts of a Russian in the second half of 1855,” the author of which was P.A. Valuev who at the time was governor-general of Courland. Here are several excerpts from that document:

The most notable characteristics of the existing arrangement… of our state administration are—an all-pervading lack of truth and the government’s lack of confidence in its own agencies… The multitude of forms and paperwork smother our basic administrative operations and create a great lie throughout the government. Look at the annual accounts: everything possible has been done throughout; success is everywhere. Everywhere the required good order is being instituted, if not all of a sudden, then at least step by step. Look at documents, examine them and separate the reality from paper obfuscation, that which is from that which is appearance, and rarely does there turn out to be solid and fruitful achievement. From the outside—shiny, from below—rot. In the creation of our official flood of words there is no place for truth—it is hidden between the lines. But who of the official readers can always pay attention to what is between the lines? For us the law itself is often jammed with insincerity. It little concerns itself with definite clarity in expression or practical application of regulations, but rather skillfully and knowingly demands the impossible. Throughout the law truth is prescribed and success preordained, but no paths are provided to attain these and the satisfaction of its own demands are not provided for. Who of our leaders or even of their subordinates can exactly and thoroughly carry out all the duties they are charged with by the regulations in force? Why is the impossible being made a duty? So that when necessary there is someone to hold responsible!

Valuev then turns his attention to the increasingly complicated functions of the state administration and along with these the mechanism of government (he calls it the “growing mechanization of paperwork”). As a result a situation had developed where

…all government actions are now more occupied with each other than with the basic subjects of their respective agencies. Higher officials can hardly manage to oversee the correctness of lower officials’ actions; lower officials are almost exclusively occupied with satisfying the superficial meticulousness of those higher up. The independence of local authorities is extremely limited, and higher officials apparently forget that trust in subordinates and paying attention to their opinion is also a form or reward… Distrust and insincerity are always followed by internal opposition. Administration of each separate agency has been brought to a very high degree of centralization, but mutual communications between the agencies are few and intermittent. Each ministry acts as independently as possible and zealously keeps to the rules of the old system of separate departments. The goal of centralization is to achieve the greatest possible influence of higher authorities over all administrative details, and in this regard the hierarchal power for bureaucratic initiatives was significantly constricted. But the mass of correspondence now flowing up to those in charge outstrips their ability to handle it. By necessity they have to leave a substantial part of these documents to the whim of their chancelleries. In this way, the fate of proposals by provincial chiefs and governor-generals often depend not on the honorable ministers, but on the ministry’s mere bureau chiefs.


The Crimean War demonstrated the erroneous direction of Nicholas I’s foreign policy. The economic backwardness of the country was revealed. The urgent need to abolish serfdom became clear. With difficulty the emperor endured the critical situation that developed in Russian toward the end of his reign. There is even an interpretation that he eventually ended his own life.


Nicholas I was crowned twice: on 22 August 1826 in Moscow as emperor of Russia and on 12 May 1829 in Warsaw—as tsar of Poland. Both coronations were staged relatively modestly.

Just as Alexander I, Nicholas placed a high value on heraldry, symbolism, and uniforms, and understood their disciplinary effect on the organization of government service and the structuring of Russian society. Not a bad sketch artist himself, more than once he expressed dissatisfaction regarding the low level of the heraldic art in Russia as applied to the various charters, diplomas, patents of rank, orders of chivalry, and aristocratic titles. For instance, regarding a diploma granting the title of Graf to A.F. Orlov, the emperor wrote, “This is very badly drawn and is completely wrong and without taste; it is an embarrassment that they cannot draw correctly in our Heraldry Office when similar drawings in Warsaw and Finland are distinguished by their beauty and clean work. Redo this and use the above as models.” (Poland and Finland had their own heraldic institutions.) In 1848 the Heraldry Office was raised in status as Nicholas ordered its reorganization as the Department of Heraldry within the Ruling Senate. Already in the 1830’s His Majesty’s Own Chancellery’s First Section concerned itself with heraldic matters. This section was headed by A.S. Taneev, who enjoyed the reputation of being a good organizer and editor (in 1865 his son replaced Taneev in his post, and in 1896—his grandson). Control of military heraldry remained with the military administrations.

It is a noteworthy fact that under Nicholas I much was done regarding the publication of various kinds of heraldic materials. In particular, in 1843 there appeared two special volumes of the Complete Collection of Laws: “Drawings of the coats-of-arms of cities of the Russian empire” (114 pages of illustrations) and “Plans and drawings belonging to the 1st Collection of Laws” (57 pages of illustrations). In several examples of these publications the drawings have been colored by hand.



State Heraldry


Shortly after his ascension Nicholas I sanctioned a one-time use of two variants of the state seal. On one (somewhat simplified) the eagle was depicted with wings spread under a single crown placed over the top extension of a shield with the image of St. George the Bearer of Victory and without the symbols of the order of St. Andrew the First-Called. On the other the eagle’s wings were raised upwards and on it was placed the seals of the six chief “lands” making up the empire: on the right the seals of Kazan, Astrakhan, and Siberia, and on the left—Poland, the Tauric Chersonese, and Finland. There is reason to suppose that the first (simplified) was intended for the military while the second was a civil (small) pattern, and these were to be used by military and civilian departments respectively. A third variant is also known that was next to the throne in the Winter Palace’s St.-George Hall. We can see it in K.A. Ukhtomskii’s watercolor painting. This seal has three crowns, the largest of which was under a St.-Andrew ribbon. Shields with the seals of the six chief lands were placed in a garland below the eagle.

In continued use was the heraldic eagle with arrows and a wreath in its talons (having first appeared on guards shakos in 1808). After 1829 this depiction of the heraldic eagle began to be stamped on the buttons of military and civilian officials’ uniforms. In some later examples instead of a scepter and orb in the talons there began to appear departmental symbols (ax, spade, etc.). Such an emblem (a two-headed eagle without a scepter or orb) began to be called a state (or imperial or Russian) eagle [gosudarstvennyi, imperatorskii, ili rossiiskii orel] instead of a heraldic seal [gerb]. This practice continued up to the end of Nicholas’s reign.


The wide use of the state seal (in its various forms) by civilian and military departments in some ways made up for the country’s lack of an officially approved national flag. At coronation events in August of 1826 none was displayed. The flags introduced in 1833 for Russian diplomatic representatives abroad had an unexpected appearance. Ambassadors extraordinary were prescribed a Kaiser flag with the state seal in a white cross. Consul generals were “given the Russian merchant flag” (a flag in “national colors”), “having in the upper quarter a dark-blue St. Andrew’s cross on a white field.” These flags were intended to be hoisted on ships while underway and also “over houses in which they will maintain residence.”


The creation and confirmation of new city coats-of-arms was initiated. At this stage the work was done within the Ministry of Internal Affairs (without the participation of the Heraldry Officer).

In 1851 Nicholas I directed that “it become a rule that there always be an imperial crown depicted on the coats-of-arms for provinces, territories, and provincial capitals, while for district towns the town crown now in use by such municipalities is to be used.” Under the oversight of the minister of internal affairs the imperial crown was to be used only by those district towns which were exceptional by the size of their population or their administrative, mercantile, or historical significance.

Nicholas’s reign also saw the finishing of a special Hall of Heraldry in the Winter Palace. Its interior was decorated with stucco molding depicting the flags and seals of the “lands,” and metal coats-of-arms of Russian provinces were placed on chandeliers.


Heraldic flags for St.-Petersburg guilds continued to be introduced. In 1826 a flag for the metal workers’ and smiths’ guild was confirmed; in 1835—a flag for the comb makers guild, and in 1845—for the beer [kvas] brewers. The designs of the guild seals on their flags were surmounted by an imperial crown. The corners of the 1835 and 1845 flags had the same pattern.


During Nicholas I’s reign there was a significant increase in the number of chivalric orders awarded. The number of different orders also increased, and the entire system of orders underwent many reforms.

In order to increase discipline in government service, on 13 August 1827 a “medal for irreproachable service” [“znak otlichiya besporochnoi sluzhby”] was established for 15 or more years (in five-year increments) in official ranks. The receipt of this medal became a prerequisite for the award of subsequent orders. The medal was a gilded silver rectangular frame with an oak-leaf wreath and the number of years of service in Roman numerals. It was worn on the chest, on a St.-George ribbon for military personnel and on a St.-Vladimir ribbon for civilian officials. Beginning in May 1859, in accordance with a new statute, the “medal for irreproachable service” was given for not less than 40 years of service. In December of 1828 there was introduced the “Maria medal for irreproachable service” [“Mariinskii znak otlichiya besporochnoi sluzhby”] for women with long service in charitable institutions. The medal had two classes and was worn on a St.-Vladimir ribbon with bow on the left shoulder (1st class) and on the breast. The medal itself was a gold cross with sky-blue enamel (1st class) or a medallion, on which was the monogram of Empress Maria Fedorovna, a wreath of oak and grape leaves, and Roman numerals showing the number of years of service.

After the Polish uprising the previously autonomous orders of the Kingdom of Poland—the White Eagle (the chief emblem of the Polish coat-or-arms) and St. Stanislaus (considered the protector of Poland)—were included in the Russian empires system of chivalric orders (November 1831). The first of these had appeared as early as 1325, and the second—in 1765. After Poland was joined to Russia Alexander I awarded these orders to native Poles and Russians who served in Poland.

The insignia of the order of the White Eagle was a cross of red enamel with white edges (the ends of the cross’s arms being split) and an eight-pointed gold star. Serving as a background for the cross was a two-headed eagle under an imperial crown. On the cross was placed a white single-headed eagle under the Polish crown. The cross was worn on a dark-green ribbon over the left shoulder. This order received a very high ranking among Russian orders—in prestige it followed the order of St. Alexander Nevsky.

The order of St. Stanislav [the Russian spelling of Stanislaus] could be given, in particular, for philanthropic activities, the creation of manufacturing establishments that were significant and beneficial for the country, indisputably useful innovations in agriculture, trade, the sciences, arts, and crafts, and also for “the creation and popularization of inventions recognized as useful for all.” This signified a fundamental widening of the circle of possible candidates for the award of orders, including non-nobles. The insignia of the order were a gold cross under red enamel and a star. Each of the four arms of the cross was divided and had small gold balls at the tips. Along the sides was gold double edging. In the middle on a round shield of white enamel was the red monogram of St. Stanislav (SS) under a green wreath around the shield. In the corners of the cross were four gold double-headed eagles. The cross was worn on a red moiré ribbon with two white stripes on each side. The silver star of the order had eight rays with a round white shield in the center, ringed by a green stripe, with the monogram of St. Stanislav, and was decorated with surrounding gold laurel branches. The 1st class cross was worn on the left thigh; the 2nd class was smaller and worn at the neck. This cross could be under an imperial crown (“for higher merit”) or without one. The insignia of the 3rd class was a smaller cross worn in a buttonhole. In the overall ranking of Russian orders St. Stanislav followed the order of St. Anne.

Early in the 19th century Alexander I included the Virtuti militari medal—an award for military distinction instituted in Poland in 1792—as one of the Polish orders. In November of 1831 Nicholas I directed that in place of a campaign medal this order was to be distributed to all generals and officers who had taken part in the suppression of the Polish uprising. The four classes of the order had the following insignia: 1) gold cross with black enamel on a sky-blue ribbon with black edges, worn over the shoulder, and a star; 2) the same cross on a narrow ribbon to be worn at the neck; 3) the same cross, but smaller; 4) a gold cross without enamel. In the ranking of all Russian orders it was in last place. After 1832 it was no longer awarded.

In connection with the introduction of the Kingdom of Poland’s orders into the Russian system, in 1832 the Office of Orders [Kapitul ordenov] was renamed the Office of Imperial and Tsarist Orders [Kapitul imperatorskikh i tsarskikh ordenov], and in 1842 it was included in the Ministry of the Imperial Court. The position of chancellor of the orders (rated 1st class in the Table of Ranks) was joined to that of Minister of the Court.

The seniority system of all the orders grew more complicated (outside the rankings were only the orders of St. Catherine and St. George). One could be decorated with a senior order only after one possessed the lesser ones (this was called the “incremental award of orders”). Additionally, the receipt of an order was usually preconditioned by holding a certain corresponding rank.

Beginning in 1845, when non-Christian persons were decorated with orders the crosses were replaced with “imperial eagles, and the images of saints on stars of orders—with their monograms.” Since 1854, knights of the higher classes of orders began to receive stamped stars (in place of embroidered ones).

In the second half of Nicholas’s reign the increase in the number of awards drew the attention of the authorities. On one of the recommendations for awards submitted by the chief of the Postal Department, Prince A.I. Golitsyn (1840), Nicholas wrote, “I cannot agree to this. Such awards without any special distinction by the recipient, any particular merit, cheapen the value of orders and make them not much more than an accessory to the uniform.”

The law limited the award of orders by setting two conditions. The first was a set period between awards, before the end of which it was not allowed to apply for the next decoration. The second condition was a set of maximum norms for the annual number of awards in different ministries and establishments, which is to say the number of possible awards relative to the total number of personnel. Apropos, we note that officials of scientific and educational institutions had twice the normal quota of awarded orders (not 1:20, but 1:8 and even 1:5). The negative aspects were that in practice the limiting quotas were regarded as a requirement to be realized, everyone was to receive orders at the regulation intervals, and the awards for each department were to be the maximum possible. In addition, in striving to create more favorable service conditions, by various means the chiefs of departments sought to bypass the statutory limits.

It was thought that the “generous distribution of orders and other awards was due in part to the rules in force.” In 1838 the chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Graf I.V. Vasil’chikov submitted a report to Nicholas in which he wrote that “in spite of the constant intent of the government… to decrease the number of awards, this goal is not at all being attained” as a result of imperfect legislation. Thus, the regulation for “not granting an award before the stated period” began to be interpreted as a requirement to make such awards before that time elapsed. “An official who did not receive an award at the end of the time period was, so to speak, marked as unworthy of it, and felt himself wronged…”

When A.S. Pushkin remarked that “It was uncomfortable for an official not to have any orders, yet to wear them was embarrassing,” it was regarded as an accurate portrayal of the resulting situation. The well known mid-nineteenth century government official D.N. Bludov said in this regard, “The extravagant distribution of ranks and awards can be compared with the proliferation of paper assignats. They are still accepted as money, but no longer at their previous value.”

Still, the main reason for the authorities’ unease was not just the possibility of awards inflation, but rather the desire not to weaken the nobility as the social mainstay of tsarism as unfamiliar elements entered into this class (hereditary nobles). While noble status could be acquired not only by receipt of an order but also by attainment of rank, in practice the first course predominated so the attention of those in power was first of all drawn to the problem of awards. Starting as early as 30 October 1826 the comparatively rare award of orders to merchants began to give them only personal and non-hereditary noble status (until 1832). Later the right to hereditary nobility was taken from knights of the lower classes of the orders of St. Anne (from 2 July 1845) and St. Stanislav (from 28 June 1855).

Persons involved in trade and industry began to be awarded specially established gold and silver medals or “caftans with gold tassels or cloth with lace for Russian caftans and the outer garments of ethnic natives.” This was done through the Committee of Ministers.

It remains to add that during Nicholas’s reign there were several instances of the award of titles with honorary additions to names. In 1828 General, later General-Field Marshal, I.F. Paskevich was awarded the title of Graf and received the additional name “of Erivan.” In 1833 he also received the title of sublime prince [svetleishii knyaz’] and was henceforth called Graf Paskevich of Erivan, Prince of Warsaw. After each change in title Paskevich’s coat-of-arms was also reexamined. In 1829 General I.I. Diebitsch was given the title of Graf and the name “of the Trans-Balkans” for his crossing of the Balkan Mountains, and in 1855 General N.N. Murav’ev received the privilege of styling himself “Murav’ev of Kars” after he took the Turkish fortress of that name. In 1834 the title of “sublime” was granted to the minister of the Imperial court, Prince P.M. Volkonskii, and later to the governor-general of Moscow, Prince D.V. Golitsyn. The lady of state [stats-dama] Grafin Sh.K. Liven also received the title of “sublime princess” [“svetleishaya knyagina”].


Civil and Court Heraldry


Nicholas I was convinced that in Russia there were “more officials than necessary for the successful operation of the government” and that “very many” of them “remain on holiday, being in service only for the uniform, having a good time wandering about and partying in public places…” He expressed his intention to “elevate civil service” just as he had “elevated military service,” and even “wanted to know all… his officials just as… he knew all the officers… in the army.”

The chief problem in the organization of government service, for military and in particular for civilian departments, remained the issue connected with ranks. For most officers and officials the attainment of a high-level rank was the main goal of service and even the indicator of success in life. In his memorandum “On education for the people,” composed upon Nicholas’ request in November of 1826, A.S. Pushkin wrote:

Officials have become the terror of the Russian people… In other countries a person finishes with education at about age 25. With us, he hurries to enter service as early as possible since he needs 30 years to become a colonel or collegial advisor [kollezhskii sovetnik]… The elimination of ranks (at least for civilians) would present great advantages, but that measure would bring with it great disorder, as would any change in the established system, made hallow by time and custom.

Truly, rank gave the right to be appointed to positions, the right to awards, the right to achieve noble status. It was considered that the emperor granted rank. According to the Regulation for Civilian Service (article 788), a chief administrator had the right to dismiss a subordinate without explanation, but his rank could be taken away only by a court ruling. For many more or less educated persons state service was at that time their only way of making a living.

Laws of 14 October 1827 and 25 June 1834 defined the conditions for entering civil service and the mode of further promotion.

Service was permitted at age 14, but the law fixed the “beginning of effective service” at 16. A law of 1831 laid down that “Russian youths from 10 to 18 years old must preferably be educated in our native educational institutions, and if in their homes than under the oversight of parents and guardians, but always within Russia. Anyone disobeying this is denied the right to enter civil service.” Exceptions were possible “only with the emperor’s permission.”

In 1834 there was published a new “outline of civil service duties from class IV to V inclusive.” According to data from the Finance Ministry, in the beginning of the 1830’s there were already about 105,000 civil servants working for the government in Russia (this number most probably also included chancellery clerks). From the 1840’s to the 1850’s the number of officials increased by a third. Civil servants in practice also encompassed those who served “temporarily” [“zauryad”] upon election by the nobility or town and village communes, and who drew their salary from their respective social class’s corporate body. As a result the number of civil servants was more than twice that of military officers.

The existence of such a quantity of civil servants was usually explained by the massive amount of correspondence that they conducted. And this correspondence was mainly due to the extremely centralized management, the reason for which was the distrust of central authorities regarding their own agents on the spot and the efforts of local officials to limit their responsibility by shifting decisions to the central offices. One high official in the Finance Ministry explained the situation thusly: “The officials’ terrible lack of morals compelled the government to submit them to constant control, which gradually led to an increase in the number of jobs and civil servants.” In the foregoing citation the officials’ lack of morals was mentioned, and this was well deserved. But it was the body of provincial officials that drew upon itself especial censure, and most of all those in the lower ranks. As published in the official Historical Review of the Activities of the Committee of Ministers, in 1832 the chief of gendarmes Graf A.Kh. Benkendorf turned the emperor’s attention to the fact that the majority of “chancellery clerks in provincial offices… were of very reprehensible conduct and extremely negligent and remiss. Meanwhile, their chiefs cannot remove them from their positions” because it was impossible to fined “persons of better morals” to replace them. “After discharging someone, another person had to be appointed who was just as coarse and negligent yet less familiar with the work than the one who had been let go. The fear of being charged and tried in court has no effect on them because they are nearly always acquitted, if not in the local courts then in the Senate, in the chancellery of which they find strong protectors in the persons of their comrades, all the more so since the judicial process… is very lengthy.”

In the 1830’s the problem of civil officials—their educational level, their professional and moral quality—drew the attention of all of Russian society, the press, and literary circles (recall that it was namely at that time, in 1836, that N.V. Gogol wrote his comedy The Inspector, the theatrical performance of which elicited the approval of Nicholas I).

In the second quarter of the 19th century, according to data from minister of finance Ye.F. Kankrin, “the salaries of officials, provincial as well as in the capital… were significantly raised several times, and at the present time… one cannot complain of poor pay,” at least “in ministry positions.” As early as 6 December 1827 a pension scheme was established for civil servants (some changes were later made in 1852). Various service times were established for departments giving the right to pensions—from 20 to 30 years. The size of the pension was derived from “the salary for the last position held” (for not less than five years). Pensions for high ranks were established individually. Families of deceased officials were prescribed aid. Kankrin saw a problem in lower-rank civil servants striving to equal their better compensated higher-rank colleagues in life style. In Kankrin’s view, in Russia, “to the government’s and people’s extreme lament and great harm,” there was still not established, as in western Europe, the necessary “graduations and delimitations in life styles of the different classes of officials and persons not in service,” and the ability to maintain a respectable and modest way of life.

Yu.A. Gagemeister, an influential economist and finance official, saw the situation differently. In 1856 he made a comparison of “expenditures for maintaining… internal administration” in four European countries. It turned out that in Russia, with a much greater territory and population, these expenditures were significantly less (in millions of roubles):



Administration of
internal affairs

Administration of








Over 30






In Russia each employee of these administrations respectively cost 240 and 155 roubles annually. The possibility of “existing” on these amounts was doubtful. In Gagemeister’s opinion, increasing officials’ salaries could only be accomplished if their numbers were decreased, which would require serious changes in the very system of government administration in Russia.


Within the government as well as in society there were two opinions regarding measures that might be taken to improve the body of officials and make the state apparatus operate more efficiently. Some persons considered it necessary to eliminate rank in state service and transfer all the rights and privileges associated with it to the positions and offices themselves (which were also divided into grades). Others found this measure to be socially dangerous and came out for the preservation of the system of ranks. S.S. Uvarov appeared as an active proponent of ranks in 1847 and wrote two papers on this subject which became widely known.

Sergei Semenovich Uvarov (1786-1855) was an exceptionally capable man. He was educated in Germany and at the age of 12 was appointed to service in the Collegium of Foreign Affairs, but was soon released “for being underaged.” In 1801 Uvarov again entered that ministry. In a year he had become a knight of the order of St. John of Jerusalem (Malta). In diplomatic service abroad Uvarov met and established personal relations with many prominent representatives of culture and science, and was attracted by historical research and literary activities. In 1811 (at age 24) he was appointed superintendent of the St.-Petersburg Educational District. It was under him that the capital’s university was opened in 1819. In 1821, as a result of conflict with the then minister of religious affairs and public education, the influential Prince A.N. Golitsyn, he quit his post, but in the following year was unexpectedly named director of the Department of Manufactures and Internal Trade within the Ministry of Finance. In 1823 Uvarov also became the manager of the government’s Lending and Commercial banks. In 1825 and 1826 he left the first and then the second of these positions. By this time he was already a privy councilor. Previously, in 1818, Uvarov was named president of the Academy of Sciences while keeping his position as superintendent of the St.-Petersburg Educational District. Now (after 1826) he concentrated all his efforts on fulfilling his presidential responsibilities. In the opinion of his contemporaries, Uvarov did much to widen the Academy’s scientific activities. In 1832 Uvarov was appointed colleague to the minister of public education, and in April of 1834 he himself became minister. Facing him was the task of preparing Russia to withstand the revolutionary events and slogans flowing in from the West. Even before, in 1833, he had issued a circular to the superintendents of educational districts in which he stated “the duty” of the administration “consisted in ensuring that public education is conducted in the combined spirit of orthodoxy, autocracy, and nationality.” Subsequent work in this direction was appreciated, and on 1 June 1846 Uvarov was granted the title of Graf. In 1849, not completely approving the government’s excessively harsh measures taken in regard to public education after the revolutionary events of 1848 in the West, Uvarov quit his ministerial post, citing illness as the reason for retirement. At this point he was awarded the rank of actual privy councilor and the order of St. Andrew the First-Called. He kept his status as member of the Government Council and the presidency of the Academy of Sciences, at the head of which he stood for over 30 years. We note that in the course of his service career Uvarov must have worn, consecutively or simultaneously, at least five civil uniforms: those of the Academy of Sciences, the St.-Petersburg Educational District, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Public Education, and the Government Council.

In a paper of 1847, Uvarov wrote:

The system of ranks resulting from Peter I’s Table of Ranks has endured the reproach and ridicule not only of foreigners writing about Russia, but of many Russians who have not grasped the essence of this institution. Meanwhile no other measure, no other government statute, so clearly shows the profound genius of Russia’s great reformer, to whom succeeding monarchs are obliged for a new power unknown to other crowned heads and which is a firm buttress of their rule. And truly, after leaving aside all that in this institution appears at first glance to be strange and inappropriate to our current way of thinking, we become convinced of the great significance of this legal statute which gave autocracy so powerful a tool that as long as it remains in the sovereign’s hands it ensures that nothing can shake the fundamental strength of autocratic rule. Without dwelling on the extinct script and Gothic format that accompanies the legislation on ranks, what is striking for any unprejudiced observer are the spirit and legacy of this great step by the sovereign through both its direct and hidden significance.

In all European lands distinction in civil life is defined and achieved by birth, wealth, or talent. Under all forms of government there are only these three paths to the elite level of society, or more accurately, they themselves form this higher stratum. But how is distinction acquired in Russia, and what it rooted so deep throughout the universal conscience? As is well known, with us social significance for absolutely anyone, regardless of birth, wealth, or even talent, depends on the level and rank determined by evaluation by higher authorities, and without this validation no one can fully enjoy the privileges granted to noble birth, great wealth, or even gifted minds and talents. In such a situation the scion of a Pozharskii and the son of a Minin must both equally seek the approval of the government by earning officer rank. In taking possession of a vast estate, Graf Sheremetev first had to render tribute to the government in the form of personnel service to the utmost of his ability. Karamzin would have remained a humble writer if the gaze of the monarch had not placed him in the public mind on the same level as the great nobleman.

Has not Peter I’s institution so fixed itself in the universal consciousness over the course of 120 years, and has not Russia, in spite of the objections of the unwise and shortsighted, so given itself to this system that altering it would be considered not a benefit but a loss?

Russia did not fall in love with title, as others think, or with rather unsuccessfully transplanted Teutonisms, or with honorifics that flatter one’s narcissism but have lost the better part of their attraction; the reason behind our desire for ranks lies deeper. In the Table of Ranks, Russia loves the ceremonial expression of a principle held dear by Slavic peoples—equality before the law, and values the table as a sign of the tenet that everyone in his turn can lay down a path to attain the high rewards of service. The sons of a great noble and of the richest tax-farmer, upon entering the path of government service, have no advantage over each other under the law, other than the preference for constant zeal, in which they may be honorably rivaled by the son of an poor father of undistinguished achievements.

Thus, on the one hand Russia looks at the Table of Ranks not as a plaything for petty and slavish vanity, but as a guarantee of one of the race’s most important principles; on the other, the government holds in its hands an instrument that in a way is proffered by common agreement, an instrument to whose power for the political ideal of autocracy is also added a moral value.

In another paper Uvarov expressed his conviction that if in practice promotions in civil rank had in the past led to some irregularities and unbecoming situations, then all the causes for these had been done away with by steps taken by Nicholas I. Thus, the attainment of high rank simply through seniority was eliminated in 1834 when there was established a system that linked promotions to the levels of positions held, and the times between promotions were increased. When previously with the mandatory progression through many ranks even young and talented persons found it difficult to excel, now with the establishment of real preferences for education they had the possibility of moving upward more quickly. Fixing the right of hereditary nobility to the rank of state councilor was approved in 1845.

Ranks that have existed for over a century have finally, through gradual changes corresponding to the demands of circumstance, been brought to the situation that has produced a superfluous number of hereditary nobles by acting as an encouragement to service completely divorced from personal inconvenience.

If ranks were abolished, proposed Uvarov,

…that moral force would disappear, that powerful moral attraction that inspires imperfect men to dedicate themselves to government service, and with the elimination of such a moral connection there would be an even greater weakening of the principle—which venerably guided whole generations—that everyone must serve the throne, and honorable and selfless workers will quit a government service which no longer offers them any special attraction, all the more so since with a fewer overall number of places it is hard to obtain a position befitting one’s self-esteem.

If at some point the existing negative aspects of ranks were eliminated, then it is all the more important to turn one’s attention to the positive ones. Rank ensures respect for the civil servant and at the same time respect for the government “of which he is only an instrument.” Therefore the elimination of ranks would degrade officials, and every decrease in their prestige must reduce the importance of the power delegated to them. With the inadequate salaries paid to officials, ranks are a means of attracting capable persons to service and retaining them. Private enterprises now offer and will continue to offer much greater material advantages than government service. Therefore it is especially important to maintain the concept of honor among civil servants, the “seductive” idea that rank elevates them above all other accomplishments, even those that offer the most material benefits. It follows that with the abolishment of ranks, i.e. when an official is only an employee, the government might be abruptly deprived of the most necessary tools for it operation… Not having ranks… produces false ideas of equality that are impossible under a monarchy whereby persons are elevated by ranks granted from the throne.

In conclusion Uvarov maintained that

Russia’s civil hierarchy, rooted in universal respect and in concord with the monarchal spirit, if kept untouched… would serve to further strengthen the foundations of Russian autocracy.

Upon examining the second paper, Nicholas I wrote on it, “Many very correct thoughts.” The question of abolishing rank was shelved for a quarter of a century.


Even at the very beginning of Nicholas’s reign there was raised in high government circles the idea of creating a “special social class that would comprise the persons who now obtain hereditary nobility by reaching a certain rank in military or civil service.” This measure was not realized in this strict form, but by a manifesto of 10 April 1832 a new social group was indeed formed—“honorary citizens” (both hereditary and only personal) who received a series of personal privileges important for that time (although less than those enjoyed by the nobility). In particular, they were freed from the poll tax and military conscription. The class foreseen by the manifesto of 10 April 1832 grew after 1845, when a law of 11 June, “On obtaining noble status by service,” linked the right to hereditary nobility to class V rather than class VIII, while classes IX to VI bestowed only personal nobility, and lower ranks provided the personal honorary citizenship established in 1832. The motives behind the 1845 law were the same as those for limiting the right to hereditary nobility through receipt of chivalric orders.

The relationship between “old” aristocrats—those descended from noble ancestors—and “new” nobles who had earned their status on their own were uneven, for obvious reasons. Those who acquired noble status themselves were proud of it. Those who inherited it from their ancestors prided themselves in their aristocratic descent and considered their status as the only real one—noble born. A.S. Pushkin, who prized his ancient lineage, complained:

That with us the heraldic lion
By the democratic hoof
Of the donkey is kicked;
This is what the spirit of the age has led to!


In connection with the number of new noble families and the granting of baronial and princely titles during Nicholas’s reign, there was an increase in the creation of family coats-of-arms. In particular, a notable manifestation was the establishment of a count’s [grafskii] (1828) and then a prince’s [knyazheskii] (1831) coat-of arms for General-Field Marshal I.F. Paskevich. The production and issuing of the “Universal Heraldry” [“Obshchii Gerbovnik”] continued.


Departamental uniforms


In introducing order into the civil service Nicholas I placed great importance on the uniforms of officials. As early as January 1826 special new uniforms for officials were established when His Majesty’s Own Chancellery was reorganized: single breasted with nine buttons, of dark-green cloth with blue [svetlo-sinii] cloth collars and cuffs. Matte gold embroidery was established in four grades [razryady], the tracery of which served as the model for the uniforms introduced later for the chancelleries of the Committee of Ministers and Government Council. This embroidery depicted a leafy oak branch framed by a characteristic toothed border. As an undress uniform [vitsmundir] a dark-green tailcoat [frak] was introduced, with a blue velvet fold-down collar.

When His Majesty’s Own Chancellery was created it took over the Commission for Drafting Laws which thus acquired the chancellery’s uniform, but this left the chairman of the Government Council, Prince P.V. Lopukhin, who had previously worn the commission’s uniform, without a uniform just before the coronation. State secretary A.N. Olenin reported this situation to Nicholas I, who directed (ukase of 7 May 1826) the introduction of uniforms for the chairman as well as the official members of the council. The style of these uniforms was the same as for other departments and institutions: dark green, nine buttons down the front, collar and cuffs of scarlet cloth. The uniform of the council chairman had a maximum amount of gold embroidery on the collar and cuffs, pockets, on the pocket flaps and below them, in one row on the skirts, in three rows along the front opening, and also along all seams. Placing embroidery along the front opening in several rows and under the pockets was an innovation. Council members of class I rank had the same embroidery except along the seams. Council members of class II rank had two rows of embroidery along the opening and those of class III rank had only one. The embroidery depicted a fantastical branch of oak and palm leaves and was framed by a toothed border. Besides the parade uniform there was an everyday coat of a corresponding pattern (worn with dark-green pants). It had the same toothed border on the collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps. Nothing was said in the law regarding uniforms for officials in the council’s chancellery, and these only appeared on 7 November 1826. The collar and cuffs of coats for officials of the council’s chancellery were the same as those laid down on 7 May 1826, but the gold embroidery on them was different, being of the pattern for coats in His Majesty’s Own Chancellery.

Not long before this, a ukase of 10 February 1826 established a uniform for officials of the chancellery of the Committee of Ministers. Its collar and cuffs were of dark-green cloth with gold embroidery of the same tracery pattern as on uniforms in His Majesty’s Own Chancellery. The senior grade of the uniform had embroidery around the collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps. In 1834 more embroidery was added to the front opening, edges, and skirts. The committee’s chairman only received a uniform on 4 March 1865, “of the same colors as prescribed for officials of this Committee’s chancellery” but with grade I embroidery. No depiction of it in a parade variant has been preserved.


In 1828 Nicholas noted that in the civil administrations the uniforms introduced at the beginning of the century “are insufficiently uniform, and for graded positions, especially the higher ones, there are no suitable distinctions and often the same uniforms were prescribed for different positions and ranks.” No later than 1830 he directed that: firstly, “instead of the individual and incomplete regulations now in existence for some departments a single general regulation shall be drawn up;” secondly, “from now on uniforms will be vary according to the position held” (and not according to rank); and thirdly, every position will be assigned to one of ten grades [ryazryady] of varying amounts of embroidery on the uniform.

The propositions were realized by a law of 27 February 1834—a “Regulations for Civil Uniforms.” In its first paragraph it stated that “the uniform designates the place of service as well as the level of the position and title” of its wearer. The law’s main regulations consisted of the following:

1.      The system of civil uniforms had to include the classed officials of all government institutions. Each department’s central and local officers would as a rule receive the same pattern of uniform. Provincial (but not nobles’) uniforms are abolished.

2.      The French coat (caftan) was kept: single breasted with a standing collar, round cuffs and horizontal pockets in the back, with nine buttons on the chest, three on the cuffs, three under the pocket flaps, and two on each skirt tail. The cut of the coat was somewhat modernized insofar as there was more angular cut in the skirt [yubka] in front. In most cases the color scheme and embroidery pattern remained as before.

3.      From now on uniforms reflected only the position’s grade and not the holder’s rank. Each department had its own facing color in cloth or velvet and its own tracery pattern for gold or silver embroidery.

For most departments a ten-level graduation of positions was introduced (and fixed in official listings), with each grade designating the same amount of embroidery on the coat for all departments. The greatest quantity of embroidery was prescribed for grade 1. In this case the embroidery was on the collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps, around the collar on the shoulders and back (this embroidery being established for the first time), under the pockets (the so-called “feather”), along the front opening and edges, waist, and skirts in three rows (garlands), along the rear skirt opening and above it (“drop”), and also along the seams on the back and sleeves. Grade 2 dropped the embroidery along the seams and the third garland. Grade 3 additionally lacked embroidery around the collar, the second garland, and the “feather” was simplified. Grade 4 kept only the embroidery on the collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps, while Grade 5 had it only on the collar and cuffs. Grade 6 had half the amount of embroidery on the collar and cuffs (along half their length, without a border; Grade 7—half-embroidery on the collar and an embroidered edge on the cuffs; Grade 8—the same, but without the edging on the cuffs; Grade 9 had an embroidered edge to the collar and cuffs, and Grade 10—only edging on the collar.

Since in practice there were twelve classes of civil ranks, officials of the four ranks equivalent to company-grade military officers used the uniforms of only two grades.

4.      Seven “forms of dress” [“formy odezhdy”] were established, which were various combinations of uniform clothing articles, and the situations were defined in which one or another of these had to be worn. The “forms of dress” were the following: parade [paradnaya], holiday [prazdnichnaya], normal [obyknovennaya], everyday [budnichnaya], special [osobaya], travel [dorozhnaya], and summer [letnyaya]. In 1845 a separate 13-page publication appeared entitled “Listing of the form of uniform to be in and on which days.” Parade uniforms for the first five grades consisted of the coat, vest with neck cloth (white or black triangular scarf around the neck), and white cloth or cashmere knee breeches with white silk stockings and shoes with buckles. White cloth breeches with boots could also be worn. The five lower grades were to be “in coats with the same colored cloth pants over boots.” Wear of the parade uniform was mandatory “in all offices... during sessions.” An important adjunct to the parade uniform was a black three-cornered hat with small silver tassels at the corners and twisted buttonhole lace (cord) with a small button of the same color as the embroidery on the coat. For ranks of classes I through V the buttonhole was “like a military general officer’s,” and for others—of smooth braid. The buttonhole covered a cockade (rosette) of black silk ribbon with orange and silver stripes (“as now in use”). An indispensable attribute of the uniform was a civilian pattern rapier with a silver sword knot.

In addition, the general plan for uniform clothing included an undress coat [vitsmundir] (in place of the parade coats of Grades 1 to 3 with embroidery along their edges), a uniform tailcoat [mundirnyi frak], and a frock coat [syurtuk]. They were made of the same cloth as the dress coats and in most cases had the same material and colors for the collars, cuffs, and buttons. On the collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps of the undress coat there was to be “only one embroidered edge” of a special pattern. For the wardrobe of Grades 4 and higher, tailcoats (single breasted, with a fold-down collar the same color as that of the dress coat, without embroidery) functioned as an undress coat. The law stated that “the uniform tailcoat… may not be tailored to follow current or future fashions.” The uniform frock coat was intended “for all civil officials while on the road or while carrying out investigations in the open air.” It could be worn over the dress coat or in place of it (in the latter case with a black silk neck cloth). The frock coat (single breasted, with eight uniform buttons, a standing cloth collar the same color as the dress coat’s collar, without embroidery) had a full skirt (without the front cut out). The tailcoat was complemented by a high round black hat with a brim, while the frock coat had a forage cap of the same color as the coat itself, with a cloth band the same color as the collar. Thus, the uniform tailcoat and frock did not differ by grade and as the most democratic and relatively inexpensive components of uniform cloth were widely used.

The “Regulation for Civil Uniforms” foresaw some exceptions to the general rules established for making these coats. In particular, officials of the philanthropic institutions under the patronage of Empress Maria Fedorovna kept the uniforms established, apparently, in 1828. They were dark green with black velvet collars and cuffs, without pockets. Coats of the higher grades were prescribed gold embroidery on the collar, sleeves (on the cuffs and above them, on the outer side of the sleeve), and on the upper part of the skirt tails. The embroidered tracery consisted of “intertwined grape and palm branches” with a border of geometrical design. On the buttons was “a flourishing grape vine” with the text: “Visit this grape vine” [“Poseti vinograd sei”]. The same uniform was prescribed for officials of institutions administered by the department set up for Empress Maria [Mariinskoe vedomstvo]. Officials of boarding schools had similar coats with embroidery “of oak and palm branches,” and on their buttons—the image of a pelican feeding its young. The high grade of such a coat was also used by “honorary guardians” [“pochetnye opekuni”]—persons who had received this honorary title by special distinction in the field of philanthropy and charitable works. Only honorary guardians had undress coats (with embroidery on the collar); other officials were prescribed uniform tailcoats.

Police officials had a special (military) pattern of uniform. In the capitals these officials’ collars and cuffs kept embroidery “of the previous pattern”—in silver in St. Petersburg and in gold in Moscow. In the provinces the embroidery was replaced by galloon buttonholes [petlitsy].

A whole mass of pictorial materials was prepared in connection with the uniform reform of 27 February 1834. These were colored drawings of paired figures in all forms of uniform clothing (parade caftan, undress coat, uniform tailcoat, frock coat) in two views (front and back), as well as of individual collars and cuffs at actual size (on which it is possible to note particularly well every kind of specific detail on the uniform, including the designs on buttons). Collars and cuffs were depicted in three styles: with full embroidery, half embroidery, and with only the border. Additionally, the collection of graphic materials attached to the law included black and white drawings of the embroidery tracery on the pockets, below the pockets, on the skirts, and on other parts of the coat. The figures’ outlines were printed by lithography and then colored in by hand. The uniforms for each department were “presented” by the same mannequin figures in several standard combinations. The task of creating the figures was given to academician I.A. Ivanov, “well known for his perspective drawings and landscapes.” The artist already had experience with such work, since in 1815 he had drawn the album “Depictions of the changes in weapons and clothing of Russian troops from the middle of the 9th century to the beginning of the 19th.” His new work was approved and the artist received a very handsome award of 3000 roubles. The original drawings were distributed to the different departments so that copies could be made, after which they were to be returned to the Senate for preservation. All these measures had the object of ensuring uniformity in style and pattern. Three collections of the drawings are now preserved in the Russian State Historical Archive in St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, an album of the original drawings was not created, as was done in military departments.

The realization of the “Regulation for Civil Uniforms” was not without its challenges. In May of 1838 the Committee of Ministers examined cases of “the established uniforms for civil officials… not being observed.” The impetus for this was observations made by the emperor himself. Nicholas had been forced to note that “some officials permit themselves to wear their uniform tailcoats in combination with forage caps, colored vests, and pants… to the clear disruption of uniformity in dress.” More serious was that he noticed “many individuals with Grade 3 coats embellish their embroidery against regulations, and our ambassadors in foreign courts who belong to Grade 3 wear, without exception, coats with Grade 2 embroidery.” Even officials of His Majesty’s Own Chancellery were guilty, having gold embroidery on their coats which was “completely at variance in that it was not matte, but shiny.” It was necessary to issue “Highest reinforcing directives” in order to achieve stricter compliance with the law of 27 February 1834.

In 1837 a new ministry, that of government properties [gosudarstvennyya imushchestva], was created from parts of the Finance Ministry. Its officials received uniforms and—for parade coats—ten grades of embroidery of an original pattern: oak leaves, wheat, and cornflowers, framed on one side with ribbon entwined with an oak branch. To the original text of the law on uniforms for the new ministry there was appended a series of the same kind of colored drawings as were produced in 1834.


Very soon certain omissions were discovered in the “Regulation for Civil Uniforms.” In particular, in August of the same year of 1834, the St.-Petersburg military governor-general queried the minister of internal affairs on “what uniform the city mayor here should wear,” as well as other persons in the city administration, since “there was no explanation in the Regulation regarding these personnel.” The problem was examined by the Committee of Ministers, and after its report Nicholas I issued an order on 14 August 1834: “Positions filled through election by the merchant class and town dwellers are assigned grades in regard to wearing uniforms.” In the Ministry of Internal Affairs: mayors in the capitals—6th, in provincial cities and ports—7th, in district seats and towns without status [zashtatnyi]—8th; merchant representatives at judicial courts, civil courts, and offices for public welfare, members of town councils, and burgomeisters in the capitals—9th,” and so on. Along with this is was explained: “Since some persons occupying municipal offices wear old style Russian costume, those people are allowed on all occasions… to wear, instead of uniform dress coats, caftans with embroidery corresponding to their grade, and instead of rapiers—sabers.” A depiction of such a caftan (double breasted, full skirted instead of with tails) with the uniform dress embroidery of Grade 8 of the Department of Ways of Communication can be seen in a portrait of the merchant of the 2nd Guild F.I. Tyumenev. Several weeks later, upon a representation made by the Ministry of Justice, the right to wear that administration’s uniforms was given to members of commercial courts elected by “town communities.” And in March of 1843 the right to wear the Grade 6 uniforms of the Ministry of Finance was given to senior stock-market traders [birzhevye starshiny] and brokers [gof-maklery].

The granting of the right to wear departmental uniforms (and caftans in lieu thereof) to persons elected to various offices was done for several reasons: to more firmly establish the subordination of these individuals to the departments, to given them authority, and to reward them for their contributions (when such work was done in a community spirit). When municipal regulatory legislation was issued in 1870 doubt was expressed as to the possibility of giving town mayors the uniform of the Ministry of Internal Affairs itself, and it was proposed to assign them “a special pattern uniform” (as had been done for officials of the noblity’s self-regulating administration). However, it turned out that they kept the Internal Affairs uniform. In 1870 the coats for provincial town mayors’ uniforms were raised to Grade 4. We can see the Internal Affairs uniform in an 1840 portrait of Vologda merchant N.I. Skulyabin, who for a time occupied the post of mayor of that town.


Provincial uniforms


At the beginning of 1831 the various colors for the collars and cuffs of uniforms for different provinces were abolished. From that time on they were to be of red cloth for all provincial uniforms. Buttons also became a single color—gold (i.e. yellow metal). Distinguishing details for the uniforms of different provinces now consisted only of the design stamped on the buttons, which was the coat-of-arms and name of the province. But soon a law of 1 May 1832 transformed provincial uniforms into social class ones, i.e. for nobles. The preamble of this act stated: “As We turned our constant attention to the nobles elected by their estate to serve, We recognized that it was necessary to establish for the provincial uniforms prescribed for the nobility some distinctions befitting the position each one occupies or his previous service, and hereby confirm the drawings and description of provincial uniforms created for this…” The coat’s style changed somewhat: the cutaway skirt of the caftan in front acquired a sharper angle. Only two buttons were prescribed for the slit cuffs instead of three. Even the drawings for the buttons were personally confirmed by the emperor. Gold embroidery was introduced, the same for all provinces and “of the newly established pattern,” which was not completely true since the same tracery embroidery had already been confirmed in March of 1812 for the coats of senior police and administration officials in the Baltic provinces (Ritterschaftshauptmänner and Landrat officials). Provincial representatives of the nobility [gubernskie predvoditeli dvoryanstva] received this embroidery for their coats’ collars, cuffs, and pocket flaps. District representatives [uezdnye predvoditeli] had the same embroidery on the collar and cuffs. Both kept this embroidery even after serving out their elected terms. Rank and file nobles who had previously been in government service received the embroidery only on the collar. Along with this the uniform wardrobe was supplemented with an everyday single-breasted frock coat (having full skirts not cut away into tails) with a falling collar (soon replaced by a standing one), and with a tailcoat. The pattern for the uniform tailcoat, which was worn in place of the dress coat on lesser ceremonial occasions, was confirmed by Nicholas I on 12 April 1831. Parade caftans were complemented by white breeches reaching to the knee (for officials of the five most senior classes) or long pants the same color as the caftan. The same pants were to be worn with the frock coat and tailcoat. The parade coat (as before) and frock were prescribed to be worn with a rapier. In addition to the black three-cornered hat that was part of the nobles’ uniform, in the beginning of the 1830’s there was introduced a round black “downy” (felt) [“pukhovaya” (fetrovaya)] hat with a brim and a dark-green cloth forage cap with a red band. These were to be worn with the uniform tailcoat and frock, respectively. In time the forage cap became widely used as the common sign of noble status.


On 1 March 1831 Nicholas I confirmed new watercolor depictions of uniforms for officials of provincial administrations.

All these innovations were reaffirmed by a law of 27 February 1834. By a law of 22 February 1852 special uniforms were given to retired governors.

Finally, we turn our attention to that peculiarity of nobles’ uniforms in that they did not reflect a noble family’s degree of prestige or eminence. In particular, there was nothing to indicate a family title such as baron, count [Graf], and prince. The only means of exhibiting these titles remained the noble coat-of-arms, but this was not used as part of a nobleman’s uniform.


Court uniforms


The customs and composition of the imperial Russian court were accumulated over the course of more than a century, but were finally defined only during Nicholas I’s reign as part of demonstrating the empire’s political prestige and that of the ruling family. It was natural to take over basic principles of court organization (including some ceremonies) as they existed in the West, as well as the nomenclature of court ranks and positions. At first the French court was taken as a model and later the courts of the Prussian kings and Austrian emperors. At the same time, a national and Orthodox tone always distinguished imperial Russian court life.

Neither court officials nor holders of court titles were government officials in the strict sense of the word. Their duties, in most cases not burdensome, had an honorary character. Court officials had to organize the daily life of the imperial family, for which they had under them a structure of rank and file officials and servants. Additionally, holders of court positions attended members of the imperial family and took part in court ceremonies and celebrations. In fact, it was they themselves who actually organized the Imperial court.

It was natural that Nicholas I would give special attention to court uniforms. In this regard he had every justification to state that “some of the noblemen serving as gentlemen and cadets of the bedchamber [kamergery i kameryunkery] have varied uniforms not in accordance with the prescribed patterns.” On 11 March 1831 Nicholas I signed a “Regulation for uniforms for members of the Imperial court,” which corrected the state of court uniforms that had developed by that time (the regulation was actually published only on 5 January 1832). At the same time he directed that black and white drawings be prepared of the embroidery for these uniforms (in actual size) and two figures in court tailcoats.

Three years later the provisions of the law of 11 March 1831 were confirmed in the general “Regulation for Civil Uniforms” of 27 February 1834 and supplemented by a “Highest confirmed description of ladies attire for attending Highest court on days of ceremony” (for court ladies and “city ladies visiting the Court”). For the uniform clothing of court officials and members of chivalric orders (knights), two styles were foreseen —civil and military.

Most court officials and knights used civil pattern uniforms. As stated in the law, embroidery on the uniforms was prescribed to be “of the current tracery design: on the collar, cuffs, pocket flaps, below them, and on the skirts—wide; along the seams and skirt edges—narrow; along the front opening on the chest—Brandenburg embroidery.” “Brandenburg” was the name for the embroidered trimming around a buttonhole on the front of the coat, imitating a drooping tassel. Embroidery along the coat’s main seams (on the sleeves and back) was prescribed only for the court’s foremost officials.

The court’s undress coat was to be “similar to the parade coat except that instead of embroidery, gold galloon is sewn on the chest, the same number as the buttons, and also three on each sleeve and four on each skirt tail in the shape of chevrons.” It was stated that the undress coat was not to have pocket flaps. From now on the undress coat replaced the parade coat on all lesser ceremonial occasions. In contrast to the court’s parade coat, the undress coat had nothing to distinguish even the foremost coat officials.

Two groups of court officials—stable masters and hunt masters [shtalmeistery i yegermeistery] were prescribed military style uniforms. The coat for stable masters was to be of dark-green cloth with a red standing collar and similarly red cuffs, skirt turnbacks, and piping (edging) “along the edges of the coat.” The uniform for hunt masters was the same except that instead of being red, the collar and cuffs were prescribed to be dark green with red edging. Stable masters’ and hunt masters’ coats had the same gold embroidery in the form of a decorative ribbon lined with flowering garlands. The senior stable master and senior hunt master [ober-shtalmeister i ober-yegermeister] had three rows of this embroidery on the coat collar, cuffs, pocket flaps, under them, and down the front opening, but in a single row along the skirts and seams. For coats of these court officials in class III, embroidery was prescribed to be in two rows instead of three (with no embroidery along the seams). Undress coats for stable masters and hunt masters “were similar in cut and design to their parade coats, but with embroidery only on the collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps.”

In addition to parade and undress coats, all Court officials were prescribed a uniform tailcoat of dark-green cloth with a black velvet falling collar, and also a single-breasted frock coat with a cloth standing collar and cuffs “the same color as for the dress coat,” but without embroidery. Matte gilt buttons on the tailcoat had the Gothic initial letters of the emperor’s name under a crown (except for hunt masters, who had tailcoat buttons depicting the state coat-of-arms surrounded by a hunting horn).

Uniform clothing for court officials also included: white knee breeches (worn with white stockings and shoes, but for military style uniforms—with high boots; white pants with gold double stripes, worn with the parade coat on special ceremonial occasions; dark-green pants with gold double stripes, worn with the undress coat; and black pants (without stripes) worn with the tailcoat and frock coat. Finally, the uniform for court officials was completed with a black three-cornered hat or a round black hat with a brim (worn with the undress coat and frock). The three-cornered hat, as for all civil officials, had on the right side a round cockade shaped like a rosette of black, orange, and silver concentric rings, and which was bisected by a twisted gold cord with a button. This hat also had flat silver tassels at the corners. In addition, court officials’ hats were decorated with “gold embroidery in accordance with rank of the same pattern as on the dress coat,” and with white feather edging.

By the law of 27 February 1834 court uniforms were treated as part of the general system of civil uniforms but on a special basis. The embroidery for court uniforms (as for higher grades of other uniforms) was supplemented with further embroidery on the back around the collar. Dress, undress, and frock coats of stable masters and hunt masters had shoulder straps of gold cord. In the law it was specifically stated that “masters of the court [gofmeistery] and stable masters of His Imperial Highness’s Court are to have the embroidery prescribed for these offices at Highest Court, but in silver.” [This is a distinction between the court of the tsesarevich (“His Highness”) and that of his father (“His Majesty,” referred to as “Highest”) – M.C.]

Nicholas I gave his personal approval to the colored drawings of court uniforms and embroidery prepared in the course of drafting the 1834 law.

Since civil pattern court uniforms were identical, some ranks and knights used additional insignia to distinguish themselves. Thus, the minister of the Imperial Court, senior marshal of the court, and senior master of ceremony had special batons. Since 1762 gentlemen of the bedchamber had gold keys as a sign of their rank (position). A design for the key was confirmed in October of 1833. A key for the senior gentleman of the bedchamber, decorated with brilliants, was worn on the right thigh, hung on “a gold cord with two massive hanging tassels” (for everyday use this key could be replaced by another gold one with enamel). Plain gentlemen of the bedchamber wore a key “on a sky-blue ribbon tied in a bow, on the left side next to the (pocket) flap,” and it was retained “when wearing uniforms of other civil departments and in higher offices.” The key served as a uniform distinction for gentlemen of the bedchamber, setting them apart from all others of the same rank as well as from cadets of the bedchamber.


At this same time (27 February 1834), a “Description of ladies attire for attending Highest court on days of ceremony” was confirmed. This officially introduced parade dress of a uniform style for ladies holding court positions. These costumes were apparently being introduced for the first time (they are not mentioned in the law of 11 March 1831). Such an ensemble consisted of a velvet “evening dress” cut away in front below the waist, revealing a white skirt “of whatever material desired.” Along the “train and border” of the dress was gold embroidery “identical to the embroidery on court officials’ parade coats.” The same embroidery was prescribed to be “around and on the front of the skirt.” The dress of a mistress of the court [gofmeisterina] was raspberry colored, the dresses of state ladies and ladies of the bedchamber [stats-damy i kamer freiliny] were green, and the dress of a lady in waiting [freilina]—crimson [puntsovyi]. The same parade dresses were prescribed for tutoresses of princesses (dark-blue velvet), ladies in waiting of grand duchesses (as for the empress’s ladies in waiting but with silver embroidery), and ladies in waiting of princesses (blue velvet). A headdress for court ladies was also standardized: married women were directed “to have a povoinik or kokoshnik” [traditional old Russian headdresses – M.C.], while unmarried ladies were to have a fillet [povyazka]—in both cases of any color with a white veil. The described costume received the name of “Russian dress.” Later, in the Court Calendar, it was described thusly: dress of white satin, leaving both shoulders bare; velvet train of the same colors as laid down in 1834; on the head a kokoshnik of the same velvet, and for maidens—a fillet.

The design of dresses for other ladies invited to Court, according to the 1834 law, was to be of the same style; these dresses could be of “various colors, with varied embroidery except that the tracery design cannot be that prescribed for court ladies.”

Court ladies had special insignia. For mistresses of the court, state ladies, and ladies of the bedchamber these were miniature portraits of the empress encircled by brilliants, worn over the right breast. Ladies in waiting had gold ciphers (monograms of the empress or grand duchesses whom they attended) sprinkled with brilliants, worn below a crown on sky-blue St.-Andrew ribbon on the left side of the corsage. The possessors of these portraits were colloquially referred to as “portrait ladies” [“portretnye damy”].


In 1831 an important step was taken in regard to the development of uniforms for officials of the Imperial Court administration. On 27 January Nicholas I approved embroidery for the “standard parade coats” of this department, being “of the pattern of embroidery previously confirmed for uniforms of the Court Commissary Office [Gof-intendantskaya kontora]. And on 11 March of the same year the emperor signed a “Regulation for uniforms for officials of the Ministry of the Imperial Court…” These uniforms were to be of dark-green cloth with red cloth collars and cuffs. Matte gilt buttons had the state coat-of-arms. The amount of embroidery on the coats was defined in ten grades. The highest grade was numbered the 3rd and prescribed embroidery on the collar, cuffs, pocket flaps, and below the pocket flaps, and in one row on the skirt tails. The delineation of embroidery into ten grades was extended to coats of officials of the Department of Appanages and His Majesty’s Cabinet (the colors and embroidery tracery established earlier were kept unchanged). For general use there was introduced a tailcoat of dark-green cloth with a black velvet falling collar. The same regulation confirmed the pattern for the special military style coats of officials of the Stables and Hunting Master’s offices, as well as for officials on the staff of an imperial palace.

We note, apropos, that in movies and television shows dedicated to the poet A.S. Pushkin his court uniform as a cadet of the bedchamber is usually shown as the court undress coat and not the more imposing parade coat. This shows the prevailing belief that the uniform of a cadet of the bedchamber was different from those of court knights of higher rank. In fact the parade as well as the undress coats of the two court officials and the cadets of the bedchamber were identical. Only gentlemen of the bedchamber wore an additional sign of their rank—the bedchamber key. Therefore A.S. Pushkin’s parade coat as a cadet of the bedchamber, decorated with Brandenburgs, was in no way distinguishable from the coats of Class 3 court officials, in particular gentlemen of the bedchamber. It was exactly about this that S.A. Sobolevskii wrote in a friendly letter to A.S. Pushkin:

Cheers, new cadet of the bedchamber!
How fine you are now:
All covered with gold, like a klyunker,
And happy as a copper penny. 

(Klyunker – the name for a wagon bringing gold from Siberia.)


Court officials, knights, and ladies enjoyed exclusive rights to take part in the chief court ceremonies alongside members of the imperial family, and also preferential rights to participate in all court celebrations. The same rights, though, were held by other high military and civilian officials. The staging of court ceremonies and celebrations was defined in the “Regulation for the Imperial family coming out to Highest court, for the entrance of cavalier guards, for presentation to Their Imperial Majesties, for persons invited to balls and other Court gatherings, and on the seniority of court officials and offices.” (This regulation was only confirmed on 13 April 1858 and latter modified in 1899, and reconfirmed in a detailed edition of 20 August 1908.)

Vykhod [“Coming out] was the term given to the movement of members of the imperial family from their inner apartments to the court chapel or, more rarely, to the throne room (and back again). A vykhod could be greater or lesser. The first were performed on occasions of “important church holydays and on feast days,” and the second—on the same days (when designated) as well as “on ordinary holidays and Sundays.” Such holidays included the name days of members of the imperial family. When the tsar’s family was at other palaces greater and lesser vykhody were performed to the chapels of these palaces. In the Winter Palace, members of the imperial family gathered in the Malachite Hall before starting the procession, as it was the hall in “His Majesty’s half” of the palace apartments that was nearest to the parade hall. Then they moved in order of seniority (in line to the throne) to the chapel. During greater vykhody in the Winter Palace the procession went through the following parade halls: Concert, Front Hall [Avanzal], Field Marshal’s, Peter’s, Heraldry, and Piquette. Court officials and knights had the privilege of preceding this procession, and court ladies followed it. In lesser vykhody only members of the imperial family took part in the procession.

Besides those directly taking part in the procession, a precisely defined circle of persons was invited to vykhody. Lesser vykhody were attended by court ladies (of these the only ladies in waiting of the empress were those of her suite), premier court officials, generals and officers of His Majesty’s Suite, and of secondary court officials only a few (among them the senior master of ceremony and marshal of the court). Also invited were members of the Government Council, ministers, and governor-generals and military district commanders who happened to be present in St. Petersburg. The circle of persons invited to greater vykhody was considerably wider. Generals and officers of His Majesty’s Suite and the guards, army, and navy gathered in the halls along the procession route in accordance with special instructions and strictly according to rank, along with high civil officials of the first five classes (officers of units stationed in St. Petersburg were invited by turns). Wives and daughters of the civil officials could attend a vykhod only if they had been presented to the empress. Sometimes town mayors and merchants of the first guild attended vykhody. On especially ceremonial occasions the higher clergy and diplomatic corps were invited. For vykhody (as for other ceremonies and balls at court) the requisite number of pages [kamer-pazhi i pazhi] was assigned.

During greater vykhody, a guard piquette from the Cavalier Guards Regiment was drawn up along the hall nearest the inner apartments. To be allowed in this hall “beyond the Cavalier Guards” (i.e. near to the imperial family) before the beginning of the procession and at the imperial family’s return was considered a great privilege.

In addition to vykhod parades there were ceremonial exits [vyezdy] from the palace: 6 August, the Transfiguration of Our Lord, to Preobrazhenskii Cathedral; 30 August, the day of the order of St. Alexander Nevsky, to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery; to greet fiancées of members of the imperial family; to consecrate churches; and to review troops and attend military festivities in the capital.

Attending vykhody (especially repeatedly) was dull and tiring. Therefore those obligated to attend sometimes avoided this ceremony. Indeed, it was not uncommon to observe breaches of etiquette by attendees, especially conversations and noise, even in church.



Military Heraldics


Nicholas I especially valued the Russian army and the military in general: discipline, an unambiguous chain of command, clearly defined tasks and accomplishments, and finally, the attraction of military splendor. He possessed vivid memories of the Russian army’s victories in the wars with Napoleon. The first years of his reign saw the 25th anniversary of the 1812 campaign and the taking of Paris. Possibly it was in connection with this that he decided on the creation of a unique memorial to the army in the form of the multivolume Historical Description of the Clothing and Arms of Russian Troops, with Illustrations. The job of organizing the preparation of the Description was given to P.A. Kleinmichael—a general of coarse manner and little education, but an able administrator. Soon the actual direction of the work was being done by the senior adjutant of the Main Staff’s duty general, Staff-Captain A.V. Viskovatov (previously a mathematics instructor at the First Cadet Corps), and the Description was subsequently credited to his name. The text of the Description was a chronological resume of all legislative acts, military orders, and other regulatory documents. Preparation of the illustrations (numbering 4000) was a task given to a group of artists under the direction of court painter K.K. Piratskii. Since there was no technology for color printing at that time, only a few examples of the work were prepared for the military administration with hand-colored illustrations.

In practice, the Description contained material not only on uniforms and weapons, but also on military accouterments, badges and emblems, flags, awards, and rank and branch insignia, which is to say the whole gamut of Russian military panoply beginning with ancient times. The material was laid out by each monarch’s reign and by arm of service.

Over twenty years of work went into the thirty volumes of the Description, from 1841 to 1862. The first volume was devoted to pre-modern times and the following volumes to the period from Peter I to the end of the reign of Nicholas I himself. In the printings from that time and our own contemporary reprints, we note inaccuracies and omissions in Historical Description, as well as a certain idealization (“handsome appearance”) in the pictures (the faces of the “mannequins,” their poses, and the interpretation of colors and the fine tailoring of uniforms).

Later the Historical Description was continued by other similar works containing material from the reigns of Alexander II, Alexander III, and Nicholas II. In these, color illustrations were printed by lithography.

Alexander Vasil’evich Viskovatov (1804-1858) was educated in the First Cadet Corps. He served in the Ways of Communications administration, the hydrographic depot of the Ministry of the Navy, and the military education administration. Viskovatov labored over the Historical Description “with exceptional energy, exhausting himself and not sparing his health. He combed the archives and spent days and nights examining and comparing various sources.” In addition, Viskovatov produced Chronology of the Imperial Russian Army (St. Petersburg, 1852) and a number of other research works on military history.


In Nicholas’s reign several attempts were made to rationalize military promotions, mainly by reducing the number of different ranks and making them correspond to positions. In 1847 it was proposed to introduce the rank of senior colonel with assignment to Class V in the Table of Ranks in place of the abolished rank of brigadier. It was suggested this rank be authorized for regimental colonels as well as officers occupying equivalent noncombatant positions. The previous rank of colonel was to be used for officers in the position of deputy to the regimental commander. At the same time the question was raised as to eliminating those military ranks which had neither a combat nor administrative meaning. In this regard Nicholas I spoke out for abolishing the ranks of staff-captain [stabs-kapitan i shtabs-rotmistr] and sublieutenant [podporuchik]. All aspects of this issue were worked out in the War Ministry but did not come to fruition.


During Nicholas I’s reign there were no radical changes in military uniforms. We just note that the coats became single breasted. Along with this there were many small improvements in uniform details, in particular those directed at increasing its heraldic expression. In 1827 small metallic stars appeared on epaulettes (three kinds: company-grade officers’ without fringes; field-grade officers’ with fringes; general officers’ with thick fringes), indicating the rank of the uniform’s wearer. The system was different from that adopted earlier by the Corps of Engineers of the Ways of Communications [Korpus Inzhenerov Putei Soobshcheniya]. An ensign was prescribed one star, sublieutenant – two, lieutenant – three, staff-captain – four; field-grade officers had larger stars: major – two, lieutenant colonel – three. A major general was prescribed two stars, and a lieutenant general – three. Captains, colonels, and full generals had no stars on their epaulettes. A general-field marshal’s epaulette had an emblem of two crossed batons.

In 1828 new shakos were introduced with plaited cords that ended in two tassels hanging down on the right. On the front was a plate depicting the state eagle over a shield (the eagle was depicted with a torch and wreath in its talons).

From 1829 heraldic symbols began to be stamped on the buttons of military uniforms: in the guards—a two-headed eagle, in army grenadier and cuirassier units—grenades with the regimental number; in other units—just the number of the regiment.

In 1837 a new type of officer’s sash was established, of substantial material with a buckle. As before, the sash was made of silver lace with three stripes of orange and black and two silver tassels on the ends. And in 1843 there was introduced a metallic cockade of three colors: black, orange, and white. On helmets it was worn on the right as a disk. On the forage caps introduced for the military the cockade was worn in front on the band.

At this same time (the beginning of the 1840’s) shakos and three-cornered hats were recognized as unsuitable for the army and replaced by helmets, the style of which so pleased Prince Wilhelm (the future German emperor Wilhelm I) that they were adopted by the Prussian infantry.

In October of 1827 a Company of Palace Grenadiers was formed from soldiers and noncommissioned officers of guards regiments who had received decorations for bravery during the Napoleonic wars. This unit consisted of 120 men and three officers who had been promoted from the ranks and awarded the “Medal of the Military Order for the Battle of Borodino.” For the Company’s personnel a special uniform was devised, reminiscent of the Napoleon’s Old Guard. In 1830 the Company was awarded a flag. For many years these palace grenadiers carried out guard duties in the inner rooms of the Winter Palace.


A special category of civilian (“classed”) officials appeared in the early 19th century and significantly grew during Nicholas’s reign. These served in the military administrations and while having civilian ranks, wore military uniforms. In reverse fashion, military corps were formed within several of the civilian ministries.

We recall that the Corps of Engineers of the Ways of Communications appeared as early as 1809. On 1 January 1834 a Corps of Military Engineers was established under the Finance Ministry. On 30 January the Corps of Foresters appeared. Finally, in 1849 the civilian Survey Corps was converted to a military organization. All these corps were mostly made up of personnel who had received special advanced educations and had ranks as officers and generals. Each of the corps numbered several hundred men on its authorized strength.


Civil (classed) officials on the military establishment and in the military corps of civilian ministries had a special type of uniform called “military pattern” [forma voennogo pokroya]. Its main component was a “coat of military pattern.” Unlike actual military coats, the “coats of military pattern” differed by position held rather than by rank or grade. Embroidery indicating a position’s level was prescribed only for the collar, cuffs, and pocket flaps. Shoulder straps instead of epaulettes were used to indicate rank (from 1834), and later—small stars or buttonhole lace on the collar.

A ukase of 4 March 1834, “On uniforms for officials of the War Ministry,” defined the main characteristics of the military pattern uniforms. In the ukase’s preamble it was stated that it was necessary to establish “uniforms of the same military pattern” for military officers as well as for classed officials” so as to “better attract qualified officials for service in the military administration.” This uniform’s coat was “dark green with a red cloth collar, the same red piping on the skirt turnbacks, green piping on the collar, dark-green cuffs with red flaps and green piping, dark-green lining, dark-green pants with red piping; boots with spurs; silver embroidery of the pattern now in use, and convex silver buttons with an image of the state coat-of-arms.” However, “military officials” [“voennye chinovniki”] (i.e. officers and generals) serving in the War Ministry and its local offices were to “wear this uniform with the military appointments of the arm of service to which they belong, with straight silver buttonhole lace on the collar and cuff flaps, and the same lace along the edges, without any distinction for rank.” Classed civilian officials did not have any military appointments but wore “with this uniform a sword with a silver sword knot and a three-cornered hat without a plume.” The main point, though, was that “regarding the fullness of the embroidery they are divided into five grades in accordance with the positions they occupy.” Coats of the 1st Grade had “full embroidery on the collar, cuff flaps, and pocket flaps, which is to say above the straight silver buttonhole lace, a silver border of the pattern now in use… and edging.” This was the grade to which War Ministry departmental directors and army general-intendants belonged. Departmental vice-directors and officials for special assignments “no lower than class V” belonged to the 2nd Grade. Instead of officers’ epaulettes, officials of the 1st and 2nd Grades were prescribed “shoulder straps of silver general-officer’s thread.” Heads of department sections and other officials no lower than class VIII belonged to the 3rd Grade. Their coats had full embroidery on the collar, and edging and buttonhole lace on the cuff flaps. Coats of the 4th and 5th Grades were prescribed for officials equivalent in rank to company-grade officers. The first were distinguished by silver buttonhole lace and silver edging around the collar and cuff flaps, while the second by silver buttonhole lace and edging only on the collar. The embroidery (border) tracery “in the form of snakes and leaves” had already been established in February of 1808.


The Regulation for civil uniforms of 27 February 1834 addressed only one military pattern uniform—for the mines administration. It encompassed only four grades and was described thusly: “The coat for the Mines administration is of dark-blue cloth, with cuffs and slit cuffs of black velvet, lining on the skirt tails of black cloth, black stamin lining, and red piping on the collar, cuffs, cuff flaps, and skirt turnbacks; gold embroidery, flat gilt buttons; dark-blue pants without piping, worn over boots.” The gold embroidery kept to the original pattern. For coats of senior officials (in military fashion they were called “generals’ coats”) the embroidery was prescribed to be only “on the collar, cuffs, and cuff flaps.”

The subsequent evolution of the uniforms for civilian officials in the military administration was determined by a desire to establish an optimal correspondence of this clothing with actual military uniforms—in other words, finding ways to make them more standardized yet with distinctions.


Already at the end of the 18th century there existed the concept of “His Majesty’s Suite,” a body that united all general-adjutants and aides-de-camp to the tsar [general-ad”yutanty i fligel’-ad”yutanty]. And in 1827 special titles were established for these military officers in class IV: major general of His Majesty’s Suite and rear admiral of His Majesty’s Suite (these were first bestowed in 1829). From this time on the title of general-adjutant was only applied to military classes II and III. It was also used for general-field marshals (for example, in 1830-1840 General-Field Marshal I.F. Paskevich held the title of general-adjutant). From 1811 to 1881 there was an honorary title for the suite—general attending the emperor’s person. Usually it was given to full generals (class II). By law the bestowal of suite titles was done “on the sovereign emperor’s direct approval,” and the number of members of the suite had no upper limit. Under Paul I there were 93 appointments to the Suite, under Alexander I—176, and under Nicholas I—540. It became customary to appoint to the Suite the adjutants of guards regiments. Besides their standard army uniforms, Suite generals and officers also had special ones. Their special insignia (in addition to their pattern of embroidery) were aiguillettes and the emperor’s monogram on the epaulettes.

The Suite was part of the Imperial Main Headquarters (under the War Ministry), along with the Military Field Chancellery, His Imperial Majesty’s Own Convoy, and the Company of Military Grenadiers.

Most of the persons making up the Suite held some other position outside it in either military or civil administrations. The composition of the Suite was rather haphazard. It was thought that the Suite should comprise energetic persons of irreproachable honor in personal empathy with the emperor. However, in practice there was a tendency to turn the Suite into a sort of representative body of generals and officers from guards units and the various branches of service. By Nicholas’s reign nomination to the Suite had became one of the awards for carrying out specific assignments. As a result, according to informed contemporaries, members of the Suite on the whole did not enjoy any special respect. It is curious to note that there were no qualifications regarding a member’s personal appearance. The Suite, for example, had very fat persons in it, and even hunchbacks.

An important privilege of general-adjutants on duty was the right to announce “oral ukases” of the emperor. All members of the Suite had the right to present themselves to the emperor “on reception days, without having asked for permission beforehand.”


Let us look at the main developments in the system of flags and standards during Nicholas’s reign.

The St.-George ensign [Georgievskii kormovoi flag] was first raised as an award for a crew in 1827 on the ship-of-the-line Azov, its complement under the command of M.P. Lazarev having displayed courage and heroism in the Navarino naval battle against the Turko-Egyptian fleet.

On 12 July 1830 Nicholas I confirmed a “pattern drawing” for a military flag with a ray-like colored field. One flag of this design became the St.-George flag of the Samogitia Grenadier Regiment (for its 3rd and 4th Battalions), as established on 30 June 1833. On the field was the inscription: “For distinction in the year 1807 against the French and for Warsaw 25 and 26 August of the year 1831” [“Za otlichie v 1807 godu protiv frantsuzov i za Varshavu 25 i 26 avgusta 1831 goda”]. In the center, on a gold field, surrounded by a wreath and topped by a crown, was the state eagle. On diagonal white and red rays—a smaller versions of the same wreath with Nicholas I’s monogram in the center.

In connection with his having served 25 years as a commissioned officer, on 25 June 1838 the emperor signed a ukase to the minister of war for the introduction of some additional decorations for flags and standards—ribbons and commemorative rings for the staves. Nicholas was motivated by a desire “to preserve in our victorious army the memory of its unforgettable founder and in every regiment transmit to the most recent descendents the knowledge of praiseworthy deeds and thus inspire new generations of brave Russian troops with the zeal to perform equally glorious services on the field of battle.”

Along with this, the development of weaponry and changes in military tactics were taken into account so that during Nicholas’s reign it was ordered not to put flags at risk during battle but rather leave them in the baggage train with the reserve company.

On 28 March 1851 the emperor confirmed a design for a new kind of St.-George standard (suspended from a rod) for Her Majesty’s Cavalier Guard Regiment. On a gold field was inscribed: “For distinction while defeating and driving the enemy out of Russia. The year 1812.” [“Za otlichie pri porazhenii i izgnanii nepriyatelya iz predelov Rossii. 1812 goda.”]. In the center was the coat-of-arms in silver. The same seal (in solid form) was at the top of the standard’s staff. Tied to the staff was a ribbon of the order of St. George with a cross.

In 1855 the St.-George flag was awarded to all Black Sea Fleet crews [ekipazhi] for their part in the defense of Sevastopol.



Page 215-16. Parade on the Palace Square. 1845. Painting by V.S. Sadovnikov.

Page 216. Emperor Nicholas I. 1843. By V.-A. A. Golike.

409. St.-George Hall in the Winter Palace. 1862. By K.A. Ukhtomskii.

410. Hall of Heraldry in the Winter Palace. 1863. By V.I. Gau.

411. Ceremonial exit of Nicholas I. 1859. By A.I. Charlemand.

412. Railroad from St. Petersburg to Pavlovsk. Mid-19th century. By M. Taloni.

413. Flag of the Comb Makers’ Guild of St. Petersburg. 1835.

414. Flag of the Metal Workers’ and Smiths’ Guild of St. Petersburg. 1826.

415. Cross of the order of St. Anne with swords, under a crown.

416. Head of His Majesty’s Own Chancellery A.S. Taneev in the uniform of a member of the Government Council. 1853. By S.K. Zaryanko.

417. Flags granted to the Samurzan tribe in 1841 and the inhabitants of Kabarda in 1844, depicting the state eagle with torch, thunderstone, and wreath held in its talons.

418. State seal of the Russian empire under a single crown (second variant). End of the 1820’s.

419. Insignia of the order of St. Anne and St. Stanislav.

420. Insignia of the order of the White Eagle.

421. Insignia of the order of St. Stanislav 1st, 2nd, and 3rd classes.

422. Medals for irreproachable service for officers and civilian officials, 1827; medals for officers and lower ranks for the Persian War of 1826-1828 and the Turkish War of 1828-1829.

423. Medals for officers and lower ranks for the storming of Akhulgo in 1839 and the pacification of Hungary and Transylvania in 1849.

424. Insignia of the orders of St. Alexander Nevsky and the White Eagle.

425. Rector of the St.-Petersburg Religious Academy, Bishop Makarii, later metropolitan of Moscow, with insignia of the order of Alexander Nevsky (ribbon, cross, and star). 1853. By P.S. Igorev.

426. Anonymous merchant with medals for “activities of general usefulness.” 1838. By V.A. Tropninin.

427. Vologda town mayor [gorodskoi golova], merchant of the 1st Guild N.I. Skulyabin in the uniform of the Ministry for Internal Affairs (6th Grade), with medals. 1840(?). Artist – Vasil’ev.

428. Star of the order of St. Andrew the First-Called with the ribbon of the order of the Garter.

429. Parade uniform for chairmen of the Government Council (1st Grade). 1834.

430. Coat-of-arms of I.F. Paskevich of Erivan. 1828.

431. Coat-of-arms of General-Field Marshal Graf I.F. Paskevich of Erivan, Sublime Prince of Warsaw. 1830.

432. Parade uniforms for members of the Government Council (2nd Grade). 1834.

433. Parade uniforms of a government secretary [gosudarstvennyi sekretar’] (3rd Grade). 1834.

434. Embroidery for the uniform of members of the Government Council. 1834.

435. Sublime Prince P.V. Lopukhin in the uniform of the Commission for Drafting Laws [Komissiya sostavleniya zakonov]. Beginning of the 1820’s.

436. Graf V.P. Kochubei in the parade uniform of a chairman of the Government Council. 1831-1834. By V.G. Venetsianov.

437. Graf S.S. Uvarov in the uniform of a minister of public education. Circa 1834. By an unknown artist.

438. Collar and cuff of the uniform for officials of the Senate chancellery.

439. Collar and cuff of the uniform for officials of the state properties administration.

440. Collar and cuff of the uniform for officials of the Government Comptroller’s Office [Gosudarstvennyi kontrol’].

441. Collar and cuff of the uniform for a government secretary. 1834.

442. Collar and cuff of the uniform for officials of the forestry administration (6th Grade).

443. Collar and cuff of the uniform for officials of the Survey Corps (5th Grade).

444. Parade uniform of the Ways of Communications administration (2nd Grade).

445. Parade uniform for the executive secretary [upravlyayushchii delami] of the Committee of Ministers (3rd Grade).

446. Collar and cuff of the uniform for officials of the Ways of Communications administration.

447. Official of the Vitebsk government treasury office [kazennaya palata] State Councilor P.Ya. Rubtsov in the uniform of the Finance Ministry. 1841. By I.F. Khrutskii.

448. M.A. Ostrogradskii(?) in the uniform of an honorary guardian of Empress Maria Fedorovna’s charitable institutions. Photograph from the end of the 19th century.

449. Collar of the uniform of Empress Maria’s charitable institutions administration with oak leaves.

450. Collar and cuff embroidery for officials of Empress Maria’s charitable institutions administration. 1834.

451. Collar and cuff embroidery of the parade uniform for honorary guardians of Empress Maria Fedorovna’s charitable institutions administration. 1836.

452. Uniform collar of Empress Maria’s charitable institutions administration with grape leaves.

453. Parade uniforms for a government comptroller (2nd Grade).

454. Parade uniform for senators (3rd Grade).

455. Collar and cuff of the uniform for the administration overseeing foreign religions [vedomstvo dukhovnykh del inostrannykh ispovedenii] (4th Grade).

456. Parade uniform for officials of officials of the Senate chancellery (4th Grade).

457. Undress uniform [vitsmundir] for senators.

458. Parade uniform for officials of the administration overseeing foreign religions (4th Grade).

459. Parade uniform for the head of His Imperial Majesty’s Cabinet (3rd Grade).

460. Parade uniform for the head of the Department of Appanages (3rd Grade).

461. Parade uniform for officials of the Survey Corps (5th Grade).

462. Parade uniforms for officials of the forestry administration (6th Grade).

463. Parade uniform of a building inspector [kvartal’nyi inspector].

464. Uniform of a station overseer [stantsionyi smotritel’].

465. Collar and cuff of the uniform for building inspectors.

466. Parade uniform of the minister of government properties (4th Grade). 1837.

467. Collar and cuff of the parade uniform for governors.

468. Parade uniform for governor-generals.

469. Parade uniform for governors. 1831-1834.

470. Collar and cuff of the uniform for provincial representatives of the nobility.

471. Collar and cuff of the uniform for vice-governors.

472. Standardized designs for the buttons of provincial uniforms. 1831.

473. Parade uniform for provincial representatives of the nobility.

474. Provincial uniform.

475. Frock coat [syurtuk] for provincial nobility.

476. Tailcoat [frak] for provincial nobility.

477. Key of a gentleman-of-the-bedchamber.

478. Parade uniform of foremost officials of the Imperial Court.

479. Undress uniform [vitsmundir] for officials and knights of the Imperial Court.

480. Parade uniform for senior stable masters and senior hunt masters (military pattern).

481. Undress uniform for stable masters and hunt masters (military pattern). 1834.

482. Uniform tailcoat for officials of the Imperial Court. 1834.

483. Frock coat for stable masters and hunt masters.

484. G.P. Mitusov in the parade uniform for secondary officials of the Imperial Court. 1826. By D.G. Levitskii.

485. Hall of Heraldry of the Winter Palace. 1834. By A.I. Ladurner. Court ladies on the left; in the center Minister of the Imperial Court P.M. Volkonskii holding a baton; on the right a group of palace grenadiers.

486. Uniform for company and field-grade officers of the Imperial Court.

487. Parade uniform for officials of the Imperial Court. 1834.

488. Parade dress for Her Majesty’s ladies-in-waiting [freiliny Ee velichestva].

489. Parade dress for state ladies [stats-damy] and ladies-of-the-bedchamber [kamer-freiliny].

490. Parade dress for the mistress of the court [gofmeisterina].

491. Military pattern uniform for officials of the court’s hunt master’s administration. 1834.

492. Collar and cuff of the parade uniform for officials of the Imperial Court.

493. Collar and cuff of the uniform for senior stable masters and senior hunt masters.

494. Collar and cuff of the parade uniform for officials of the Ministry of the Imperial Court (4th Grade).

495. Captain-Lieutenant V.A. Kornilov. End of the 1820’s. By K.P. Bryullov.

496. Order ribbon and ring for flags of the Preobrazhenskii Guards Regiment, established in 1838.

497. Standards granted to guards cavalry troops in 1826 and 1827.

498. “Table of Uniforms of Guards Infantry.” 1840. Infantry of the Separate Guards Corps.

499. Standards granted to the Black-Sea Cossack Host in 1843, the 1st Black-Sea Regiment in 1831, and Black-Sea horse regiments in 1844.

500. “Table of Uniforms of Guards Infantry.” [Sic – should be “Guards Infantry” – M.C.] 1840.

501. Commander of the 1st Guards Infantry Division Lieutenant General and General Adjutant N.I. Islenev in the uniform of the Preobrazhenskii Regiment. 1839. By P.Z. Zakharov-Gorskii.

502. General-Adjutant Graf C.A. Pozzo di Borgo. 1833-1835. By K.P. Bryullov.

503. Company-grade officer of the Life-Guards Horse Regiment Graf P.A. Shuvalov. 1851. By F. Kruger.

504. Cavalry and infantry generals of His Imperial Majesty’s Suite. 1828-1845.

505. Field and company-grade officers of the Tsesarevich Alexander Nikolaevich’s Cuirassier Regiment. 1832-1844.

506. Field and company-grade officers of the Arzamas and Tiraspol Horse-Jäger Regiments. 1826-1827.

507. Noncommissioned officer and trumpeter of the Life-Guards Lancer Regiment. 1832-1844.

508. Field-grade officer of the Cavalier Guards Regiment.

509. Field-grade officer of a horse-jäger regiment.

510. Company-grade officers of the Life-Guards Cuirassier Regiment and Leib-Cuirassier Regiment. 1846-1853.

511. Field and company-grade officer of the Life-Guards Semenovskii Regiment. 1832-1844.

512. Field and company-grade officer of the Guards Equipage. 1834-1844.

513. General-Field Marshal Sublime Prince M.S. Vorontsov in the standard general officer’s 1855-pattern uniform. 1856. By G. Willewalde.

514. Lieutenant General and General-Adjutant the Sublime Prince of Italy Graf A.A. Suvorov of Rymnik. 1851. By F. Kruger.

515. Private and company and field-grade officer of the Kiev Hussar Regiment. 1834-1835.

516. Field-grade officers of the St.-Petersburg and Kharkov Dragoon Regiments. 1826-1827.

517. Company-grade officers of the Riga Dragoon Regiment. 1835-1843.

518. Officers of the Guards Garrison Battalion. 1840’s.

519. General of the mines administration. 1834.

520. Collar, cuff, and pocket flap of the uniform for generals of the mines administration. 1834.

521. Uniform for civilian officials of the War Ministry (5th Grade).

522. Uniform collar for civilian officials of military administrations. 1834.

523. Cuff and pocket flap of the uniform for civilian officials of military administrations. 1834.

524. Field and company-grade officers of the Life-Guards Pavlovsk Regiment. 1846-1849.

525. Company-grade officer of the Guards Equipage. 1844-1855.

526. Company-grade officers of grenadier regiments. 1854-1855.

527. Field-grade officer of the Guards Equipage’s artillery company, and private of the Guards Cargo Company [Gvardeiskii lastovaya rota]. 1844-1855.

528. General of the Corps of Gendarmes. 1827-1845.

529. Company-grade officer and private of the Nizhnii-Novgorod Dragoon Regiment. 1834-1836.

530. Field-grade officer of the Polish Lancer Regiment. 1831-1833.

531. Field-grade officer of the First Cadet Corps and student in the Nobiliary Regiment. 1844-1855.

532. Company-grade officers of the Life-Guards Hussar Regiment and Life-Guards Grodno Hussar Regiment. 1845-1852.

533. Private and company-grade officer of the Cavalier Guards Regiment and Life-Guards Horse Regiment.


End of translation. Mark Conrad 2005.