Badges and Jetons of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School.


By Viktor Petrakov.



[From Tseikhgauz No. 14, 2/2002. Pages 30-36.] 


Badges and jetons were used to commemorate one or another jubilee or event, to symbolize corporate identity, and also to signify achievements, service rendered, prizes won (in shooting, breaking in horses, swordsmanship, etc.). Their use in Russia was most widespread at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. This tradition was especially popular among military personnel, and in particular—with graduates of military educational institutions. The many forms of such badges and jetons has not yet been sufficiently well studied. The material gathered by us permits this gap to be partially filled in regard to the “Glorious southern school” [“Slavnaya yuzhnaya shkola”]—the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School [Yelisavetgradskoe kavaleriiskoe uchilishche].


            The history of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School is conventionally reckoned to date from 1861 [sic, should be 1865 – trans.]. However, it is a fact that on 28 May 1858 Army Order No. 144 promulgated an administrative regulation for a cavalry school for officers in the forces under the commander of the Separate Reserve Cavalry Corps. This school was opened in Yelisavetgrad on a 4-year trial basis. Each year 34 officers from cornet to captain received instruction here. However, this school did not last long. Reforms in military educational institutions at the beginning of the 1860s led to the creation of a new Yelisavetgrad school which with time became known as the “Glorious southern school.”

            On 27 June 1865 Order No. 203 of the Minister of War directed the opening on 1 September 1865 of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry Junkers School [Yelisavetgradskoe kavaleriiskoe yunkerskoe shkola, henceforth YeKYuU]. It accepted junkers from cavalry units of the Kiev, Odessa, and Kharkov military districts. After two years of instruction the junkers who passed an examination were promoted to company-grade officers and sent to the cavalry or horse artillery for further service. At first the YeKYuU consisted of 1 squadron of 90 students. However, the authorized strength of the school kept growing, and as early as 1868 the number of junkers was 150, in 1871—200, and in 1873—300. In 1874 the junkers were divided into 2 squadrons: the 1st—destined for dragoon regiments, and the 2nd—for hussars and lancers. In 1876 a cossack section for 35 persons was opened at the school. This section was transferred to the Novocherkassk Cossack School in 1886. In 1902, in the course of a general reform of junker schools, the YeKYuU was reformed as a military school [voennoe uchilishche], and became the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School [Yelisavetgradskoe kavaleriiskoe uchilishche, henceforth YeKU]. [In the late 19th century, a “military” school was a more advanced institution than a “junker” school – trans.] The last graduation from the junker sections that were being closed took place in 1904, after which the YeKU went completely over to a military-school course of instruction.

            From the very first there was a close bond of comradeship among graduates of the YeKYuU. Upon leaving the school they did not forget their alma mater and maintained contact regardless of rank and success in their careers. With its many years of existence, it was inevitable that a commemorative jeton would be instituted for the YeKYuU. In regard to its date of creation, however, there are several different points of view. In D.I. Peters’ book Zhetony Rossiiskoi Imperatorskoi Armii (1998), it is said that the jeton of the YeKYuU was made in 1888 based on an oral directive from the inspector-general of cavalry, Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich. That author does not given any kind of source for this information, so its accuracy cannot be checked.

            In our opinion, a more credible version is presented in the book Istoricheskii ocherk Yelisavetgradskogo kavaleriiskogo uchilishcha so dnya osnovaniya uchilishcha. This work, which records many unofficial details of the school’s daily life and customs, was published by the Union of Former Junkers of the YeKU in New York in 1965. Among other matters, the book has a part devoted to the jeton in which the meaning of its composition is explained, which is practically unknown to modern researchers and collectors. According to Istoricheskii ocherk… a commemorative silver jeton was instituted on 20 February 1890 in preparation for the 25-year anniversary of the founding of the school. This jubilee was widely observed by the whole cavalry, many of whose officers had been pupils of the YeKYuU. The school’s patron, Inspector-General of Cavalry Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich the Elder (1831-1891) presented as a kind of symbolic gift 25 borzoi hounds to used by the junkers and officers in hunting. Recognizing the grand duke’s constant concern, the design of the YeKYuU jeton was dedicated to its Most August Patron.

            The jeton is in the shape of a monogram formed from four letters. The central part is composed of two vertical Cyrillic “N’s” with horizontal lines soldered above and below. From the lower horizontal bar project three smaller bars—two at the edges and one in the middle, which form the Cyrillic letter “Ye” facing downward. All together the letters form a Cyrillic “D.” The combination of these four letters are to be read: “Nicholas Nikolaevich – Friend of Yelisavetgraders” [“Nikolai Nikolaevich – drug Yelisavetgradtsev”]. The composition is topped by a grand ducal crown with a ring for a small chain. Although in R. Verlikh’s well-known book Zhetony imperatorskoi Rossii the decryption of the letters is missing, the jeton’s design is deemed one of the most original. On the jeton’s reverse were engraved the name of the holder and the years of his attendance at the school.

            The material we have collected allows us to say something regarding the wearing of the jeton. On 12 March 1891 Highest Authority forbade the wearing of showy commemorative jetons and permitted them only in the form of breloques. This regulation was nonetheless violated, as evidenced by a photograph of YeKYuU graduate M.Ye. Vrezheshch, who served from 1888 to 1895 in the 20th Olviopol Dragoon Regiment. Judging by the photographs, the jeton was fastened by a chain to one of the upper buttons (hooks) on the front of the frock coat or tunic and was one of the popular symbols of Yelisavetgrader unity. It is not for nothing that we see it along with other attributes of junker life on a Christmas and New Year’s card put out as late as the 1960s by émigrés. The designer of this card was Konstantin Podushkin, a 1916 graduate of the YeKU. He went through an accelerated wartime course of instruction and was assigned to the 18th Nezhin Hussar Regiment. (In his wanderings after leaving Russia, Captain Podushkin not only produced attractive drawings, but also wrote analytical articles on cavalry and its role and place in modern armies.)

            In addition, on the card there is another popular souvenir from military life—the shoulder-strap jeton [zheton-pogonchik]. Such miniature “pogonchiki” fulfilled the role of commemorative breloques, gifts, and even cufflinks. The jeton we show here is made of 84-proof silver with enamel. It looks like an actual shoulder-strap—red with black (dark-green) piping and silver galloon.

            Better known and rather widely represented in museums and private collections is the YeKU badge confirmed by Highest Authority on 19 January 1913 and announced by Army Order No. 86 of 7 March 1913. The text of the order is interesting enough that we quote it in full:


The Sovereign Emperor, with the goal of uniting former pupils and officials of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School into one great family and establishing a visible corporative connection of school graduates with their predecessors, commanders, and instructors, on 19 January of this year by Highest Authority is pleased to confirm a special breast badge in accordance with the accompanying design and description, for wear on the left side of the breast on the coat (cuirassier kolet tunic, hussar dolman, cossack cherkeska), campaign tunic, undress tunic, frock coat, and kitel coat, with the right to manufacture this badge granted exclusively to the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School, with proceeds from its sale being used to augment the resources of the Mutual Aid Association of Former Junkers of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry (formerly Junker) School.


The right to wear this badge is granted to:

      1) All pupils of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School (formerly the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry Junker School) who have completed a full course at this institution, as well as to those pupil of the aforesaid school who in the future will have completed a full course,

      and 2) all persons who in officer or classed-official ranks served in official positions in the said institution, and also all persons who under the same conditions are now serving or will later serve in the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School.



of the breast badge of the

Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School


The badge is of dark metal in the form of a two-headed eagle from the time of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna (in whose honor the town of Yelisavetgrad was named, being founded during Her reign).


In the eagle’s talons are a torch and wreath (emblems of the military educational administration). Behind and above the heads of the eagle is the silver aureole of military educational institutions. On the aureole between the heads is a dark (oxidized) monogram of Emperor Alexander II (Founder of the school). On the aureole in the spaces between the heads and the eagle’s wings are the black numerals 18 – 65 (the year the school was founded). On the eagle’s breast is a red enamel shield edged in silver; on the shield is a white image of St. George the Martyr and Bearer of Victory (patron saint of the school; 26 November is the school holiday), mounted on a horse, slaying a dragon. Below the shield is the school’s traditional silver jeton, instituted in honor of the former inspector-general of cavalry Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich the Elder.


The width of the badge between the wing tips is 4 centimeters. The height from the top part of the aureole to the tip of the tail is 3¼ centimeters.


            It was clear that serious consideration had gone into the badge’s symbolism. Along with outward attractiveness and magnificence, it was regarded as full of meaning. Undoubtedly representatives of the Mutual Aid Association of Former Junkers of the YeKU participated in its design. Thanks to them, the breast badge was linked to its jeton predecessor. Badges were numbered serially and engraved on the back. The highest number known to the author of this article is 3369. It is engraved on the reverse of a badge preserved in a foreign collection. The Mutual Aid Association of Former Junkers of the YeKU kept an account of the enumeration, and with every example issued a special certificate. This document not only confirmed the right to wear the badge, but also guarded it from being disseminated outside the school. Certificates from 1913-14 were signed by the commander of the YeKU, Major General V.N. Peters, who was at the same time the chairman of the Association.

            A unique item, preserved in a private collection, is a silver bracelet with the badge of the YeKU in its center part. On the reverse of the badge is engraved the number 2977 and the letter “K.” It is difficult to make a guess as to who, when, and why someone had this bracelet made. However, it is apparent that for this person the memory of the “Glorious southern school” was so cherished that when it was not possible for him to wear the badge on his chest, he found a way not to be separated from it, sensing its weight on his wrist. Still, we cannot exclude another possibility—that the bracelet might have served as a commemorative souvenir for an Yelisavetgrader’s loved one or widow.

            The next group of items is made up of YeKU badges and jetons related to the life and studies of the junkers. In the Kirovograd District Museum of Local History and Culture is preserved leave badge No. 177 of the YeKU’s 1st Squadron,. The badge is made of white metal in the form of a horseshoe decorated on both sides with oak leaves. On it is a depiction of a tunic plastron [latskan] with buttons, which forms a background for the Cyrillic inscriptions “177,” “Ye.K.U.,” and “I esk.”. An important decorative element are miniature cap cords [etishket] which encircle the central field along the arc of the horseshoe and elegantly come out from behind the plastron. Since it shows details of a lancer-pattern uniform, the badge may be dated to the period after 1908 [when lancer-style uniforms were reintroduced after a period of time when all line cavalry had been converted to dragoons – trans.].

            The regularly held school competitions “with the shashka saber” have their memory preserved by special jetons in the form of miniature shashkas worn on the chest. At this time the author knows of only two silver miniature shashka jetons “For excellent swordsmanship” [“Za otlichnuyu rubku”]: one from 1913 and another from 1914. Both are preserved in private collections. We hope that after this is published more leave badges and jetons of the YeKU will be found, or as collectors say—“surface.” These may be for distinguished horse breaking [vyezdka], jumping [vol’tizhirovka], shooting, etc.

            So-called commemorative jetons from fellow military personnel occupy their own place in YeKU phaleristics. They were probably made by Yelisavetgrad and Odessa jewelers and were traditionally in the shape of gold or silver miniature books on chains. In each small book were six silver pages filled with the names of comrades in service. The book’s cover was decorated in colored enamel with the Yelisavetgrad town coat-of-arms as confirmed by Highest Authority on 6 April 1845 when this district seat in Kharkov Province was still administered by the army. This is a heraldic shield in whose upper gold field is a black double-headed eagle and in the lower red field—a schematic of the St. Elizabeth fortress with the founding date of 1754, divided by the monogram of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. Today three such commemorative miniature books are known. The first of them dates from 1901. It was given out in commemoration of twenty years’ service in the school by Captain Vladimir Grigor’evich Lishin.

            After first attending the Nicholas Cavalry School’s preparatory boarding pansion, V.G. Lishin graduated from the 1st Paul Military School and entered service in 1876. As a lieutenant in 1881 he was detached from the 14th Horse-Artillery Battery to the YeKYuU and named commander of the 1st Squadron’s 4th Platoon. In 1888 Lishin began instructing junkers in artillery topics, and became a captain in 1898. In 1902 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and named assistant to the inspector of classes, continuing to teach an artillery course. With promotion to colonel in 1906 he took up the position of inspector of classes and remained in that duty to 1914. When the war began and V.N. Peters left for the front, Lishin was the temporary acting chief of the school right up to 1917.

            Lishin was unfit for active military service since when he was younger an artillery gun rode over his feet, resulting in the loss of part of his toes. Because of his injury, Vladimir Grigor’evich acquired his own way of walking for which the junkers nicknamed him “Gulyai noga” [literally, “go for a stroll, legs” – trans.] This very much irritated the officer, at times causing him to challenge a passing offender to a duel. As recounted in the memoirs of Captain Prince Isheev, Lishin would become incensed and shout, “Are you a noble? I ask you, are you a noble? If yes, then I call you out to a duel!” Lishin considered that he could only fight a noble. Of course, no such duels took place, and the matter was limited to a swoop down upon the “insulter.” If this weakness is not counted, then Lishin was otherwise a true gentleman, invariably correct with the junkers and well meaning. It was the common conviction that he somewhat irrational about nobility and chivalry.

            On the silver pages of the 1901 miniature book are engraved the names of 33 comrades serving with Lishin, being school unit commanders and instructors. The first name is that of Major General Aleksandr Vasil’evich Samsonov, chief of the YeKU from 1896 to 1904. Quite a few pages in literature and history are devoted to the fate of this general, who was a participant of the Russo-Turkish, Russo-Japanese, and First World wars.

            The second (chronologically) commemorative jeton shaped like a book is from 1910 and preserved in the Kirovograd District Museum for Local History and Culture. It is addressed to State Councilor D.V. Stanislavskii and marks some date of joint service in the YeKU. We have not yet been able to pin down in exactly what way State Councilor Stanislavskii was so closely connected to the school. On the previous jeton, addressed to Captain Lishin, his name is engraved on the sixth page. Stanislavskii’s jeton differs from the two others in that it has a gold edging surmounted by a castle-shaped crown. It is also noteworthy that on the first page of this miniature book are engraved the names of five commanders of the YeKU: A.V. Samsonov (1896-1904), L.V. Vitt (1904-1905), A.A. Morits (1905-1907), A.V. Novikov (1907-1910), and—now a colonel—V.G. Lishin (temporarily acting commander of the YeKU from 1914 to 1917). There are a total of 41 names in the book. Among them we see the name of Captain Ye.V. Velichkovskii, the father of the future poet Anatolii Velichkovskii who would after emigration write magnificent verses about the YeKU We also see the name of A.V. Gusev, friend of Arsenii Tarkovskii’s family which lived in Yelisavetgrad.

            The third of the commemorative jetons to be described is in a private collection. This miniature book is addressed to Major General Vladimir Nikolaevich Peters, chief of the YeKU from 1910 to 1914. Some 42 names are engraved on the pages, more than half of which are repeated from the 1910 book. V.N. Peters was born on 11 August 1854. He graduated from the 3rd St.-Petersburg Military Gymnasium, the Nicholas Cavalry School, and the General-Staff Academy in the top grade. He served in the Life-Guards Horse-Grenadier Regiment. With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, from 29 July he commanded the 1st Brigade of the 5th Cavalry Division. According to some sources he was seriously wounded. In the anti-German mood that prevailed he changed his name from Peters to Kamnev [both meaning “stone” – trans.]. In 1916-1917 he was temporary acting chief of the Imperial Nicholas Military Academy. After the 1917 revolution he served the Soviet regime. He was chief of courses and taught red commanders military science. On one hand he was tall and stately, full of a general’s dignity. On the other, Russian émigrés gave him a negative assessment because after the 1917 revolution he served in the Red Army: a dry formalist, careerist, unpopular among officer and junkers, with the school nickname of “Enema” [“Klister”].

            More than likely, this 1914 jeton was ordered by his fellow officers in connection with the general’s departure for the front. At that time no one could imagine that in three years the path to be taken by most of the officers whose names adorned the pages of the miniature book would forever diverge from the road of their commander.

            In 1915 the YeKU completed its fiftieth year of operation. It was planned to ceremoniously mark this anniversary. It is known that even in 1914 General-of-Cavalry A.V. Samsonov, then commanding the Turkestan Military District, wrote an open letter to all former junkers of the YeKU proposing the establishment of a stipend fund for the best pupils of the “Glorious southern school.” An anniversary jeton was probably also being thought about, but the outbreak of the war did not allow the anniversary celebration to take place. The leadership of the YeKU and that of the Tver Cavalry School, also founded in 1865, decided that it would be better to celebrate the 50-year jubilees of both educational institutions after the end of the Great War…

            Neither was there a special badge for the 100th anniversary of the YeKU in 1965. Still, reminiscences and memories of former students of the school were published under the editorship of Colonel S.N. Ryasnyanskii, a 1906 graduate, knight of St.-George, and chairman of the Union of Former Junkers of the YeKU in emigration. A special and beautiful card in honor of the school’s 100th anniversary was designed by K.N. Podushkin, already mentioned above. In the middle of it is drawn the breast badge of the YeKU, retaining its unifying power even in emigration.


The author would like to express his thanks to his fellow workers at the Russian Cultural Foundation, the Central Museum of the Armed Forces, the Military-Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineers, and Signals, the Kirovograd District Museum for Local History and Culture, the firm “Solde-Print,” and to Konstantin Borodin, Ol’ga Zemlyakova, Aleksandr Kavtaradze, Aleksandr Kibovskii, Sergei Kostyanov, Sergei Patrikeev, Sergei Plakhov, Ivan Sazonov, Mikhail Selivanov, Mikhail Yakovenko, Oleg Krumins (USA), and Martin Wieckowski (Poland).


Basic literature:

1. Istoricheskii ocherk Yelisavetgradskogo kavaleriiskogo uchilishcha s vospominaniayami pitomtsev shkoly k stoletiyu so dnya osnovaniya uchilishcha. New York, 1965.

2. Zatvornitskii, N.M. Fel’dmarshal Velikii knyaz’ Nikolai Nikolaevich starshii. St. Petersburg, 1913.

3. Sbornik pamyati Velikogo knyazya Konstantina Konstantinovicha poeta K. P. Edited by A.A. Gering. Paris 1962.

4. Verlikh, R. Zhetony imperatorskoi Rossii.

5. Journal Voennaya byl’, Paris, 1956, No. 21.

6. Spisok generalam po starshinstvu na 1914 g. Petrograd, 1914.

7. Spisok lits s vysshim voennym obrazovaniem, sostoyashchikh na sluzhbe v Raboche-krest’yanskoi Krasnoi Armii. Military publisher of the Staff of the Red Army, 1923.

8. Narodnoe slovo (Kirovograd). 02.III.1999, 05.VIII.1999.

9. Photo album 100 let 7-mu ulanskomu Ol’viopol’skomu Ego Velichestva Korolya Ispanskogo Al’fonsa XIII polku. 1812-1912 gg. (Privately assembled.)

10. Peters, D.I. Zhetony Rossiiskoi Imperatorskoi Armii. Moscow, 1998.

11. Rybas, S.Yu. General Samsonov. Moscow, 1998.

12. Takman, B. Pervyi Blitskrig. Avgust 1914. Moscow, 1999.




Page 30: (Center.) Commemorative jeton of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry Junkers School, instituted on 20 February 1890 in honor of the 25-year jubilee. (From a private collection.) On the reverse is engraved the name of the holder and the dates of his attendance at the Yelisavetgrad School: “A.Sederman 1897-1899.”

(Bottom left.) M.Ye. Brzheshch, company-grade officer of the 20th Olviopol Dragoon Regiment, 1890s. (From the author’s collection.) The jeton of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry Junkers School is fastened to the top button of the frock coat.


Page 31: [INSET] In the article “The Fate of the Standard of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School” (Tseikhgauz No. 11), there was an error in the description of the ceremony on 15 July 1905 in which the standard was presented. In the article it was stated that the commander of the YeKU, Major General of the General Staff L.V. de Witte received the standard from Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich. The source for this information were the recollections of school students, published in 1965 in New York. However, on an autographed photograph capturing the moment of the presentation it is handwritten that the standard was received by the school commander, A.A. Morits. This caused the author of the published article to more carefully study the 1905 seniority lists of generals and colonels. It became clear that in April 1905 Lev Vladimirovich de Witte left the post of chief of the YeKU in connection with his appointment as commander of the Nicholas Cavalry School. The Yelisavetgrad School was then taken over by Colonel of the General Staff Aleksandr Arnol’dovich Morits, who until this had commanded the 26th Bug Dragoon Regiment. It is noteworthy that at first Morits had not wanted a military career. He finished the mathematics program at Dorpat (later Yurev) University and then passed an officer’s examination as a volunteer, and was assigned to the 38th Vladimir Dragoon Regiment. After his term of service in the regiment he entered the Nicholas General Staff Academy, from which he successfully graduated. In 1906 A.A. Morits, already the chief of the YeKU, was promoted to major general of the General Staff. A mathematician by initial training, Lutheran in religion, the father of four children, a knight of several Russian and foreign orders, Aleksandr Arnol’dovich was firm in his choice of a military career and after serving as chief of the YeKU received the assignment of chief of staff of the Guards Corps in 1907. It was Colonel Morits who drove the second silver nail into the pole of the standard that had been granted by Highest Authority, following after the chief of military educational institutions Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich.

(Top right) Presentation of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School’s standard, 15 July 1905. (From the author’s collection.) The photograph fixes the moment when Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich transfers the standard to the kneeling adjutant of the school, Captain Znoiko. Next to him with a bandolier over his shoulder kneels the standard bearer Distinguished Officer Candidate [Portupei-yunker] Lishin. A little to the right, fixed in the position of rendering a salute, is his assistant—junior Distinguished Officer Candidate Kuzik. Behind Captain Znoiko can be seen Colonel Morits, official recipient of the standard and seen observing its presentation with his hand touching the peak of his cap. It is interesting to note that soon after this formal ceremony Kuzik was dropped from the YeKU for mistreatment [“tsuk”] of junkers in the junior course.

(Center) Monogram of Grand Duke Nicholas Nikolaevich (Senior) which formed the basis for the school jeton.

(Bottom center) Miniature shoulder-strap jeton [“pogonchik”] of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School. After 1904 the back was flat, with the mark of 84 proof. (From a private collection.)

(Bottom right) Card with symbols of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School. USA, 1960s. (From the author’s collection.) [The card reads, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”]


Page 32. (Left) Badges of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School. (From a private collection.) Although almost completely alike in external appearance, the badges do have barely perceptible differences.

(Right) A captain of the 12th General Denis Davydov’s, now Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Aleksandrovna’s, Akhtyrka Hussar Regiment, c. 1914. (From the author’s collection.)


Page 33. (Top left) Certificate No. 561 of the right to wear the badge of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School. (From a private collection.) The certificate reads:



The Mutual Aid Association of Former Junkers of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School hereby affirms that Police Chief Court Councilor Nikolai Viktorovich Pototskii, class of 1888, has the right to wear the breast badge of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School that was confirmed by HIGHEST AUTHORITY on the 19th day of January in the year 1913 (Army Order No. 86, 1913) with the goal of uniting former pupils and officials of the School into one great family and to establish a visible corporative connection of this school’s graduates with their predecessors, commanders, and instructors.

                                      Yelisavetgrad, September 17 day 1913 year.


      This badge is worn on the left side of the chest on tunic, cuirassier kolet, campaign tunic, undress coat, frock coat, and kitel coat.


Association Chairman

                                      Commander of the Yelisav. Cav. School

                                                                      Major General Peters


                                                      Secretary  Colonel (illegible)


(Bottom right) Staff-Captain S.N. Ryasnyanskii of the 10th Ingermanland Hussar Regiment, c. 1916. (From a private collection.) On his chest, below the order of St. George 4th class and his regimental badge, is the badge of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School, from which S.N. Ryasnyanskii graduated in 1906.


Page 34. (Top) Commemorative miniature book-jeton presented to Captain V.G. Lishin, 1901. (From the author’s collection.)

(Middle right) Jeton presented to State Councilor D.V. Stanislavskii, 1910. (Kirovograd District Museum for Local History and Culture.)

(Bottom right) Jeton presented to the commander of the school V.N. Peters, 1914. (From a private collection.)


Page 35. (Top right) Leave badge No. 177 of the 1st Squadron of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School. (Kirovograd District Museum for Local History and Culture.) This badge can be dated to the period after 1908 by the depicted details of the lancer uniform of the YeKU (plastron and cap cords).

(Bottom left and right) Jetons of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School “For excellent swordsmanship,” 1913 and 1914. (From a private collection.)

[CENTER INSET] The author donates the honorarium for this article to the fund for the creation of a memorial marker on the grave of General A.S. Samsonov.

[BOTTOM INSET] All the badges and jetons shown in this article are presented in actual size except the close-up details of the miniature shashka swords at the bottom of this page, which are shown twice actual size.



In Memoriam                                                                                                          [Page 36.]


An Obelisk on Foreign Soil; A Memorial to General A.V. Samsonov.


            The tragic episode from the 1914 war is widely known. The Russian 2nd Army under the command of General of Cavalry A.V. Samsonov, carrying out its commitment to its French ally, on 7 August went over to an offensive that ended in catastrophe. As early as 10 August Samsonov knew that large German forces were concentrating against his left flank. However, all his requests for permission to halt and clarify the situation were answered by telegrams from the commander-in-chief of the Northwest Front, General Ya.G. Zhilinskii that unequivocally alluded to the general’s timidity and lack of spirit. Finally, Samsonov sent his quartermaster-general to personally report to the front headquarters. In reply, Zhilinskii, for his dryness and intolerance nicknamed “the living corpse,” sharply cut off the exchange with “Tell General Samsonov that he’s dreaming the enemy is where he is not. If General Samsonov would show more courage, everything would be fine.” The fatal advance continued. On 13 August the Germans counterattacked the army along the whole front, turned its flanks, and by the 16th surrounded its two center corps, throwing the remnants of the 2nd Army over the Neva River. Samsonov did not want to surrender himself and ended his life with a revolver shot. He was buried in the soil of East Prussia.

            For a year the general’s widow, Yekaterina Aleksandrovna Samsonova, showed remarkable persistence and tenacity in order to find her husband’s grave. Determining the exact spot of the general’s demise and his burial site was done with the help of Samsonov’s surviving personal effects. Among them was a medallion inside which was a photograph of Yekaterina Aleksandrovna with their two children. This medallion was carefully saved by the family of a woodcutter named Jedamski in Karolinenhof. As a mark of gratitude Samsonov’s widow gave him one hundred marks. (As an aside, a German officer escorted Yekaterina Aleksandrovna and the authorities rendered her every assisstance.) In spite of it being the year 1915 and in the middle of a bloody war, the Russian General Samsonov was given all military honors with the participation of the German war ministry. The Germans even allowed the erection of a memorial on the site of A.V. Samsonov’s first burial, which is preserved to this day. On a small pyramid is the inscription: General Samsonow der Gegner Hindenburgs in der Schlacht bei Tannenberg. Gef. 30.8.1914. [General Samsonov, the opponent of Hindenburg in the Battle of Tannenburg. Killed 30.8.1914.]. Below we show a contemporary photograph of the obelisk as located in Wielbark, Olsztyn District, Poland.

            The idea and design of the obelisk belonged to a woodsman of the local timber industry, a former soldier in the German army named Kreits. The memorial was erected in the form of a truncated pyramid crushed by the weight of a round Prussian boulder. According to Kreits’s conception, this shape for the obelisk symbolized General Samsonov’s military career, cut short as it was achieving its peak. In the monument’s base was immured a bottle containing a letter recounting the story of the obelisk’s creation and also of the fall of the German empire. To support the latter, the bottle also held German monetary notes of the postwar period of hyperinflation.

            Ye. A. Samsonova succeeded in returning the general’s ashes to his native land. It pleased fate to arrange it so that the coffin containing A.V. Samsonov’s remains was met at the Yelisavetgrad train station by junkers of the YeKU led by the temporarily acting chief of the school, V.G. Lishin. The remains were buried with honor on the Samsonov estate at the village of Akimovka, Yelisavetgrad District. However, in contrast to the Germans and Poles who have preserved the obelisk up to our time, after 1917 fellow countrymen were scornful of the memory of the fighting general. During the years of Soviet rule the estate fell into ruin and Samsonov’s tomb erased from the face of the earth. It was barely possible to ward off the construction of a school lavatory on its site. Presently, local history-minded Kirovograd citizens led by Konstantin Shlyakhov and Vladimir Bas’ko are trying to find the means to set up a modest memorial marker on the grave of A.V. Samsonov—valorous Russian general, knight of St. George, and former commander of the YeKU. He was also a holder of the order of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award, and it was in saving that country that his army perished in East Prussia.

                                                                                                                             V. Petrakov




Page 36: (Top left) A card in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School, from the USA, 1965. (From the author’s collection.) The artist, K.N. Podushkin, depicted on the card the school building, its breast badge, Empress Elisabeth Petrovna who was the founder of St. Elisabeth Fortress which later became Yelisavetgrad (now Kirovograd), and portraits of the monarchs under whom the school operated.

(Bottom left) Commander of the Yelisavetgrad Cavalry School from 1896 to 1904 General A.V. Samsonov. This portrait is in the book Istoricheskii ocherk Yelisavetgradskogo kavaleriiskogo uchilishcha s vospominaniyami pitomtsev shkoly k stoletiyu so dnya osnovaniya uchilishcha (New York, 1965).



Translated by Mark Conrad, 2002.