Regarding the History of Petrine Regiments in the Caucasus.


By P. Yudin.



[From Voenno-Istoricheskii Sbornik, “K istorii Petrovskikh polkov na Kavkaze,” 1912, No. 2. St. Petersburg.]


In the note published in issue No. 2, 1911, of Voenno-Istoricheskii Sbornik, under “Audiatur et altera pars,[*] Mr. Shchedrinskii gives some information on regiments founded in the Caucasus on Peter the Great’s orders. However, when making corrections on this subject (to errors by Mr. Kozlovskii in issue No. 1 of the same journal), the author himself fell into error by not confirming his propositions with primary sources which, apparently, were not available to him.


This circumstance compels me to add to his note several new additions from documents just recently gathered by myself after being commissioned to perform some research by the government ataman of the Terek Cossack Host. These are from the archive of the old Kizlyar office, an archive of great interest and rich in information not only on the old Grebensk, Terek, and Kuban cossacks, but also regarding the history of military units as well as the conquest and settlement of the northern and eastern Caucasus and our relations with mountain peoples and neighboring powers: Persia, Georgia, Turkey, the Trans-Kuban, and the Crimea. In this archive one encounters many documents which were completely unknown to previous researchers of the Caucasus.


The information in this archive enables us to judge that, in contrast to Mr. Shchedrinskii’s assertion, the garrisons left by Peter the Great in Persian fortresses, “combined(?) into battalions” [“svedennye(?) v bataliony”], were titled not with “the names of their commanders,” but instead carried the titles of those Russian regiments and garrisons from which they were taken in 1721 when designated for the Persian campaign. Regarding the formation of specific regiments from them, the Kizlyar archive preserves the following letter of the Astrakhan governor, Major General von Mengden, to the Terek commandant, Colonel Kiselev, dated 13 April 1725.[1]


     “On the last 10 November of 1724, I received from his excellency Lt.-Gen. and Guards Major Mikhail Athanas’evich Matyushkin[†] an order issued while his excellency was in Moscow, concerning certain points from reports sent to His Imperial Majesty. His Majesty was pleased to authorize under his own signature that the 18 infantry battalions of the Lowland Corps [Nizovyi korpus] be converted to regiments named after their locations, and the 1st and 2nd Grenadier Infantry battalions in that corps are to be assigned to the above regiments by companies. In accordance with His Imperial Majesty’s ukase the battalions referred to above are joined into regiments and grenadier companies then assigned to those regiments.[2] What titles are given to these regiments… was written on 1 January 1725. This 13 March I received from His Excellency an order in which it is stated that in the previously sent list these battalions were joined: Viborg with Siberia, and Troitsk with Galich. But now Troitsk along with Siberia are located in Gilan Province in a single Kesker garrison, while Viborg with Galich are to be at other locations in the same province. Consequently, these battalions change their names: Troitsk to be with Siberia, and Viborg with Galich.”


Thus did the Kesker Regiment appear in 1725 from the Troitsk and Siberia Battalions.[3] The last two battalions were, it appears, the basis for the Zinzeli [Zinzelinskii[‡]] Regiment, while the Daghestan Regiment was formed from the Vologda and Tambovsk battalions.[4] Judging from a report by General Levashev dated 14 August 1725,[5] at the same time there existed the remaining six regiments: Astrabad, Mazandaran [Mizandronskii[6]], Rasht [Ryashchinskii], Baku [Bakinskii], Derbent, and Shirvan. However, the Kizlyar documents of that period nowhere mention the creation of a Girkhovsk Regiment,[7] since, it must be supposed, it was formed much later and not in 1725 as stated by Mr. Shchedrinskii.


Also, since the battalions used to form them began their existence in 1721 (as shown above), then in our opinion it would be more accurate to count the seniority of the regiments created under Peter I from that time and not from the date of the Highest Order regarding their new organization.


These battalions and the two cavalry regiments quartered in the region suffered greatly from the killing climate of the Caspian Sea’s eastern shore, not to mention constant skirmishes with bands of Lezghins and Persians, so that the government was unable to keep them up to their authorized strength.[8] From 1722 through 1725 over 20,000 recruits and soldiers were sent there, which with the authorized strength of a battalion at that time being 705 men means that the number of men sent exceeded their complement by almost one and a half times.[9]


To be more exact, in 1722 there were sent to the Persian provinces the following military personnel: 2387 from Moscow, 1417 from Nizhnii Novgorod, and 481 from Kazan. In the following year Moscow sent 1297 soldiers and recruits, Nizhnii Novgorod sent 986, Kazan 2673, and from Voronezh 750 men were demanded. In 1724 there were ordered to be sent 200 Muscovites, 100 men from Kazan, 912 Voronezh settlers, and 1745 men from Kiev and Glukhov. Finally, in response to General Matyushkin’s demand, in June of 1725 1050 men each were sent from the Kiev and Glukhov garrisons, from Kazan 900 soldiers and 657 recruits, and from Moscow 419 men. In addition, “in accordance with a special levy 2120 men over and above authorized tables were drafted from the towns of Astrakhan Province to fill out the regiments of the Lowland Corps there.”


Of comparatively lesser significance is that in 1728 “the Voronezh and Kazan garrisons as additional special regiments” were sent “to the 17 infantry regiments of that corps.”[10]


By the end of 1729 all the regiments in the Persian provinces possessed their full complements and were titled after local towns and provinces: Baku, Shirvan, Derbent, Daghestan, Kura, Tenginsk, Rasht, Astrabad[§], Mazandaran, Girkansk, Zinzeli, Kesker[**], Ranokutsk, Lenkoran, Astara, Adzherutsk, and Kerkerutsk[††]. Subsequently, on the insistence of the Persian envoy Mirza Ibrahim after the conclusion of a treaty with Persia (21 January 1732), General Levashev (18 August) directed that the regiments be given new names, except for the first six, which kept their previous titles.[11]


In accordance with this order, the regiments acquired the following names: Rasht was given the name Caspian, Astrabad was named Apsheron, Mazandaran—Stavropol (after the Holy Cross Fortress [krepost’ sv. Kresta] on the Sulak River, which was also often called Stavropol), Zinzeli—Astrakhan, Kesker—Caucasus (now the 14th Georgia Grenadier Regiment). The rest were renamed: Ranokutsk—Kabarda, Lenkoran—Nasheburg, Astara—Nizovsk, Adzherutsk—Navaginsk, and Kerkerutsk—Sal’yansk.

[*] “The other side is also heard.” – M.C.

[†] Mikhail Athanas’evich Matyushkin [1676-1737] had been an officer in the Life-Guards Preobrezhenskii Regiment since 1691. – M.C.

[‡] My best guess is that this may be connected with the town of Enzeli (now Bandar-e Anzali) in Gilan Province. – M.C.

[§]Astrabadskii.” Ancient town southeast of the Caspian, also known as Asterabad, now Gorgan/Jurjan. –M.C.

[**] Is this related to the Persian name for the Caspian Sea—Darya-ye Khezer? – M.C.

[††] Does this refer to Karganrud in Gilan Province? For Ranokutsk and Adzherutsk I have no suggestions as to what places they refer to – M.C.

[1] Kizlyar archive, sv. 1, list. 386.

[2] According to this authorization, each regiment consisted of 1 grenadier and 8 musketeer companies. In the Derbent Regiment’s monthly report of 1 June 1725 there are shown 1 colonel and 1 lieutenant colonel; in the grenadier company a captain and lieutenant, giving a total of both officers and lower ranks of 167 men; in the musketeer companies were 8 captains, 28 other officers, and 1896 lower ranks. (Kizlyar archive, sv. 1, list. 744.)

[3] And not in 1726, as Mr. Shchedrinskii wrote.

[4] From a statement by Colonel Thedor Lone of 31 May 1725. C.f. Kizlyar archive sv. 1, l. 466.

[5] Ibid., l. 779.

[6] And not “Mazanderanskii” as maintained by Mr. Shchedrinskii. [This is pedantic. Russian 18-th century spelling was variable, and these names obviously refer to Mazandaran/Mazanderan Province. – M.C.]

[7] Indeed, there was no military unit with that name, but there was a “Girkansk” Regiment. [Girkansk was an old historical name for the Caspian, from “Girkonos” meaning “land of the wolves.” – M.C.]

[8] As can be seen from an ukase of the Military College to General Matyushkin dated 23 June 1725. (Kizlyar archive l. 529).

[9] To be exact, 20 battalions each of 700 men make a total of 14,000.

[10] Kizlyar archive, sv. 4. No. 1741, str. 64. From a Highest rescript addressed to the Military College, 16 May 1729.

[11] The Kizlyar archive (sv. 11, l. 331-332) preserves an interesting letter from Levashev to Major General Kropotov regarding the reasons for the change of names.


Translated by Mark Conrad, 2004.