Opolchenie, c. 1914.            

Click here to enlarge.

The crosses on the caps indicate that this duo (a junior non-commissioned officer and a lance-corporal) belongs to the opolchenie. I obtained this photo in a Moscow flea market in 2001. According to the Handbook of the Russian Army (6th edition, [British] General Staff, War Office, 1914), page 10:

Service in the Opolchenie. -- The Opolchenie, which is liable to be called out only in time of war by Imperial Decree, comprises all men not serving in the Standing Army fit to bear arms from the 21st to the end of their 43rd year, and is divided into two categories. The 1st Category may be used to strengthen or complete the standing army, or to form special militia units, and includes all men up to their 43rd year who have served in the standing army, and all those men who have not been taken for the annual contingent but who are fit for active military service, except exemptions of Class I. The four youngest classes of the category last mentioned are kept under military control on special lists, and are liable to two trainings of six weeks each, if required. The 2nd Category comprises persons discharged from active units or from the reserve owing to unfitness for service as combatants, but who are still capable of bearing arms, and also men granted exemptions for family reasons in Class I.

To facilitate the formation of militia units, small cadres of N.C.Os., detached from the active army, are attached to the staffs of circle commanders.


From page 35:

The Opolchenie, or Militia, forms the third line of defence, and it is stated that provision has been made for the formation of the following units:--

       Field Troops-- 
            Infantry, 640 battalions.
            Cavalry, 80 squadrons.
            Artillery, 80 batteries.

       Fortress troops--
            Infantry, 40 battalions.
            Artillery, 10 battalions.
            Sappers, 5 battalions.

The 640 battalions are formed in brigades (not regiments) of 8 battalions, and divisions of 16 battalions, or 40 divisions in all. The 80 squadrons form 20 regiments, of 4 squadrons, and 1 regiment is attached to each of 20 divisions. The 80 batteries form 40 regiments of 2 batteries each, or 1 regiment per division. As their designation implies, the remaining troops will be employed for the defence of fortresses only.

There are over 1,000,000 men in the Opolchenie who have received some military training (see Note), but the difficulties attending a general mobilization of the reserve divisions which have been referred to above apply with increased force to the Opolchenie, and although it would no doubt by useful for home defence, no great military value would attach to it except after a prolonged period of embodiment.

Note: The estimated number of fully trained men in the Opolchenie is about 870,500. These are men who have passed through the standing army and reserve, and are 38 to 43 years of age.


And finally, from pages 49-50:


Organization.--It is stated that provision has been made for the organization of 640 battalions (drujini) of militia infantry, which will not be formed in regiments, but in brigades of 8 battalions and divisions of 2 brigades, and that these will be called out in two categories, 320 battalions (20 divisions) in each. Forty battalions of fortress militia infantry, 20 of each category, will also be called out.

No cadres are maintained in time of peace, but from 1 to 3 re-engaged non-commissioned officers, detached from the active army, are attached to each circle commandant's staff to look after the mobilization equipment..

Strengths.--Each drujina is composed of 14 officers, 3 officials, 957 combatant and 26 non-combatant non-commissioned officers and men, with 32 transport horses, 10 horses for men of the battalion to be employed as mounted orderlies, and 16 carriages.

Uniform, armament, and equipment.--The uniform will vary in colour according to the "Government" in which the battalions are formed, the only regulation being that all the men of a battalion must be uniformly clothed, and that red shoulder-straps are to be worn. The clothing will probably be the national long-skirted coat, wide trousers, long boots, and peaked cap with the Militia cross in front. It is intended that the various ranks should be armed as in the regular infantry, but at present Berdan rifles and Smith and Wesson revolvers are substituted for the small-bore weapons. Mounted orderlies have cavalry swords and revolvers. Men armed with rifles carry 84 rounds; with revolvers, 18. Government supplies for each man a cap badge, a waistbelt, 2 pouches for 30 rounds each, arms, and ammunition, also drums and bugles, and for each battalion 32 shovels, 16 axes, 6 pickaxes, 6 mattocks, 320 Linnemann spades, and 80 small axes. All the rest of the clothing and equipment is found by the communes.

Transport.--The transport for each battalion consists of 16 2-horse wagons, 1 for office, & c., 1 for staff baggage, 2 for ammunition, 1 for artificers', & c., tools, 1 for medical stores, 6 for supplies, and 4 for company baggage.


Web page by Mark Conrad, 2004.