(From PROGRESS THROUGH ARMY SERVICE CAREERS; AN HISTORICAL OUTLINE. War Ministry Centennial 1802-1902. Main Staff. Book I, Section III, pages 30-38. Chief Editor: General-of-Cavalry D. A. Skalon. Authors: Privy Councilor A. N. Andronikov and Lieutenant Colonel V. P. Fedorov. St. Petersburg, 1912.)














From the reign of Alexander I there are hardly any regulations, strictly speaking, on transferring lower ranks. Mostly, particular orders were given for individual cases and afterwards these orders were taken as guidelines. In 1801 there was a need to transfer non-commissioned officers from army troops to an engineer command because of a “shortage of konduktory [engineer sergeants],” so it was ordered to “make the transfers, now and in similar future instances, but only in case of real need and for the good of the service.”[1]

In 1804 it pleased the Sovereign Emperor to assign to Life-Guards regiments deserving nobles from distinguished families who were serving in the army as non-commissioned officers. It was ordered that applications be made for those deemed worthy by their praiseworthy conduct, good abilities, and an education appropriate to the demands of service in the guards, and “in addition” they had to have the economic resources “befitting” the maintenance of oneself in the guards.[2]

Transfers in response to the needs of the service predominated and were for the most part made “for leveling,” in which it was permitted for divisional commanders to have the power to transfer even underage nobles, but it was ordered that infantry and cavalry sergeant majors [fel’dfebeli i vakhmistry], squadron quartermasters, and supply sergeants [kaptenarmusy] were “never to be transferred from one regiment to another.”[3]

It was laid down that if underage nobles were to be transferred to the guards, they had to pass an examination given at the 1st Cadet Corps showing that they were “worthy to be accepted into the guards” and then be presented to the Sovereign for inspection.[4]

When in 1820 personnel were selected from the Separate Corps of the Internal Guard for transfer to army field regiments, a Highest directive was issued that tailors, pattern cutters, and cobblers not be chosen, but rather left for the Life Guards.[5]

In the various memoranda on service transfers there are some done as a kind of reward and some done as a punishment. For instance, Non-commissioned Officer Lazarev of the Azov Infantry Regiment, who had earlier served in the Life-Guards Preobrazhenskii Regiment, was, upon his promotion to non-commissioned officer, ordered by the Sovereign to be immediately transferred to the Preobrazhenskii Regiment,[6] while blacksmith Kovalev of the Life-Guards Hussar Regiment, upon the request of Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich, was transferred away from the capital as “clearly unsuitable for service in the guards” due to his bad behavior, thievery, and drunkenness.[7]

Many such trifling cases of transfers may be found in the archives, but a detailed recitation of them would be excessive. We will only point out two of the more prominent facts. Firstly, in order to spare the good character and morale of the troops from the pernicious influence of recidivist deserters, it was ordered to transfer them to distant garrisons.[8] An example of a mass transfer to raise morale and restore the honor of the troops was the removal of mutinous lower ranks of the Life-Guards Semenovskii Regiment.[9]

When the tsar willed it, transfers were also made for personal reasons. This could be in order to serve in the same place as other family members, even if this meant relocation from a great distance (e.g. artillery sergeant [feierverker] Afanas’ev from the Omsk Artillery Garrison[10]). In another example, to honor Ensign Bakhirev’s over fifty years of long and perfect service, his son, Non-commissioned Officer Bakhirev of the Irkutsk Garrison Regiment, was transferred so as to be able to look after his aged father.[11]





            In regard to detaching lower ranks for special assignments there were no detailed regulations.





            In this regard the most important regulation was the “Polozhenie of 3 March 1810 on designating lower ranks as disabled.”[12] According to this, lower ranks were divided into those completely disabled [nesposobnyi] and those who were partially disabled [polunesposobnyi].

            The completely disabled were those who for illness or other bodily disabilities were unable to perform any kind of service in a active field unit [vo fronte]. Therefore, they were either maintained in specially established invalid homes, or given over to the care of relatives, who were provided with aid from the treasury.

            The partially disabled were unsuited for active units but were able to carry out noncombatant functions that did not demand any great physical exertion.

            Certification as to disability was done by medical personnel subject to punishment for anything incorrect. They followed a table of 44 items to be checked off for the completely disabled and 40 items for the partially disabled. The second half of the table, i.e. for the partially disabled, had a notation against each kind of illness and mutilation indicating to what type of service a man could still be assigned. For example, for incurable tremors [tryasenie]—to an invalid company (Item 2), weak eyesight, either total or peripheral—to train personnel (Point 9), weak hearing—to garrison regiments and battalions (Point 18), and complete lack of reproductive organs—to a provincial company (Point 40). The times for certification were designated as every three months (January, April, July, October), and the place for examination was to be the hospital where the lower ranks went for treatment. The prescribed procedure for designating disabled men was in outline as follows: the hospital’s administration office drew up a list, the head doctor recorded the illness and what the proper assignment was, the hospital’s head commissioner (inspector) also signed the list to vouch for the non-medical part of the list, then the appropriate military reviewer (corps, division, or brigade commander, or a specially designated person) came and went over the list, and the Minister of War made a final confirmation of the document.

            In field hospitals the senior or junior regimental doctor performed the examinations, which were confirmed by the divisional commander with the divisional doctor. These procedures were for determining assignments for army lower ranks, but did not apply to the guards since they had their own medical inspector. In November of 1810 it was additionally ordered[13] not to select men for assignment to provincial companies and state detachments who had incurable ailments and were continually being brought up on charges, since illness hindered the carrying out of duties and being punished made it impossible to assign a man to important posts for town garrison duty.





            There were special rules concerning lower ranks for artillery brigades and artillery garrisons, and the commander of a brigade or garrison was charged with carrying them out. Once a year a commander was to separate out those who were incapable of service in brigades and assign them to the garrisons under him. If he did not have such garrisons, then he was to submit tabulated information for processing by the inspector of artillery , through whom to the Minister of War also went lists of men incapable of both field and garrison duty and therefore were liable for assignment to invalid companies. However, those who because of a disability which made them unfit for any kind of service and thus qualified for retirement with a pension to live either on their own or in invalid homes were put on lists that were submitted through the Minister of War for approval by the Military College.[14]

            This procedure lasted until 1818, when by an ukase of the Chief of the Main Staff (19 December, No. 79), the artillery was made the same as other branches in regard to designating lower ranks as disabled upon discharge from hospitals.


On 27 March 1811 a “Polozhenie regarding invalids”[15] was published. Military invalids were divided into three classes: mobile, serving, and disabled. From the first category were formed 35 companies for duty in army hospitals. Serving invalids made up detachments in district towns. These detachments were prescribed to have 40 privates and 5 non-commissioned officers, with one drummer. Two officers were also assigned to each detachment, they themselves being invalids. The senior officer was made commander of the detachment, which in turn was placed under the control of the commander of the provincial garrison battalion. Officers were placed on special invalid seniority lists for these battalions. Duties of serving invalids included carrying out all internal services for the civil administration. Disabled invalids lived in the district towns of their native region. They were “enrolled” with invalid commands, these having no fixed strength, and from them received pay, rations, and uniform clothing. When the internal guard [vnutrennyaya strazha] was formed in 1811, the administrative decrees issued for it included an ukase of 2 February 1813[16] on men unfit for service in the operational army because of illness or disabilities caused by enemy action. In the ukase such a man was termed a “non-serving invalid” [“nesluzhashchii invalid”]. It was confirmed that disabled men were generally not to be sent “to any garrison battalions except the ones belonging to the precise province from which the men came as recruits, while persons who entered service from the class of household serfs [dvorovykh lyudei] are to go to the battalion of the province in which their family or relatives were.” In regard to “disabled invalids,” however, it was specifically said that they were not to be distributed to villages, but it was allowed to give them temporary leave to see relatives or work during the summer season. It was hoped that in such a situation the men would more readily take up work in the towns. Lower ranks in the guards who were unfit for frontline service were excluded from the general rules. It was ordered that they be assigned only to the guards garrison battalion and the guards invalids, while those who were completely disabled were to be separated in accordance with regulations.[17]

            In 1825[18] an distinction was introduced in disabled guardsmen—for those who fell ill “due to a dissolute life” or intentional negligence of their health, the commander of the Guards Corps submitted a ruling for Highest confirmation in which he asked that such men not be associated with “long-service men and those who ‘infrequently’ suffered such illnesses.”

            A significant number of disabled lower ranks served in provincial administrations and other civilian offices in various capacities. So as not to deprive them of the privileges enjoyed by their former comrades, in 1812 it was ordered that doctors examine them in the presence of the provincial authorities and senior military commander in the town. But in 1817 the rule was instituted that lower ranks were to be assigned to civil positions upon the request of these offices through the Inspection Department, which greatly shortened the annual assignment process.

            A last decree that was, however, very important in regard to invalids was issued on 21 January 1825.[19] Highest authority ordered that “those lower military ranks who have been recognized as unfit for any kind of service due to various illnesses and disabilities and are not able to go on foot to the place of their assignment are to be sent on carts with a travel allowance issued from commissariat funds.”

            In concluding this section we present an example of a common occurrence:[20] In 1814, at the order of His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich, General-Adjutant Sipyagin along with Actual State Counselor Willie, the chief medical inspector, submitted a list of 555 lower ranks from the invalids and Guards Garrison Battalion who were assigned to retirement as completely disabled. His Imperial Majesty ordered that:


     a) The 497 men who have relatives are to be sent on carts, at government expense, to the places they desire, having been provided with necessities for the journey and clothing suitable for the time of year.

     b) The 30 men without relatives are to be sent to the Zubov Charity Home [Zubovskaya bogadel’nya] under the command of Ensign Sigov, who concurrently with them was separated from service due to wounds, having been an officer candidate [podpraporshchik] in the Life-Guards Pavlovskii Regiment.

     c) The 28 remaining men are to be maintained in the L.-Gds. Garrison Battalion pending disposition of their cases. Civil governors have been notified regarding provision of complete care for those being sent to their native provinces.


[1] 1st PSZ, 19,859.

[2] Moscow Section of the Main Staff Archives, op. 153 in Book 42 (Journal of orders to the General Adjutant, 1804, Book II), No. 1956, to Constantine Pavlovich.

[3] 1st PSZ, 22,820.

[4] Ibid., 28,154.

[5] Ibid., 28,378.

[6] Archive of the War Ministry Chancellery, Journal of Highest Directives, 1814. No. 599.

[7] Archive of the Artillery Museuem. Book of Highest Orders, 1804. No. 4769.

[8] 1st PSZ, 24,312.

[9] Ibid., 28,455.

[10] Artillery Museum Archive, svod 374-a, d. 159, 1st half of 1804.

[11] Moscow Section of the Main Staff’s Archives, opis 153, d. 119 (Journal of Highest Directives, 1812). Nos. 218 and 278.

[12] 1st PSZ, 24, 145, and Stoletie Voen. Ministerstva, Outline of the Main Military Medical Administration, VIII, Part 1, pages 170 and 171.

[13] Library of the Moscow Section of the Main Staff’s Archives, No. 349. Order of the Government Military College, 1810, heading No. 242.

[14] Archive of the Chancellery of the War Ministry, d. No. 2033, “Register of ukases given to the Military College in the 2nd half of 1808,” No. 321, l. 954.

[15] 1st PSZ, 24,568.

[16] Ibid., 25,359.

[17] 1st PSZ, 25,394.

[18] Report of the Inspection Department for 1825 (6 August).

[19] Ibid.

[20] Archives of the War Ministry Chancellery.—Journal of Highest Orders, 1814. No. 456.



  Translated by Mark Conrad, 2004.