The Development of Russian Military Power 1453–1815

  • Brian L. Davies
Part of the Problems in Focus Series book series (PFS)


Until the middle of the fifteenth century the grand princes of Moscow had directly controlled only a small household military force (dvor), consisting of their boyar retinue and their boyars’ own retainers (the dvoriane and deti boiarskie). During emergencies, this could be augmented by forming an improvised peasant militia, and by invoking treaty obligations to call up the retinues of the princes of cadet lines of Moscow’s Danilovich house and those of the other clans of princes ruling their own independent principalities. But the grand prince did not yet possess the power to force allied princes to come to his aid, even when it might be politically inconvenient for them; hence the boyar oligarchs of Novgorod and Pskov and the princes of Tver’, Riazan’ and Suzdal’ gave no assistance to Dmitrii Donskoi when he faced the Golden Horde at Kulikovo in 1380.1


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 1.
    A. E. Presniakov, The Formation of the Great Russian State (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1970), pp. 199, 266.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Gustave Alef, ‘The Origins of Muscovite Autocracy: The Age of Ivan III’, Forschungen zur Osteuropäischen Geschichte, 39 (1986), p. 122.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    On the political motives and consequences of mestnichestvo, see Nancy Shields Kollmann, Kinship and Politics: The Making of the Muscovite Political System, 1345–1547 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Gustave Alef, ‘Muscovite Military Reforms in the Second Half of the Fifteenth Century’, Forschungen zur Osteuropäischen Geschichte, 18 (1973), pp. 77–8, 122;Google Scholar
  5. A. V. Chernov, Vooruzhennye sily russkogo gosudarstva v XV–XVII vv. (Moscow: Ministerstvo Oborony SSSR, 1954), p. 33;Google Scholar
  6. Dianne L. Smith, ‘Muscovite Logistics, 1462–1598’, Slavonic and East European Review, LXXI: 1 (1993), pp. 38–9;Google Scholar
  7. J. L. H. Keep, Soldiers of the Tsar. Army and Society in Russia, 1462–1874 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), pp. 87–8.Google Scholar
  8. 5.
    Chernov, Vooruzhennye sily, pp. 40–1; Marshall Poe, ‘The Consequences of the Military Revolution in Muscovy: A Comparative Perspective’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, XXXVIII: 4 (1996), pp. 614–15.Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    Brian Davies, ‘The Town Governors in the Reign of Ivan IV’, Russian History/Histoire Russe XIV: 1–4 (1987), pp. 80–1;Google Scholar
  10. N. E. Nosov, Ocherki po istorii mestnogo upravleniia russkogo gosudarstva pervoi poloviny XVI veka (Moscow and Leningrad: Akademiia Nauk SSSR, 1957), pp. 21, 67–75, 79.Google Scholar
  11. 7.
    Sigizmund Gerbershtein, Zapiski o Moskovii (Moscow: Moskovskii Gosudarstvennyi Universitet, 1988), pp. 113–14.Google Scholar
  12. 8.
    B. A. Rybakov, ‘Voennoe iskusstvo’, Ocherki russkoi kul’tury XIII–XV vekov. Chast’ pervaia (Moscow: Moskovskii Gosudarstvennyi Universitet, 1968), pp. 411–15;Google Scholar
  13. Thomas Esper, ‘Military Self-Sufficiency and Weapons Technology in Muscovite Russia’, Slavic Review XXVIII: 2 (1969), pp. 187–9;Google Scholar
  14. Djurdjica Petrovic, ‘Firearms in the Balkans on the Eve of and After the Ottoman Conquests of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries’, in V. J. Parry and M. E. Yapp (eds.), War, Technology and Society in the Middle East (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), pp. 164–5, 187, 190–3.Google Scholar
  15. On the diffusion of Italian and Ottoman gunpowder technology through Persia and Central Asia, see Halil İnalcık, ‘The Sociopolitical Effects of the Diffusion of Firearms in the Middle East’, in Parry and Yapp (eds.), War, Technology and Society, pp. 207–8.Google Scholar
  16. 9.
    Gerbershtein, Zapiski o Moskovii, p. 114.Google Scholar
  17. 10.
    Alef, ‘Muscovite Military Reforms’, p. 103; Alef, ‘Origins of Muscovite Autocracy’, pp. 123–31, J. L. I. Fennell, Ivan the Great of Moscow (London: Macmillan, 1963), pp. 171–6.Google Scholar
  18. 11.
    ‘Sochineniia Ivana Semenovicha Peresvetova’, in L. A. Dmitriev and D. S. Likhachev (eds.), Pamiatniki literatury drevnei Rusi Konets XV – pervaia polovina XVI veka (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1984), pp. 597, 599, 603, 611, 756;Google Scholar
  19. A. A. Zimin, I. S. Peresvetov i ego sovremenniki (Moscow: Akademiia Nauk SSSR, 1958), pp. 356–9, 361.Google Scholar
  20. 12.
    A. A. Zimin, ‘K istorii voennykh reform 50-kh godov’, Istoricheskie zapiski, LV (1956), pp. 344–5, 348;Google Scholar
  21. Chernov, Vooruzhennye sily, pp. 33–6, 53–6, 58; M. M. Denisova, ‘Pomestnaia konnitsa i ee vooruzhenie v XVI–XVII vv.’, Trudy Gosudarstvennoi htoricheskoi Muzei, XX (1948), p. 32.Google Scholar
  22. On the resemblances between pomest’e-based cavalry service and the Turkic soyurgal and timar systems, see Jaroslaw Pelenski, ‘State and Society in Muscovite Russia and the Mongol-Turkic System in the Sixteenth Century’, Forschungen zur Osteuropäischen Geschichte, XXVII (1980), pp. 163–4, andGoogle Scholar
  23. Donald Ostrowski, ‘The Military Land Grant Along the Muslim-Christian Frontier’, Russian History/Histoire Russe, XIX: 1–4 (1992), pp. 327–59.Google Scholar
  24. 13.
    Zimin, ‘K istorii voennykh reform’, pp. 354–7; A. V. Chernov, ‘Obrazovanie streletskogo voiska’, Istoricheskie zapiski, XXXVIII (1951), pp. 283, 288;Google Scholar
  25. Richard Hellie, Enserfment and Military Change in Muscovy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 161;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Esper, ‘Military Self-Sufficiency’, p. 193; David Nicolle, The Janissaries (London: Osprey, 1995), pp. 26, 48.Google Scholar
  27. 14.
    Poe, ‘The Consequences of the Military Revolution’, p. 615; P. P. Epifanov, ‘Voisko i voennaia organizatsiia’, Ocherki russkoi kul’tury XVI veka. Chast’ pervaia (Moscow: Moskovskii Gosudarstvennyi Universitet, 1976), pp. 377–9; Davies, ‘The Town Governors’, pp. 84–5.Google Scholar
  28. 15.
    Davies, ‘The Town Governors’, pp. 78, 87–143.Google Scholar
  29. 16.
    Chernov, Vooruzhennye sily, pp. 69–73, 82–3; Denis J. B. Shaw, ‘Southern Frontiers of Muscovy, 1550–1700’, in James Bater and R. A. French (eds.), Studies in Russian Historical Geography. Volume One (London and New York: Academic Press, 1983), pp. 122–6.Google Scholar
  30. 17.
    N. I. Nikitin, Sluzhilye liudi v zapadnoi Sibiri (Novosibirsk: Nauka, 1988), p. 6.Google Scholar
  31. 18.
    N. I. Nikitin, Sibirskaia epopeia XVII veka (Moscow: Nauka, 1987), pp. 52–7.Google Scholar
  32. 19.
    Giles Fletcher, ‘Of the Russe Commonwealth’, in Lloyd Berry and Robert O. Crummey (eds.), Rude and Barbarous Kingdom: Russia in the Accounts of Sixteenth-Century English Voyagers (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), pp. 184–6;Google Scholar
  33. V. A. Zolotarev (ed.), Voennaia istoriia otechestva s drevnikh vremen do nashikh dnei. Tom pervyi (Moscow: Mosgorarkhiv, 1995), pp. 156–7.Google Scholar
  34. 20.
    Michael Roberts, The Early Vasas: A History of Sweden, 1523–1611 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), pp. 257–8;Google Scholar
  35. David Kirby, Northern Europe in the Early Modern Period: The Baltic World, 1492–1772 (London and New York: Longman, 1990), pp. 47, 136–9, 146, 150.Google Scholar
  36. 21.
    Zolotarev, Voennaia istoriia, pp. 153–4; A. N. Kirpichnikov, ‘Oborona Pskova v 1615 g’, in Iu. G. Alekseev et al. (eds.), Srednevekovaia i novaia Rossiia. Sbornik nauchnykh statei (St Petersburg: Sankt-Petersburgskii Universitet, 1996), pp. 424–50.Google Scholar
  37. 22.
    Zolotarev, Voennaia istoriia, pp. 150–1.Google Scholar
  38. 23.
    V. I. Buganov, ‘Perepiska gorodovogo prikaza s voevodami livonskikh gorodov v 1577–1578 godakh’, Arkheograficlieskii ezhegodnik za 1965 g. (1965), pp. 290–315;Google Scholar
  39. Norbert Angermann, Studien zur Livlandspolitik Ivan Groznyjs (Marburg and Lahn: J. G. Herder-Institut, 1972).Google Scholar
  40. 24.
    Janet Martin, Medieval Russia, 980–1584 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 371;Google Scholar
  41. G. V. Abramovich, ‘Novgorodskoe pomest’e v gody ekonomicheskogo krizisa poslednei treti XVI v.’, Materialy po istorii sel’skogo khoziaistva i krest’ianstva SSSR. Sbornik VIII (1974), pp. 5–26.Google Scholar
  42. 25.
    Peter B. Brown, ‘Early Modern Russian Bureaucracy: The Evolution of the Chancellery System from Ivan III to Peter the Great’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis (University of Chicago, 1978), pp. 231–3, 292;Google Scholar
  43. E. D. Stashevskii, Ocherki po istorii tsarstvovaniia Mikhaila Fedorovicha. Chast’ pervaia (Kiev, 1913).Google Scholar
  44. 26.
    Hellie, Enserfment, pp. 104–40.Google Scholar
  45. 27.
    V. M. Vazhinskii, Zemlevladenie i skladyvanie obshchiny odnodvortsev v XVII v. (Voronezh: Voronezhskii Gosudarstvennyi Pedagogicheskii Institut, 1974).Google Scholar
  46. 28.
    V. M. Vorob’ev, ‘Konnost’, liudnost’, oruzhnost’ i sbruinnost’ sluzhilykh gorodov pri pervykh Romanovykh’, in Iu. G. Alekseev et al. (eds.), Dom Romanovykh v istorii Rossii (St Petersburg: Sankt-Peterburgskii Universitet, 1995), pp. 93–108.Google Scholar
  47. 29.
    E. D. Stashevskii, Smolenskaia voina 1632–1634 gg. (Kiev, 1919), pp. 2–8, 128, 316.Google Scholar
  48. 30.
    Pistols still had to be imported, however, and garrison troops remained equipped with matchlocks of sixteenth-century design. Esper, ‘Military Self-Sufficiency’, pp. 198–9, 201–5; E. E. Kolosov, ‘Razvitie artilleriiskogo vooruzheniia v Rossii vo vtoroi polovine XVII v.’, Istoricheskie zapiski, LXXI (1962), pp. 259–61.Google Scholar
  49. 31.
    V. P. Zagorovskii, Belgorodskaia cherta (Voronezh: Voronezhskii Universitet, 1969);Google Scholar
  50. V. P. Zagorovskii, Iziumskaia clierta (Voronezh: Voronezhskii Universitet, 1980);Google Scholar
  51. Carol Belkin Stevens, Soldiers on the Steppe: Army Reform and Social Change in Early Modern Russia (De Kalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1995), pp. 111–14.Google Scholar
  52. 32.
    G. N. Bibikov, ‘Opyt voennoi reformy 1609–1610 gg’, Istoricheskie zapiski, XIX (1946), pp. 1–16.Google Scholar
  53. 33.
    Hellie, Enserfment, p. 171; William C. Fuller, Jr., Strategy and Power in Russia, 1600–1914 (New York; Free Press, 1992), p. 31.Google Scholar
  54. 34.
    Chernov, Vooruzhennye sily, pp. 114–15, 137–8; Hellie, Enserfment, pp. 168–72.Google Scholar
  55. 35.
    Brian Davies, ‘Village Into Garrison: The Militarized Peasant Communities of Southern Muscovy’, Russia Review, LI (1992), pp. 481–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 36.
    Keep, Soldiers of the Tsar, p. 91. Carol Stevens’s Soldiers on the Steppe is particularly detailed on the fiscal burden on the southern frontier service population.Google Scholar
  57. 37.
    P. P. Epifanov, ‘Uchenie i khitrost’ ratnogo stroeniia pekhotnykh liudei’, Uchenye zapiski moskovskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Kafedry istorii SSSR, CXXXVII (1954), pp. 77–98;Google Scholar
  58. A. Baiov, Kurs istorii russkago voennago iskusstva (St Petersburg, 1909), vol. I, pp. 140–5;Google Scholar
  59. V. N. Zaruba, Ukrainskoe kazatskoe voisko v bor’be s turetsko-tatarskoi agressiei (Kharkov: Osnova, 1993), pp. 72–3.Google Scholar
  60. 38.
    A. N. Mal’tsev, Rossiia i Belorussiia v seredine XVII veka (Moscow: Moskovskii Gosudarstvennyi Universitet, 1974), pp. 69–70, 121–6;Google Scholar
  61. Yuriy Tys-Krokhmaliuk, ‘The Victory at Konotop’, Ukrainian Review, VI: 3 (1959), pp. 34–45;Google Scholar
  62. Baiov, Kurs, pp. 152–9; Catherine S. Leach (trans. and ed.), Memoirs of the Polish Baroque: The Writings of Jan Chryzostom Pasek (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 73–92, 99, 168, 177;Google Scholar
  63. Janusz Sikorski (ed.), Polskie tradycje wojskowe (Warsaw: Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej, 1990), vol. I, p. 300;Google Scholar
  64. Robert I. Frost, ‘The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the “Military Revolution”’, in M. B. Biskupsi and James S. Pula (eds.), Poland and Europe: Historical Dimensions. Volume One (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), pp. 35, 41–2.Google Scholar
  65. 39.
    Zaruba, Ukrainskoe kazatskoe voisko, pp. 46–50, 63–4; Stevens, Soldiers on the Steppe, pp. 76–97; Epifanov, ‘Uchenie i khitrost”’, p. 84.Google Scholar
  66. 40.
    M. D. Rabinovich, ‘Formirovanie reguliarnoi russkoi armii nakanune severnoi voiny’, in V. I. Shunkov (ed.), Voprosy voennoi istorii Rossii: XVIII i pervaia polovina XIX vv. (Moscow: Nauka, 1969), pp. 221–32; Keep, Soldiers of the Tsar, pp. 103–4.Google Scholar
  67. 41.
    A. I. Zaozerskii, Fel’dmarshal B. P. Sheremetev (Moscow: Nauka, 1989), pp. 53–5, 57, 60, 62, 65;Google Scholar
  68. Keep, Soldiers of the Tsar, pp. 110–14; L. G. Beskrovnyi, Russkaia armiia i flot v XVIII veke (Moscow: Ministerstvo Oborony SSSR, 1958), pp. 111–13.Google Scholar
  69. 42.
    This did not include garrison forces, cossack and Tatar iregulars, and the sloboda regiments defending parts of the southern frontier. Keep, Soldiers of the Tsar, pp. 105–6; Beskrovnyi, Russkaia armiia, p. 26.Google Scholar
  70. 43.
    Fuller, Strategy and Power, pp. 44–6, 54–6; P. P. Epifanov and A. A. Komarov, ‘Voennoe delo. Armiia i flot’, Ocherki russkoi kul’tury XVIII veka. Chast’ vtoraia (Moscow: Moskovskii Gosudarstvennyi Universitet, 1987), pp. 197–9; Beskrovnyi, Russkaia armiia, pp. 130–3, 135, 141, 168–9, 176.Google Scholar
  71. 44.
    O. Leonov, I. Ul’ianov, Reguliarnaia pekhota, 1698–1801 (Moscow: AST, 1995), pp. 33–4; Beskrovnyi, Russkaia armiia, pp. 75–8.Google Scholar
  72. 45.
    John Le Donne, Absolutism and Ruling Class (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), pp. 76–8.Google Scholar
  73. 46.
    Peter reassured officers they had the right to use their own good judgement in subsequently altering or abandoning the council’s plans on the battlefield. Ibid., pp. 69–73; Fuller, Strategy and Power, pp. 71–5; Epifanov and Komarov, ‘Voennoe delo’, p. 197.Google Scholar
  74. 47.
    Keep, Soldiers of the Tsar, p. 107; Fuller, Strategy and Power, pp. 48–9; Beskrovnyi, Russkaia armiia, p. 118; Arcadius Kahan, The Plow, the Hammer, and the Knout: An Economic History of Eighteenth-century Russia (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1985), pp. 321, 330–2.Google Scholar
  75. 48.
    The Russian army was used in Poland in the War of the Polish Succession (1733–35), the War Against the Confederation of the Bar (1768) and the Partitions of Poland (1772, 1793 and 1795); against the Swedes in 1741–43 and 1788–90; against Prussia in the Seven Years War (1756–63); against the Turks in 1735–39, 1768–74, 1787–91 and 1806–12; against Persia in 1803–13; and against France in 1798–1800, 1805–07 and 1812–15.Google Scholar
  76. 49.
    Walter Pintner, ‘The Burden of Defense in Imperial Russia, 1725–1914’, Russian Review, XLIII: 3 (1984), p. 232;Google Scholar
  77. Christopher Duffy, Russia’s Military Way to the West (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1985), pp. 69–72; Beskrovnyi, Russkaia armiia, pp. 91–3.Google Scholar
  78. 50.
    Walter Pintner, ‘Russia’s Military Style, Russian Society, and Russian Power in the Eighteenth Century’, in A. G. Cross (ed.), Russia and the West in the Eighteenth Century (Newtonville, MA: Oriental Research Partners, 1983), pp. 262, 264; Fuller, Strategy and Power, pp. 171–4; Keep, Soldiers of the Tsar, pp. 222–3.Google Scholar
  79. 51.
    Beskrovnyi, Russkaia armiia, pp. 61–2, 148–9, 289, 310–11, 384–92.Google Scholar
  80. 52.
    B. G. Kipnis, ‘Razvitie taktiki russkoi armii v russo-turetskoi voine 1768–1774 g.’, in T. G. Frumenkov (ed.), Rossiia v XVIII veke. Voiny i vneshnaia politika, vnutrennaia politika, ekonomika i kul’tury (St Petersburg: Minerva, 1996), pp. 4–5;Google Scholar
  81. Bruce W. Menning, ‘Russia and the West: The Problem of Eighteenth-century Military Models’, in Cross (ed.), Russia and the West in the Eighteenth Century, pp. 282–8;Google Scholar
  82. Iu. R. Klokman, Fel’dmarshal Rumiantsev v period russko-turetskoi voiny 1768–1774 gg. (Moscow: Akademiia Nauk SSSR, 1951), p. 106.Google Scholar
  83. 53.
    Bruce W. Menning, ‘Russian Military Innovation in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century’, War and Society, II (1984), p. 37.Google Scholar
  84. 54.
    J. L. H. Keep, ‘Feeding the Troops: Russian Army Supply Policies During the Seven Years’ War’, Canadian Slavonic Papers, XXIX: 1 (1987), pp. 24, 43;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Zenon Kohut, Russian Centralism and Ukrainian Autonomy (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1988), pp. 104–24;Google Scholar
  86. Bruce W. Menning, ‘G. A. Potemkin and A. I. Chernyshev: Two Dimensions of Reform and the Military Frontier in Imperial Russia’, Consortium on Revolutionary Europe. Proceedings, I (1980), pp. 241–3.Google Scholar
  87. 55.
    Le Donne, Absolutism, pp. 83–6, 306; Beskrovnyi, Russkaia armiia, p. 341.Google Scholar
  88. 56.
    Kahan, The Plow, pp. 333, 336.Google Scholar
  89. 57.
    Ibid., pp. 345–9; V. S. Abalikhin, ‘Rol’ Ukrainy v obespechenii armii v otechestvennoi voine 1812 g’, in Shunkov (ed.), Voprosy voennoi istorii Rossii, pp. 187–204.Google Scholar
  90. 58.
    Kahan, The Plow, p. 337; Pintner, ‘The Burden of Defense’, p. 248.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian L. Davies

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations