Ranks and insignia of the Russian armed forces until 1917

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The Imperial Russian Army (Russian: Ру́сская импера́торская а́рмия, РИА) and the Imperial Russian Navy (Russian: Российский императорский флот) used ranks and rank insignia derived from the German model. However, the entire rank system was also closely connected to the Russian military traditions. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the Red Army abolished the entire Imperial system of ranks and rank insignia, while military units and formations of the opposing White movement retained the Imperial rank system until 1923.

Army ranks and rank designation[edit]

The following ranks and their respective insignia were also used by the personnel of the Imperial Russian Air Servicefrom 1912 to 1917.

General officers[edit]

designation Commander-in-chief & higher commanders
Imperia-Rus.png 1904-ir85-e19.png 1904ic-p11.png 1904c-p18ga.png Imperial Russian Army 1904ic-p10.png 1904ic-p09.png 1904ic-p08.png
Rank insignia
epaulettes and
shoulder boards
Герб Российского государства.png
Rank Generalfeldmarschall General of the branch Generalleutnant Generalmajor
Russian transliteration General-feldmarshal General roda voysk General-leytenant General-mayor
Table of Ranks
K-1 K-2 K-3 K-4


Designation Field and junior grade officers

1908ur03-e15.png 1908ur03-e14.png 1908ur03-e12.png 1908ur03-e11.png 1908ur03-e10.png 1908ur03-e09.png
1904ic-p07.png 1904ic-p06.png 1880iac-06.png 1904ic-p05.png 1904ic-p04.png 1904ic-p03.png 1904ic-p02.png 1904ic-p01.png
Rank Polkovnik Podpolkovnik Major
(abolished 1884)
Captain Staff-captain Poruchik Podporuchik Praporshik
Russian transliteration Полковник Подполко́вник Майор
(abolished 1884)
Капитан Штабс-капитан Пору́чик Подпору́чик Пра́порщик
Cavalry equivalent Polkovnik Podpolkovnik Major
(abolished 1884)
Rittmeister Staff-rittmeister Poruchik Kornet -
Cossacks equivalent Cossack colonel Lieuetenant colonel
(until 1884)
Voyskovoy starshina
(since 1884)
Voyskovoy starshina
(until 1884)
Yesaul Podyesaul Sotnik Khorunzhyi -
Rank group Stab-ofitsery (field officer ranks) Ober-ofitsery (company officer ranks)
Table of ranks
K-5 K-6 K-7 K-8 K-9 K-10 K-12 K-13

Non-commissioned officers & enlisted men[edit]

Designation Non-commissioned officers & enlisted men (example boards- 1st Neva Infantry regiment)
1911-ir001-p07.png 1911-ir001-p06.png 1911-ir001-p05.png 1911-ir001-p04.png 1911-ir001-p03.png 1911-ir001-p02.png 1911-ir001-p01.png

Rank Zauryad-praporshchik Podpraporshchik Feldwebel Senior unteroffizier Junior unteroffizier Gefreiter Private
Russian transliteration ... ... Feldvevel Starshy unter-ofitser Mladshy unter-ofitser Yefreytor Ryadovoy
Cavalry Zauryad-praporshchik Podpraporshchik Wachtmeister Senior unteroffizier Junior unteroffizier Gefreiter Uhlan
Cossacks Podhorunzhiy Wachtmeister Warden Junior unteroffizier First cossack Cossack
Artillery Zauryad-praporshchik Podpraporshchik Feldwebel Senior Feuerwerker Junior Feuerwerker Bombardier Gunner
Rank group Unter-ofitsery (NCOs) Rydovye (enlisted men)

Other regiments and cadet corps[edit]

The following shoulder board insignias of the Imperial Army used by specific units and cadet corps are illustrated below:

Naval ranks and rank insignia[edit]

The Imperial Russian Navy () of the Russian Empire, had been established at the end of the 17th century under the regency of Peter the Great and by the personal leadership of Franz Lefort. It existed until the October Revolution of 1917.[1]

Rank, category and designation Flag officers and general ranks Staff officers (Russian: Shtabs-ofitsery) Senior officers (ober-ofitsery)
as to Table of Ranks
K1 K2 K3 K4 K6 K7 K8 K9 K10
Epaulette Maritime
Admiral Viceadmiral
Rear admiral
Captain (Navy)
(Kapitan 1-go ranga)
(Kapitan 2-go ranga)
Lieutenant commander
Lieutenant (naval)
(after 1909)
(Starshi leytenant)
(after 1909) (until 1909)
1904mor-e21.png 1904mor-e20.png 1904mor-e19.png 1904mor-e18.png 1904mor-e17.png 1904mor-e16.png 1907mor-e15.png 1909mor-e14.png 1904mor-e13.png 1909mor-e12.png 1904mor-e11.png

(after 1913)
no equivalent General Lieutenant general
Major general
1913mor-e18.png 1913mor-e17.png 1913mor-e16.png
Admiral Viceadmiral
Rear admiral
1904mor-17.png 1904mor-16.png 1907mor-15.png 1909mor-14.png 1904mor-13.png 1909mor-12.png 1904mor-11.png
1904mor-21.png 1904mor-20.png 1904mor-19.png 1904mor-18.png

(after 1913)
no equivalent General Lieutenant general
Major general
1913mor-p18.png 1913mor-p17.png 1913mor-p16.png

Non-commissioned officers & enlisted ratings, naval services[edit]

Designation Petty officers & enlisted ratings
IRN Guardmarine1 1917.png IRN StarshyBotsman 1917v.jpg IRN Conductor-SenFieldSurg 1917v.png IRN Bootsmann 1917.png IRN BootsmannMaat 1917.png IRN Quartermaster 1917.png Imperial Russian Navy AbleMatros 1917.png IRN Matros 1917.png
Rating insignia
shoulder boards
Rating insignia Gardemarin
(abolished 1883)
Senior (army) field surgeon
Boatswain Coxswain Unteroffizier (since 1909)
Quartermaster (until 1908)
Seaman 1st rank Seaman 2nd rank
Russian transliteration (Gardmarin) (Starshy botsman) (Konduktor
Starshy feldsher
(Botsman) (Botsmanmat) (Unter-ofizer
(Matros pervoi stati) (Matros vtoroi stati)

Ranks of coastal services[edit]

Ranks similar to those of the Imperial Army were, beginning in the late 18th century, used by the coastal services of the Imperial Russian Navy.

General officers[edit]

Designation Higher commanders
Naval Ensign of Russia.svg
Rank designation
and shoulder boards
Rank General of the fleet Lieutenant general Major general
Russian transliteration (Флота генерал)
(Flota general)


Designation Field and junior grade officers
1908kki-e15.png 1904-adm-p15.png 1908kki-e14.png 1904-adm-p14.png 1830kma-e13.png 1855kma-p13.png 1904-adm-p12.png 1904-admn-p11.png 1904-adm-p10.png 1904-adm-p09.png 1904-admn-p08.png
Rank insignia
and shoulder boards
Rank Brigadier
(abolished 1798)
Colonel Lieutenant colonel Major
(abolished 1884)
Captain Staff captain Lieutenant Sub-lieutenant Ensign
Russian transliteration Brigadir Polkovnik Podpolkovnik Mayor Kapitan Shtabs-kapitan Poruchik Podporuchik Praporshchik
Rank group Staff officer Junior officer

Non-commissioned officers & enlisted men[edit]

Designation Non-commissioned officers & enlisted men
Naval Ensign of Russia.svg 1904mor-06.png 1908mor-05.png 1908mor-04.png 1908mor-03.png 1908mor-01.png 1908mor-01.png
Rank insignia
shoulder strap
Rank Warrant officer
Bootsman Senior under officer Junior under officer Sea gefreiter Sea soldat
Russian translation (Старший боцман, кондуктор) (Боцман) (Старший унтер-офицер,
starschy unter-ofizer)
(Младший унтер-офицер,
mladschy unter-ofizer)
(Матрос 1-й статьи,
Matros 1 statji)
(Матрос 2-й статьи,
Matros 2 statji)
Rank group NCO Soldier

Sleeve insignia of the Russian Navy from April 16, 1917[edit]

By order № 125 of the Navy Ministry of the Russian Provisional Government, from April 16, 1917 was provided:

  1. Abolishment of the hitherto used shoulder rank insignia
  2. Abolishment of the (naval)scarf
  3. Deletion of any monogram, or initial letter on weapons and equipment
  4. Paint over of the cockade center on caps with red color, until availability of the peaked cap with new national emblem

The traditional shoulder rank insignia were replaced by golden sleeve strips for naval officers, admiralty officers, and naval engineers, as well as – after completion of mandatory examinations – praporshchiks and officers of the hydrographical service.

Silver sleeve strips were introduced to officers of the admiralty staff, before completion of mandatory examinations, as well to ship engineers, officials of the naval administration and naval physicians with officer rank or status.

Both cuff insignias were used in uniforms with the executive curl.

As discrimination criteria to specific appointments or assignments additional corps colours on the lower part of sleeve stripes was determinate:

  • red = ship engineers;
  • raspberry coloured = naval administration;
  • dark blue = hydrographical service;
  • white = physicians

The table below shows examples of rank insignia of the Russian Navy, to be worn on the lower part of uniform cuffs, as to the order № 125 of the Russian Navy Ministry from April 16, 1917.

Designation Gold sleeve strips to naval officers ... hydrographical service

RN F8Admiral 1917 cuff.jpg RN F7ViceAdmiral 1917 cuff.jpg RN F6RearAdmiral 1917 cuff.jpg RN F6Kap1r 1917 cuff.jpg RN F6Kap2r 1917 cuff.jpg RN F6st.leutenant 1917 cuff.jpg RN F6leutenant 1917 cuff.jpg RN F6michman 1917 cuff.jpg RN F6роruch 1917 cuff.jpg RN F6podporuch 1917 cuff.jpg
Rank Admiral Vice admiral Rear admiral Captain 1st rank
(Captain naval)
Captain 2nd rank
Senior lieutenant
(lieutenant commander)
Lieutenant (naval) Michman Podporuchik Praporshchik
Russian transliteration (Admiral) (Vitse-admiral) (Kontr-admiral) (Kapitan 1-go ranga) (Kapitan 2-go ranga) (Starshy leytenant) (Leytenant)
(as specified in the Table of Ranks)
Admiral ranks Shtab-ofitsery (Staff officers) Ober-offitsery (upper officers)
K-2 K-3 K-4 K-6 K-7 K-8 K-9 K-10 K-12 K-14

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Erich Donnert: Peter the Great (de: Peter der Große), Koehler & Amelang, Leipzig, page. 130