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Russian Hussars

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Russian Hussars

Hussars were first recorded in Russia as groups of irregulars in the mid-17th century. Under Peter I this class of light cavalry began to serve as organized regiments on a semi-permanent basis. Hussar regiments remained a conscious element of the Imperial Russian Army until the Revolution of 1917.


Before Peter I

Russian hussars were referred to as a "New (alien) system" in 1634. By 1654, they were grouped in a regiment under the command of Colonel Christopher Rila. In the spring of 1654 Rila and his hussars are recorded in Moscow records, but after a year the documents were lost. This new class of light horse probably did not establish themselves as an effective force and were accordingly absorbed into the "Reitarska" system.

In September 1660, the hussar companies that had been organized in Novgorod by Prince Ivan Khovanskii were discharged. These short-lived units had proved themselves in the battles of the Polish-Russian war. In August 1661 they were reorganized as a mounted body equipped in the Polish style with shoulder mounted "wings", lances and armor.

Peter the Great

Three units of hussars are recorded as having participated in the 1694 Kozhuhovskaya campaign. The last mention of these irregulars is recorded in 1701, when they were transferred to newly raised Novgorod Dragoon Regiment of regular cavalry.

In 1707, Apostol Kigetsch, a Wallachian nobleman-serving Emperor Peter the Great, was commanded to form a khorugv ("banner" or "squadron") of 300 men to serve on the Ottoman-Russian border. The squadron consisted of Christians from Hungary, Serbia, Moldova and Wallachia. In 1711, prior to the Pruth campaign, 6 regiments (4 khorugv's each) of hussars were subsequently formed, mainly from Wallachia. Two other 'khorugv', for guerilla warfare, were formed, one Polish and one Serbian, to serve against the Ottomans.

With the completion of a regular army by Peter the Great, as well as the permanent establishment of regiments, the existing hussars and other irregulars (other than the Cossacks) were disbanded. In 1723 however, Tsar Peter authorized the formation of a hussar regiment, recruited exclusively from Serbian light cavalry formerly serving in the Austrian army.

Peter's successors

During the regency of Grand Duchess Anna Leopoldovna, on 14 October 1741, four Hussar regiments, a Serbian (Serbskiy), a Moldavian (Moldavskiy), a Hungarian (Vengerskiy) and a Georgian (Gruzinskiy) were authorized.

After the Russo–Turkish War (1735–39), these hussar regiments were converted to regular service. The rank and file were enlisted volunteers and not conscripts, as were the majority of the Russian army. The new hussar regiments had a status between regular and irregular cavalry. Hussars were recruited only from the nation indicated by the regiment's name, i.e., these regiments were national units in Russian service; all troops (including officers) were national, and commands were given in the respective languages. Each regiment was supposed to have a fixed organization of 10 companies, each of about 100 men, but these regiments were recruited from different sources, so they were often less than the indicated strength. Later, in 1759–60, three more Hussar regiments, were raised: the Yellow (Zeltiy), the Macedonian (Makedonskiy) and the Bulgarian (Bolgarskiy).

In 1754 two Serbians Rajko Preradovic and Ivan Shevich entered the Russian service. Accompanied by a significant number of Serbian families they received grants of land between Bakhmutov and Lugansk. In return they were tasked with forming two hussar regiments of 1000 men each. In 1764 these were merged into one – the Bahmutskiy Hussars. Two years later, additional hussar units were formed with Cossack, Bulgarian and Macedonian recruits.

Catherine the Great

Under Catherine II the existing hussar units were disbanded. After 1787 hussar regiments were again raised and by the war with France of 1812 twelve were in existence. By 1833 these had increased in number to fourteen line regiments plus two of the Guard (Grodno Hussars and Elizavetgrad Hussars). After the reorganization of the cavalry dated 17 December 1812 all of the hussar regiments were reorganized into three divisions:

1st Hussar Division

  • Grodno Hussars
  • Elizavetgrad Hussars
  • Izyumsky Hussars
  • Sumy Hussars
  • 2nd Hussar Division

  • Alexandria Hussars
  • Akhtyrsky Hussars
  • Irkutsk hussar regiment
  • Mariupol Hussars
  • 3rd Hussar Division

  • Belarusian Hussars
  • Lubny Hussars
  • Olviopolsky Hussars
  • Pavlograd Hussars
  • Alexander III and Nicholas II

    In 1882 all Russian cavalry regiments (except the Cossacks and those of the Imperial Guard), were converted to dragoons. All eighteen "army" (i.e. line) hussars regiments then in existence accordingly lost their distinctive titles, uniforms and other traditions. This left in existence only the two hussar regiments of the Imperial Guard: the Life Guards of His Majesty and the Life Guards Grodno Hussars.

    In 1907, after the Russo-Japanese War, the government of Czar Nicholas II decided to take measures to restore the morale of the Russian army. These included the re-conversion of those dragoon regiments that had formerly been hussars and lancers to their historic titles. The elaborate and colorful hussar uniforms were also restored.

    The 20 hussar regiments of 1914 continued in existence until the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917. Along with the remainder of the former Imperial Army they then disintegrated. A former officer of the 1st Sumsky Hussars records that his regiment survived until February 1918 when, at the suggestion of the four remaining officers and the Soldiers Committee, "one day the men mounted and rode away in different directions to their respective homes".

    Hussar uniforms and equipment in the Russian Empire

    Late classical Russian hussar uniforms and equipment borrowed many elements of the Hungarian hussar form, and included:

  • Dolman – short (up to the waist), single-breasted jacket with high collar and cords, which throws Mentik
  • Shako – with the Sultan, cords (etishketami) and repeykom. Since 1803 Prior to that – Cap.
  • Sash Gombe (interceptions)
  • Mentik – short jacket (with cords), fine fur, worn over the dolman
  • Belt
  • Breeches (Chakchiry)
  • Sword
  • Boots (boots) – Low
  • Sarsala – piece for hussar horses
  • Tashko – Bag
  • Etishket – cord with tassels on shako
  • A pair of pistols
  • All were richly adorned with gold or silver braid, cords, fringe and lace.


    Russian Hussars Wikipedia

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