Russian Generals between 1730 and 1741: Numbers, National and Social Background, Trends

Sergey Chernikov


Referring to a vast number of archival and published sources, the author analyzes the social structure and development tendencies of the Russian General Officers between 1730 and 1741. The growth in the numbers of generals under Anna Ioannovna had ceased in the period in question. As opposed to the five previous years, the numbers of generals between 1730 and 1741 were directly conditioned by whether the army was involved in military activities. After the confirmation of the new staff in 1731, the number of generals decreased reaching 104–108 persons, while during the Russo-Turkish and Swedish wars, it increased to 113–129 persons. The structure of the general officers’ staff between 1730 and 1741 reflected the overall changes in the armed forces of the time. The number of generals in the field army was decreasing, while it remained unchanged in the military units financed by sources other than chevage (artillery, engineer corps, land militia, defence forces). According to the general data, between 1730 and 1738, 60 to 63 percent of the generals were Russian nationals, and 37 to 40 percent non-Russian nationals. Consequently, after Anna Ioannovna was enthroned, there were no significant changes in the general officers’ national structure. It was only at the very end of the period that due to a mass resignation of Russian generals, the numbers of foreign general officers grew: in 1739 they accounted for 42 percent, and between 1740 and 1741 – for 45–46 percent. In the field army, the growth of the number of non-Russian nationals continued with 35 percent in 1725, 42–45 percent in 1726–1730, and as many as 51–70 percent in 1739–1741. Foreign general officers prevailed, as previously, in the artillery and engineer corps with Russian generals employed in the military administration. The land militia forces were commanded by non-Russian generals. According to the general data between 1730 and 1741, equally to the preceding five years, the majority of foreign generals were from Germany (43 to 45 percent). Having started under Peter I, the incorporation of the Baltic nobility into Russian elite continued, while the numbers of Baltic Germans among the generals considerably increased (from 10 to 28 percent). Non-Russian generals taking service between 1730 and 1741, as a rule, had military experience and were assigned to the field army and land militia. The renewal of the command of the artillery, engineer and defence forces, as well as the military administration was mainly carried out by means of promoting the officers that were already serving in the Russian military forces. The development of the social structure of the Russian part of general officers remained unaltered. The amount of the traditional elite decreased from 40–43 percent in 1730–1731 to 34–35 percent in 1740–1741. After three decades since the start of the military reforms of Peter the Great, representatives of the Moscow nobility were promoted to generals in chief and accounted to the majority of such positions. It was only the senior rank of field marshals that was made up of the nobility. Overall, the development of the general officials’ corps between 1730 and 1741 followed the general pattern of the development of Russian military forces initiated under Peter the Great, and the changes of the beginning of Anna Ioannovna’s reign were the result of the internal policy that was formulated by the reformer-tsar’s associates between 1725 and 1727.


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