Russian État-Major Organisation

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Note: all dates are given in Old Style Calendar (aka Julian Calendar) which, at the time of the Seven Years’ War , was typically 11 days earlier. Thus September 12, 1756 in Old Style is equivalent to September 23, 1756 New Style (aka Gregorian Calendar).

Conference of the Highest Court

The Konferéntsiya (Conference of the Highest Court) was designed to be analog to the Austrian Hofkriegsrat (Imperial War Council) with the aim to develop strategic plans for the war and to cooperate to military and diplomatic efforts. In Russian written sources of the period of the Seven Years’ War, and in literature dedicated to the same period. it is usually designated simply by the term “Conference”.

The Conference was a collegial governance body chaired by Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. Even though she eventually ceased to attend sessions, all decisions were made on her behalf. The first session of the Conference took place on March 14, 1756.

Russian historiography usually gives a negative evaluation of the performance of the Conference, due to its remoteness from the theater of operations of the Seven Years’ War, and due to the fact that its members (even generals) were more successful courtiers and had little military experience. The commander-in-chief of the army was obliged to execute the decisions of the Conference, although these decisions were not prompt and sometimes inconsistent.

The members of the Conference, also known as conference-ministers were:

  • Stepan Fyodorovich Apraksin (March 14, 1756 — September 1, 1757) – general-fieldmarshall, commander-in-chief of the army during the 1757 campaign
  • Alexey Petrovich Bestuzhev-Ryumin (March 14, 1756 — February 14, 1758) – chancellor
  • Mikhail Petrovich Bestuzhev-Ryumin (March 14, 1756 — September 11, 1757) – diplomat
  • Alexander Borisovich Buturlin (March 14, 1756 — September 17, 1760) – general-fielmarshall
  • Mikhail Illarionovich Vorontsov (March 14, 1756 — January 20, 1762) – vice-chancellor (chancellor since 1758)
  • Roman Illarionovich Vorontsov (December 28, 1761 — January 20, 1762) – senator, general
  • Mikhail Mikhaylovich Golitsyn (March 14, 1756 — December 17, 1757) – president of the Admiralty Collegium, general-admiral
  • Ivan Ivanovich Neplyuev (August 16, 1760 — January 20, 1762) – senator
  • Nikita Yurjevich Trubetskoy (March 14, 1756 — January 20, 1762) – general-fieldmarshall, president of the Military Collegium (since 1760)
  • Yakov Petrovich Shakhovskiy (August 16, 1760 — December 25, 1761) – head of the Military Comission, general-war-commissioner, general-prosecutor
  • Alexander Ivanovich Shuvalov (March 14, 1756 — January 20, 1762) – head of the Secret Chancellery
  • Pyotr Ivanovich Shuvalov (March 14, 1756 — January 4, 1762) – general of the artillery
  • Grand Prince Pyotr Fyodorovich (March 14, 1756 — May 5, 1757)

Military Collegium

The Voennaya Kollégiya (Military Collegium) was a War Office created by Peter I for military administration. Before the creation of the Conference, the commander-in-chief of the army was subordinated to the Military Collegium.

The Military Collegium had the following headquarters:

  1. the Komissariat (Military Comission) under the general-kriegskomissar (general-war-commissioner) managed military finances and supply (except for weapons). It also inspected the armies independently from their actual commanders.
  2. the Proviantmeysterskaya kontora (Provision Master Office) under the general-proviantmeyster (general-provisions-master), managed the supply of provisions and forage, remounts and logistic.
  3. the General Artillery and Fortification Chancellery managed all artillery and engineering matters.
  4. the Weapon Chancellery managed the supply of firearms and edged weapons.

The two latter headquarters were headed by the general of the artillery.

Ranks of Senior Officers

General officers

There were several grades of general officers, in order of increasing seniority: brigadier, major-general, lieutenant-general, general (of the artillery, of cavalry, of infantry) and the prestigious general-fieldmarshal.

The “Table of ranks” established by Peter I in 1722 re-organised the foundations of the Russian nobility by recognizing service in the military, in the civil service, and at the imperial court as the basis of an aristocrat's standing in society. The table divided ranks in 14 grades (classes), with all nobles regardless of birth or wealth (at least in theory) beginning at the bottom of the table and rising through their service to the Emperor.

By the time of the Seven Years’ War, military and naval ranks were as follows:

Equivalent Ranks of General Officers
Class Guard Army Navy
1 n/a General-Fieldmarshal General-Admiral
2 n/a General of infantry
General of cavalry
General-Feldzeugmeister (General of the artillery)
3 Colonel General-Poruchik (Lieutenant-General) Vice-Admiral
4 Lieutenant-Colonel Major-General
General of the Fortifications
5 Premier-Major Brigadier Captain-Comandor (Commodore)
6 Second-Major Colonel Captain 1st rank
7 Captain
Lieutenant-Colonel Captain 2nd rank
8 n/a Premier-Major
Captain 3rd rank
9 Poruchik (Lieutenant) Captain
Captain-Poruchik (Captain-Lieutenant)
10 Podporuchik (Sub-Lieutenant) Captain-Poruchik (Captain-Lieutenant)
11 n/a n/a Ship secretary
12 Praporshik (Ensign) Poruchik (Lieutenant) n/a
13 n/a Podporuchik (Sub-Lieutenant) n/a
14 n/a Praporshik (Ensign) Michman (Midshipman)

Note: ranks below class 6 did not belong to general officers. However, they have been included in the table to show the "career ladder" for each officer in the Russian Army at the time of the Seven Years' War. This table also shows the great difference between ranks in the Guard units and the ranks in the regular army and navy.



Roman Shlygin for the initial version of this article.