Kapitan (rank)

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This article describes Kapitan as military rank, not to confuse with the title Kapitan. For the equivalent OF-2 rank in Anglophone armed forces see Captain, and in Germany see Hauptmann.
Kapitain mil. engineering Netherlands ca. 1900.

Kapitan (derived from French: capitaine; before Latin: capitaneus – (military) leader, count, or chairman of a parish council; or from Latin: caput – head, main, chief, primary, principal, general, central, leading, etc.) is used manifold as rank, grade, or rank designation in the Army, Air Force or Navy of numerous countries and armed forces. In member countries of NATO-alliance Kapitan is a commissioned officer rank, rated OF-2 in line to the NATO officers rank system. The almost equivalent OF-2 officer, e.g. in the US Army, is the Captain rank.

Historical roots[edit]

Kapitan (appointment, later rank) was used first in the middle age in France in order to designate leaders of the military districts or regions. In the second half of the 16th century it came in use to specify commanding officers of company sized units. In 19th century it became gradually a military rank, and was used in combination with other noun, e.g. Stabs-kapitan (ru: штабс-капитан Russian Imperial Army) Kapitan-leytenant (naval forces). The rank designation Kapitan contains a common syllable and historical roots in a number of European countries at the one hand. Slight national variations of spelling are for the sake of the historical and heraldic tradition, at the other hand.

Different countries[edit]


Flag of Russia.svg
in the Russian Army
RAF A FCap after2010.png 12kpt.png
Rank insigniaArmed Forces of the Russian Federation
Introduction1935 to the Red Army
Rank groupCommanding staff
Army / Air ForceKapitan

In Russia, the military rank Kapitan was introduced in the XVI century to foreign officers, appointed to commander of company sized units. In the XVII – XVII century[clarification needed] this rank became open to all company commanders, serving in the regular army. In the cavalierly (in dragoon regiments and Special Corps of Gendarmes) the equivalent to Kapitan was Rotmister (derived from the German Rittmeister), and in the Cossacks corps it was Yesaul.

In the Russian Army (1855 –1917) and in the so-called White Army braid shoulder boards with one central stripe have been worn (see picture 1, below). As the Major-rank was abolished in May 1884, the Kapitan-rank was upgraded to level VIII in the rank table. However, the Guards kapitan became equivalent to generic Podpolkovnik in the Army.

In the civil administration Kapitan of the infantry was equivalent to the Council assessor (ru: Коллежский асессор; Kolleshsky assessor) from 1884, and Titular adviser (ru: Титулярный советник, Tituljarny sovetnik) until 1884.

Sequence of ranks RIA 1917
lower rank:

(en: Staff captain)

Lesser Coat of Arms of Russian Empire.svgГерб Российского государства.png
(en: Captain)
higher rank:
(en: Major)

Some examples of rank insignia (epaulette, shoulder board), used by RIA IRA, are shown below:

Soviet Union and Russian Federation[edit]

In the armed forces of the Soviet Union (later Russian Federation) the Kapitan´s rank (to Army, Air Force, and Navy land services) was introduced by was introduced by disposal of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union and the Council of People's Commissars, from September 22, 1935.[1] It was equivalent to the rank Kapitan-leytenant (ru: Капитан-лейтенант) of the Navy.

If military personnel serves in a guards formation, or on a guards war ship, to the rank designation will be placed in front the noun guards (e.g. "Gurds kapitan"). Civil – or military personnel with a specific defined level of expertise or knowledge in medical or judicial professions, to the military rank will be added the noun "legal or the wording "medical service". Further adding to the military rank designation might be "retired" or "on retirement".

Personnel serving in the executive of the Russian Federation might be specified by rank designation as follows.

  • Kapitan of the Police (until March 1, 2011 Kapitan of the Militsiya)
  • Kapitan of the Internal Troops
  • Kapitan investigation of tax offence
;Sequence of ranks ascending
lower rank:
Starshy leytenant

(en: 1st lieutenant)

Coat of Arms of the Russian Federation.svg
(en: Captain)
higher rank:

(en: Major)

Rank insignia[edit]

Some examples of rank insignia (shoulder, collar, and sleeve), used by Russia and the USSR, are shown below:

Variants in different countries[edit]

Country Language Rank designation
Army Air Force Navy
Azerbaijan Flag of Azerbaijan.svg Azerbaijani Kapitein Kapitan-leytenant
Austria Flag of Austria.svg German Hauptmann Linienschiffsleutnant (Austro-Hungarian Navy)
Belgium Flag of Belgium.svg Dutch Kapitan Luitenant-ter-zee
Belarus Flag of Belarus.svg Belarusian Капітан (Kapitan)
Bulgaria Flag of Bulgaria.svg Bulgarian Капитан (Kapitan)
Croatia Flag of Croatia.svg Croatian Satnik Poručnik bojnog broda
Czech Republic Flag of the Czech Republic.svg Czech Kapitán
Denmark Flag of Denmark.svg Danish Kaptajn, Ritmester Kaptajnløjtnant
Germany Flag of Germany.svg German Kapitänleutnant, Stabskapitänleutnant
Finland Flag of Finland.svg Finnish Kapteeni Kapteeniluutnantti, Kaptenlöjtnant
Lithuania Flag of Lithuania.svg Lithuanian Kapitonas
Macedonia Flag of North Macedonia.svg Macedonian Капeтан (Kapetan)
Netherlands Flag of the Netherlands.svg Dutch Kapitein/ Ritmeester Luitenant ter zee der tweede klasse oudste
Norway Flag of Norway.svg Norwegian Kaptein, Rittmester Kapteinløytnant
Poland Flag of Poland.svg Polish Kapitan Kapitan marynarki
Serbia Flag of Serbia.svg Serbian Капeтан (Kapetan) Поручник бојног брода
Slovakia Flag of Slovakia.svg Slovak Kapitan Poročnik bojne ladje
Sweden Flag of Sweden.svg Swedish Kapten, Ryttmästare Kapten
Switzerland Flag of Switzerland.svg German Hauptmann
Russia Flag of Russia.svg Russian Капитан (Kapitan) Капитан-лейтенант (Kapitan-leytenant)
Ukraine Flag of Ukraine.svg Ukrainian Капітан (Kapitan) Капітан-лейтенант (Kapitan-leytenant)


  1. ^ Decree of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union and the Council of People's Commissars, from September 22, 1935, on introduction of individual military rank designation to commanding personnel of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army.