Table of Ranks
The Table of Ranks (Russian: Табель о рангах; tabel' o rangakh) was a formal list of positions and ranks in the military, government, and court of Imperial Russia. Peter the Great introduced the system in 1722 while engaged in a struggle with the existing hereditary nobility, or boyars. The Table of Ranks was formally abolished on 11 November 1917 by the newly established Bolshevik government.
The Table of Ranks re-organised the foundations of feudal Russian nobility (mestnichestvo) by recognising 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, with all nobles regardless of birth or wealth (at least in theory) beginning at the bottom of the table and rising through their service (sluzhba) to the tsar. While all grades were open by merit, promotion required qualification for the next rank, and grades 1 through 5 required the personal approval of the tsar himself. Despite initial resistance from noblemen, many of whom were still illiterate in the 18th century and who shunned the paper-pushing life of the civil servant, the eventual effect of the Table of Ranks was to create an educated class of noble bureaucrats.
Peter's intentions for a class of nobles bound to the tsar by their personal service to him were watered down by subsequent tsars. In 1762 Peter III abolished the compulsory 25-year military or civilian service for nobles. In 1767 Catherine the Great bought the support of the bureaucracy by making promotion up the 14 ranks automatic after seven years regardless of position or merit. Thus the bureaucracy became populated with time servers.
Achieving a certain level in the table automatically granted a certain level of nobility. A civil servant promoted to the fourteenth grade gained personal nobility (dvoryanstvo), and holding an office in the eighth grade endowed the office holder with hereditary nobility. Nicholas I raised this threshold to the fifth grade in 1845. In 1856 the grades required for hereditary nobility were raised to the fourth grade for the civil service and to the sixth grade for military service. The father of Vladimir Lenin progressed in the management of education, reaching the 4th rank and becoming an "active state councillor" (действительный статский советник), which gave him the privilege of hereditary nobility.
With occasional revisions, the Table of Ranks remained in effect until the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Table of Ranks
The original table, as set down by Peter I is shown below:
|Grade||Civil ranks||Military ranks||Court ranks|
|General field marshal
|II||Active privy councillor[Note 1]
(Действительный тайный советник)
|Grand master of the stables|
|IV||Active state councillor
(Действительный статский советник)
|Grand marshal of the court
|Marshal of the court
Grand cup bearer
Captain 1st rank (Navy)
|Master of the stables|
(Надворный советник) (from 1745)
Captain 2nd rank (Navy)
Captain 3rd rank (Navy)
|None||Chamber groom (lit. "Chamber junker")|
Peter I further added that "princes related to us or married to our princesses always take precedence" and that when military officers of the army and navy where of the same rank, "the naval officer is superior at sea to the land officer; and on land the land officer is superior to the naval officer". He laid down that fines of two months salary should be laid against those falsely claiming a higher rank, or gaining a rank without being qualified. He stated that service with a foreign monarch would not automatically accrue rank until approved by the tsar, "an action which we shall do gladly in accordance with his service". Women were to "advance in rank with their husbands" and Peter finished by saying that "we do not grant any rank to anyone until he performs a useful service to us or to the state.
- Waliszewski, Kazimierz. "The Social Reform — The Table of Ranks". Peter the Great: his life and work. Forgotten books. pp. 454–456.
- The Russian word "действительный" means "actual, valid, real, effective, true" and in this context is sometimes translated as "actual" or "acting" (which has the disadvantage of confusion with the English language concept of acting rank).
- Catherine A. Schuler (1 May 2009). Theatre and Identity in Imperial Russia. University of Iowa Press. pp. 16–18. ISBN 978-1-58729-847-9.
- Marc Raeff (18 May 1966). Origins of the Russian intelligentsia: the eighteenth-century nobility. Harcourt, Brace & World. pp. 91–92.
- Richard Pipes (1990). Russia Under the Old Regime. Penguin. p. 135.
- Geoffrey A. Hosking (1997). Russia: People and Empire, 1552-1917. Harvard University Press. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-674-78119-1.
- Louis Fischer (2001). The Life of Lenin. Phoenix. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-84212-230-3.
- Frank W. Thackeray; John E. Findling (31 May 2012). Events That Formed the Modern World: From the European Renaissance through the War on Terror. ABC-CLIO. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-59884-902-8.
- Mark Conrad’s Russsian Military History - Table of Ranks