Lancer regiments

Lancer regiments (pikinerski polky). Formations of military colonists created in 1764 by the Russian government to settle the newly created New Russia gubernia and defend it from the Turks and Crimean Tatars. The lancers (pikinery), who were named after the pikes they used as one of their weapons, were recruited mostly from among the Cossacks of Poltava regiment and Myrhorod regiment (Donets and Dnieper regiments), but also from among Ukrainian and Russian peasants; Serbian, Montenegrin, and Hungarian colonists (Yelysavethrad and Luhansk regiments); and in 1776 from former Zaporozhian Cossacks (Poltava and Kherson regiments). Lancers lost their Cossack privileges and were forced to remain in military service, pay taxes, and fulfill feudal obligations to the state. In 1767 the lancers in Kremenchuk and Vlasivka, in the Dnieper Regiment, sent a representative, P. Denysenko, to Moscow to protest their oppression, but the petition was in vain. Their condition worsened considerably after the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–74. Influenced by the Koliivshchyna rebellion in Right-Bank Ukraine, the Donets and Dnieper regiments mutinied in 1769. Several hundred lancers joined forces with Zaporozhian Cossack rebels to fight the tsar's punitive detachments. The revolt was suppressed brutally in 1770. Ya. Holovaty and other leaders, as well as many mutineers, were whipped and sentenced for life to hard labor in Siberia; many of them died in transit. The other members of the Donets Regiment were sent to fight the Crimean Tatars. They distinguished themselves in battle at Perekop (1770) and Kaffa and in the 1774 rout of the Tatar-Turkish forces in the Crimea. When Russia annexed the Crimean Khanate in 1783, the lancer regiments lost their defensive importance and were transformed into three light-cavalry regiments.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 3 (1993).]




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