Levy en masse

Levy en masse (opolchennia). An armed force of a temporary nature recruited on a voluntary basis from the general population in a national emergency, such as a war. In the Princely era (9th–14th centuries), a levy en masse of burghers and peasants was raised by the prince when the realm was threatened with invasion. The volunteers were organized by territory, each land forming its own tysiacha (thousand) commanded by a tysiatskyi. They were armed with different weapons and formed a light infantry that played a minor role in battle. In the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (until the mid-16th century) the levy en masse was similarly organized, but in the Polish Commonwealth it affected mostly the gentry. In the Russian Empire and Austria-Hungary, after the introduction of compulsory military service, levy en masse was an exceptional measure. It was used to reinforce the active army and provide a rear guard. During the Napoleonic Wars a levy en masse was raised throughout the Russian Empire, in the second half of 1812. The Ukrainian gubernias provided 19 Cossack cavalry regiments and 4 Cossack infantry regiments (totalling 23,000 men), 3 Cossack cavalry regiments of the Boh Cossack Army (1,700 men), and over 12 cavalry and 16 infantry regiments of the other estates (47,000 men). Another levy en masse was called during the Crimean War. In Austrian-ruled Galicia during the Revolution of 1848–9 in the Habsburg monarchy the People's Guard and the People's Militia were formed. In both world wars levies en masse were raised, in the First World War by both Russia and Austria-Hungary, and in the Second World War by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. There was no levy en masse in Ukrainian armies.

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




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