Notable military fellows

Notable military fellows (Znachne Viiskove tovarystvo). The collective name of those Cossacks constituting the ruling estate in the 17th- and 18th-century Hetman state. It was applied particularly to those members of the elite who had no permanent positions of authority and were therefore not members of the Cossack starshyna, but were former registered Cossacks, former Ukrainian noblemen who had fought on the Cossack side in the Cossack-Polish War, or Cossacks who had distinguished themselves in the field. In the late 17th century two categories of fellows were established: the fellow of the standard, who was designated by the hetman's decree, and the lower-ranking fellow of the banner, who was appointed by the regimental colonels. In the early 18th century an intermediate category of military fellows designated by the General Military Chancellery was established.

A 1734 tsarist decree placed a limit on the number of notable military fellows in each regiment, thereby artificially arresting the growth of the Ukrainian elite. The restriction was circumvented by the creation of a new category of persons not under general Cossack jurisdiction, the ‘appointees to the fellows of the banner’ (asygnovani u znachkovi tovaryshi).

The notable military fellows' legal status was based on their obligation to perform special administrative or military duties and personal military service (or to provide several armed proxies therefor). Their privileges included the ownership of settled estates and the right to part of the labor of their inhabitants. From 1672, representatives of the fellows participated in the Councils of Officers and thus in legislative deliberations. They were exempt from prosecution by general courts. Fellows of the standard could be tried only by the Hetman's Court or, in the 18th century, the General Military Court. Fellows of the banner could be tried only by regimental courts. After the reintroduction of land courts and the pidkomorskyi court in 1763, they shared the nobles' and starshyna's privilege of being tried by them.

During the 18th century the notable military fellows became a kind of closed hereditary caste. In 1768 the Russian governor-general of the Hetmanate, Petr Rumiantsev, decreed that only children of notable military fellows or of Cossack starshyna could become fellows of the banner. In 1785 the notable military fellows were abolished altogether, and a group of them were inducted into the Russian imperial nobility.

Okinshevych, L. Znachne Viis’kove tovarystvo v Ukraïni-Het’manshchyni XVII–XVIII st. (Munich 1948)
Apanovych, O. Zbroini syly Ukraïny pershoï polovyny XVIII st. (Kyiv 1969)

Lev Okinshevych

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

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