Table of Ranks

Table of Ranks (Russian: tabel o rangakh). A system for establishing equivalences in rank among the branches of service in the Imperial Russian military, civil, and court bureaucracies and for defining the hierarchy of offices and the ladder of promotion. The system was established by Tsar Peter I in January 1722, and existed (with several major modifications) until November 1917. The intent of the table was to facilitate the development of a professional and competent service elite for the state.

Initially there were 14 ranks defined in the table in ascending order. The table did not include the lowest functionaries in the bureaucracy or noncommissioned soldiers and seamen. The lowest or 14th rank was adjutant in the army, ship commissary in the navy, and collegial registrar in the civil service; the highest or 1st rank was field marshal, admiral general, and chancellor. At first everyone whose rank was in the table was considered to have noble status, and everyone in the 10th rank in the military or the 8th rank in the civil service achieved hereditary noble status. Because too many people were considered to be gaining noble status, by the mid-19th century only civil servants above the 5th rank and military officers above the 7th rank were being granted hereditary nobility, and only those above the 10th rank achieved personal nobility.

In the 17th and 18th centuries the Hetman state developed its own system of estates. In order to preserve its rights and autonomy in response to greater Russian influence and interference in its internal affairs, the Cossack starshyna sent formal requests in 1733, 1742, 1756, 1763, and 1767 that Moscow recognize the legitimacy of the various Cossack titles and offices. Moreover, in 1756 Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky presented Moscow with a Ukrainian table of ranks that consisted of 12 classes, without the hetman and acting hetman.

Beginning in the 1760s, in order to undermine the independence of the Hetman state and to attract the support of individual Cossack officers, Catherine II often granted Ukrainians ranks from the Russian table. When the Cossack regiments were reformed as regular Russian army units in 1783, the officers were given ranks from the Russian army table. The process was not governed by strict rules, and the granting of a rank to a person depended not so much on his previous position as on his particular accomplishments, abilities, and support for the Russian administration. From 1784 all Ukrainian titles were officially prohibited. With the proclamation of the new Charter of the Nobility in 1785, many of the restrictions keeping the Cossack starshyna from entering the system of the Russian nobility were removed. With the introduction of the Russian judicial system in 1796, Ukrainian administrative positions were redefined according to an equivalent in the Table of Ranks (eg, general judge was equivalent to the 4th rank, county chancellor to the 10th rank, and voznyi to the 14th rank).

Miller, D. ‘Ocherki iz istorii i iuridicheskogo byta staroi Malorossii: Prevrashchenie kozatskoi starshiny v dvorianstvo,’ KS, 1892, nos 1–4
Kohut, Z. E. Russian Centralism and Ukrainian Autonomy: Imperial Absorption of the Hetmanate, 1760s–1830s (Cambridge, Mass 1988)

Ostap Sereda

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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