Military Ranks


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Military Ranks

 

ranks conferred in the armed forces on servicemen or reservists according to their service status in the armed forces, their military or specialist training, their combat arm or branch, and personal merit. Military ranks determine seniority and relations between servicemen. Military ranks appeared in the 15th and 16th centuries, when standing armies originated.

Military ranks were introduced in Russia when a strel’tsy (semiprofessional musketeers) army was formed in the middle of the 16th century. The ranks of the strel’tsy army were strelets (musketeer), desiatnik (commander of ten), piatidesiatnik (commander of 50), sotnik (commander of 100), polugolova (head of 500 soldiers, or lieutenant colonel), golova (head)of a prikaz (office; commander of a regiment, or colonel), voevoda (commander of a strel’tsy detachment), and streletskii golova (commander of all strel’tsy units of a city or district). These ranks were reserved only to those in active service in the strel’tsy army. In other troops, until the establishment of regiments formed on the Western European model, military ranks were the same as civilian ranks. The command personnel of the latter regiments and foreigners in military service with the Russian Army had military ranks of the Western European type (ensign; lieutenant; captain, or rotmistr in the cavalry; major; lieutenant colonel; colonel; brigadier general; major general; lieutenant general; and general).

In the late 17th and early 18th century Peter I introduced a unified system of military ranks on the Western European model in the regular army he had created. These ranks were definitively formulated in the Table of Ranks of Jan. 24, 1722, and most of them existed until 1917. All military ranks were divided into groups (levels) and classes (see Table 1).

Table 1. Military ranks according to the Table of Ranks
ClassesGroundforcesNavy
1From 1884, class Vlll
2From 1884 and In the navy from 1909, class IX
3From 1884 and In the navy from 1909, class X
Fourth group-general and admiral staff
IGeneral field marshal (1699)Admiral general (1708)
IIGeneral in chief (1716-96);
replaced in 1796 by the ranks of
general of the infantry, cavalry.
artillery, and engineers
Admiral
IIILieutenant general (from the 1730’s
to the late 18th century the term
poruchik was used instead of
"lieutenant")
Vice admiral
IVMajor generalRear admiral
vBrigadier (1 722-99)Commodore admiral
(1 722-99)
Third group-field-grade officers
VIColonelCaptain
VIILieutenant colonel; host starshina
in the cossack host
Commander
VIIIMajor (1698-1884), from 1884,
captain, rotmistr (in the cavalry),
and esaul (in the cossack host)
Lieutenant commander
(1698.1884); also in
1909-1 1; from 1911.
senior lieutenant
Second group-company
IX1Captain, rotmistr, esaul (before
1884); from May 1884, staff
captain, staff rotmistr
pod"esaul
Lieutenant (from
1885); in 1909-1 1,
also senior
lieutenant
X2Staff captains (called
lieutenant captain in 1705-98),
98), staff rotmistr, pod"esaul
(before 1884); from May 1884,
lieutenant and sotnik
Lieutenant (before
1885); from 1885,
ensign
XILieutenant, sotnik (before 1884)Ensign (before 1885)
XIPSublieutenant; from 1884 also cornet
and khorunzhii (cornet in
cossack host
 
XIIIEnsign (before 1884; later only in
wartime; in peacetime, officer of the
reserve); before 1884 also cornet
and khorunzhii
 
First group-enlisted men
 Subensign and podkhorunzhii (in the
cossack host)-only in wartime
 
 Sergeant major and vakhmistr (in
the cavalry and cossack host)
Sergeant major,
conductor (for
specialists)
 Senior and junior noncommissioned
officers, feierverker and vitse
feierverker
(in the artillery), and
uriadnik (in the cossack host)
Senior and junior
noncommissioned
officers
 Private first class, bombardier-
gunner (in the artillery), and
prikaznyi (in the cossack host)
Seaman first class
 Private, cannoneer (in the artillerv). and cossackSeaman second class

By a decree of the Soviet government on Dec. 16, 1917, the old ranks and titles were abolished. In the first years of the Soviet state’s existence commanders of the army and navy were designated by the positions they held, such as platoon, company, battalion, regiment, or division commander. The first military ranks were established in the armed forces of the USSR by a resolution on Sept. 22, 1935, of the Central Executive Committee (CEC) and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR (see Table 2). The same resolution also introduced the rank of marshal of the Soviet Union.

Table 2. Military ranks according to the resolution of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR of Sept. 22, 1935
Enlisted men and command staff
Ground and air forces
of the Workers’
and Peasants’ Red Army
NavyMilitary and
political personnel
of the army and navy
1Added Aug. 5, 1937 2 Added Sept. 1, 1939
Red Army soldierRed Navy seaman 
Squad leaderSquad leader 
Junior platoon leader  
Master sergeantPetty officer 
Junior lieutenant’  
LieutenantLieutenantJunior political leader’
Senior lieutenantSenior lieutenantPolitical leader
CaptainCaptain lieutenantSenior political leader
MajorCaptain third classBattalion commissar
Lieutenant colone2 Senior battalion commissar2
ColonelCaptain second classRegimental commissar
Brigade commanderCaptain first classBrigade commissar
Division commanderFlag officer second classDivision commissar
Corps commanderFlag officer first classCorps commissar
Army commander second classFlag officer of the fleet second classArmy commissar second class
Army commander first classFlag officer of the fleet first classArmy commissar first class

On Sept. 22, 1935, a resolution by the CEC and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR established the following military ranks for technical military personnel of the ground forces and the air force: military technician second and first class; military engineer third, second, and first class; and brigade, division, corps, and army engineer; in the navy, the same ranks of military technicians and engineers were established as in the ground forces; for higher engineer personnel ranks of engineer flag officer third, second, and first class and engineer flag officer of the fleet were introduced. The ranks of the administrative and service personnel are technician-quartermaster second and first class; quartermaster third, second, and first class; and brigade, division, corps, and army quartermaster. The ranks of the medical and veterinary personnel are military medical (veterinary) assistant; senior military medical (veterinary) assistant; military physician (veterinarian) third, second, and first class; and brigade, division, corps, and army physician (veterinarian). The ranks of the personnel of the judge advocate general’s department are junior military lawyer; military lawyer; military lawyer third, second, and first class; and brigade, division, corps, and army lawyer. On Aug. 5, 1937, the ranks of junior military technician and junior technician-quartermaster were introduced into the ground forces and the navy. The decrees of May 7, 1940, of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR established general and admiraj ranks for the senior commanders of the Red Army and Navy (major general, lieutenant general, colonel general, and general of the army; rear admiral, vice admiral, admiral, and admiral of the fleet). On Nov. 2, 1940, the military ranks of private first class, junior sergeant, sergeant, and senior sergeant were introduced.

In 1942–43 military ranks were unified, and standardized personal military ranks were established. On May 21, 1942, guards military ranks were established, and servicemen receiving the title were from that time called private of the guards, captain of the guards, and so on. The decrees of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of Jan. 16 and Oct. 9, 1943, instituted the military ranks of chief marshal and marshal of aviation, artillery, armored troops, engineer troops, and signal corps. On June 26, 1945, a degree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR instituted the highest military rank, generalissimo of the Soviet Union; a decree of Mar. 3, 1955, of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR instituted the highest military rank in the navy, admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, and abolished the rank of admiral of the fleet (which was restored on Apr. 28, 1962). On Jan. 1, 1972, the rank of warrant officer was introduced in the Soviet armed forces (pmporshchik in the army, coastal units and naval aviation, and the frontier and internal troops, and michman on ships and vessels, in coastal combat support units of the navy, and in naval units of the frontier troops).

The ranks of marshal and general of the combat arms of the army and the air force include the corresponding designation—for example, major general of the artillery, lieutenant general of the tank troops, and marshal of aviation. The ranks of officers, generals, and admirals with a technical education include designations, such as lieutenant of the technical service, lieutenant captain of the engineers, colonel of the engineers, and major general of the engineers. The ranks of sergeants and officers of the quartermaster, medical, veterinary, and administrative services and of justice bear the designations of these services (for example, sergeant of the technical service, lieutenant of the quartermaster service, captain of the administrative service, and colonel of justice).

The procedure for conferring the ranks of private, seaman, private first class (seaman first class), sergeant, master sergeant, and warrant officer (praporshchik or michman) is determined by the minister of defense of the USSR; for junior and senior officer ranks, by the Council of Ministers of the USSR; for general ranks (including general of the army and admiral), by the Council of Ministers of the USSR; and for the ranks of marshal of a combat arm, admiral of the fleet, chief marshal of a combat arm, admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union, marshal of the Soviet Union, and generalissimo of the Soviet Union, by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. (See Table 3.)

The military ranks in the armies of the socialist countries that are members of the Warsaw Treaty are essentially the same as the ranks in the armed forces of the USSR, but they have some special features.

In the Bulgarian People’s Army the military ranks are the same as in the Soviet armed forces. The highest military rank in the ground forces is marshal of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and in the navy, admiral of the navy.

The military ranks of the Hungarian People’s Army are: for enlisted men—private (sorkatona)’, for junior noncommissioned officers—private first class (örvezetö), junior sergeant (tizedes), and sergeant (szakaszvezetö) ; for senior noncommissioned officers (tiszthelyettesek) —senior sergeant (ormester), master sergeant (törzsörmester), and chief master sergeant (fötörzsörmester); for officers—junior lieutenant (alhadnagy), lieutenant (hadnagy), senior lieutenant (fohadnagy), and captain (százados)’, for senior officers—major (örnagy), lieutenant colonel (alezredes), and colonel (ezredes)’, for generals—major general (vezéörnagy), lieutenant general (altdbornagy), and colonel general (vezérezredes).

In the ground forces and the air force of the National People’s Army of the German Democratic Republic the military ranks are: for enlisted men—soldier and airman (Soldat, Flieger), private (Gefreiter) and private first class (Stabsgefreiter)-, for noncommissioned officers—corporal (Unteroffizier), junior sergeant (Unterfeldwebel), sergeant (Feldwebel), senior sergeant (Oberfeldwebel), and master sergeant (Stabsfeld\vebel)\ for junior officers—junior lieutenant (Unterleittmint), lieutenant (Lentmint), senior lieutenant (Oberlentnant), and captain (Hauptmann)’, for senior officers—major (Major), lieutenant colonel (Oberstleutnant), and colonel (Oberst)’, for generals—major general (General-major), lieutenant general (Generalleutnant), colonel general (Generaloberst), and general of the army (Armeegenertil)’, in the navy: for enlisted men—apprentice seaman (Matrose), seaman (Obennatrose), and seaman first class (Stabsmatrose);

Table 3. Military ranks of the USSR armed forces (1972)
Soviet ArmyNavy
SoldiersSailors and soldiers
PrivateSeaman, private
Private first classSeaman first class, private first class
SergeantsPetty officers and sergeants
Junior sergeantPetty officer second class, junior sergeant
SergeantPetty officer first class, sergeant
Senior sergeantChief petty officer, senior sergeant
Master sergeantChief ship petty officer, master sergeant
Warrant officers
Warrant officer (praporshchik)Warrant officer (michman)
Junior officers
Junior lieutenantJunior lieutenant
LieutenantLieutenant
Senior lieutenantSenior lieutenant
CaptainLieutenant commander, captain
Senior officers
MajorCaptain third rank, major
Lieutenant colonelCaptain second rank, lieutenant colonel
ColonelCaptain first rank, colonel
Generals, admirals, and marshals
Major general, major general of aviationRear admiral, major general
Lieutenant general, lieutenant general of aviationVice admiral, lieutenant general
Colonel general, colonel general of aviationAdmiral, colonel general
Marshal of a combat arm, marshal of aviation, general of the armyAdmiral of the fleet
Chief marshal of a combat arm, chief marshal of aviation 
Marshal of the Soviet UnionAdmiral of the Fleet of the
Generalissimo of the Soviet UniornSoviet Union
Generalissimo of the Soviet Union

for noncommissioned officers—petty officer second class (Maat), petty officer first class (Obermaat), chief petty officer (Meister), senior chief petty officer (Obermeister), and master chief petty officer (Stabsobermeister)’, for junior officers—-junior lieutenant (Unterleutnant zur See), lieutenant (Leutnant zur See), senior lieutenant (Oberleutnant zur See), and captain lieutenant (Kapitänleutnant); for senior officers—corvette captain (Korvettenkapitan) frigate captain (or commander;Fregattenkapitän), and captain of the sea (Kapitän zur See); for admirals—rear admiral (Konteradmiral), vice admiral (Vize admiral), and admiral (Admiral).

The military ranks in the ground forces and the air force of the Polish Army are: for privates—private (szeregowiec) and senior private {starszy sceregowiec)’, for junior noncommissioned officers—corporal (kapral), senior corporal (starszy kapral), and platoon sergeant (plutomnvy)’, for senior non-commissioned officers—sergeant (sierżant), senior sergeant (starszy sierzant), staff sergeant (sierżant sztabowy), and senior staff sergeant (starszy sierżant sztabowy)’, for cornets—junior cornet (mtodszy chorqży), cornet (chorqży), senior cornet (starszy chorqży), staff cornet (chorqży sztabowy), and senior staff cornet (starszy chorqży sztabowy) for junior officers—second lieutenant (podporucznik), first lieutenant (porucznik), and captain (kapitan)’, for senior officers—major (major), lieutenant colonel (podpuikownik), and colonel (pułkownik) ; for generals— general of brigade (generał brygady) , general of division (generał dywizji), general of arms (generał broni) , and marshal of Poland (Marszałek Polski); in the navy: for enlisted men—seaman (marynarz) and seaman first class (starszy marynarz)’, for junior noncommissioned officers—petty officer third class (mat), petty officer second class (starszy mat), and petty officer first class (bosmanmat)’, for senior noncommissioned officers—chief petty officer (bosman), senior chief petty officer (starszy bos man), staff chief petty officer (bosman sztabowy), and senior staff chief petty officer (starszy bosman sztabowy); for cornets—junior cornet of the navy (młodszy chorqzy marynarki), cornet of the navy (chorqzy marynarki), senior cornet of the navy (starszy chorqzy marynarki), staff cornet of the navy (chorqzy sztabowy marynarki), and senior staff cornet of the navy (starszy sztabowy chorqzy marynarki); for junior officers— junior lieutenant of the navy (podporucznik marynarki), lieutenant of the navy (porucznik marynarki), and captain of the navy (kapitan marynarki) ; for senior officers—commander junior lieutenant (komandor podporucznik) , commander lieutenant (komandor porucznik), and commander (komandor) for admirals—rear admiral (kontradmirał), vice admiral (wiceadmirał), and admiral (admirał).

The military ranks in the ground forces and in the air force of the Rumanian People’s Army are: for enlisted men— soldier (soldat), private first class (fruntas), corporal (caporal), and sergeant (sergent)’, in addition, the air force has the ranks of master fourth, third, second, and first class (maistru de clasa a 4, a 3, a 2, a 1) and chief master (maistru principal) ; for noncommissioned officers—senior sergeant (sergent major), master sergeant (plutonier), and chief master sergeant (plutonier major)’, for junior officers—junior lieutenant (sublocotenent), lieutenant (locotenent), senior lieutenant (locotenent major), and captain (cǎpitan); for senior officers—major (major), lieutenant colonel (locotenent colonel), and colonel (colonel); for generals—major general (general-major), lieutenant general (general-locotenent), colonel general (general-colonel), and general of the army (general de armata)’, there is also the rank of marshal of the Socialist Republic of Rumania; in the navy: for enlisted men—soldier of the navy (soldat de marinǎ), private first class of the navy (fruntas de marina), corporal of the navy (caporal de marinǎ), sergeant of the navy (sergent de marinǎ), master fourth, third, second, and first class (maistru de clasa a 4, a 3, a 2, a I), and chief master (maistru principal)’, for noncommissioned officers—senior sergeant of the navy (sergent major de marinǎ), master sergeant of the navy (plutonier de marinǎ), chief master sergeant of the navy (plutonier major de marinǎ), and warrant officer of the navy (adjutant de marinǎ)’, for junior officers—junior lieutenant of the navy (sublocotenent de marinǎ), lieutenant of the navy (locotenent de marinǎ), senior lieutenant of the navy (locotenent major de marinǎ), and captain lieutenant (capitan-locotenent)’, for senior officers—captain third, second, and first rank (cdpitan de rangul 3, 2, 1)’, for admirals—rear admiral (contraamiral), vice admiral (viceamiral), and admiral (amiral).

The military ranks in the Czechoslovak People’s Army are: for enlisted men—private (vojin)’, for sergeants—private first class (svobodnik), corporal (desatnik), sergeant (četař), and master sergeant (rotný) ; for warrant officers—warrant officer second class (rotmistr), warrant officer first class (nadrotmistr), chief warrant officer third class (podpraporčik), chief warrant officer second class (praporčik), and chief warrant officer first class (nadpraporcik)’, for junior officers—junior lieutenant (podporucik), lieutenant (porucik), senior lieutenant (nadporučik), and captain (kapitan)’, for senior officers—major (major), lieutenant colonel (podplukovnik), and colonel (plukovnik)’, for generals—major general (general major), lieutenant generál (generál poručik), colonel generál (general plukovnik), and general of the army (armadni generál).

The military ranks in the armed forces of the USA are: for enlisted men in the ground forces—recruit, private, and private first class; in the air force—private and private third, second, and first class; in the navy—seaman recruit, apprentice seaman, and seaman; in the marines—private, private first class, and lance corporal; for sergeants in the ground forces—corporal, sergeant, staff sergeant, sergeant first class, master sergeant, first sergeant, chief staff sergeant, and chief master sergeant; in the air force—staff sergeant, technical sergeant, master sergeant, senior master sergeant, and chief master sergeant; in the navy—petty officer third and second class, chief petty officer, senior chief petty officer, and master chief petty officer; in the marines—corporal, sergeant, staff sergeant, sergeant commander, first sergeant, master sergeant, master sergeant commander, chief sergeant; for warrant officers—warrant officer first class and chief warrant officer second, third, and fourth class; for officers and generals in the ground forces, the air force, and the marines—second lieutenant, first lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, brigadier general, major general, lieutenant general, and general; the highest military ranks are general of the army in the army and general of the air force in the air force; for officers and admirals in the navy—ensign, lieutenant junior grade, lieutenant, lieutenant commander, commander, captain, rear admiral, vice admiral, admiral, and fleet admiral.

The military ranks in the armed forces of Great Britain are: for soldiers in the ground forces—private class IV, III, II, and I; in the air force—aircraftsman (aircraftman), leading aircraftsman, and senior aircraftsman; in the navy (and in the marines)—ordinary (marine second class) and able (marine first class); for sergeants in the ground forces—lance corporal class III, II, and I, corporal class II and I, sergeant, staff sergeant, and warrant officer class II and I; in the air force— junior technician, corporal, sergeant, chief technician, flight sergeant, and warrant officer; in the navy (and in the marines)leading (corporal), petty officer (sergeant), and chief petty officer (color sergeant); for officers in the ground forces—second lieutenant, lieutenant, captain, major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel; in the air force—pilot officer, flying officer, flight lieutenant, squadron leader, wing commander, and group captain; in the navy—second lieutenant, lieutenant, lieutenant commander, commander, and captain; for generals in the ground forces—brigadier, major general, lieutenant general, general, and field marshal; in the air force—air commodore, air vice-marshal, air marshal, air chief marshal, marshal of the Royal Air Force; in the navy— commodore, rear admiral, vice admiral, admiral, and admiral of the fleet. The military ranks of officers and generals in the marines are the same as in the ground forces.

The military ranks in the armed forces of France are: for enlisted men in the ground forces and in the air force— private second and first class (soldat de 2e, de le classe), corporal (caporal), and chief corporal (caporal-chef)’, in the navy—seaman recruit (matelot), apprentice seaman (matelot bréveté), and seaman second and first class (matelot bréveté de 2e, le classe) ; for noncommissioned officers in the ground forces and the air force—sergeant (sergent), staff sergeant (sergent-chef), administrative staff sergeant (sergent-major), first sergeant (adjudant), sergeant major (adjudant-chef), and warrant officer (aspirant)’, in the navy—petty officer second and first class (second maître 2e, le classe), chief petty officer (maître), senior chief petty officer (premier malt re), master chief petty officer (maître principal), and warrant officer (aspirant) ; for officers in the ground forces and the air force—second lieutenant (sous-lieutenant), first lieutenant (lieutenant), captain (capitaine), major (commandant), lieutenant colonel (lieutenant-colonel), and colonel (colonel)’, in the navy—ensign and lieutenant junior grade (enseigne de vaisseau 2e, le classe), lieutenant (lieutenant), lieutenant commander (capitalne de corvette), commander (capitaine defregate), and captain (capitaine de vaisseau)’, for generals in the ground forces and the air force—brigadier general (général de brigade), major général (général de division), lieutenant general (general de corps d’armée), general (general d’armée), and général of the army (maréchal de France) ; for admirals—rear admiral (contre-amiral), vice admiral lower half(vice-amiral), vice admiral upper l\alf(vice-amiral d’escadre), and admiral (amiral).

The military ranks in the armed forces of the Federal Re-public of Germany are: for enlisted men in the ground forces and the air force—private and airman (Grenadier, Jäger, Panzerschütze’, in the air force, Flieger), private first class (Gefreiter), corporal (Obergefreiter), and chief corporal (Hauptgefreiter); in the navy—apprentice seaman (Matrose)and seaman (Gefreiter) ; for noncommissioned officers in the ground forces and the air force—sergeant (Unteroffizier), staff sergeant (Stabsunteroffizier), sergeant first class (Feldwebel), master sergeant (Oberfeldwebel), first sergeant (Hauptfeldwebel), chief staff sergeant (Stabsfeldwebel), and chief master sergeant (Oberstabsfeldwebel); in the navy—petty officer third class (Maat), petty officer second class (Obermaat), petty officer first class (Bootsmann), chief petty officer (Oberbootsmann), warrant officer (Stabsbootsmann), and chief warrant officer (Oberstabsbootsmann) ; for officers in the ground forces and the air force—second lieutenant (Leutnant), first lieutenant (Oberleutnant), captain (Hauptmann), major (Major), lieutenant colonel (Oberstleutnant), and colonel (Oberst); in the navy—ensign (Leutnant zur See), lieutenant junior grade (Oberleutnant zur See), lieutenant (Kapitänleutnant), lieutenant commander (Korvettenkapitdn), commander (Fregattenkapitän), and captain (Kapitän zur See); for generals in the ground forces and the air force—brigadier general (Brigadegeneral), major general (Generalmajor), lieutenant general (Generalleutnant), and general (General)’, for admirals—commodore (Flotillenadmiral), rear admiral (Konteradmiral), vice admiral (Vizeadmiral), and admiral (Admiral).

REFERENCES

Svod zakonov Rossiiskoi imperil, dopolnennyi po Prodolzheniiam 1906, 1908, 1909, 1910 gg. i pozdneishim uzakoneniiam 1911 i 1912 gg., 2nd ed., book I, vol. 3, book 1. St. Petersburg, 1913. Article 244 and appendix, p. 608, 1739.
Svod voennykh postanovlenii 1869 [4th ed.], book 7. St. Petersburg, 1892.
Svod morskikh postanovlenii; book 8, 1886 edition. St. Petersburg, 1887.
Glinoetskii, N. P. “Istoricheskii ocherk razvitiia ofitserskikh chinov i sistemy chinoproizvodstva v russkoi armii,” Voennyi sbornik, 1887, no. 4.
Sbornik zakonov SSSR i ukazov Prezidiuma Verkhovnogo Soveta SSSR 1938–1961. Moscow, 1961.
Zakon SSSR o vseobshchei voinskoi obiazannosti. Moscow, 1967.
Ustav vnutrennei sluzhby Vooruzhennykh Sil Soiuza SSR. Moscow, 1969.

A. D. KULESHOV

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