Table of Ranks

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Table of Ranks


a law on state service in the Russian Empire dealing with the relationship of rank (chin) to length of state service and with the sequence of advancement in rank.

The Table of Ranks was confirmed on Jan. 24, 1722, by Emperor Peter I the Great, who had earlier helped draw it up. The law originally consisted of the Table of Ranks itself and 18 “points,” or articles, which provided explications of the table and set fines for violation of the table. The points gradually became an anachronism, to the extent that in the 19th century they were left out of the Code of Laws of the Russian Empire.

Peter I’s reforms sharply increased the number of positions (dolzhnosti) and ranks in the army and state bureaucracy and thereby created the need for a system of ranks. Military ranks modeled on those of Western Europe had been introduced in Russia in the second half of the 17th century in the regiments of the new order (polki novogo stroia), and the hierarchy of military ranks had been set forth in the Military Rules of 1716 (seeMILITARY RANKS). Until 1722, however, the traditional Russian ranks—including the high court ranks of boyar, okol’nichii, dumny dvorianin (“duma noble”), and dumnyi d’iak (“duma clerk”)—persisted at the court of the tsar and in the civil institutions of the state. The Table of Ranks retained the existing military ranks and introduced many new ranks at court and in the civil bureaucracy. It divided all ranks into 14 classes (klassy), or class ranks (klassnye chiny), the highest of which was the first class.

The Table of Ranks distinguished three kinds of ranks: military ranks, state (civil) ranks, and court ranks. The military ranks consisted of four separate series (razriady)—army, guards, artillery, and navy—and were declared to be higher than the corresponding ranks in the civil bureaucracy and at court. Ranks in the guards were a class higher than the other military ranks. Advancement in rank was based strictly on advancement in class and on length of service. The Table of Ranks did not extend to noncommissioned officers or to minor civil servants, such as copyists, scribes, clerks, and couriers. Nonnobles received personal nobility after advancement to the 14th class and hereditary nobility after advancement to the eighth class (for those in the military, to the 14th class).

Originally, the Table of Ranks included not only the ranks themselves but also a large number of various positions, so that, in all, the total number of ranks and positions came to 262. In the civil ranks, for example, the procurator-general was in the third class, the presidents of the collegia were in the fourth class, the vice-presidents of the collegia in the fifth class, and the presidents of the nadvornye sudy in the sixth class. Those who were “professors at the Academies” and “doctors of all faculties who are in service” were in the ninth class. In the late 18th century, such positions were either removed from the Table of Ranks or were made into ranks, especially court ranks.

The classes corresponding to the individual ranks underwent some change. In the early 19th century, the ranks of the 11th and 13th classes fell into disuse and were seemingly merged into the ranks of the 12th and 14th classes, respectively. Professors at institutions of higher learning, members of the Academy of Sciences, and members of the Academy of Arts also held ranks. Upon entering state service, graduates of the universities and other institutions of higher learning were conferred ranks from the 12th to the eighth classes.

After the introduction of the Table of Ranks, a roll of officials, ranked in terms of length of service, was kept in the Senate’s Office of the Heraldmeister, which in the late 18th and early 19th centuries published lists of those who held class ranks. From the mid-19th century, lists of those who held civil ranks of the first four classes were published at regular intervals.

The receipt of a rank from the Table of Ranks conferred the right of appointment to a position at the corresponding level. In the mid-19th century, for example, the position of minister was usually held by ranks of the second class, that of deputy minister or director of a department by ranks of the third class, that of governor by ranks of the fourth class, that of deputy director or vice-governor by ranks of the fifth class, that of section head by ranks of the sixth class, and that of desk chief (stolonachal’nik) by ranks of the seventh class. Those who held state ranks could at the same time hold court ranks as well.

After the introduction of the Table of Ranks, a system of titles—that is, of special forms of address for those who held ranks—came into use. Those with ranks of the first and second classes were addressed as vashe vysokoprevoskhoditel’stvo (“your high excellency”), those with ranks of the third and fourth classes as vashe prevoskhoditel’stvo (“your excellency”), those with ranks of the fifth class as vashe vysokorodie (“your highly born”), those with ranks of the sixth through eighth classes as vashe vysokoblagorodie (“your highly well born”), those with ranks of the ninth through 14th classes as vashe blagorodie (“your well born”). After 1832 those with ranks that did not confer nobility were given the rights of pochetnye grazhdane (honored citizens). By a law of Dec. 9, 1856, hereditary nobility was granted only after attainment of the fourth class (for those in the military, the sixth class), and personal nobility only after attainment of the ninth class.

The Table of Ranks was in effect a device to encourage service on the part of officials and a potential means of advancement for those of the unprivileged estates (sosloviia). It was abolished by the decrees of Soviet power of Nov. 10 (23) and Dec. 16 (29), 1917, on the elimination of prerevolutionary Russia’s estates, titles, and civil, military, and court ranks.


Spisok chinam v gràzhdanskoi sluzhbe sostoiashchim na. ... [St. Petersburg, 1801–1841.]
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Spisok grazhdanskim chinam pervykh chetyrekh klassov. St. Petersburg, 1842–1916.
Troitskii, S. M. Russkii absoliulizm i dvorianstvo v XVlll v.: Formirovanie biurokratii. Moscow, 1974.
Spravochniki po istorii dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii: Bibliografiia. Moscow, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.