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soldiera serving member of an army. In its original sense the term meant a ‘hired man’, reflecting the fact that in premodern states, with some exceptions (e.g. Roman), rather than being conscripted to a citizen army, soldiers were recruited to the personal service of rulers or warlords on a more ad hoc basis. Compare STANDING ARMY.
(1) An enlisted man.
(2) In the broad sense, a warrior, a military man, or a military veteran.
(3) In the figurative sense, a person who has devoted himself to a cause, for example, a soldier of the revolution.
The term “soldier” originally meant a mercenary warrior who was paid for his service; it appeared in Italy in the 15th century and later gained currency in Western Europe. In Russia, the term (soldat) appeared in the 17th century with the formation of infantry regiments of the new order, modeled on Western European armies. In the regular Russian Army beginning in the 18th century, a recruit received the rank of soldier after a specified time of service. Serfs conscripted under the system of compulsory service recruitment (18th and first half of the 19th century) were emancipated and passed into the soldiers’ estate (soldatskoe soslovie), which included the soldiers’ wives and children.
After the abolition of serfdom in 1861 and the introduction of the compulsory military service system in 1874, the soldiers’ estate ceased to exist, and personnel of the lower ranks—from private to acting officer—were no longer officially called soldiers; the term “soldier” was retained only in the expression “new soldier” (molodoi soldat) to designate recruits who had not yet completed the program of basic training.
After the February Revolution of 1917, the designation “lower rank” was replaced with the rank of soldier in accord with the March 5 order of the military authority. Withthe formation of the Red Army, low-ranking enlisted men were given the rank of krasnoarmeets (“Red Army soldier”) beginning in January 1918. In July 1946 the category of soldier, which included the ranks of private and private first class, was introduced in the Soviet armed forces (seeMILITARY RANKS).
A. G. KAVTARADZE