Military Review

From peak to musket

Western-style military reforms began in Russia during the Time of Troubles

This year, the cartoon “Fortress. Shield and Sword "dedicated to the heroic defense of Smolensk from the Polish-Lithuanian troops of King Sigismund III. Well made, especially in terms of reconstruction of the appearance of the fortress, he hardly left the audience indifferent. In addition, it gives reason to touch on certain sides of the national military stories XVII century, talk about the myths still in existence today.

What is the appearance of the pre-Petrine Russian kingdom at the level of mass consciousness? Sleepy and unhurried, self-sufficient Russia. Old, with beardy beards, portly boyars in long-sex caftans and fur coats, dozing at Duma meetings. And now the tireless autocrat Peter, who is often represented in the pre-war film of the same name, burst into this sleepy realm with a pipe in his teeth and rolled up sleeves. But the sooner such a vision of our past is destroyed, the better.

“For Russia, the Ostrozh tactics became a real find, allowing to negate the superiority of the Polish cavalry in the open field”
The fact is that the considered century is in its saturation with the most important events for Russia, the internal tension of the spiritual and physical strength of the people is not inferior to the XVIII century and even surpasses it. Indeed, in the 17th century, we experienced the Troubles, and the Razin revolt, and eschatological expectations, which by that time still agitated all sectors of society and so vividly described in the life of Avvakum, the Archpriest himself, who in no small measure gave rise to the tears of the old believer schism. And how not to remember the hard wars with the Commonwealth, Sweden, the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire behind it. And with all these advanced militarily powers (with the exception of the Crimean Khanate, of course), Russia resisted quite adequately thanks largely to military reforms carried out in the first half of the 17th century.

Their urgent need is due to a number of factors, the most important of which are the consequences of the oprichnaya terror of Ivan the Terrible and the unsuccessful Livonian War, which led to the weakening of the Russian armed forces and the country as a whole.

After overcoming the Troubles in the government of Mikhail Romanov, an understanding emerged that new wars are not far off. Tensions in relations with the Commonwealth, whose king Vladislav IV from 1632, did not abandon his claims to the Russian throne, remained. There was still a threat to the southern borders of Russia from the Crimean Khanate. The situation in the Volga region was not an easy one — not even a hundred years after the conquest of Kazan, and the last uprising of its supporters, led by the Bek Enalei Shugurov, was suppressed by Russian troops only in 1616 year.

It was not easy to establish contacts with Sweden, under King Gustav Adolf, who quickly became the leading military power of Europe. Let me remind you that according to the Stolbovsky world 1617, Moscow ceded its northern neighbor the land on the coast of the Gulf of Finland.

From peak to musketIn this regard, the tasks of military construction for the government of Tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich became top priorities. Of course, the advanced western experience was taken as the basis for the reform. Why is Western, why was Moscow trying to develop close relations with the Old World?

The fact is that the mental attitudes of our compatriots of the period under review demanded that the throne be occupied by the “natural” sovereign, blessed by God. Legally, the immaculate election of the king by the Zemsky Sobor in the eyes of the people meant absolutely nothing.

Boris Godunov understood this perfectly well; he made unsuccessful attempts to intermarry with the Swedish royal house, passing his daughter, Ksenia Godunov, over to the duke of Gustav. Accordingly, Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich, who knew about the tragic fate of the same Godunov, of all Lzhedmitry and Vasily Shuisky, wanted to establish his reign in the eyes of the people and the military-political elite, intermarried with the family of one of the "real" monarchs.

This desire was expressed in the attempts of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich to marry the daughter Irina on the Danish prince Valdemara. However, the foreigner who came to Russia and pompously met here did not want to move from Protestantism to Orthodoxy - there were even several disputes about faith in Moscow, but the marriage still did not take place. The “Tale of the sudden death of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich, which happened in the unsuccessful case of the marriage of Princess Irina Mikhailovna with Waldemar Korolev,” which tells about these events and was written by an unknown monk, has been preserved. Failure to marry was probably one of the causes of the death of a still old sovereign, as the Tale's title unequivocally testifies to.

The examples cited are not important in their own right, but as an illustration of Moscow’s orientation toward the Christian West, which predetermined the nature of the military reform, called upon to some extent to Europeanize the Russian armed forces. It happened almost a century before the Peter's innovations.

Prince of dutch

When conducting military reforms, they took as a basis the experience of military construction in the Netherlands and Sweden. In this regard, it is necessary to say a few words about outstanding military figures and reformers in these countries.

Dutch Prince Moritz of Orange. His contemporary and compatriot Justus Lipsius wrote in one of his books: “He who manages to unite Roman military art and modern troops will be able to conquer the entire globe.” Of course, the last phrase should be understood as a metaphor, but it must be borne in mind that the military reform of Orange just connected Roman military art with modernity, turning the Dutch army into the strongest in the world. And these are not empty words - the Dutch won brilliant victories over the Spanish troops at Queverden, Thornhut and Newport.

Assistant to the Prince was his cousin and friend Wilhelm Ludwig of Nassau. The essence of the brothers' transformations was as follows: instead of cumbersome infantry battalions, they divided the army into small and extremely mobile combat units. It was they who succeeded the Spanish third, which reigned supreme in the fields of Europe.

An essential part of the military transformations of Moritz was the strengthening of discipline, which was a major problem in the mercenary armies of the late Middle Ages and Modern Times. Thus, in the fourth volume of his fundamental work, The History of Military Art, the outstanding German military historian Hans Delbrück writes: “When taking Delfzail, Moritz ordered two soldiers to be hanged, one for stealing a hat, the other for stealing a dagger ".

Thanks to military reform, the Dutch army became not only the strongest in Europe, but also a real school of combat tactical skill for other nations, for in national terms it was rather heterogeneous.

Let's move from Holland to Sweden, whose king is the commander and military reformer Gustav Adolf also turned his army into one of the best in Europe, having won brilliant victories in the Thirty Years War. Undoubtedly, he can be called a follower of Moritz of Orange in the development of military art, for he, according to Delbrück, "not only took and developed a new tactic, but also put it at the heart of a wide-scale strategy."

This was facilitated by the cohesion of the Swedes, who created a truly military state. After all, Gustav Adolf formed the national army, which possessed a much higher fighting spirit than hired troops.

Significantly, he reformed the artillery, replacing the leather-covered copper cannons with light 180-kilogram cast-iron guns, they were able to move four people or a couple of horses, which provided the Swedish artillery with higher speed than their opponents on the battlefield. In addition, Gustav Adolf can rightfully be called the creator of linear tactics, which was a step forward compared with the construction of troops in columns then adopted in Europe. This advantage was demonstrated by the Swedes in the brilliantly won battle of Breitenfeld in 1631. In a word, we had someone to learn from.

Now let's talk about the military reform of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich, based on the findings of the candidate of historical sciences, one of the leading experts in the field of military-historical reconstruction of the writer Oleg Kurbatov, whom I thank for the most valuable advice when writing an article. I consider it necessary to emphasize that he is a long-term employee of the Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts and draws his conclusions on a strict documentary basis.

Swedes in the teachers

In essence, the military reform of the Western style in Russia began in the time of the Troubles. Its creator was Mikhail Vasilyevich Skopin-Shuisky. He won a number of brilliant victories, for example, near Tver, over Polish-Lithuanian troops, lifted the siege of the Trinity-Sergius Lavra that lasted 16 months and, alas, was poisoned in 1610. He was only twenty-three.

It was Mikhail Vasilyevich who first began to reform his troops according to the Dutch model. In this he was assisted by Swedish officers from the allied Russian army of Jacob Pontus Delagardi - the future field marshal. Allied, however, it was short-lived and soon after Skopin-Shuisky's death turned into an occupational one.

The fact that the Swedes helped the Russian commander rebuild troops in the Dutch manner should not be surprising. The fact is that from the end of the XVI to the beginning of the XVII century the number of Dutch troops was about sixty thousand people. Rich Dutch could afford such a large army, the advanced school of which passed many European officers, including the Swedish ones. Delagardi himself studied for some time with Moritz of Orange, and returning home, he became Gustav Adolf's tutor in military affairs.

What specifically trained European officers of our warriors? First, the classical constructions of infantry battalions: pikemen in the center and arrows on the flanks, depth - eight ranks, as was the custom in the Netherlands army. The problem was that before the reform, we did not have pikemen. The solution, according to Oleg Kurbatov (the quotations are given in the article), found the following: five-meter peaks, specially made according to the western pattern, were delivered from Yaroslavl.

We did not have at first and muskets. What were Russian soldiers armed with? Arquebuses, which were a wick muzzle-loading rifle. Joined back in 1600, the Russian service and left memories of her French captain Jacques Margeret calls Russian archerbuses.

The combat value of the construction described above was proved in the clashes with the Polish cavalry - first of all the famous winged hussars. The best Polish hussaria at that time was created at the beginning of the 16th century. On her account brilliant victories over the Swedes at the Battle of Kirchholm, the Turks - at Khotyn, the Russians - in the Battle of Klushinsky.

Thus, the successful struggle against winged hussars in the conditions of the Troubles and the subsequent preparations of Moscow for the Smolensk war became an urgent task of the government of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich. And here the experience of the Dutch and the Swedes came at an opportune moment.

What were the borrowings from these masters of military affairs, aimed directly at opposing the cavalry? In the use of Skopin-Shuisky so-called Spanish slingshots, representing the construction of interconnected stakes. With their help, the Russian units got rid of the need to break the line with each appearance of enemy cavalry. Long peaks existed in the Russian military until the end of the reign of Peter I (when they disappeared from all European armies), and slingshots were also used in the wars of the early 19th century.

Guns - Infantry

Another borrowing was expressed in tactics Ostrozhkov. They were wooden and earth fortresses, and they were built in the shortest possible time - in a matter of hours. Inside the Ostrozhkov there were detachments capable of blocking both the camp and the enemy’s fortress. Actually, Dmitry Ivanovich Shuisky (he is the younger brother of Tsar Vasily Shuisky) tried to apply this tactic to Mikhail Skopin-Shuisky’s uncle in the battle of Klushin mentioned above. By the way, foreign mercenaries, infantrymen, several times successfully repelled the attacks of the Polish hussars, but unlike his nephew, Dmitry Ivanovich turned out to be a worthless commander, allowing a number of serious tactical miscalculations that led to defeat. For Russia, where the troops had a large labor force, the Ostrozh tactic became a real find, allowing to negate the superiority of the Polish cavalry in the open field.

Such borrowing continued even after overcoming the Troubles, with Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich, whose government established, despite all the diplomatic difficulties, close contacts with Gustav Adolf.

So, the transformations during the specified period of national history affected primarily the area of ​​the military system, as well as specific types of weapons.

In 1630, Col. Alexander Leslie began the creation of infantry regiments with weapons and tactics adopted in the army of King Gustav Adolf. In contrast to the 1609 – 1611 period, all ranks received property purchased in the West, including armor, pikes and swords from pikemen, wicker muskets with bandelers and swords from musketeers.

Accordingly, up to the end of the 17th century, the Russian infantry tactics included, as in all of Europe, battalion formations of six to eight lines. And just like in the West, in Russia they gradually refused from pikemen who lost their combat effectiveness and replaced them with musketeers.

Above, we have already indicated the reform carried out by Gustav Adolf in the field of field artillery. Thanks to the close contacts of the government of Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich with the Swedish monarch, this advanced experience in the use of artillery was borrowed by us. The arrived gun maker Julius Coet in 1630 began the production of “leather cannons”, and a year later he began to make bronze short squeaks according to his German pattern (with a barrel about a meter). By 1632, all the soldiers' regiments received bronze regimental artillery at the rate of one three-pound cannon per company (a total of 116 guns). Since then, light guns have become an indispensable element of infantry regiment armaments.

During the reign of the first sovereign of the Romanov dynasty in Russia, regiments of the Reitarian system were created, replacing two different types of cavalry: the heirs of the knightly cavalry — cuirassiers and arquebusiers. In the Russian army there were still dragoons, they were almost all equestrian musketeers, who dismounted in battle and opened dagger fire to support their own cavalry. Finally, in 1634, a squad of captain Christopher Rylsky was formed in Russia, which included winged hussars, reiter, and dragoons.

The system of sound commands also changed - in the Middle Ages, Russia militarily experienced the Eastern influence coming primarily from the Golden Horde. Recall that Dmitry Donskoy won on the Kulikovo field usurper Mamai thanks to the effective use of the Tatar tactics. In the New Age, as we have already seen, Russia took the path of borrowing from the West. And as a result, instead of Oriental Tassaks, timpani and pipes began to be used in the army of the first half of the seventeenth century.

We touched upon only some, albeit the most important innovations in the Russian army of the first half of the XVII century. Of course, the nature of the reforms was deeper and more multifaceted. If the reader has a desire to get acquainted with them in more detail, we recommend the works of the aforementioned Oleg Kurbatov, as well as Alexander Malov.
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  1. Volga Cossack
    Volga Cossack 13 December 2015 07: 01 New
    thank. I read it with pleasure !!! good article.
    1. Sweles
      Sweles 13 December 2015 11: 25 New
      Sleepy and unhurried, self-sufficient Russia

      ну это не верное и расхожее мнение,устойчивое и искуственно поддерживаемое заблуждение. В 17в Русь-Московия уже была КРУПНЕЙШИМ государством мира и как бы это происходило если бы ,как тут говорится это было "сонным и неторопливым" ,если ещё при Иване 4 Ермак Тимофеевич завоевал Сибирь,а так же Князья Строгановы уже энергично отстраивали уральские города.Казак Дежнёв открыл пролив между Асией и Америкой,причём этот пролив назывался АНИНСКИЙ пролив ,а в японии жили АЙНЫ- напрашиваются паралели.Всё это было конечно "сонно и неторопливо",а царь Алексей Михалыч,который вёл войны со шведами и поляками был "ТИШАЙШИЙ". Причём это именно по ТИ.

      Their urgent need is due to a number of factors, the most important of which are the consequences of the oprichnina terror of Ivan the Terrible and the Livonian War that he unsuccessfully conducted, which led to the weakening of the Russian armed forces and the country as a whole

      The time of the Livonian war and subsequent wars and unrest was the time of the Civil War in IMPERI. The empire was undergoing a split, the detached parts became the new states of Poland, Germany, Sweden, Sveia, in Poland and Sweden there was for example one dynasty - the Vase, which nevertheless already in the middle of the 17th century they fought among themselves.

      whose king, from 1632, Vladislav IV did not abandon claims to the Russian throne

      как может католический государь претендовать на престол православный? Это не мыслимо,народ бы НИКОГДА не поддержал бы такого царя. Но тем не менее это было и поляки и шведы ,и крымские ханы действительно лезли на Московский престол,почему? Все они ИМЕЛИ ПРАВО занять престол по праву принадлежности к ЦАРСКОМУ РОДУ.А значит в то время правители этих государств были РОДСТВЕННИКАМИ московского царя ,а так же мировые религии ещё не так далеко разошлись друг от друга,что бы быть препятствием по дороге к трону ИМПЕРАТОРА. Об этом хорошо написано у историка Александра Каса "Крушение Империи русских царей"
      1. Sweles
        Sweles 13 December 2015 11: 42 New
        These images here are reconstructions of archers of the 17th century with a gun, a saber and also a reed, how could one person be controlled by so many weapons? First, the Sagittarius shoots, then throws the gun to the ground, possibly into the mud, because the battlefield is NOT a barracks ground, throws the berdysh to the ground again, grabs the saber and went into hand-to-hand combat. Can such a picture really be? It couldn’t be. First, a weapon was not cheap in those days and it was impossible to handle a weapon as horribly as possible, it was impossible to throw a gun on the ground, but it was also IMPOSSIBLE to hold a soldier with both a gun and a saber and a reed. Then a completely absurd picture arises: guns and swords or sabers wallow in the dirt, dust, and archers fight off with one or the other, because it is not possible to fight with both weapons at the same time.
        1. Nagaibak
          Nagaibak 13 December 2015 19: 37 New
          Свелес"Вот эти вот изображения -реконструкции стрельцов 17в с ружьём,саблей и ещё и бердышом,как один человек мог управляться таким количеством оружия?"
          And in the West, how could they be controlled by the same amount?
        2. Sarmat 72
          Sarmat 72 13 December 2015 19: 54 New
          And why doesn’t anyone remember that he was supposed to have 2 more horses? Like the French musketeers, the archers on themselves did not carry it all and dismounted only for battle. In addition, if you are supposed to give out some kind of weapons and ammunition, upon entering the service, this does not mean that all this must be carried around 24 hours a day. What was needed in a specific situation was used.
        3. Kombrig
          Kombrig 14 December 2015 00: 16 New
          Quote: Sveles
          Then a completely absurd picture arises: guns and swords or sabers wallow in the dirt, dust, and archers fight off with one or the other, because it is not possible to fight with both weapons at the same time.

          Вплоть до начала 20 века практически все стрелки имели вспомогательное холодное оружие, если вы думаете, что в каждом бою стрелки после нескольких залпов обязательно рубились саблями, то Вы заблуждаетесь... Задача стрелка - стрелять. Сабля для стрелка это оружие "последнего шанса"и если уж дошло до рукопашной, то дело дрянь, тут уже стоит вопрос жизни а не сохранения оружия....
          1. Sweles
            Sweles 14 December 2015 08: 45 New
            Quote: Kombrig
            Вплоть до начала 20 века практически все стрелки имели вспомогательное холодное оружие, если вы думаете, что в каждом бою стрелки после нескольких залпов обязательно рубились саблями, то Вы заблуждаетесь... Задача стрелка - стрелять. Сабля для стрелка это оружие "последнего шанса"и если уж дошло до рукопашной, то дело дрянь, тут уже стоит вопрос жизни а не сохранения оружия....

            no, in those days it was NEVER so that the troops would fight at a distance and ALWAYS get closer and use the COLD WEAPON. However, you didn’t tell you where to put the berdysh if the saber is used, the 10-kg musket was already found in the left hand laughing
            1. Kombrig
              Kombrig 14 December 2015 12: 31 New
              Quote: Sveles
              ALWAYS came closer and used the COLD WEAPON. However, you did not tell where to put the berdysh if the saber is used, the -10kg musket was already found out in the left hand

              Why do you persistently continue to think that it was the archers who were cut with the rapprochement of troops? They used cavalry to attack, and on foot they used pikemen, archers went to the flanks or to the rear ... And if you are too lazy to google the tactics of the troops in the 17th century, watch the movie Captain Alatriste, everything is perfectly shown there ...
              А лучше пообщайтесь с реконструкторами по "семнахе", они это всё на практике проделывают...

              And what to do with a berdysh? Yes, according to the circumstances ... If the enemy infantry was jammed, drop it ... And if the cavalry, then the saber can not be pulled out by the handful of a berry ...
            2. Kombrig
              Kombrig 14 December 2015 12: 55 New
              Quote: Sveles
              , musket -10kg-already found out was in his left hand

              the musket could be thrown behind the back, on a belt ....

              Regarding the use of berdysh, there are several versions:
              1. Cold melee weapons.
              2. Support when shooting
              3. Light field barrage against enemy cavalry
              4. Various combinations of the above items.
  2. Griboedoff
    Griboedoff 13 December 2015 09: 24 New
    Very interesting subject. And then it’s somehow customary to stick out Peter's reforms, as if everything had been stagnant before him. Yes, Peter the Great was not just called great, but he and Kazan did not take Astrakhan; Siberia was also mastered primarily for him. So the Russian military formations were not so obsolete, since they had achieved such high-profile successes.
    1. Nagaibak
      Nagaibak 14 December 2015 15: 22 New
      Грибоедофф" но Казань и Астрахань брал не он, Сибирь осваивали тоже восновном до него. "
      Taken 150 years before Peter.)))) During this time, the Westerners went forward. Peter was catching up.
  3. parusnik
    parusnik 13 December 2015 09: 55 New
    A very interesting topic, thanks to the author and still I would like to continue, the author has something to tell ...
  4. moskowit
    moskowit 13 December 2015 11: 25 New
    For a popular read, I recommend a Wikipedia article ...

    "... В 1681 было 33 солдатских (61 000 человек) и 25 драгунских и рейтарских (29 000 человек) полков. В конце XVII века они составляли свыше половины всех войск и в начале XVIII века были использованы для формирования регулярной русской армии...."
  5. Kombrig
    Kombrig 13 December 2015 12: 00 New
    Bravo, great article! Since the time of Grozny, Russian archers were a real military force, Pyotr Alekseevich simply rebuilt the army under the European standard, which had both its pros and cons ..
    1. Pissarro
      Pissarro 13 December 2015 18: 25 New
      That's just the author wrote about Grozny standard liberal stamp

      Their urgent need is due to a number of factors, the most important of which are the consequences of the oprichnaya terror of Ivan the Terrible and the unsuccessful Livonian War, which led to the weakening of the Russian armed forces and the country as a whole.

      Грозный не ослабил русские вооруженные силы,а создал их по сути на регулярной основе.И стрельцы с бердышами и пищалями и гуляй-города( так восхитившие автора острожки,применяемые еще Грозным в казанском походе за сто лет до описываемого периода), и "зверства" опритчины ,которые из феодального сброда и бардака создали централизованное государство и регулярную армию
      1. 4thParasinok
        4thParasinok 21 December 2015 18: 41 New
        Quote: Pissarro
        Grozny did not weaken the Russian armed forces, but essentially created them on a regular basis.

        I absolutely agree. And if you also take into account that some of the archers were armed with rifled guns even under Grozny, which the author either does not know or does not specifically mention. As the facts about the oprichnina and the Livonian war, in which only the noble cavalry took part, are distorting. Sagittarius almost did not participate in that war, only individual suburban regiments.
  6. abrakadabre
    abrakadabre 13 December 2015 15: 30 New
    And as a result, instead of the eastern yasakov in the army of the first half of the XNUMXth century, timpani and trumpets began to be used.
    Not yasak, yasak is a tax, but bunchuk and their analogues.
  7. Lex.
    Lex. 13 December 2015 20: 27 New
    Actually, Smolensk belonged to on, and then the speech of the paspolit and Smolensk passed from hand to hand
  8. owl
    owl 15 December 2015 14: 17 New
    Пехота того времени, да и дальнейших периодов, дымного пороха и гладкого ствола, согласно современным исследованиям (Жмодиков "Наука побеждать") и историографии (уставы пехоты как 18, так и 19 века), очень неохотно сходилась в рукопашную, ибо данный вид боя, при той системе командования быстро приводил к потере управления войсками, а отсутствие защитного снаряжения - к значительным потерям личного состава.
    Относительно наличия "большого количества оружия" - думается мне, что мы не совсем точно понимаем взгляды современников на войну и употребление вооружения.
    The article is interesting. Thank. However, in my opinion, too sightseeing.