From Academic Kids

Streltsy (Стрельцы in Russian), the units of Russian guardsmen (sl. strelets, стрелец) in the 16th - early 18th centuries, armed with firearms (riflemen). They are also collectively known as Strelets Troops (Стрелецкое Войско).

Creation and structure

The first Streltsy unit was created between 1540s and 1550s on the basis of the harquebus units. Initially, they recruited free tradepeople and rural population for the Streltsy unit. Subsequently, military service in this unit became lifelong and hereditary.

Streltsy were subdivided into выборные (viborniye), or electives (later – of Moscow) and городские (gorodskiye), or municipal (in different Russian cities). The Streltsy of Moscow guarded the Kremlin, performed general guard duty, and participated in military operations. The Municipal Streltsy performed garrison and border duty and carried out orders of the local administration. Streltsy subordinated to the Streltsy Department (Стрелецкий приказ, or Streletsky prikaz), however, in times of war they subordinated to their superiors. The Municipal Streltsy were also under the jurisdiction of the local voevodes. Streltsy had identical uniforms, training and weapons (harquebuses, muskets, poleaxes, sabers, and sometimes pikes).

The biggest military administrative unit of the Streltsy forces was прибор (pribor), that would later be renamed into prikaz and in 1681 – into regiment (полк, or polk). Commanders of the Streltsy unit (стрелецкие головы, or streletskiye golovy) and colonels in charge of regiments were chiefs of prikazi. They had to be nobles and appointed by the government.
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Execution of the Streltsy after their failed uprising in 1698.

The regiments (prikazy) were subdivided into sotni (сотни, or hundreds) and desyatki (десятки, or tens). They could be mounted (стремянные, or stremyanniye; стремя (stremya) in Russian means “stirrup”) and unmounted (пешие, or peshiye; пеший (peshiy) means "foot soldier"). Streltsy lived in secluded settlements and received money and bread allowance from the State Treasury. In certain locations, Streltsy were granted strips of land instead of money.

See also Russian Military Ranks

Streltsy in politics

At the end the 16th century, there were 20,000-25,000 Streltsy, in 1681 – 55,000, including 22,500 in Moscow alone. Streltsy’s engagement in handicrafts and trade led to a significant proprietary inequality among them and their blending with tradepeople. Even though Streltsy demonstrated their fighting efficiency on several occasions, such as the siege of Kazan in 1552, the war with Livonia, the Polish-Swedish invasion in the early 17th century and military operations in Poland and Crimea, in the second half of the 17th century Streltsy started to display their backwardness compared to the regular soldier or reiter regiments (see Regiments of the new type). Military service hardships, frequent salary delays, abuse on the part of local administration and commanders made for regular Streltsy's (especially the poorest ones) participation in anti-serfdom uprisings in the 17th and early 18th centuries, such as the peasant wars in the beginning of the 17th century and in 1670-1671 (leader – Stepan Razin), urban uprisings (Moscow Uprising of 1682, Streltsy Uprising of 1698, Astrakhan Uprising of 1705-1706).

At the same time, those Streltsy, who had been on top of the hierarchy, enjoyed their social status and, therefore, tried to hold back the regular Streltsy forces and keep them on the government’s side. In the late 17th century, Streltsy of Moscow began to actively participate in a struggle for power between different government groups, supporting the dissidents and showing hostility towards any foreign innovations.


After the fall of Sophia Alekseyevna in 1689, the government of Peter the Great engaged in a process of gradual limitation of Streltsy’s military and political influence. Eight Moscow regiments were removed from the city and transferred to Belgorod, Sevsk, and Kiev.

After the Streltsy Uprising in 1698 and their unrest in Azov, Peter I ordered their disbandment. However, after having suffered a defeat at Narva in 1700, the government stopped their disbandment. The most efficient Streltsy regiments took part in the most important military operations of the Great Northern War and in Peter’s Prut campaign of 1711. Gradually, Streltsy were incorporated into the regular army. At the same time, they started to disband the Municipal Streltsy.

Liquidation of the Streltsy units was finally finished in 1720s, however, the Municipal Streltsy were kept in some cities until the late 18th


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