Russian Asiatic Cavalry

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Origin and History

In addition to Cossacks, the Russian Army also fielded Asiatic cavalry from the eastern provinces of the empire. These Asistic units consisted of

  • Kalmyks from Stavropol (approx. 2,400 men)
  • Tatars from Kazan (approx. 20,000 men)
  • Bashkirs from Siberia (approx. 6,000 men)
  • Meschtscheraken (probably Meskhetian Turks) (approx. 6,000 men)
  • Kalmyks of the Volga (approx. 40,000 men)

The most effective fighters among them were the Kalmyks of the Volga.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:

  • no information found

Service during the War

In 1756, the Kalmyks from Stavropol were stationed in Kazan; the Bashkirs, in Orenburg; the Meskhetian Turks, in the Government of Kazan; the Tatars from Kazan, in the Government of Kazan; and the Kalmyks of the Volga, between the Volga and the Yaik.

In 1757, some 2,000 Kalmyks of the Volga (two commands of 1,000 men each), 500 Kalmyks from Stavropol, 500 Bashkirs, 500 Meskhetian Turks and 500 Tatars from Kazan took part in the campaign in East Prussia.

Before the opening of the campaign of 1758, Fermor sent back most of his Asiatic horsement home, keeping only 500 Kalmyks of the Volga with the field army.

Uniform

The various contingents dressed quite similarly with a fur-lined or fur-brimmed hat (shape varying according to tribes), a kaftan fastened with a coloured sash, baggy trousers, soft leather boots (natural leather, brown, light red, yellow or purple).

For hairstyle, most nations had completely shaven heads, with small moustaches and beards; to the exception of the Kalmyks who had a long plaited top-knob on their shaven heads, as well as droopy moustaches.

Russia supplied cloth for fur hats and kaftans. Each nation received a particular colour: red for the Kalmyks, green for the Meskhetian Turks and Bashkirs, and blue for the Kazan Tartars.

More precisely, the Kalmyks wore red kaftans fastened with a coloured sash. They wore boots. Like the cossacks, they used a Kantschu (a whip fastened to a short stick) instead of spurs. They also wore a black fur cap.

Although some Asiatic horsemen may have been equipped with firearms, even as late as the early 19th Century, they were armed with cold steel weapons, firearms, composite bows and arrows. They were known as effective archers. Each man had two small horses. It seems that the Kalmyks of the Volga operating with the field army were armed differently. They are reported to have carried a carbine slung on the shoulder, two pistols, a saber and a 12 feet long light lance.

Musicians

no information found

Colours

There is no mention of flags but some units might have carried a horsetail standard.

References

Boadle, John: The 'Various Peoples': Russian Tribesmen in the Seven Years War, Seven Years War Association Journal,Vol. X No. 2

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 4 Groß-Jägersdorf und Breslau, Berlin, 1902, p. 23 and appendix 1

Konstam A. & Younghusband B.: Russian Army of the Seven Years War, Osprey, London, 1996

Knötel, Richard, Russiche Truppen in der Neumark 1758, in Mittheilungen zur Geschichte der militärischen Tracht, Beilagen zum X. Bande der Uniformkunde, No. 6, 1899, pp. 21-23