2009 年 2009 巻 38 号 p. 72-88
In order to understand concretely how the Russian Imperial government used the nobility in state service in the 18th century, it is necessary to investigate the actual conditions in the army, because many noblemen were firstly recruited into the army and trained there as state servants.
Once temporarily established under the reign of Peter I only for the coronation ceremony of his Empress Catherine on 8 May, 1724, the Cavalry Guards (Kavalergardy) were reformed as a permanent military unit by Catherine I at the end of 1725. This corps has two noteworthy features. Firstly, unlike the other two existing guard regiments that included soldiers and officers who were recruited from the common people, it was composed exclusively of both Russian and foreign noblemen, most of whom started state service as common soldiers or dragoons and attained the status of company officers on the basis of their continuous work and abilities. Being appointed to the Cavalry Guards was rather beneficial for these military functionaries, because they were frequently and quickly promoted to a higher rank either while in office or at the transfer to different posts despite not being expected to actually fight on the battlefield.
After leaving the Cavalry Guards, some of the members became core commanders of the two guard regiments newly founded under Anna Ioannovna in 1730, and others reached the top four ranks in the Russian army or the administrative system. Along with these high-ranking officials, many of the ex-cavalrymen were promoted to offices leading regiments, battalions, or local governments, acquiring grades equal to field officers. Judging from such social origins and career patterns of the staff, the Cavalry Guards can be seen one of the important resources for the Imperial government to gather and organize the talented and experienced noblemen distributed across the vast Empire, thereby utilizing their abilities not only in military but also in civil organs. Furthermore, this unit played a social role in absorbing and posting serviceable foreign families into Russia.
The second important point is that the Cavalry Guards were mainly used in the Westernized court and state ceremonies, which were employed by the Russian rulers, especially after the Petrine reform, to propagate their unrivalled authority both in- and outside Russia. For example, at the coronation of Empress Catherine in the Moscow Kremlin, the cavalrymen in white wigs, hats with gold lace and white ribbons, green woollen coats, and red woollen vests guarded both the front and the rear end of the procession of the Empress and her husband when they paraded from the court to the ceremonial cathedral. Contributing greatly to the glorification of the rituals and monarchical power, such colourful costumes attracted considerable attention from contemporaries, above all, the foreign diplomats, one of whom noted their resemblance to the uniforms of the French musketeers (mousquetaire).
Additionally, soon after Anna’s arrival at the outskirts of Moscow and at a relatively early stage of her coronation, the Cavalry Guards were granted a special audience with her, which symbolically suggested the respectful treatment of the rulers. Such favour could also have strengthened the connections between the imperial power and the elite, thereby supporting the rapid development of the 18th-century Russian Empire.