Friday, May 15, 2015

Russian Artillery 17-18th Centuries

Since its introduction into Moscow in the fourteenth century, artillery has arguably been the centerpiece of Russian combat power. According to medieval records, the Russians first used guns to defend Moscow against the Mongols in the late summer of 1382. Based on this chronicled date, in 1982 the Soviet Army celebrated the 600th anniversary of Russian artillery with great fanfare.

The Tsar-Cannon in the Moscow Kremlin is a memorial of ancient Russian artillery and founding art, a piece of ordnance of the biggest caliber in the world. Master of the Cannon-yard Andrey Chokhov cast it of bronze in 1586. The length of the cannon is 5.34 m, the caliber is 890 mm, the thickness of the barrel is 15 cm, and it weighs 40 tons. In the XVI-XVIl centuries the cannon was placed in Kitay-Gorod for defense of the Kremlin and the passage across the Moskva-river. However, the Tsar-Cannon has never shot. The decorative gun-carriage and empty-bodied cast-iron cannon-balls lying at the foot of the cannon were cast in 1835.

Artillery appears as a separate unit in Russian army in the beginning of the 15th Century and was called Nariad. As a separate, regular unit, the artillery had its own flag called a prapor. The artillery was a kind of a corporation or guild like the Streltsy. The Pushkarsky (Gunner) prikaz managed the entire life of the Russian artilleryman, including legal proceedings. They lived according to Russian State law, but were under the jurisdiction of their prikaz. Service in the artillery was for life, and service in the artillery was inherited. Because of losses during the Time of Troubles, at the beginning of the 17th Century enlisted volunteers were used; however, by the 1630's artillerymen were recruited from the relatives of current pushkary. Pushkary settled in separate sloboda near the walls of fortresses. These slaboda were restricted only to pushkary. No one other than pushkary could settle there or even remain in the sloboda after nightfall. Russian artillery in the 17th Century did not have fixed organization. The number of gunners depended on the available guns and finances.

Artillerymen in Russia were officially called ludy pushkarskogo china (people of cannon rank).

This title was shortened to pushkary. The artillery corps consisted of:

- puskary - means gunner. These served large and medium caliber guns. The word pushkar has two meanings: gunner and artilleryman in general.

- zatynshyky - means instigator. These served small caliber guns which were generally used at the beginning of a battle.

- vorotniky - means a man guarding a gate. These guarded the gates of settlements and outposts.

- blacksmiths and carpenters.

- armorers and gunsmiths.

The pushkary were divided into two parts: - Moscow puskary. - Gorodovye pushkary.

Unfortunately, there is no specific breakdown of the strength of the Moscow and Gorodovye gunners. Only the following is available: -In 1651 Russian artillery numbered 4,250 gunners, -In 1680 - about 7 000 gunners. This growth was the result of the increase in the number regimental artillery pieces.

The Moscow gunners were an elite unit and served in the field artillery. They were called "Moscow" because they lived in Moscow in a separate sloboda (district) of old Moscow. Military forces stationed in Moscow were the core of the Russian Field Army. In war the Moscow pushkary formed the basis for the field and siege artillery. As a rule, they were assisted by attached Gorodovye pushkary.

Gorodovye (town) gunners were stationed in numerous garrisons and fortresses throughout the Russia. As a rule, during war Gorodovye gunners joined the field artillery as assistants to the Moscow gunners. In contrast to Moscow gunners, the service of Gorodovye gunners was hard duty, especially in the border garrisons.

It is possible to distinguish two main duties of the Gorodovye pushkary: - service in towns (nariad) - service in field units

The major duty of the Gorodovye pushkary was service in a town's nariad (artillery). Each frontier town and settlement in the west and especially in the south was fortified and protected by cannon (usually not less than 20-30 pieces). Each cannon was attended by 2 gunners who served in rotation. Pushkary also guarded the powder magazines. From the middle of the 17th Century field duty for Gorodovye pushkary appears. This duty was tied to the growth in the number of regular infantry regiments. During the 1654- 67 war each Soldier and Streltsy regiment had 5 to 10 medium caliber cannons served by Gorodovye pushkary.

In addition to military duties, pushkary also were assigned police and administrative duties. They guarded prisons, convoyed prisoners to Siberia, looked for robbers, etc. Quite often they gathered Datochnye recruits and members of the Feudal Levy. Pushkary also produced ammunition, and built outposts and fortresses. The information below on the uniform of Russian pushkary is based on the article by Palasios-Fernandes in Zeughaus magazine. He describes the Moscow pushkary in the second half of the 17th Century. The article is well illustrated and recommended. The cut of the coats of artillerymen was the same as the infantry. Usually, gunners' coats were red or blue. These colors (red-blue) were preserved in Peter's army. His gunners wore red coats with blue facings. Only in 1731 were facings changed to black. The author also stated that in the 17th Century green coats also were available for gunners. The distinguishing feature of gunners in the 17th Century was metal armor. This was a kind of metal cuirass. There were two variants: Alam, used for parade purposes, and Zertsalo, a plain variant for duty. This armor consisted of 2 metal (tin/pewter or copper) circles connected by straps. Alam was a decorated variant with stamped eagles and lions, but for everyday use the variant of this cuirass called Zertsalo (a word meaning mirror) was used. Gun carriages and ammunition wagons were painted red.

Another interesting detail of gunners' equipment was the palnits (from the words to fire and to scorch, it means something that is scorching/burning). It was a kind of pike with fastenings for fuses on the top. The palnits could be used also as a pike. The uniform of the Gorodovye pushkary is less well known. According to A.K. Levykin, Russian Pushkary in the 2nd Half of the 17th Century, they wore a light blue coat and a red cap. They were also equipped with the zertsalo and a metal helmet called a shishak.

Artillery at the start of the 18th century was slow, cumbersome and could easily be lost on the battlefield, yet it was also indispensable to any modern army, and at the start of his reign that is what Peter I of Russia wanted above all else. Peter’s reforming zeal, taking a backward state like Russia and forging a major European power, has since become legendary, and in the major reforms of the army the artillery received special attention. It took a long time to train the men and improve the guns, but Peter’s artillery was to play a major role in many of his victories, most notably that at Poltava, where it was decisive.

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