Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Streltsy- The Royal Guard

The Streltsy or literally "shooters", were the main bulk of the Russian army during the 16th century, upgraded to the royal bodyguard by the 17th century and soon after began to exercise extreme political influence. The Streltsy began with the reign of Ivan the Terrible. They were used as common soldiers and were untrained. However, by the 17th century, the Streltsy had become something of a caste of society. They were trained, professional soldiers used primarily to defend the capital, Moscow, and the Tsar. They lived separate of other soldiers and were held in high regard in the eyes of the government. In the late-17th century, however, the government began to pay these professional soldiers in land rather than gold and they soon became a hassle to deal with. They involved themselves in the succession struggle between Peter and Ivan, ultimately supporting Ivan to try and depose Peter. They were disbanded soon after Peter the Great assumed the tsardom and were only briefly revived for the Great Northern War. The Streltsy thereafter became a part of the regular army and had lost all special privilege. The true power of the late Streltsy came from their use of weaponry. All soldiers came armed with a rifle and a bardiche. The Bardiche, a heavy axed pole-arm, was used as a support platform to fire the rifle as well as a very effective hand-to-hand weapon. The Streltsy were an unstoppable force in their prime, they held prestige in the military and were held in great regard by the government and being the post defenders, however, even the greatest must sometimes fall.

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