Russian armies of the Renaissance

Joan of Arc – Welcome to ze Minimum Wage Historian, oui? First we shall begin with a few hymns, a prayer and mass.
Olga of Kiev – Nyet, nyet. Skip all that and get to the so-called-good stuff.
Joan – Are you not a saint?
Olga – Sure. Why not?
Joan – I’m surrounded by heathens.
Olga – Let’s get show going! I say we start with Russia army before Mongol invasion.
Joan – Why? I say we start with ze weapons, no?
Olga – Nyet. Weapons, armor, and horsies different after Mongol scum. Rus, Novogrod and Kiev ruled by Vikings. Ha! My ancestors Vikings. They have big axes, chain armor and fight on foot.
Joan – Like other Vikings zey depended on heavy infantry.

This is helmet before bad Mongols come. Like Vikings, but more drunk and depressed.

Olga – Dah! But there is problem. Mongols use lots of horsies. Mongols shoot arrows at Rus and run away before Rus can chop them up with swords.
Joan – Oui, the Mongols were nomads and they fought in way that overwhelmed ze Russians. Now, Russia was many countries, mainly Rus, Novogrod, Muscovy and Kiev.

Mongols laying a so-called “smack down” on my fellow Rus.

Olga – Rus no like being beaten by pagan nomads. They change way they fight! They use more horsies with arrows and more armor from Byzantines and Persians.
Joan – They adapted. After Mongol invasions they went from heavy infantry Vikings to a more “modern” force. Tsar Ivan III even adopted the double headed eagle of Byzantium after Constantinople fell. They were cultural inheritors of Byzantium, but Ivan also married the niece of the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI.

They went from this…

To this. A mix of eastern and western equipment and tactics. Armies went from private armies of nobles to government professional army.

Joan – Russian army adapted to face Mongols, but also to face more advanced European armies, such as Polish, Tuetonic Knights and Finland. Their power came from firearms.
Olga – Guns! Yes, Russians use lots and lots of guns. Show those Mongols who is boss.
Joan – I am not so sure you are ze saint…or educated. But ze Russian army adopted many guns. Large cannons and muskets.  They fought with large formations of musket armed infantry with a few pikes to defend.  When war gets ugly, they use axes to attack.  Then cavalry move in from flanks.  Simple but effective.  When fighting arrow armed Tartars, they used mobile wooden walls with gunports.

Olga – Different strokes for different folks!

Olga – They get shiny new muskets and also new uniforms. They all look alike now!
Joan – Yes, they adapted uniformity within the different units.

Joan – They used large axes with crescent blades to rest their muskets on while they shot. Now, something that is not commonly known about me, but I learned a great deal about gunpowder weapons during ze Hundred Years War. Russians make large cannons. But being in artillery was not viewed as honorable so position in Imperial artillery so it became almost hereditary. They took great pride in this! During one battle when they were being overrun, they hung themselves rather than surrender their cannons.

Olga – We make big guns in Russia, dah? This is “Tzar Cannon” in Kremlin.

Joan – They trained with muskets a lot and became one of the most powerful armies in Europe. During the 1500’s and 1600’s Russian united and expanded and fought many enemies. They used artillery with big guns and smaller more portable ones. But they also used bows, sabers, pikes and broadswords.

Russian cavalrymen with quilted armor, sabers and bows. Strange mixture of up-to-date and old fashioned.

Joan – Now one of my favorite subjects. Armor.

No! Not that kind of armor! You stupid, silly staff you!

No, no, armor as in what ze soldiers ware. Russians used quilted armor to protect against Tartar arrows and nobles used chain mail with metal plates.

They use eastern style helmets with cone and union shapes. Good for deflecting an overhead sword.

Joan – The nobles fought and were armed with an… antique style.
Olga – Chain mail not good for stopping bullets, dah!

Streltsi were professional soldiers. They did not wear ze armor like the nobles. They had uniformed coats, very big axes, muskets and sabers. Units were in competition with each other for highest ranking spot, always held by Imperial unit in Moscow. Other units in lesser cities were not as prestigious.

Olga – Wait moment. Gaspar Correia e-mailed me a photo of Russian soldier.

Joan – I should have known, no?
Olga – Funny. I no remember soldiers looking like this.
Joan – Because they didn’t.

Joan – Russian army was full of ze contradictions. East and West. Old and new. Peasant and Noble.
Olga – Russian army full of Win!
Joan – They adapted and changed to fit their opponent. They needed mobile armies that could go from Persian to ze Balkans to Poland. Because of Russia’s size they also needed more men to defend so Russian armies were bigger than European armies. Over 120,000 infantry and cavalry.
Olga – We like big armies that kick butt.

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4 comments on “Russian armies of the Renaissance

  1. Julaire says:

    Zach, would/do you take requests on historical topics to discuss?

  2. Rook says:

    May I request something on famous conspiracy theories through out history?

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