Precursors: Regiments of the New Order
Russian tsars before
Peter the Great maintained professional hereditary musketeer corps known as
streltsy. These were originally raised by
Ivan the Terrible; originally an effective force, they had become highly unreliable and undisciplined. In times of war the armed forces were augmented by peasants.
The regiments of the new order, or regiments of the foreign order ("Полки нового строя" or "Полки иноземного строя", Polki novovo (inozemnovo) stroya), was the Russian term that was used to describe
military units that were formed in the
Tsardom of Russia in the 17th century according to the
Western European military standards.
There were different kinds of regiments, such as the
reiters. In 1631, the Russians created two regular regiments in Moscow. During the
Smolensk War of 1632–1634, six more regular regiments, one reiter regiment, and a dragoon regiment were formed. Initially, they recruited children of the landless
boyars and streltsy, volunteers, Cossacks and others.
Commanding officers comprised mostly foreigners. After the war with Poland, all of the regiments were disbanded. During another
Russo-Polish War (1654–1667), they were created again and became a principal force of the Russian army. Often, regular and dragoon regiments were manned with datochniye lyudi for lifelong
military service. Reiters were manned with small or landless
gentry and boyars' children and were paid with money (or lands) for their service. More than a half of the commanding officers were representatives from the gentry. In times of peace, some of the regiments were usually disbanded.
In 1681, there were 33 regular regiments (61,000 men) and 25 dragoon and reiter regiments (29,000 men). In the late 17th century, regiments of the new type represented more than a half of the Russian Army and in the beginning of the 18th century were used for creating a regular army.