Russian Officer background table

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Russian Officer background table

Post by Counterpane »

Richard Phillips and I are planning on doing a bit of Sharp Practice set in the Livonian sector of Napoleon's attack on Russia in 1812. I anticipate lots of small actions around the march across the frontier, the battle Gross Ekau (Iecava), and the siege of Riga.

I'm currently reading Adam Zamoyski's "1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow" for a bit of background (I've already devoured C S Forester's "The Commodore") and I've referred to the biographies of the commanders featinuring in Tolstoy's "War and Peace". Between these I've come up with the following table to generate the backgrounds of Russian officers. The standard table in the rules doesn't work as by all accounts there were no occurrences at all of non-nobles being promoted to officer status in the Russian army. I'd appreciate your views on the following.

Roll 2D6:
2. Russian minor noble, poor, joined a Guards regiment as a gentleman sergeant

3-4 French emigré aristocrat

5-6 Minor noble born in the Russian Empire of non-Russian stock

7 Russian noble with influence at court

8 Russian minor noble, poor and with little influence

9 German emigré officer unemployed as a result of limits on the Prussian army after Jena

10 German emigré officer who refuses to serve under Napoleon

11-12 Other emigré professional soldier:
1 Italian
2 Swiss
3 Swedish
4 Polish
5 Scot
6 Player’s choice


Richard Crawley

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Capt Fortier
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Re: Russian Officer background table

Post by Capt Fortier »

Love seeing this kind of character and background in a game - so v supportive of your efforts and keen to see where you end up. I have seen one website source suggest the following ethnic origins for Russian officers:
  • Russia, Ukraine and White Russia (Belarus) - 87%
  • Lithuanians, Finns, Georgians, Tatars and other ethnic groups within Russian Empire - 7%
  • Poland - 4%
  • Foreigners/Western Europeans in Russian service - 2%
I agree that when you look at lists of Russian Generals, the non-Russians stand out as plentiful, but I suspect for the ranks we mostly see in Sharp Practice, the Russians of the minor nobility and landed gentry class would be heavily represented. It is also worth noting that up until the 1840s, achieving the lowest officer rank of the Russian army automatically entitled you to hereditary nobility under their Table of Ranks. So I think this means that there could still be a wide range of backgrounds for your "noble" officers, including some not especially noble! To keep some colour and variety to your officers' mess, I'd be inclined to suggest roll separately for ethnicity and background.

For ethnicity, you could have something like: 1-7 = Russian/Ukrainian/White Russian; 8 = Polish/Lithuanian; 9 = Baltic German/Finnish'; 10 = Georgian/Tatar/Caucasian; 10-12 = Foreigner in Russian service (and you could have a further list with a breakdown similar to your list).

For background, I think the existing SP2 lists provide a useful base - and could include: an illegitimate son; landed gentry and their sons; son of minor princely family; military family or professional; relative in the civil service or church or from a noble family of dilettantes or intellectuals. You could even take inspiration from Alexander Chechenskiy, who was taken as a boy from his Chechen family during a Russian raid and brought up in a noble family, or even the Gannibals, a prominent African family in Russian service (see more here).

I look forward to see where you end up with this - good hunting!
Capt Fortier

“Frapper l'ennemi, c'est bien. Frapper l'imagination, c'est mieux.” - Jean de Lattre de Tassigny

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