The Table of Ranks (Russian: Табель о рангах; Tabel’ o rangakh) was a formal list of positions and ranks in the military, government, and court of Imperial Russia. It was introduced in 1722, during the reign of Peter the Great, while he engaged in a struggle with the existing hereditary nobility, or boyars. The Table of Ranks was formally abolished by the Bolshevik government on November 11, 1917.
The Table of Ranks recognized three fundamental types of service: military, civil and court, dividing each into 14 ranks (grades). It determined position and status of everybody according to service (sluzhba) rather than according to birth or seniority, as mestnichestvo (1) did. Thus theoretically every nobleman, regardless of birthright, started at the bottom and rose to the highest rank that his native ability, education and service devotion to the state’s interests would allow. Everybody had to qualify for the corresponding grade to be promoted; however grades 1 through 5 required the personal approval of the Emperor.
Despite the initial resistance from noblemen, many of whom were still illiterate in the 18th century and shunned the paper-pushing life of the civil servant, the eventual effect of the Table of Ranks was to create an educated class of noble bureaucrats.
In 1767 Catherine the Great bought the support of the Bureaucracy by making promotion up the 14 ranks automatic after seven years regardless of position or merit. Thus, the bureaucracy was populated with time servers.
Achieving a certain level in the Table resulted in acquiring that or another grade of nobility. A civil servant promoted to the fourteenth grade was endowed with personal nobility (dvoryanstvo), and holding an office in the eighth grade endowed the office holder with hereditary nobility. Nicholas I raised this to the fifth grade in 1845. In 1856, the grades required for hereditary nobility were raised to the fourth grade for the civil service and to the sixth grade for military service. The father of Vladimir Lenin progressed in the management of people’s education up to the rank of Actual Civil (State) Councilor (действительный статский советник) (1874), which gave him the privilege of hereditary nobility.
The origins of the Table lie in Russian military ranks, which were extensively modified by Peter the Great with the addition of many distinct ranks and specialities. The first variant of the Table included definition and placement of as many as 262 civil and military positions. By the end of the 18th century, these were removed in favour of universal grade rank (классный чин). Retinue titles (Russian: Свита Е. И. В.) such as General-Adjutant, Fliegel-Adjutant, etc., were not placed in the Table, as they were personal courtesy titles of the Emperor’s aides-de-camp.
With occasional revisions, the Table of Ranks remained in effect until the Russian Revolution of 1917.
In Russian history, Mestnichestvo (Russian: Ме́стничество, IPA: [ˈmʲestnʲɪt͡ɕɪstvə]; from ме́сто) was a feudal hierarchical system in Russia from the 15th to 17th centuries. Mestnichestvo revolved around a simple principle: the boyar who estimated that his origins were more ancient and his personal services to the tsar more valuable could claim a higher state post