Semyonovsky Regiment

Semyonovsky Lifeguard Regiment
— III —
Active 1683-1917
Country Russian Empire
Branch Army
Type Infantry
Size Regiment
Garrison/HQ St. Petersburg (1914)
Badge of the regiment
Company flag taken by the Swedes at the Battle of Narva 1700

Semyonovsky Life-Guards Regiment (Семёновский лейб-гвардии полк) was one of the two oldest guards regiments of the Imperial Russian Army. The other was the Preobrazhensky Regiment.


Peter's Toy Army

The history of the regiment dates back to 1683 when it formed as a company of the Toy army of Peter I. It took its name from a village called Semyonovskoe (eastern Moscow) (part of the present-day Sokolniki District), where it was initially stationed. In 1700 the troops became the Semyonovsky Life Guards Regiment. From 1723 the regiment was quartered in St. Petersburg.

The Great Northern War

During the Great Northern War the regiment fought in the Battle of Narva on the 30th of November, 1700. The Russian guard (Semyonovsky and Preobrazhensky regiments) firmly defended themselves from the Swedes and avoided a defeat. For their valour, the Swedish king Charles XII agreed to allow them to keep their weapons; the Russian guard regiments marched with standards unfurled, drums rolling and in possession of their weapons. For their prowess, all soldiers of the Semyonovsky regiment wore red stockings from 1700 to 1740, as "in that battle, they stood knee-deep in blood". In the battle the regiment lost 17 officers (including the commander, podpolkovnik Cunningham) and 454 enlisted personnel. Major Yakov Lobanov-Rostovsky was judged and condemned to death for his flight from the battlefield, but subsequently pardoned.

In 1702, a squad of the regiment took part in the 13-hour storming of the fortress of Nöteborg. For that, all of its members received a silver medal. The commander of the squad, podpolkovnik Mikhail Golitsyn, was awarded with the rank of guard colonel.

In 1703 the regiment excelled in the siege of Nyenschantz and capture of the Swedish fleet at the mouth of the Neva River. On the 9th of October, 1708, the regiment took part in the Battle of Lesnaya as a part of the infantry contingent of the Corps Volant. On the 27th of September, 1709, it fought in the Battle of Poltava. It also took part in the Prut campaign of 1711.

Russo-Swedish War of 1741–1743

A musician from the Semyonovsky regiment (in the left), mid-18th century

The Napoleonic Wars

The entire regiment participated in the wars with France (1805, 1806–07, 1812–14).

During the French invasion of Russia in 1812, all three battalions of the regiment formed part of the 1st Brigade of the Guard Infantry Division of the 5th Infantry Corps. Upon departure from Saint Petersburg, it had 51 officers and 2147 enlisted personnel in service. In the Battle of Borodino, the regiment was held in reserve; after the French captured the battery of Raevsky, it fought against the French heavy cavalry in the center of the Russian positions (120 servicemen lost).

In the campaign of 1813, the regiment fought in the battles of Lützen, Bautzen, Kulm and Leipzig. In 1814, it arrived Paris. A unique officer served in the regiment for those two years: Georgian cavalier and colonel (later general) Sergey Nepeitsyn. He lost his leg at Ochakov and used an artificial leg, constructed by the famous engineer Kulibin.

19th century

The regiment participated in the wars against Turkey (1828–29 and 1877–78).

On 16 October, 1820, the lead company of the Semyonovsky regiment, under the leadership of the former commander Yakov Potyomkin, forwarded a petition to cancel the harsh regime instituted under Russian statesman Aleksey Arakcheyev and to change the regiment's commander Schwartz. The company was deceitfully brought to a riding academy, arrested and sent to the jail of Peter and Paul Fortress. The whole regiment interceded to prevent it, was surrounded by the garrison of Saint Petersburg and also sent to the Peter and Paul Fortress. The first battalion was judged by a tribunal; the instigators were condemned to run the gauntlet, while other soldiers were to be exiled to distant garrisons. Other battalions were disbanded between various army regiments. The regiment was reformed anew with the rights of a "young guard"; it only got the old rights back in 1823.

In 1905, regiment participated in quelling of the armed uprising in Moscow. On 16 December, when the arrived soldiers joined fighting, the rebels still held the Presnya quarter, as well as the Moscow-Kazan railroad line to Golutvin. To crush the rebellion while it remained in the suburbs, the regiment's commander, colonel Georgiy Min, detached the third battalion under colonel Nikolai Riman. The commander himself cruelly liquidated the center of the rebellion, with an order not to take captives. For these actions, Min received special praise from the emperor Nicholas II, was promoted to major general and taken into the tsar's entourage. On the 13 August 1906, however, he was killed by Socialist Revolutionaries.

World War I and disbandment

During World War I, the regiment was dispatched to the South-Western front as part of the 1st Guards Infantry Division; the reserve battalion, which remained in Petrograd, took part in February Revolution in 1917.

In March 1918, the Semyonovsky regiment returned from the front to Petrograd and was disbanded the same month. The 3rd Petrograd City Guard Regiment was created in its place. Many people enlisted in the regiment in order to avoid service in the Red Army itself. However, when Petrograd was subsequently threatened by White Russian forces, many units from Petrograd were sent to the front, including the 3rd Regiment. In late May 1919, a large portion of the regiment (more than 600 people) switched sides to join the White movement. All communists who were present at the time were shot.

In 1925, 21 former officers of the regiment were arrested, 11 of them were shot, and some others were sent to Gulag camps.


In 2013, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on re-establishment of the Regiment as a rifle regiment, its name now becoming the 1st Semyonovsky Independent Rifle Regiment (1-й отдельный стрелковый Семёновский полк), and joining the Kremlin Regiment in providing security to the President of Russia and the entire Moscow Kremlin and its surroundings, just as its predecessors did. Just as before the move to Saint Petersburg, the regiment today is garrisoned in Zyuzino Selo in Ramensky District, Moscow Oblast.

The renewed regiment's 1st ever enlistment ceremony for new recruits was held on December 11, 2013. Unlike the Kremlin Regiment, the current unit reports directly as an component unit of the Russian Ground Forces - the only independent regiment of infantry in service, and thus is part of the Russian Armed Forces proper, reporting to the President, who is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and the Minister of Defense, thru the Commander of the Ground Forces. As a military unit of the Armed Forces it therefore wears the same uniforms and uses the same ranks, uniforms and armaments as the rest of the Ground Forces have been using at present. It operationally is part of the Western Military District.

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