Colonel (Eastern Europe)

Polkovnik (Russian: полковник, lit.'regimentary'; Polish: pułkownik) is a military rank used mostly in Slavic-speaking countries which corresponds to a colonel in English-speaking states and oberst in several German-speaking and Scandinavian countries. The term originates from an ancient Slavic word for a group of soldiers and folk. However, in Cossack Hetmanate and Sloboda Ukraine, polkovnyk was an administrative rank similar to a governor. Usually this word is translated as colonel, however the transliteration is also in common usage, for the sake of the historical and social context. Polkovnik began as a commander of a distinct group of troops (polk), arranged for battle.[1]

Countries which use the Eastern European variant

The exact name of this rank maintains a variety of spellings in different languages, but all descend from the Old Slavonic word polk (literally: regiment sized unit), and include the following in alphabetical order:

  1. Belarusпалкоўнік
  2. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbiapukovnik (Bosnian: [pǔkoːʋniːk])
  3. Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Russia and Ukraineполковник (Russian: [pɐlˈkovnʲɪk] (listen), Ukrainian: [polˈkɔu̯nɪk])
  4. Czech Republic and Slovakiaplukovník
  5. Georgiaპოლკოვნიკი (Georgian: [pʼɔlkʼɔvnikʼi])
  6. Latviapulkvedis
  7. Lithuaniapulkininkas
  8. Polandpułkownik (Polish: [puwˈkɔvɲik] (listen))
  9. Sloveniapolkovnik

Although Georgia, Latvia, and Lithuania are not Slavic countries linguistically, they have been influenced by Russian terminology due to having been part of both the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Latvian and Lithuanian were also influenced by Polish terminology, due to those countries having been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The rank of polkovnik was also used in the Estonian army until 1924.



Army and air force insignia
Country  Russian Empire (17th century)
  Soviet Union (1935–1991)
Service branch  Russian Ground Forces
  Russian Air Force
NATO rank codeOF-5
Formation17th century
Next higher rankGenerál-mayór
Next lower rankPodpolkovnik
Equivalent ranksKapitan 1st rank (Navy)

In the 17th century, polkovnik became the position of a regimental commander of the streltsy; this position also made it into New Regiments of the streltsy and later into the new army of Peter the Great. The rank was legalized by Table of Ranks that placed it in the 6th grade as the second-top field officer, right under the brigadier. A promotion to the rank of polkovnik gave a privilege of hereditary nobility.

The Red Army reintroduced the polkovnik rank in 1935, together with a number of other former Russian ranks, and it continued to be in used in many ex-USSR countries, including Russia.

Polkovnik of the Russian Empire (1793)

Rank insigniaEdit

The Rank insignia to Polkovnik (OF-5) is as follows:

See alsoEdit


As part of the CommonwealthEdit

The rank was first introduced in the armies of the Commonwealth in the 17th century to denote a captain (rotmistrz) of the core banner of a regiment. By the end of the 17th century, the title of the assignment became a de facto rank as such and started to denote the commanding officer of the entire regiment. In mercenary troops fighting in the ranks of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth's army, the direct equivalent of the rank of pułkownik was oberszter, but in the 18th century the rank was abolished and renamed as pułkownik as well.


During the Sanation in the period between World War I and World War II, a large number of officers were promoted to the rank, often for political reasons (the rule of the Sanation was even dubbed the government of the colonels because of that).

World War IIEdit

During the Invasion of Poland in 1939, the Polish divisions were commanded by officers of many grades, from colonels to three-star generals. In fact 22 divisions out of 42 were commanded by colonels in 1939. The pułkownicy (plural of pułkownik) also commanded units of all sizes, from divisions down to mere battalions.


In the Zaporozhian Host, the political, social, and military organization of Ukrainian cossacks, the title polkovnyk indicated a high military rank among the Ukrainian Cossack starshyna (officers); a polkovnyk commanded one or more military detachments during land and naval military actions in the 16th to 18th centuries. In the 18th century, a polkovnyk was a leader of a palanka, a territorial unit of the Zaporozhian Host. The military council elected a palanka polkovnyk to serve for a term of one year. He represented the Kosh Otaman in the palanka and had significant powers, including the right to condemn Cossacks to the death penalty. At the time of liquidation of the Zaporozhian Host by the Russian government in 1775, there were eight palanka polkovnyks. As symbol of office a polkovnyk wore a pernach (a mace with a hexagonal head; see also bulawa) in his belt.

In the Registered Cossack Army of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th and 17th centuries, a polkovnyk commanded a regiment (полк. polk), a Cossack military unit. After the reform of the Cossack army by hetman Mykhailo Doroshenko in the 1620s there were six Cossack regiments, each comprising one thousand Cossacks. Polkovnyks were elected by the Cossack Council (рада, rada) subject to the approval of the Polish government. A polkovnyk obtained a salary for his service, and enjoyed considerable privileges. After the Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth adopted the "Ordination" of 1638, only noblemen (szlachta) were allowed to become polkovnyks.

During Khmelnytsky Uprising (1648-1657) and in the Cossack Hetmanate (1649-1764; also in the Slobozhanschtschyna in 1652–1765), a polkovnyk headed a territorial administrative unit, the regiment (полк). In terms of Nobility, Khmelnytsky's Polkovnyks were recognized as equal to Lithuania's Barons.

In modern Ukraine, the military rank of polkovnyk resembles the similar rank of the former Soviet Army.

Colonel (Eastern Europe)'s insigniaEdit

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ Sławomir Kułacz, University of Gdańsk, Poland (2012). "Conceptualization of selected army ranks in English, German, Polish and Czech". UMCS Lublin: Studies in Modern Languages and Literature, vol. 36: 27. Retrieved 12 February 2016. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ "Azərbaycan Respublikası Silahlı Qüvvələri hərbi qulluqçularının hərbi geyim forması və fərqləndirmə nişanları haqqında Əsasnamə" (PDF). (in Azerbaijani). Ministry of Defense. 25 June 2001. pp. 64–70. Retrieved 16 February 2021.
  3. ^ "Указ Президента Республики Беларусь от 21.07.2009 N 388 "О военной форме одежды, знаках различия по воинским званиям и внесении дополнений в Указ Президента Республики Беларусь от 9 июня 2006 г. N 383"". (in Russian). Government of Belarus. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  4. ^ "OBILJEŽJA I ČINOVI OS BIH". (in Bosnian). Oružane snage Bosne i Hercegovine. Retrieved 30 September 2019.
  5. ^ "ЗАКОН ЗА ОТБРАНАТА И ВЪОРЪЖЕНИТЕ СИЛИ НА РЕПУБЛИКА БЪЛГАРИЯ". (in Bulgarian). Глава седма. ВОЕННА СЛУЖБА. 12 May 2009. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  6. ^ "Oznake činova". (in Croatian). Republic of Croatia Armed Forces. 1 April 2019. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  7. ^ "Ranks". Ministry of Defence of the Czech Republic. 2018. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  8. ^ "სამხედრო წოდებები და ინსიგნიები" [Military Ranks and Insignia]. (in Georgian). Ministry of Defense of Georgia. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  9. ^ "Қазақстан Республикасының Қарулы Күштері, басқа да әскерлері мен әскери құралымдары әскери қызметшілерінің әскери киім нысаны және айырым белгілері туралы". (in Kazakh). Ministry of Justice (Kazakhstan). 25 August 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  10. ^ "Кыргыз Республикасынын жарандарынын жалпыга бирдей аскердик милдети жөнүндө, аскердик жана альтернативдик кызматтар жөнүндө". (in Kyrgyz). Ministry of Justice (Kyrgyzstan). 9 February 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  11. ^ "Pakāpju iedalījums". (in Latvian). Latvian National Armed Forces. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  12. ^ "Karių laipsnių ženklai". (in Lithuanian). Ministry of National Defence (Lithuania). Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  13. ^ "УРЕДБА ЗА ОЗНАКИТЕ ЗА УНИФОРМИТЕ НА АРМИЈАТА НА РЕПУБЛИКА СЕВЕРНА МАКЕДОНИЈА" [Regulation on the Markings for the Uniforms of the Army of the Republic Northern of Macedonia]. (in Macedonian). 12 November 2020. Retrieved 24 May 2021.
  14. ^ "IV. Izgled Činova u Vojsci". Official Gazette of Montenegro (in Montenegrin). 50/10: 22–28. 16 August 2010. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  15. ^ "Sposób noszenia odznak stopni wojskowych na umundurowaniu wojsk Lądowych i sił Powietrznych" (PDF). (in Polish). Armed Forces Support Inspectorate. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  16. ^ "Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 11 марта 2010 года № 293 "О военной форме одежды, знаках различия военнослужащих и ведомственных знаках отличия"". (in Russian). Российской газеты. 12 March 2010. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  17. ^ "ЧИНОВИ У ВОЈСЦИ СРБИЈЕ". (in Serbian). Serbian Armed Forces. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
  18. ^ "Označenie vojenských hodností príslušníkov Ozbrojených síl Slovenskej republiky od 1.1.2016" [Designation of military ranks of members of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic from 1.1.2016]. (in Slovak). Military History Institute. Retrieved 12 April 2021.
  19. ^ "Čini in razredi". (in Slovenian). Slovenian Armed Forces. Retrieved 26 May 2021.
  20. ^ "ҚОНУНИ ҶУМҲУРИИ ТОҶИКИСТОН ДАР БОРАИ ЎҲДАДОРИИ УМУМИИ ҲАРБӢ ВА ХИЗМАТИ ҲАРБӢ". (in Tajik). The National Assembly of the Republic of Tajikistan. 13 April 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  21. ^ "TÜRKMENISTANYŇ KANUNY Harby borçlulyk we harby gulluk hakynda (Türkmenistanyň Mejlisiniň Maglumatlary 2010 ý., № 3, 58-nji madda) (Türkmenistanyň 01.10.2011 ý. № 234-IV Kanuny esasynda girizilen üýtgetmeler we goşmaçalar bilen)" [LAW OF TURKMENISTAN On military service and military service (Information of the Mejlis of Turkmenistan, 2010, No. 3, Article 58) (as amended by the Law of Turkmenistan of October 1, 2011 No. 234-IV)] (PDF). (in Turkmen). Ministry of Defense (Turkmenistan). pp. 28–29. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  22. ^ "НАКАЗ 20.11.2017 № 606". (in Ukrainian). Ministry of Justice of Ukraine. 13 December 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  23. ^ "O'zbekiston Respublikasi fuqarolarining harbiy xizmatni o'tash tartibi to'g'risida". (in Uzbek). Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Uzbekistan. 12 September 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2021.