Narodnoe Opolcheniye

The People's Militia (Russian: Narodnoe Opolcheniye or Opolchenie (Russian: Народное ополчение, lit. "popular regimentation" or "people's volunteer's militia")) was the name given to irregular troops formed from the population in Russia and Soviet Union. They fought behind front lines and alongside the regular army during several wars throughout its history.

The People's Militia is of the type known as "national troops" such as the Dnieper Cossacks, or German Landwehr, and although often translated as the "people's militia",[1] "home guard",[2] "people-in-arms",[3] "national popular army",[4] "civilian reserves",[5] "popular levy",[6] "People's Volunteer Army",[7] "national guard...the factory regiments",[8] "bataillons ouvriers",[9] "all men fit to bear arms from their 21st year",[10] like "British Local Defence Volunteers",[11] "a hastily mustered militia, the opolchenie",[12] "a reserve force",[13] "Opolchenie (a kind of "Landsturm")",[14] "home guard militia",[15] "volunteer militia",[16] "territorial army",[17] or "temporary militias composed of mostly peasant 'volunteers'"[18] its members never belonged to an organised military force, but were in all cases selectively accepted from a body of volunteers during a national emergency.

The People's Militia features prominently in early Russian history, for example in The Tale of Igor's Campaign when it refers to the entire force led on a campaign. It was used for political purposes when the Grand Duchy of Moscow assumed the leading role in the 16th-century Russia. It sought to emphasise the Tsar as the "father" of all of Russians, which included other principalities which sought to remain independent. Before the unification of Russians under the leadership of Moscow, each city and town had its own Opolcheniye not named Narodnoe, but named after the city or town, so Novgorodskoye Opolcheniye, Suzdalskoye Opolcheniye, Vladimirskoye Opolcheniye, etc. These were not militia as such, but armed crowds that, when attacked, would arm themselves and gather into a polk, which is translated in its modern meaning as a regiment. Dal' [19] gives other usages such as rat', voisko, opolcheniye, tolpa and vataga.

Although formed into regiments, divisions and even armies during their existence, the Opolcheniye never had their own permanent units, and it was only during their last creation in 1941 that they were transferred to the regular units and formations en masse.

See also


  1. p. 561, Glantz
  2. p. 43, Kirschenbaum
  3. p. 195, Berman, Kerner
  4. p. 178, Gippenreĭter, Komech
  5. p. 43, Rhodes
  6. p. 197, Harcave
  7. p. 621, Herzen
  8. p. 238, Arlen
  9. p. 335, Elleinstein
  10. p. 503, Drury
  11. p. 31, RAND
  12. p. 203, Rothenberg
  13. p.357, Singleton
  14. p. 91, De Windt
  15. p. 20, Seaton
  16. p.280, Rottman
  17. p. 93,Raymond, Atwater-Green
  18. Harris
  19. p. 262, vol.III, Dal
  20. Russian Army Order of Battle
  21. p.87, Summerfield; from "The Don Cossack Opolchenie in 1812" by L. M. Frantseva, found in the ISTORICHESKIE ZAPISKI, 1954, Book 47, pp. 291–307. English translation by Mark Conrad
  22. pp. 691–704, Moon
  23. p. 235, Chickering, Förster, Greiner


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