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Group of Soviet soldiers, in the foreground starshina with appropriate insignia introduced in 1943 (Bulgaria, 1944).

Starshina (Russian: старшина, IPA: [stərʂɨˈna] (About this soundlisten)) or Starshyna in Ukrainian transliteration is a senior non-commissioned rank or designation in the military forces of some Slavic states. In army terminology, a starshina is either an appointment roughly equivalent to "Company Sergeant Major" or a rank equal to a NATO OR-8. In naval terminology, starshina is a general term for junior and middle-ranking non-commissioned officers, similar in usage to "Petty Officer".

The word originates from the Russian word старший, starshij, literally meaning "older, more senior", from старый staryj "old".

Cossack Hetmanate[edit]

Among Cossacks in Ukraine, starshyna was a collective noun for categories of military officers and state officials. It derived from the offices in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Sharshyna was subdivided into:

  • General Starshyna (Генеральна старшина), headed by Hetman (or Quartermaster General as acting Hetman)
    • Quartermaster General
    • Judge General
    • Secretary General
    • Adjutant General
    • Treasurer General
    • Ensign General
    • Bunchuk General
  • Regimental (Polkova) Starshyna, headed by Polkovnyk (Colonel)
    • Regimental Obozni (Quartermaster) (Ukrainian: Полковий обозний) – first Deputy Colonel. He was in charge of artillery and fortress fortifications. In the absence of a colonel he replaced him, but he was not authorized to issue universal orders (as opposed to the commanding colonel).
    • Regimental Judge (Ukrainian: Полковий суддя) – was in charge of a civil court in the ratusha
    • Regimental Osavul (Ukrainian: Полковий осавул) – assistant Colonel in Military Affairs
    • Regimental Khorunzhy (Ukrainian: Полковий хорунжий) – commander of the "Khorunzhy Cossacks", guarding the colonel and the starshina. He was in charge of regimental music and was responsible for keeping the khorugv (regiment flag).
    • Regimental Chancellor (Ukrainian: Полковий писар) – secretaries at the ratusha. One was in charge of military affairs, and the other of civilian affairs.
  • Starshyna of Hundred (Sotenna) – headed by Sotnyk
    • Sotenny otaman (Ukrainian: Сотенний отаман) – the deputy sotnik, implemented the duties of an obozni and a judge on a sotnia level
    • Sotenny Osavul (Ukrainian: Сотенний осавул) – assistant sotnik in military affairs
    • Sotenny Khorunzhy (Ukrainian: Сотенний хорунжий) – headed the sotnias flags
    • Sotenny Chancellor (Ukrainian: Сотенний писар) – a secretary
  • Junior Starshyna (Молодша старшина) – headed by Otaman

Later, sometime after the Khmelnytsky's Uprising, it was also associated with the Ukrainian nobility which derived out of the officership and the Hetman.

Imperial Russia[edit]

Later, in the Tsardom of Russia and Imperial Russia, a volostnoy starshina was the chief of a volost (a rural administrative unit), in charge of the distribution of taxes, resolving conflicts within obshchina (communes), distributing community lands and military conscription. The rank of Voiskovoi starshina (Войсковой старшина – Starshina of the Army (Host)) was introduced into the ranks of the Imperial military in 1826, as the equivalent of a "Lieutenant Colonel" in the Cossack cavalry.

Soviet Union and Russian Federation[edit]

The word starshina gained its modern meaning in the Red Army, and is a hangover from the functional titles (like "Brigade Commander" or "Assistant Platoon Leader") that were initially used by that force – the word literally means "senior". Most functional titles in the Red Army were abolished in 1942, but Starshina remained. Starshina was the highest non-commissioned rank in the Soviet Army until the reintroduction of the imperial rank of Praporshchik in 1972.

In the Soviet Navy, the term starshina was introduced between 1940 and 1943 as term equivalent to "Petty Officer" for every enlisted seaman above "Matros, 1st class." There was also created a rank equal to Starshina in the Army, but termed Glávnyj korabél'nyj starshiná ("Chief Petty Officer of the Ship") – this is the naval rank depicted in the tables below.

Insignia in the Red Army (1919–1946) and Soviet Armed Forces (1946–1991)[edit]

Soviet Red Star Insignia.png RA I K2a 1924v.jpg 1935-i-pg06v.png RA I Starshina 1941v.png RA-SA A-engin R8FirstSg 1955.png RA-SA A R8FirstSg 1955field.gif SA A-inf R8FirstSg 1963v.svg SA AF R8FirstSg 1963v.svg RAF N R8Starshina 1924-1940.gif Rank insignia of главный корабельный старшина of the Soviet Navy.svg Погон старшины ВВС с 2010 года.png
RA OR8-Starshina 1919v1.svg
(1919–1924) collar
collar insignia
collar insignia
Ground combat troops
Ground forces
Air force,
airborne forces,
air defence forces
Air force, airborne forces

Insignia in the Russian Federation[edit]

Russian Federation
RFAF - Starshina - Every day green.png Russia-Army-OR-8-1994-field.svg Russia-Navy-OR-8-1994-everyday.svg RAF AF-ABTr R8Kursant 2010.png Rus starshina field.svg Погон старшины ВВС с 2010 года.png Старшина ВВ(Р).png Russia-Police-OR-8-2013.svg Rank insignia of главный корабельный старшина 2 of the Soviet Navy.svg
Strategic Missile Troops,

Airborne Forces (service dress)

Ground Forces
(service dress)

(dress uniform)

Air Force and Airborne Forces

kursant ("cadet") with rank of Starshina
(dress uniform)

Field dress
Air force, airborne forces
Internal troops
Ministry of Emergency Situations (firefighters)
Militsiya, police,

some internal troops

(dress uniform)
(after 2010)

Other languages and countries[edit]

  • Belarus Belarusian: Старшыняstarshynia
  • Bulgaria Bulgarian: Старшинаstarshina
  • Ukraine Ukrainian: Старшинаstarshyna. In 2016, after the reform of the armed forces, this class was excluded from the existing list.[1]