Podpolkovnik (Russian: подполко́вник, lit. 'sub –, junior – , or lower regimentary') is a military rank in Slavic countries which corresponds to the lieutenant colonel in the English-speaking states and military.[1][2]

In different languages the exact name of this rank maintains a variety of spellings.[1] The transliteration is also in common usage for the sake of tradition dating back to the Old Slavonic word "polk" (literally: regiment sized unit), and include the following names in alphabetical order:

Sequence of ranks ascending
lower rank:

(en: Lieutenant colonel)
higher rank:
(en: Colonel)
  1. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbiapotpukovnik (Serbo-Croatian: [pôtpukoːʋniːk])
  2. Bulgariaподполковник
  3. Czech Republicpodplukovník (Czech: [ˈpotplukovɲiːk])
  4. Georgiaვიცე-პოლკოვნიკი (Georgian: [vitsɛ pʼɔlkʼɔvnikʼi])
  5. Lithuaniapapulkininkis
  6. North Macedoniaпотполковник
  7. Polandpodpułkownik (Polish: [pɔtpuwˈkɔvɲik])
  8. Russiaподполко́вник (podpolkovnik) (Russian: [pətpɐlˈkovnʲɪk])
  9. Sloveniapodpolkovnik
  10. Slovakiapodplukovník
  11. Ukraineпідполковник (pidpolkovnyk)

Russia and USSR

in the Russian Army
Rank insigniaArmed Forces of the Russian Federation
Introduction1939 to the Soviet Army
Rank groupStab-ofizer
Army / Air ForcePodpolkovnik
NavyKapitan 2nd rank

Podpolkovnik (Russian: подполко́вник) — military rank and special rank in the historical Imperial Russian Army, in the USSR and in Russia. First it appeared in Russia as appointment or assignment to the assistant or deputy commander of a regiment sized military formation at the end of the 15th — early 16th century.

In the Streltsy formations, as a general role, the podpolkovnik was responsible for all administrative tasks and functions. Normally it was of Nobility or Boyar origin.

From the 17th - to early 17th century there was a rank and an appointment under the designation polupolkovnik (Russian: полуполко́вник, IPA: [polʊpɐlˈkovnʲɪk]). Beyond its normal responsibilities, he was in charge to command the second halve of the regiment, the rear -, reserve -, and other regular units (until the introduction of the battalion structure).

Russian Empire

From the introduction of the Russian table of ranks to the abolishment in 1917 podpolkovnik was quoted to rank positioned VII, and until 1856 it was privileged by hereditary nobility.[3]

In 1884, as the mayor rank in the Russian army was suppressed, all mayors, by exemption of retirement, loss of civil rights, or mercilessly, were converted to podpolkovnik. From this moment, the rank podpolkovnik was equivalent to the rank armed forces' starshina (Russian: войскова́я старшина́, romanized: voyskovaja starshina, lit. 'head of the armed forces', pronounced [vəjskɐˈvajə stərʂɨˈna]). Before 1884, the armed forces' starshina was adequate to mayor. In line to this reform, the shoulder board rank insignia had been changed from two big stars to three smaller ones.

To the formations of the so-called leyb-guard (Russian: лейб гва́рдия, tr. leyb-gvardija, IPA: [lʲejb ˈɡvardʲɪjə]), the rank podpolkovnik had not been introduced. Normally, kapitan officers might have been promoted to polkovnik immediately, by skipping the ranks major and podpolkovnik.

In the Russian imperial navy the rank Kapitan 2nd rank was equivalent to podpolkovnik, in the civil administration it was corresponding to privy councillor (Russian: надво́рный сове́тник, tr. nadvornjy sovetnik, IPA: [nɐˈdvornɨj sɐˈvʲetʲnʲɪk]). The rank podpolkovnik was abolished 16 December 1917, together with all previous ranks and rank insignia of the former Russian imperial army.

In the white voluntary army the rank was in the period from December 1917 to November 1918. Than it was abolished as well, and harmonized to the Kapitan ranks of the guard and other officers of the other formations. However, in the Russian army of general Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel the podpolkovnik rank was reestablished in April 1920.


By foundation of the Soviet Union the rank designation and rank insignia of the Imperial Russian Army were suppressed. An equivalent rank to podpolkovnik was created in 1924, by the introduction of the so-called status category 8 rank – (English: 'assistant commander of the regiment and equivalent personnel'; Russian: помо́щник команди́ра полка́ и ему́ ра́вные, IPA: [pɐˈmoʂnʲɪk kəmɐnʲˈdʲirə pɐlˈka i jɪˈmu ˈravnɨje]). However, this was overtaken by the introduction of individual ranks in 1935.[4]

Podpolkovnik as a military rank was reintroduced September 1, 1939 by disposal of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union (from September 2, 1939), and the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR No. 2690 (article 41, pertaining the law of universal compulsory military service), published by the order No. 226 of the People's Commissar of Defence (from July 26, 1940). [5]

The Red Army used this rank together with a number of other former Russian ranks, and it has been used in many ex-USSR countries, including Russia, to the present day.

By the first promotion to that particular rank the hitherto (old) polkovnik collar distinction insignia with three parallel bars had to be used. The new polkovnik rank was from now on characterized by four bars. This insignia had to be worn until the introduction of shoulder boards, and were finally replaced in 1943.

In the Soviet navy the rank kapitan 2nd rank was equivalent to podpolkovnik. In the civil administration it was corresponding to privy councillor (Russian: надво́рный сове́тник). The rank podpolkovnik was abolished 16 December 1917, together with all previous ranks and rank insignia of the former Russian imperial army. In the military political organization it was equivalent to starshy battalion commissar (Russian: ста́рший батальо́нный комисса́р, IPA: [ˈstarʂɨj bətɐˈlʲjɵnːɨj kəmʲɪˈsar]), another corresponding rank designation was Specialist 1st rank (pertaining to: military engineers, surgeons, commissionaires, veterinary surgeons, and legal personnel).


In late 1943 shoulder boards were reintroduced as rank designation. From this moment in the podpolkovnik rank of the Red Army was specified by two big horizontal stars, on shoulder boards, with parallel piping (two straps). The stars had to be established on a distance of 35 mm from the lower end of the shoulder board (Rules to wear military uniforms in the Soviet Army and the Navy). From 7 November 1944 the stars were pinned direct (symmetrically to the piping) on piping.

Russian Federation

If military personnel serves in a guards formation, or on a guards war ship, to the rank designation will be placed in front the noun guards (e.g. "Gurds podpolkovnik"). Civil – or military personnel with a specific defined level of expertise or knowledge in medical or judicial professions, to the military rank will be added the noun "legal or the wording "medical service". Further adding to the military rank designation might be "retired" or "on retirement".

Personnel serving in the executive of the Russian Federation might be specified by rank designation as follows.

  • Podpolkovnik of the Police (until March 1, 2011 podpolkovnik of the Militsiya)
  • Podpolkovnik of the Internal Troops
  • Podpolkovnik investigation of tax offence

Rank insignia

Other countries

See also


  1. Sławomir Kułacz, University of Gdańsk, Poland (2012). "Conceptualization of selected army ranks in English, German, Polish and Czech". Lublin Studies in Modern Languages and Literature. UMCS Lublin: Studies in Modern Languages and Literature, vol. 36: 27. Retrieved 12 February 2016.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. Imperial Russian Army Ranks (World War I). AlexanderPalace.org
  3. "Подполковник". Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary: In 86 Volumes (82 Volumes and 4 Additional Volumes). St. Petersburg. 1890–1907.
  4. Decree of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union and the Council of People's Commissars, from September 22, 1935, on introduction of individual military rank designation to commanding personnel of the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army.
  5. Decree of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviet Union and the Council of People's Commissars, from September 2, 1939, on introduction of the rank/ rank designation Podpolkovnik in the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army.
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