On November 18, 1699, Tsar Peter the Great issued a decree calling on freemen to volunteer for military service. This decision laid the groundwork for recruitment as a system of manpower acquisition, which in effect meant the creation of a new type of army.
At the time of Peter the Great's accession to the throne, the Russian army was non-professional and in complete disarray. Having a clear idea about the direction of his foreign policy, the Tsar began his reign by modernizing his country and strengthening its military power. In order to accomplish what he had set out to do, Peter I needed to enlarge his army and make it into a professional unit.
The Streltsy (units of guardsmen) uprising in Moscow in 1698 only accelerated this process of reforms. After the revolt was suppressed, the Tsar disbanded the Streltsy regiments, and the individual they sought to put on the throne - Peter's half-sister Sophia - was forced to become a nun.
His edict “On the Enlistment of Freemen for Military Service” built an army on a voluntary basis. In accordance with the new recruitment system, the soldiers were recruited from peasants and the officers from the nobles. Peter I offered a pay rate of eleven rubles a year (an average income for the time), together with food and drink allowances. These conditions made a strong appeal, and the flow of volunteers was heavy.
Men suitable for service were enlisted in Preobrazhensk (a locality in Moscow), Novgorod, Pskov, Smolensk, Belgorod and cities along the Volga River. General Avtomon Golovin was responsible for forming and training the newly-formed regiments.
By the end of the first recruitment process, three infantry divisions had been created, consisting of over 1,000 men and commanded by the closest associates of Peter the Great - Generals Golovin, Adam Veyde and Anikita Repnin. In addition to the infantry, new cavalry (or dragoon) regiments were raised. By 1725, Russia had over 100,000 men in the army. Discipline was tough and all soldiers received similar training so that the army had uniformity.
Continuing the military reforms of his father – Tsar Aleksey Romanov – Peter I became the founder of Russia's standing army and navy. And although the attempts to create such an army in Russia date back long before the reforms of Peter, it was under his reign that it was made into one of the most powerful in Europe and was able to deliver crushing blows to the most powerful enemies.