Starshina, or Starshyna (Russian: старшина́, Ukrainian: старши́на, from старший, starshyi, "senior"), initially was a Cossacks officership, but in Soviet times was used as the top non-commissioned officer.

Among Cossacks and in Ukraine, starshina was a collective noun for categories of officership or a military elite: junior starshina (Молодша старшина), general starshina (Генеральна старшина), military starshina (Військова старшина), substarshina (Підстаршина). Later sometime after the Khmelnytsky's Uprising it also was associated with the Ukrainian nobility which derived out of the officership and dictated whom to be the Hetman in XVII. The some members of starshina became disloyal not only to the Hetman and the Tsar, but also to their own people. Such disposition greatly contributed to the numerous conflicts and uprisings in Ukraine at that time. Coincidentally during this period the territory of Ukraine changes its borders regularly among Moscow, Ottoman Empire, and Poland.

In Tsardom of Russia and later Imperial Russia of 17-20th centuries a volostnoy starshina was a chief of a volost (a rural administrative unit). He was in charge of the distribution of taxes, resolving conflicts within obshchina, distribution of the usage of community lands, assigning people for military service, etc.

The rank of voiskovoi starshina (Войсковой старшина - "Starshina of the Army (Host)") was introduced into Russian military ranks in 1826, as equivalent of a Lieutenant Colonel in the Cossack cavalry.

In the Soviet Army, a starshina was the highest non-commissioned officer among conscripts; this was changed by reintroduction of the higher-ranking praporshchik in 1972. In the Soviet Navy, it was introduced in 1942 as a petty officer rank; every enlisted seaman ranking above Matrose, 1st class is a starshina of various ranks.

The starshina as an enlisted rank is still used in the military ranks of the Russian Federation, Bulgaria and Ukraine.


Cossack starshyna at the Encyclopedia of Ukraine

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