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Extraordinarily, it was men born in the former Russian Empire that constituted the most numerous group in the First Australian Imperial Force, after those of Anglo or Celtic background. The following table shows the numbers in the 1st AIF of overseas-born servicemen from different national groups, including Russians. This table also gives an indication of the relative response made by the different national groups to the call to colours in Australia (by showing the number of servicemen as a proportion of their national group's total representation in Australia, from residents recorded in the 1911 Census).

Country of birth Servicemen
(total number)
Residents in
Australia in 1911
(total number)
Servicemen (%)
USA 545 6703 8.13%
Switzerland 84 1750 4.80%
Sweden 384 5628 6.82%
Spain & Gibraltar 42 803 5.23%
South Africa 628 3919 16.02%
Russia 969 4507 21.50%
Norway 284 3479 8.16%
New Zealand 4215 32130 13.12%
Netherlands 138 751 18.38%
Malta 95 251 37.85%
Italy 151 6773 2.23%
India 606 6700 9.04%
Greece 49 1883 2.60%
France 178 2902 6.13%
Fiji 109 860 12.67%
Denmark 466 5729 8.13%
Canada 718 3101 23.15%
Belgium 78 340 22.94%
All Australian residents 376060 4455005 8.44%

The numbers of servicemen in this table are based on the number of service record files kept at the National Archives of Australia (B2455 series). The actual number of all servicemen was slightly higher, as the files of some who were enlisted in the 1st AIF but discharged before leaving for active service overseas are not stored in B2455. Some of them can be found in the MT1486/1 series, or are missing entirely.

How many Russian Anzacs were there?

The total number of Russian born servicemen in the 1st AIF was at least 1036.

803 men among them (77.5%) served abroad on active service. The remaining 233 applied for service abroad and took an enlistment oath. Some served very briefly at the depot before being discharged or deserting, others served longer and were transferred to home service, where some stayed for the duration of the war. For some of these men, the only information available comes from the monthly returns the Defence ministry compiled for the Russian consulate which requested 'official lists of all Russian subjects a) accepted b) rejected', by the Australian army during 1916-1917. Archival files containing this data are:

  • Russians Enlisted, February 1916 & January 1918 - Returns, Monthly (NAA)
  • Russians Enlisted for Months of October, November & December (NAA)
  • Russian Reservists [File containing correspondence, list of Russian reservists and members of the Landstrum, and lists of Russian subjects who were members of the Australian Imperial Force] (AWM)

Of those who were on active service, one in five (or 164 men) died in battle or of other causes; 3 more died before leaving for overseas service. The names of the fallen can be seen on this page.

162 Russian Anzacs served in the Gallipoli campaign; 11 of them were killed. These men can be seen on this page.

The names of those who applied for service abroad, but were rejected immediately and did not take the enlistment oath are also included on the site, but do not appear in the main lists. They can instead be seen on this page, which is currently being expanded.

Ethnic and territorial composition of Russian Anzacs

Russian-born Anzacs were of diverse ethnic-territorial origins. Their ethnic breakdown is shown in the table and chart below.

Ethnic origin Enlisted men
Eastern Slavs (ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians) 236 23%
Poles & others (of non-Jewish origin) born in Russian Poland 63 6.2%
People born in the Baltic Provinces (excluding Slavs and Jews, including Germans) 241 23.5%
Natives of the Caucasus (of non-Slavonic origin) and Tatars 21 2.1%
Finns and other Scandinavians from Finland 295 28.8%
Western Europeans born in Russia or posing as Russian subjects 26 2.5%
Jews (including Jews from the Polish and Baltic Provinces) 143 13.9%
Total 1025 100%

The territorial origin of the Russian Anzacs, irrespective of their ethnicity, is shown below.

Territorial origin Enlisted men
Russia 151 14.8%
Belarus 33 3.2%
Ukraine 129 12.6%
Poland 77 7.5%
Moldova 6 0.6%
Finland 295 28.9%
Estonia 97 9.5%
Latvia 156 15.3%
Lithuania 40 3.9%
Ossetia and Transcaucasia 23 2.3%
Central Asia 3 0.3%
Outside Russian Empire 11 1%
Total 1021 100