Russian military corps. Established in the mid-16th century, the streltsy formed the bulk of the Russian army for about 100 years and provided the tsar's bodyguard. A hereditary military caste by the mid-17th century, they numbered about 55,000 and performed police and security duties in Moscow and the garrisoned border towns. In 1682 the corps became involved in the succession struggle that led to the regency of Sophia. When she was displaced (1689), they were forcibly disbanded by Peter I; hundreds were executed or deported. The corps was gradually absorbed into the regular army.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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