Conscription in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania extended primarily to the nobility and burghers. According to the decrees of the Sojm, one ratnik (warrior) had to fight next to every two vieršniks (horsemen) in the pospolite ruszenie. He had to go out into the field armed - with a handgun, ax or scythe. In the 17th century, the ratniks began to be hired from other countries - Germany, Spain, England, Scotland, Ireland. For example, in the Radziwill army of 1621 there were two companies of Englishmen and a detachment of 300 Irishmen.

The army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1576-1586. Drawing by Jan Matejko, 1875: bibliotekacyfrowa.pl
Swords of Belarusian infantry of the 17th-18th centuries from the collection of the Niasvizh Castle. Photo: niasvizh.by

Ratniks played a decisive role in the army of the Grand Duchy during the siege of cities. In field battles they usually acted as an auxiliary force. The infantry traditionally occupied a central position, to the left and right of it were mounted cavalry.

Бой сучасных ратнікаў у двары Лідскага замку. Фота: rycar.by
Battle of modern ratniks in the courtyard of Lida Castle. Photo: rycar.by

In Belarusian and Litvin chess, ratniks form rows in front of each of the troops: white - row No 2, black - row No 8. They move one step at a time directly and only after their first move have the right to pass two squares. Attack one square diagonally. They become really strong, uniting and forming the general combinations.

Having reached the last horizontal line, the ratnik can promote to any figure that is not on the field.

If it has walked all over the field, and not a single figure has left the board, it must wait - it has the right to raise the social status only after someone goes to rest. If the ratnik waits (it must remain on the last square), it will be able to transform into a hietman, kniaź, kniažyč, vieršnik, take a harmata to the field or close in the vieža. This will be considered a separate move.

The project is in three dimensions

"Belarusian Chess" exists in digital, noble and gift versions. Get to know them.