Military Reforms of 1861-74 IT's Term Paper

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Retired or dismissed soldiers were not subdued to physical punishments such as whipping, so police could do nearly nothing even in the case of open public aggression or hooliganism. Absence of alternative to heavy drinking in the army created such attitudes, according to..:

Unfortunately in the Guards, as far as I know, there was nothing like educational recreation facilities and the soldiers were deprived of any sort of recreation for their whole period of service. This isolation had a bad effect on the health and the morals of the lower ranks. They lived for six years far from their families and homes, repeating, with machine-like regularity, the same drills, which would bore even the most patient. And so in order to relax somehow flagons and bottles of vodka were brought into the barracks at any opportune moment. Neither repressive measures nor strict supervision helped in the struggle with soldiers' drinking and it can be said with certainty that as long as the lawful demands of human nature - which include a need for relaxation - are not met in any other way, vodka will, as before, serve as the only amusement for each soldier..."

For the retired soldiers civil way of life was oppositely different from life in barracks which created psychological vacuum in civil life. Even though that historians mark that deviant behavior was not a permanent attribute of retired soldiers, in general scope such cases were common because of the lack of elementary social guarantees from the side of official government.

Reform of 1874

The Miliutin military reforms like most of innovations in Russian empire of the 19th century were borrowed from Prussia. Generally speaking Russian government wanted to follow the model adopted by Prussian Counselor Otto Von Bismarck at least in military reorganization. According to Josh Sanborn, military reform of 1874 was held in order to prevent further degradation of Russian army and raise the feeling of patriotism among both upper and low classes:

On the first day of 1874, Tsar Alexander II issued the decree that introduced the last of the Great Reforms. In it, he announced that in his "constant solicitude for the well-being of Our Empire, " he was changing the basis for military service throughout the realm. The burden of military service, he recognized, "lies presently only on the lower urban and peasant estates, and a significant portion of Russian subjects are freed from the responsibility that should be sacred for everyone in an equal measure

Even though that the need of reformation was obvious in 1850's after the failure in Crimean war, in decree emperor referred only to foreign positive experience:

Recent events have proven, " he went on, referring to the Prussian victory over France, "that the strength of a state is not in the number of its troops alone, but is primarily in the moral and intellectual qualities of those troops. Those qualities only reach the highest stage of development when the business of defending the fatherland becomes the general affair of the people (narod), when all, without distinction of title or status, unite for that holy cause.

Such radical in some cases changes were met differently in society. For low urban classes it was a progressive law as it did not break the way of their life and guaranteed a limited term of military service (6 years of training in army and 7 years in fleet), but nobility reacted with outrage as it was bewastating their social status of freedom from any state service, granted in 1762 by empresses Catherine II. In a more general scope such reforms were attempts to break semifeudal way of life insured by 150 years of Russian absolutism and was perceived by progressive figures of Russian history as primary premises for the construction of civil society in Russia. Josh Sanborn explains reaction of nobility as follows:

Despite Alexander's bold spin in the decree itself, where he stated that "our heroic aristocracy and other estates not subject to recruitment have expressed... their happy desire to share the burden of obligatory military service with the rest of the people, " nobles instead tended to share the feelings of conservative publisher Prince Vladimir Petrovich Meshcherskii, who wailed that "one of the main rights of the Russian nobility was destroyed

In many respects the outrage of conservative nobility can be explained by inconsistent law about military service, as it in fact was destroying the institute of nobility privileges making their "privilege" position nominal. Understandably, the number of noblemen called up to army didn't grew dramatically as such decision only created more space for corruption of state officials. Moreover, the term for recruits with secondary or higher education varied from 6 months to 4 years and they had a privilege of choice. In the country with developing capitalism where nobility was losing their former power, still it was a rude gesture from the emperor:

But the principles enshrined in Alexander's manifesto and in the law that followed destroyed much more than noble privilege; they helped to undercut the very basis of the Russian autocracy. The contradictions introduced by the new principles of service were profound. Alexander talked about the empire as his own patrimony, but talked about its defense as the "task of the people." He praised the heroic aristocracy, but introduced notions of civic equality and a Conclusion

Making a conclusion it's important to note that military reform of 1874 or the Universal Military Training Act of 1874 was a continuation of Serfs emancipation reforms and reformation of state administrative machine. It was a late attempt of Russian empire to reform the society according to the tendencies of modern age. Nevertheless, such reforms were complete as they left a lot of space for social discrimination and lawlessness. Physical punishments were not prohibited, conditions of living changed little. The reform was directed on cutting army's budget, turning it into an effective and mobile organization. it's also important to note the discriminating character of the law as it didn't spread on peoples of Central Asia, Caucasus and Northern regions of Siberia, distinguishing privileged position of ethnic Slavic population of Russian empire. Such discriminating measures brightly depicted semifeudal survivals of Russian colonization policies, making ethnic Slavs a privileged nation, which deepened Russian nationalism and xenophobia on different levels creating an ethnic gap within different representatives of different social classes. Such measures proved colonial policies towards population of bordering territories of the empire. No wonder that such discrimination on the hand with other discriminative polices led to the growth of nationalism among these nations and social prejudices which continue to exist even today.

Universal military training Act, yet did not become universal as the privileges of noble heritage and wealth created a numbed of exceptions, which also concluded that conditions of military service were not equal for citizens of Russian empire. Military reform also limited the number of privileges which soldiers had in earlier years. Soldiers, who retired starting from 1861 lost all privileges of receiving land allotments or material compensation for 20-25 years of military service Social guarantees to retired disabled soldiers were poorly provided starting from 1860's, which witnessed indifference of government to enormous social problems.

Nevertheless we should admit that military reform of 1874 had a very important strategic meaning for the security of Russian Empire. Military training with a limited term of 6-7 years and forming of a reserve pool was very effective as it made army more mobile, organized and required less spending on its support. Universal military service and organization of professional military education for officers returned universal patriotism belief in army's strength.


Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, D. Menning, B.W.

Reforming the Tsar's Army: Military Innovation in Imperial Russia from Peter the Great to the Revolution Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2002

Kagan, Frederick W. The Military Reforms of Nicholas I: The Origins of the Modern Russian Army Palgrave Macmillan 1999

Thomas, Robert Scollins, Richard the Russian Army of the Crimean War 1854-56 (Men-at-Arms) Osprey Publishing, 1991

Marshall, Alex Russian General Staff and Asia, 1860-1917 Routledgecurzon History of Russia and Eastern Europe Routledge, 2006

Lohr, E. Poe, M., Sanborn, J. Military and Society in Russian History, 1450-1917 Leiden; Boston 2002

Waldron, P. McCauley, M.

The Emergence of the Modern Russian State, 1855-81 Barnes & Noble Books 1988

B. Gorshkov a Life Under Russian Serfdom: The Memoirs of Savva Dmitrievich Purlevskii, 1800-68 Central European University Press, 2005

Frederick W. Kagan the Military Reforms of Nicholas I: The Origins of the Modern Russian Army (Palgrave Macmillan 1999), 100

Robert Thomas, Richard Scollins the Russian Army of the Crimean War 1854-56 (Men-at-Arms) (Osprey Publishing, 1991), 226

David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, Bruce W. Menning, B. Reforming the Tsar's Army: Military Innovation in Imperial Russia from Peter the Great to the Revolution (Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2002),14

Robert Thomas, Richard Scollins the Russian Army of the Crimean War 1854-56…[continue]

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