Russian Military Construction Against the Background of Militarization of her Allies and Opponents, and its Trial by War

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The author analyses Russian military reforms of the late 19th and early 20thcenturies and their influence on the efficiency of the army and the behavior of the lower ranks in military action. Strategic failures of the national army in the early twentieth century are explained by the fact that even in the modernized armed forces military service was not the same for all groups of citizens. These aspects of the Russian experience are compared to military reforms among the Great War’s other belligerents. The notion of the military as ‘the armed nation’ came in two variants. In Great Britain, the 1916 law on universal conscription and the effective mobilization of the civilian population became possible due to the high levels of public support for the political system, the proclaimed values of their country, and a national-civil identity. The German model, by contrast, was built on the foundation not of political integration but of the nation’s identification with its army. Russia chose this model but was unable consistently to implement it, primarily because of the extremely low literacy rate among the lower social classes. The low quality of recruits made it necessary to maintain long periods of service for most of the lower ranks. This resulted in a lack of loyalty on the side of the conscripts, and in a negative attitude not only towards military service but also towards the state that established the heavy standards of military duty. The feeling of social injustice was reinforced by the spartan regime that lower class soldiers encountered, while well-educated conscripts - as a rule, from the upper strata of Russian society - were treated better. This discontent increased during the unsuccessful war, further alienating the mass of the conscripts from autocracy and its army.

About the authors

Irina V Volkova

National Research University “Higher School of Economics”

Author for correspondence.


21/4, p. 3, Old Basmannaya St., Moscow, 105066, Russia


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Copyright (c) 2019 Volkova I.V.

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