Order No. 1

By on September 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

       Following the Russian Revolution that occurred in the early nineteenth century was the formation of a provisional government in order to maintain rule over Russia. This provisional government, also known as the Duma, wanted to transform the former autocracy into a system based on awarding civil rights to its citizens and other liberal principles. This concept of liberal policies even spread into the military, the direct result of this being the creation of Order No. 1.

This order was issued on March, 1917 drastically changed the whole concept of the Russian military. The reason why it sent shock waves throughout the military was that this doctrine called for democracy within the military, where soldiers would not only be elected into their position but be given all the same rights as any normal citizen.  The claim for elections was just one way in which this order effectively dismantled any form of discipline within the military.  Oder No. 1 also abolished the necessity for members of the military to stand, “standing at attention and compulsory saluting, when not on duty.” Now to a normal citizen this may not seem important, yet it is important being it shows not only discipline on behalf of the soldiers it also shows respect for the officers. Without this respect officers no longer have control over their men and without this control you have no hope of ever winning a conflict of any type.

Within the  first two months of the implication of Order No. 1, infighting within the army almost brought the military to its knees. Internal warfare became a common site being that many competent and high ranking officers where jailed and replaced with more popular soldiers who lacked both the experience and leadership qualities of the fallen officers. Realizing that the Russian Army was destroying itself the newly appointed Minister of the Army and Navy, Alexander Kerenskii, decided that in order to bring back a sense of pride and legitimacy to the army he must launch an offensive operation against the Germans. This ended up bringing the state of the military to an even lower level due to them being repulsed by the Germans.

I believe the passage of Order No.1 shows us one clear statement, you cannot treat your military as a democratic society. In the military, you cannot be allowed to elect your leaders or it becomes exactly what we saw happen in the Russian military , a popularity contest. The only question I have left and want to look deeper into is why did the Duma believe this doctrine would be a great addition within the military society?

 6 Responses to “Order No. 1”

  1. carlin says:

    This was a really great post. I appreciated how you looked into the military, while most of the class focused on strictly political events. Order 1 changed the formation of the military, introducing democracy into a state where democracy was lacking for the general public. With that being said, introducing such a drastic change resulted in chaos and dismantled the military – the opposite of the doctrine’s intent. I think seeing chaos within the military enhances the troubles Russia was having, leading up to the October Revolution. I think the failure of the doctrine shows how differing ideologies on how to handle the government led to flawed attempts to recreate Russia.

  2. Kyle says:

    This was a well done and insightful post. Discipline is not something a military can do without and function, as you pointed out. I found this to be a very convincing post about how big a mistake Order No. 1.

  3. Ben Midas says:

    I think its important to remember that it was the Petrograd Soviet who issued Order 1, not the provisional government. The question you pose at the end of your post becomes a little cleared with this in mind. For the Soviet, Order 1 was about breaking down the class structure everywhere they could, including the military where officers were still mostly drawn from the nobility.

    I like this post because you look at this issue from a perspective that I never really have. Good work!

  4. Austin Wood says:

    I think this was a good post as well, and probably something that needed to be mentioned as I feel like it has great significance. It seems like the years around this event, including this particular order, didn’t do anything but hurt the Russian military. I think the question you posed at the end was a good one to ask, and one that many people that study this event probably wonder. I’m sure they didn’t realize the extent of the effect it would have on the military or the repercussions it would have. It was definitely one of the many things Russia Society made a mistake in during this time.

  5. elundquist says:

    Before this, I never knew that “Order 1” had been issued, and I agree that it is curious that it was put in place at all. As Ben said above, it seems like this was an attempt at breaking class structure wherever possible, but I agree that it seems that it was an ill-conceived idea. Essentially all strong militaries around the world rely on strict and rigid rank systems, and this order quickly proved that militaries should follow that general structure if they want to be powerful.

  6. A. Nelson says:

    Ben makes some good points here. It does seem obvious that armies are not exactly democratic institutions, but the motivations behind Order No. 1 had everything to do with war weariness, a loss of faith in the command structure, and most of all, tensions between social classes. By the winter of 1916-17, the officers may have remained loyal to the fight for Imperial honor and glory, but the masses of conscripted workers and peasants, many of them battle-hardened and war weary, wanted peace and had lost faith in their commanders and the social-political structures that kept them in charge. Order No. 1 was a way of taking control of their destiny.

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