Order No. 1 and the Russian Army’s Downfall

A bi-product of the Russian Revolution in the 1910’s was the creation of a provisional government to rule the land. The government sought to transform the state based on liberal principles and awarding civil rights and autonomy to its citizens. The want for democracy spread as far as to the military, where the infamous “Order No. I” jarringly impacted the Russian Army.

During the February Revolution, the Russian Army had roughly 7.5 million troops. This was a very large army which the majority of which were drafted from the peasant class. What this means is that when the revolutions began in Russia there were surely some soldiers who longed to return to their homeland to rebel but could not because of their military obligations.

Order No1

Order No. I, issued on March 1, 1917, called for a democratic army in which soldiers would be elected to their positions and the soldiers were intended to “enjoy the rights of all the citizens outside the service”. This order essentially took the authority from the high-ranking officers of the army and decreased its overall legitimacy

ArmyRev.

In the first few weeks after the passing of Order No. I, the Russian Army saw about 120,000 soldiers leave so that they could fight for their rights at their homelands. Also, as a result of the more democratic processes of the army, many officers were arrested and more “popular” soldiers took their place. The in-fighting within the army continued as those soldiers who were rebelling defended their actions as trying to “free Russia”.

Realizing that the Russian Army was on the verge of destruction, Aleksandr Kerenskii, the new Minister of the Army and Navy, decided that the Army would launch an offensive operation in Germany in order to bring a sense of pride to the Russian Army. His goals worked at first through some early Russian victories, but once the army was repulsed by the Germans, the Army lost almost all of its legitimacy and the destruction was accelerated.

In summary,  I think this is a valuable lesson as to why you should not make the backbone of your military the peasants which the government rules with an iron fist. This military revolution is not nearly the first of its kind and perhaps if the Russian government had some foresight this would not have occurred.

Sources:

http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1917armyrevolt&Year=1917&navi=byYear

Freeze, Gregory. Russia: A History. 3rd Ed. New York: Oxford, 2009. 276-279. Print.

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6 Responses to Order No. 1 and the Russian Army’s Downfall

  1. A war cannot be won when so many people are disobeying officer’s orders in the field and leaving at will in droves at a time. I think it is important to remember that war’s have always been fought with the lower classes on the front line. I think that if the political upheaval that was going on at home was not happening then the peasants would probably would have not done what they did. In most cases governments that are on the brink of collapsing usually do not have foresight. Good post.

  2. This was certainly a bad time for Russia to get involved in a war considering that they had armed millions of peasants who were already angry with the government for their lack of leadership. The Bolsheviks certainly saw this while the government did not which is what helped make Order No. 1 so effective at destroying the Russian military.

  3. What role did the Petrograd Soviet play? How was Order No. 1 linked to the system of “Dual Power”?

    • The Petrograd Soivet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies was the central group for worker’s rights in Russia. Order No. 1 was their first official action and this led to the use of “dual powers” because in the order, soldiers were instructed to obey their officers and provisional government only if their orders did not contradict with the Petrograd Soviet. It gave a lot of power to the Petrograd and took some power from the provisional government and is deemed controversial due to that fact.

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