This week I will be examining the revolution in the army. The revolution in the army would help bring an end to the Romanovs rule of Russia and also change the political course of the country in a direction that will have profound effects on the later part of the 20th century. The social structure of the army will only add fuel to the fire in the February and October revolutions in 1917. These revolutions will in a way free the army soldiers who are peasants and put Russia on a collision course with communism.
The Russo-Japanese War in 1905 where Russia was badly defeated by Japan led to bad tensions between the people and the regime over political reform and eventually led to “Bloody Sunday” where troops guarding the Winter Palace gunned down unarmed demonstrators. Social unrest was starting in Russia and now blood was shed openly by the hands of the Russian army. Russia enters WWI with about seven million men in 1914 alone. More than eighteen million would serve. The bulk of the army was peasants that had left their land to fight in what many people thought would be a short war. When Russia gets steamrolled and lost nearly a million people in the German Poland offensive in 1915, the devastation of losing was almost the breaking point of the army.
As the war progressed into 1917, the February revolution kicked off an uprising within the army. Factors that helped this were the lack of the soldier’s equipment, weapons, and food. The Soviet of Workers’ Deputies helped create what was called Order No. 1. It stated, “That in all companies, battalions, regiments, parks, batteries, squadrons, in the special services of the various military administrations, and on the vessels of the navy, committees from the elected representatives of the lower ranks of the above mentioned military units shall be chosen immediately.” It goes on to state, “The addressing of officers with titles such as “your Excellency” was abolished and replaced by “Mister General,” “Mister Colonel.”” This is huge because this went against military code of command and basically undermined the officer in the field. By April the army was seeing desertion of between 100,000 and 150,000 soldiers, which were all peasants who wanted to return to their villages to participate in what they expected would be a division of the land. General Alekseev stated, “The army is just falling apart and cannot under the pretence system hold any military offensives.” No army can function if the leadership cannot direct the men.
The relative component to the army revolution is that it takes a class of people that lived at the bottom of society and essentially pushed them to strike back for the error of the autocracy in not appropriately equipping them for war and gave them this idea that everybody at the top does not know everything. This is driven by the upheaval politically back home, also propaganda is flooding the peasant soldier, and they are very susceptible to this. The revolution in the army helped the peasants have a force to take action with which changed the social and economic cultures of Russia forever.