Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Movement of an Army: The War, The Revolution, The Choice

Description from site: “Poster for the bond issued to support the upcoming offensive against the German Army, an offensive that would fail. the image of the Russian soldier towering over demonstrating workers and soldiers was used to legitimize the provisional government to demonstrate the continuation of the war against the Central Powers.”

Although the subject constantly discussed in texts and within our discussion is in regards to “the people” and those workers and peasants who are running the activities and movements that allowed for the Revolution in 1917 to occur, little sometimes is mentioned about those who were sworn members of the Imperial Russian Army during this time of unrest and major change.  In this brief post, I mainly use the resources within  Seventeen Moments of Soviet History (1917) webpage in regards to the “Revolutions in the Army.”

This is not to really look into the discussion of whether to continue the war, that subject is clearly covered and most likely is a good point of discussion for other blog entries, rather this examines the short-term and long-term evidence of how exactly the army went through a transition of power and what things were lost and gained during the revolution in terms of military control.  It is held highly to my belief that there are two schools of thought in regards to the relationship of the civilian government and the military.  First, in order for the civilian government to be legitimate and successful both domestically and internationally, it must have the backing of the military with near unquestioned loyalty.  Secondly, the military must at all times respect that is just another political tool of the civilian government and that they should not interject themselves into any affairs in regards to political turmoil.  These two ideas are very interconnected and examining how they worked during the Revolution and transition during 1917 is a topic that I believe is essential.

Following the February Revolution, “The most immediate and tangible effect of the Revolution on the army was Order No. 1 issued by the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies on March 1, 1917 and approved under duress by the Provisional Government. Among other things, the Order called for the election of soldiers’ committees under whose disposal all arms were to be placed.” (1917: Revolution In the Army).  The problem with these changes though was the intimidate process of mass desertion, replacements within the officers ranks for various reasons depending on the situation, location, and involvement in an ongoing World War that had yet to fully cease.  Even within a month a report was issued that proved not promising to holding the two essential elements I expressed earlier in regards towards the relationship between a civilian government and the military.

With a loss of soldiers returning home to fight for land that might become available along with political turmoil and movements that they felt the need to become engaged in, it is not surprising in the report of the troops given October 13, 1917 continued to show worsening conditions of what was one of the largest and most powerful armies emerging during this era of history.


Although we know that through the rise of the Global Great Depression in the 1930s, along with other major developments and of course World War II, the USSR would eventually have one of the most powerful military’s ever to exist in the history of mankind, it is the close examination of these few months, the reports made by the upper level officers, the decisions made by the masses in the military’s lower ranks, that really show how unorganized and unsuccessful the initial transition of military power was from Imperial Russia to the Provisional Government of the USSR.


To examine a different way that the military transition between two major governmental structures and powers occurred I would personally recommend this book for those interested.  It still falls within the realm of Soviet/Russian 20th century history and also is a good epilogue to the entire Cold War from the Russian domestic perspective.


Authors note for citations: The following are the permanent links in order of when they appear in the text as hyperlinks


Citation for picture: Peter Paret, Beth Irwin Lewis, Paul Paret: Persuasive Images: Posters of War and Revolution from the Hoover Institution Archives. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1992.


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The Russian Empire Joining Rome

The gradual decline of Imperial Russia came at a time when it was clear that historians of that era were not sure what would be made of the land that once was held by the Czar’s for so long.  The New York Times article “The Russian Empire — And After?” really dug into a question burning at the eve and during the Revolution of 1905.  The exact nature of how to compare this revolutions to other’s that had come before it, throughout the world.  It also hinted at the exploration of how history would compare this empires downfall and rebirth to that of the Roman Empire.  It points out the many ethnic factions within the current Imperial Russia and the major problems associated with keeping them together after there is not autocracy to hold the entire empire together.  “how about the differences between White Russians and Great Russians and little Russians?  How about the tribes of the Caucasus?  How about the Consacks, who whether of Great Russia and the Don, or of Little Russia and the Dneipher, or of any other of their tribes and subdivisions, seem to have this in common, that they are aliens and enemies in Russia.” (The Russian Empire — And After).  While the fall of the Russian Empire, did at the time involve some of the largest amount of land held by a single state at the time, and it a decade long taking process to push the wheels of change, it is not as much as this NYT article suggested, the same as the Roman Empire falling into disarray.

What I think the reporters at the time fail to recognize is not the actual divisions of ethnicity within Russia as being a problem, but the building of major political factions, such as expressed in much more detail in chapter 8 of Freeze, which are the actual drivers of the change within the empire, rather than the divisions of where and who one might consider themselves as. Although united as workers in strikes and protests across the country, they truly contained varying interests that drove for the eventual October Manifesto, the divisions are still what truly left the revolution of 1905 fully satisfying for the needs of greater Russian Society. (Freeze 252-258)  If comparing the fall of Russia to the fall of Rome, the 1905 Revolution, the workers strikes prior, and the October Manifesto would only be a mid-act scene in the greater transformation of Russia in the long-term.

NYT Article: “THE RUSSIAN EMPIRE — AND AFTER?” 1905.New York Times (1857-1922), Dec 08, 10.

Freeze: Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press,


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A Peak Behind the Iron Curtain…Before the Iron Was Able to Exist

Unlike some students in this course, or possibly like many, I’ve been taught many aspects of Russian and Soviet History.  However, these come only from the perspective on into the context of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain that existed for many decades.  I’ve learned too much about the political tensions in the international arena, the many different facets of the ideologies and what they meant, but very little about what actually went on behind the infamous “Iron Curtain.”  While this photo collection, collected on the Eve of the revolution and before the transformation of Russia into the industrialized world, and the Soviet Union, isn’t so much a peak behind the Iron Curtain, rather a comparison behind what things were to come to what things were prior to the rapid industrialization and transformation of landscapes.  The following picture I examine was taken by Prokudin-Gorskii who was the personal photographer to the Tsar of Imperial Russia.


Vid na Tiflis s ploshchadki t︠s︡erkvi Sv. Davida


The transformations of landscapes really can be just more of a comparison to what a town, such as the first picture of the city of Tiflis, know known as Tbilisi looked during the final years of Imperial Russia.  Clearly ,even though this is a center of trade and commerce, like most cities are and have always been, it lacks the industrialized elements such as factories, clouds of smoke, power lines, telegraph wires, railroads, and visible massive construction projects that would be visible if you looked at pictures of say, New York City during this exact same time period. It is essential to examine the architecture and layout of these Imperial Russian cities because it foreshadows many of the changes that would begin to be engaged after the fall of this empire and the rise of another, much more different city for a much more different and needed modern time existing throughout the rest of the world that Russia would quickly see the need or had already begun to see the need for. This post though not extremely in depth, is meant for those to read to wonder how during a time when such technologies as the photograph were so greatly utilized, a city would still look as if it should have been a painting because of the lack or elements within the overall view of the city that show that industrialization and major world development was ongoing, proving that while these new technologies were accessible and being used, the development of those exact things within such a large empire was still far off it seemed, when it truth it was just upcoming. 



Prokudin-Gorskii’s Photographer Information taken from LoC site setup for his work:

Permanent record of the picture taken and used:

Information on the overall history of Tiflis (Tbilisi):

Permanent record of New York City painting used:


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