Revolutionary Changes in the Russian Army


The Russian army went through a revolution of its own in 1917.  Considering that Russia had been at war for a few years and was performing poorly in battle it’s no wonder that the army went through such drastic changes.  The Russian army consisted mostly of peasants who were poorly treated, fed, and armed and the struggles of trench warfare had taken its toll on them as their morale plummeted.  These men were tired of war and simply wanted to return to their villages and families than continue to fight.  These issues played a key role in the eventual revolution but Order No. 1 became the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The Provisional Government approved of this order which consisted of multiple orders that were to be carried out.  One important and controversial part of the order had to do with addressing officers and treatment of common soldiers.

“Also, the addressing of the officers with the title, “Your Excellency,” “Your Honor,” etc., is abolished, and these titles are replaced by the address of “Mister General,” “Mister Colonel,” etc. Rudeness towards soldiers of any rank, and, especially, addressing them as “Thou,” is prohibited, and soldiers are required to bring to the attention of the company committees every infraction of this rule, as well as all misunderstandings occurring between officers and privates.”

Essentially, this statement served to undermine any authority that officers would normally hold over the enlisted soldiers.  This was a problem because it now gave the common soldier more power than the officers who were always seen as in charge of the common soldiers.  This would lead to large amounts of desertion as well as the deaths of many officers by the hand of the common soldiers.  The command structure of the Russian military had been destroyed and without leadership would simply fall apart.  Order No. 1 removed any power that the officers held and placed it in the hands of the commoners.  With the military falling apart there was little that could be done in terms of continuing to fight the war.  Russia couldn’t continue to fight the Germans if its army continued to destroy itself and so they would be forced to cease fighting.  This revolution would serve as a catalyst for the creation of the Soviet Red Army and would help turn Russia into a military powerhouse as it continued to revamp and restructure its military.

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3 thoughts on “Revolutionary Changes in the Russian Army

  1. I find this subject to be really interesting. It is not very often that a military undermines itself to such a large degree by giving more power to the lower ranking soldiers, but in this case it seems that the entire chain of command disintegrated. There seems that there could be no way to successfully carry on a war against a better led German or Austro-Hungarian army. How long did this structure last?

  2. Such an action seems so odd, as taking power away from those in command and giving it to those being commanded is a recipe for disaster for any military. Structure, order, and authority would all immediately go out the window and the military would likely come to a grinding halt with no one in charge having the authority to lead troops and no troops willing to follow.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post because you went in depth about the issues facing the Russian Army directly following the passage of Order No. 1. The action that was taken is extremely odd being that you can not run your military the same way you run your country. The only question I have is whether military officials backed this order or tried to raise opposition towards it.

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