Skip to main content
×
×
Home

THE OFFICER CORPS, PROFESSIONALISM, AND DEMOCRACY IN THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION*

  • MATTHEW RENDLE (a1)
Abstract

Russia's ‘democratic’ revolution of February 1917 saw all types of professions and social groups mobilize into unions and congresses to articulate their demands. Lower and middle classes dominated, but it is notable how former elite groups were quick to form bodies to defend their interests and to promote their visions of Russia's future. Historians have invariably dismissed these groups as marginal to the revolutionary process and inherently ‘counter-revolutionary’. This article challenges these assumptions, using the Union of Officers, formed across the military in May 1917 to defend officers' professional interests, as a case study. The union spread quickly, published a newspaper, and agitated among politicians for greater discipline in the military. Its activities fuelled popular fears of counter-revolution, but only a few of the union's leaders actively worked against the government. General Kornilov's failed revolt in August demonstrated that most officers had doubts. Nevertheless, the union played a crucial role in mobilizing moderate and conservative forces against further reform. This exacerbated social conflict and political polarization, fatally undermining the Provisional Government and democracy in 1917.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      THE OFFICER CORPS, PROFESSIONALISM, AND DEMOCRACY IN THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION*
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      THE OFFICER CORPS, PROFESSIONALISM, AND DEMOCRACY IN THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION*
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      THE OFFICER CORPS, PROFESSIONALISM, AND DEMOCRACY IN THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION*
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Corresponding author
Department of History and Welsh History, Hugh Owen Building, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, SY23 3DYmer@aber.ac.uk
Footnotes
Hide All
*

I am very grateful to the British Academy for funding this research; Jon Smele for helping to track down the backgrounds of the union's leaders; the Study Group on the Russian Revolution for a valuable discussion of this article; and the two anonymous readers for their comments.

Footnotes
References
Hide All

1 See D. Orlovsky, ‘Corporatism or democracy: the Russian Provisional Government of 1917’, in A. Weiner, ed., Landscaping the human garden: twentieth century population management in a comparative framework (Stanford, CA, 2003), pp. 67–90; D. Orlovskii, ‘K voprosu o formakh demokratii nakanune oktiabria 1917 goda’, in L. Zakharova et al., eds., P. A. Zaionchkovskii, 1904–1983 gg.: stat'i, publikatsii i vospominaniia o nem (Moscow, 1998), pp. 407–29.

2 A. Wildman, ‘Officers of the General Staff and the Kornilov movement’, in E. Frankel et al., eds., Revolution in Russia: reassessments of 1917 (Cambridge, 1992), p. 94. Also G. Katkov, Russia, 1917, the Kornilov revolt (London, 1980); J. Munck, The Kornilov revolt (Aarhus, 1987).

3 See G. Ioffe, Krakh Rossiiskoi monarkhicheskoi kontrrevoliutsii (Moscow, 1977); M. Kapustin, Zagovor generalov (iz istorii Kornilovshchiny i ee razgroma) (Moscow, 1968); N. Ivanov, Kontrrevoliutsiia v Rossii v 1917 godu i ee razgrom (Moscow, 1977); V. Vladimirova, Kontr-revoliutsiia v 1917g. (Kornilovshchina) (Moscow, 1924).

4 A. Wildman, The end of the Russian imperial army (2 vols., Princeton, 1980–7), i, pp. 22–3, 100–1.

5 See S. Volkov, Russkii ofitserskii korpus (Moscow, 1993).

6 On industrialists and landowners, Z. Galili, ‘Commercial-industrial circles in revolution: the failure of “industrial progressivism”’, in Frankel et al., eds., Revolution in Russia, pp. 188–216; Rendle, M., ‘Conservatism and revolution: the All-Russian Union of Landowners, 1916–1918’, Slavonic and East European Review, 84 (2006), pp. 481507.

7 On images of counter-revolution in 1917, D. Shlapentokh, The counter-revolution in revolution (London, 1999).

8 Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Rossiiskoi federatsii (GARF), f. 4018 [Soiuz ofitserov-respublikantsev narodnoi armii. 1917], op. 1, d. 2, ll. 5–6; A. Tarasov-Rodionov, February 1917 (Westport, CT, 1973), pp. 214–19.

9 Rech', no. 62, 14 Mar. 1917.

10 Rech', no. 84, 12 Apr. 1917; no. 89, 17 Apr. 1917.

11 Rech', no. 90, 18 Apr. 1917; no. 95, 25 Apr. 1917; no. 103, 4 May 1917.

12 Vestnik Rumynskogo fronta, no. 1, 3 Apr. 1917, reprinted in A. Panov, ed., Armiia i politika: ofitserskii korpus v politicheskoi istorii Rossii. Dokumenty i materialy (7 vols., Moscow and Kaluga, 2002–3), ii, pp. 81–2.

13 GARF, f. 6422 [L. N. Novosil'tsev], op. 1, d. 1, ll. 125ob, 135ob–137.

14 A. Denikin, The Russian Turmoil (Westport, CT, 1973), pp. 229–30.

15 GARF, f. 4018, op. 1, d. 4, ll. 1ob–2.

16 GARF, f. 4018, op. 1, d. 4, ll. 1–1ob.

17 Vestnik glavnago komiteta soiuza ofitserov armii i flota (VGKO), no. 1, 14 June 1917.

18 GARF, f. 1780 [Chrezvychainaia komissiia dlia rassledovaniia dela o byvshem verkhovnom glavno-komanduiushchem generale L. G. Kornilove i ego souchastnikakh], op. 1, d. 71, ll. 49–53ob (a summary of events).

19 GARF, f. 6422, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 144–7.

20 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 71, ll. 40–6 (the regulations).

21 GARF, f. 4018, op. 1, d. 4, l. 2.

22 Copies are in GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 71.

23 VGKO, no. 5, 24 Aug. 1917; GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 72, l. 100.

24 VGKO, no. 2, 22 June 1917; GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 71, l. 36.

25 For blacklists; VGKO, no. 4, 25 July 1917; GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 71, l. 58; d. 72, l. 45. For contrasting views of their value; d. 72, l. 102; d. 97, ll. 126–127ob.

26 R. Wade, The Russian Revolution, 1917 (2nd edn, Cambridge, 2005), pp. 175–83.

27 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 72, l. 78; Novoe vremia, no. 14833, 22 July 1917, reprinted in R. Browder and A. Kerensky, eds., The Russian Provisional Government, 1917: Documents (3 vols., Stanford, CA, 1961) (RPG), iii, pp. 1016–17.

28 One commission sentenced 37 officers and 12,725 soldiers by the end of Aug.; Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v Russkoi armii (27 fevralia–24 oktiabria 1917 goda) (Moscow, 1968), pp. 376–7.

29 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 72, ll. 89–89ob.

30 A. Andreev, Soldatskie massy garnizonov Russkoi armii v oktiabr'skoi revoliutsii (Moscow, 1975), p. 154.

31 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 72, ll. 88–88ob.

32 GARF, f. 6422, op. 1, d. 1, l. 152ob; Delo generala L. G. Kornilova (2 vols., Moscow, 2003), ii, pp. 346–7.

33 VGKO, no. 2, 22 June 1917 (statistics); GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 71, ll. 61–76 (the 3rd edn).

34 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 71, l. 60.

35 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 72, ll. 83–4, 96, 113–113ob.

36 VGKO, no. 5, 24 Aug. 1917.

37 For example, the branch in the Tenth Army: GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 72, ll. 44–49ob.

38 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 73, l. 18.

39 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 72, ll. 36–36ob.

40 VGKO, no. 3, 12 July 1917; GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 71, ll. 57–57ob.

41 VGKO, no. 5, 24 Aug. 1917; GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 72, ll. 5–5ob (Black Sea); d. 73, ll. 46–46ob (Caucasus).

42 VGKO, no. 4, 25 July 1917.

43 VGKO, no. 1, 14 June 1917; no. 2, 22 June 1917; no. 3, 12 July 1917.

44 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 72, l. 7.

45 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 71, l. 34.

46 Delo Kornilova, ii, pp. 125–6, 322–3.

47 GARF, f. 6422, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 155ob, 159.

48 V. Laverychev, Po tu storonu barrikad (Moscow, 1967), p. 194.

49 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 72, l. 51.

50 RPG, iii, pp. 1534–5; GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 77, ll. 121–122ob.

51 F. Vinberg, V plenu u ‘obez'ian’ (zapiski ‘kontr-revoliutsionera’) (Kiev, 1918), pp. 98–9.

52 GARF, f. 6422, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 159ob–163ob.

53 GARF, f. 6422, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 155ob, 165.

54 GARF, f. 6422, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 180ob–181ob.

55 Ioffe argued that the ‘authoritarian’ group were in the majority, whilst a small group favoured compromise to maintain stability and were loyal to the government; G. Ioffe, Semnadtsatyi god (Moscow, 1995), pp. 74–5.

56 Delo Kornilova, ii, pp. 125–6, 322–3. See also a later account, S. Riasnianskii, ‘Vospominaniia o soiuze ofitserov i Bykhove’, Vestnik pervopokhodnika, 79–81 (1968), pp. 64–9.

57 Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v voennykh okrugakh. Mart 1917g.-mart 1918g. (Moscow, 1988), pp. 83, 105, 135.

58 Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v Russkoi armii, p. 570; Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v voennykh, pp. 210–11.

59 Riasnianskii, ‘Vospominaniia’, p. 64; K. Oberuchev, Ofitsery v Russkoi revoliutsii (New York, NY, 1918), pp. 39–43.

60 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 74, ll. 58–61.

61 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 74, ll. 22–22ob. Similar messages were forwarded to Kornilov (l. 3).

62 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 74, ll. 7, 21.

63 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 74, ll. 4, 13ob, 63–5.

64 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 74, ll. 28–30.

65 Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v Rossii v avguste 1917g (Moscow, 1959), pp. 360–2. Also V. Polikarpov, Voennaia kontrrevoliutsiia v Rossii, 1905–1917 (Moscow, 1990), pp. 233–8.

66 N. Savich, Vospominaniia (St Petersburg, 1993), pp. 246–50. Similar views are in RPG, iii, p. 1542. The Kadets were split; few were actively involved, but many would have supported Kornilov if he had succeeded (N. Dumova, Kadetskaia partiia v period pervoi mirovoi voiny i fevral'skoi revoliutsii (Moscow, 1988), pp. 189–91; W. Rosenberg, Liberals in the Russian Revolution (Princeton, NJ, 1974), pp. 222–8). V. A. Maklakov accused Miliukov of encouraging the union by not rejecting their plans outright; Katkov, Kornilov revolt, pp. 142–3.

67 GARF, f. 3529 [Gosudarstvennoe soveshchanie 1917g.], op. 1, d. 31, ll. 1–5. The evidence that it was delivered at this congress comes from details added by an archivist, but it seems representative of officers' views.

68 GARF, f. 3529, op. 1, d. 7, l. 21.

69 GARF, f. 3529, op. 1, d. 4, ll. 27–40, 62–9; RPG, iii, pp. 1474–80.

70 GARF, f. 3529, op. 1, d. 4, ll. 40–1; GARF, f. 6422, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 193ob–194.

71 Munck, Kornilov revolt, pp. 40–123.

72 P. Miliukov, The Russian Revolution (3 vols., Gulf Breeze, 1978–87), ii, pp. 137–43.

73 GARF, f. 6422, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 202–4.

74 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 44, l. 50.

75 This account comes from the testimonies of eight committee members; Delo Kornilova, ii, pp. 29–31, 125–7, 275–83, 296–8, 313–24. Pronin and Rozhenko were involved in agitating among officers and sending supporters to Siderin in Petrograd to support Krymov, but few were recruited.

76 B. Gerua, Vospominaniia o moei zhizni (2 vols., Paris, 1969–70), ii, pp. 212–13.

77 Wildman, ‘Officers of the General Staff’, p. 98.

78 For example, Ivanov, Kontrrevoliutsiia, pp. 84–96.

79 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 53, ll. 23–4.

80 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 62, ll. 19, 39; d. 44, ll. 109–10, 112–112ob, 117–23.

81 Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v Rossii v sentiabre 1917g. (Moscow, 1961), pp. 222–3.

82 See Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v voennykh, pp. 233–4; Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v Rossii v sentiabre, pp. 394–8, 408, 410, 417; and Baltiiskie moriaki v podgotovke i provedenii velikoi oktiabr'skoi sotsialisticheskoi revoliutsii (Moscow, 1957), pp. 216–17, 252–3. On Helsinki; ‘Baltiiskii flot nakanune oktiabria (iz dnevnika I. I. Rengartena)’, Krasnyi arkhiv, 35 (1929), pp. 18–19. Similar demands were made by workers and peasants across Russia; GARF, f. 1778 [Kantseliariia ministra-predsedatelia vremennogo pravitel'stva. 1917], op. 1, d. 238.

83 Rech', no. 205, 1 Sept. 1917; no. 207, 3 Sept. 1917.

84 RPG, iii, pp. 1604–6.

85 Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v Russkoi armii, pp. 406–7.

86 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 62, ll. 75–6, 91–91ob.

87 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 62, ll. 96–96ob, 99, 121, 127, 138–138ob.

88 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 62, ll. 107, 113, 118, 122.

89 GARF, f. 1780, op. 1, d. 62, ll. 97–97ob, 100–102ob, 109, 123, 125–125ob, 128, 131, 133–135ob.

90 N. Kakurin, ed., Razlozhenie armii v 1917 godu (Moscow, 1925), pp. 114–15.

91 GARF, f. 6422, op. 1, d. 1, l. 223. On Sidorin, GARF, f. R-336 [Sledstvennaia komissiia revoliutsionnogo tribunala], op. 1, d. 277, l. 95ob. Later investigations by the Bolsheviks failed to highlight union activity after Kornilov, d. 34a, ll. 30–46ob.

92 GARF, f. 6422, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 226–27ob, 235–235ob.

* I am very grateful to the British Academy for funding this research; Jon Smele for helping to track down the backgrounds of the union's leaders; the Study Group on the Russian Revolution for a valuable discussion of this article; and the two anonymous readers for their comments.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed