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From Serf to Russian Soldier

From Serf to Russian Soldier

Elise Kimerling Wirtschafter
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 234
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  • Book Info
    From Serf to Russian Soldier
    Book Description:

    Here is the first social history devoted to the common soldier in the Russian army during the first half of the 19th-century--an examination of soldiers as a social class and the army as a social institution. By providing a comprehensive view of one of the most important groups in Russian society on the eve of the great reforms of the mid-1800s, Elise Wirtschafter contributes greatly to our understanding of Russia's complex social structure. Based on extensive research in previously unused Soviet archives, this work covers a wide array of topics relating to daily life in the army, including conscription, promotion and social mobility, family status, training, the regimental economy, military justice, and relations between soldiers and officers. The author emphasizes social relations and norms of behavior in the army, but she also addresses the larger issue of society's relationship to the autocracy, including the persistent tension between the tsarist state's need for military efficiency and its countervailing need to uphold the traditional norms of unlimited paternalistic authority. By examining military life in terms of its impact on soldiers, she analyzes two major concerns of tsarist social policy: how to mobilize society's resources to meet state needs and how to promote modernization (in this case military efficiency) without disturbing social arrangements founded on serfdom.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6099-9
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-2)

    Throughout the European continent, the effective imposition of tax and conscription obligations signaled the rise of the centralized state.¹ In Russia these intrusions into local life began in the early eighteenth century, when Peter the Great established a standing army and introduced the poll tax. For the common soldier, the experience of entering the army was comparable to that of a peasant or artisan moving into the mechanical routines of factory life. At times discipline was lax, but generally speaking, daily life in the army contained a high degree of routinization. Roll calls occurred twice a day. Formal inspections were...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Conscription
    (pp. 3-25)

    Of all the obligations imposed on the poll-tax population, none was more terrible or feared than military service. Nowhere was coercion in the relationship between the state and society more visible. For the Russian empire, the years from 1796 to 1815 were a time of almost continual warfare. The Napoleonic Wars were the most devastating, but Russia also became embroiled in conflicts with her traditional enemies: Sweden, Turkey, and Persia. From the Congress of Vienna until the Crimean War, Russia enjoyed relative peace and did not participate in any major European conflict. Despite the publicity it has attracted, the Hungarian...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Military Society and the State
    (pp. 26-54)

    When a young man entered the service, the parameters of his life changed dramatically. He was now part of a distinct social institution with its own particular functions and laws. New recruits immediately confronted two factors that continuously affected military society: one was the formal legal structure of the army defined by the state, and the other was the constant threat to physical survival. In the first, the government actively sought to legislate its own bureaucratic vision of military modernization, and in the second, it was forced to react to the limitations imposed by pre-industrial material life.

    In an age...

  8. CHAPTER THREE From Peasant to Soldier: Education and Training
    (pp. 55-73)

    Professional training, more than any other aspect of military service, sundered the soldier from his former life. Although the change in juridical status had far-reaching social implications, the “freedom” it brought was not immediately implemented, while the professional education of the peasant recruit began from the first day of service. The primary purpose of military training was to prepare the army for combat, but it also served to instill social control and transform peasants into soldiers. In 1855 the official journal for soldiers,Chtenie dlia soldat,described four stages in the transformation from peasant to soldier: recruit, recruit-soldier, young soldier,...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Limits of Bureaucratic Regulation: The Regimental Economy
    (pp. 74-95)

    Throughout history, the relationship between military needs and societal resources has largely determined the material condition of the troops.¹ The Russian army’s most serious economic problem was subsistence.² For the common soldier and his regiment, subsistence was a pressing concern of daily life. Despite a centralized system of supply, commanders and soldiers were forced to devote excessive time and energy to provisioning, which deflected attention from purely military matters.³

    During the reign of Peter the Great, the government began to assume some responsibility for provisioning and equipping the troops. Legislation defined monthly rations of meal and groats, and the government...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Justice with Order: Autocratic Values and Military Discipline
    (pp. 96-119)

    The administrative history of imperial Russia reveals a continual tension between two Petrine traditions: bureaucratic regulation and unlimited political authority. The result was a combination of administrative arbitrariness and government by laws. Military justice exhibited this same interfacing of bureaucratic regularity and autocratic arbitrariness. Ideally, the government sought to implement in military society the paternalistic values that theoretically defined relations between the “fathertsar” (tsar-batiushka) and his obedient subjects.¹ Commanders in the army were seen as “fathers” to their subordinates, who as “children” needed guidance and protection. Even the most progressive officers believed that commanders should control all the economic resources...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Soldiers in Service: Expectations and Realities
    (pp. 120-148)

    Unlike peasant-serfs, soldiers did possess legal rights and a civic identity. Judicial investigations, courts-martial, and periodic inspections by superiors provided them with formal channels for presenting complaints. In acts of disobedience and desertion, at inspections and trials, soldiers expressed their aspirations and expectations. If they did not in fact truly expect their commanders to behave in accordance with official regulations, they at least understood that accusations of abusive treatment would gain for them a sympathetic hearing at the upper levels of the military hierarchy, and so could be used to justify their own malfeasance. In practice, the soldiers’ right to...

  12. CONCLUSION The Semi-Standing Army
    (pp. 149-152)

    Examination of the soldier’s daily life makes it difficult to speak of a single Russian army, since experiences and realities were so varied and so changeable. The variety of experiences applied to physical and social aspects of military life. Material factors, particularly the diversity of local conditions and the instability of the pre-industrial subsistence economy, largely account for fluctuations in the soldiers’ physical wellbeing (though corrupt or inept officials also played a part). Regardless of any precarious wartime conditions, it seems likely that during the course of a service career, each soldier would find himself in a variety of changing...

    (pp. 153-198)
    (pp. 199-208)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 209-214)