Military Reforms of 1905-12

Military Reforms of 1905-12


in Russia, changes made in the Russian Army after its defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. This war revealed serious defects in the organization of the systems of recruiting, combat training, and the provision of technical supplies in the army. In order to eliminate these defects a number of military reforms were instituted, which affected almost all aspects of army life. The first period of reforms (1905-08, under Minister of War A. F. Rediger) was characterized by a breakup of the centralized military administration; made independent of the Ministry of War was the Main Directorate of the General Staff, to which were transferred all problems related to the preparation of the country for war; to the Ministry of War were left the administrative and management sections; two independent bodies were set up with Grand Prince Nikolai Nikolaevich at their head—the Council of State Defense (1905), which had as its goal the coordination of the activity of the highest level of military and naval administration and other government institutions, on problems related to the preparation of the state for defense, and the Supreme Certifying Commission (1906). Also instituted were various positions of inspector general (in the infantry, cavalry, engineer troops, and military educational institutions), which were to be independent of the minister of war; the terms of active service were reduced (in the infantry and field artillery, from five to three years; in other combat arms, from five to four years; and in the navy, from seven to five years); the officer corps was improved, and its average age was lowered. After the Russo-Japanese War about 7,000 officers were discharged from the army because of age and unfitness for their duties. A new system of certification was introduced, and the daily life of soldiers was improved (food and clothing allowance).

During the second period of the military reforms (1909-12, carried out under Minister of War V. A. Sukhomlinov) there was a centralizing of military administration. In 1908 the Main Directorate of the General Staff was included within the Ministry of War, with the subordination of the chief of the General Staff to the minister of war; in 1909 the Council of State Defense was abolished; the minister of war was designated president of the Supreme Certifying Commission; during the years 1909-10 the administration of the artillery, engineer corps, and military education departments was reorganized. Moreover, the inspectors general of these departments (as well as that of the infantry) were made subordinate to the minister of war. An important measure was the reorganization of the army; the field army was strengthened considerably at the expense of the abolition of reserve and garrison troops (15 percent of the army), which were less fit for battle; seven new infantry divisions were formed in addition to one rifle brigade; each infantry division was provided with an artillery brigade (48 guns) and each rifle brigade, with an artillery battalion (24 guns); corps and field heavy artillery were established; the engineer corps, railroad troops, and signal troops were strengthened. For field units a reserve corps, known as the concealed cadres, was established, which during a mobilization would develop into 35 reserve divisions. In 1910 the disposition of troops during peacetime was changed; at the expense of reducing the number of troops in the western military districts, there was an increase in the number of troops stationed in the central military districts. This measure allowed the introduction into European Russia of the territorial system of recruitment, with the establishment of special replacement areas (at corps, division, and regiment levels), which considerably facilitated mobilization and also served to support the struggle against revolutionary outbursts. In case of war the strategic front was transferred back to the Vil’no-Belostok-Brest line, and this brought about the abandonment of all the Wista and Narew fortresses (except for Novogeorgievsk and Osovets) and the reinforcement of the Neman Line (Grodno, Kovno, and Brest). In 1912 a new compulsory military service law was promulgated; it implemented certain curtailments of deferments because of family situation and increased deferments for education. The reserve contingent was divided into two classes so that the field army would be composed of younger troops and the reserves and service troops with older men. The army’s weaponry was improved (in 1909-10, 122-mm and 152-mm howitzers and 107-mm cannon were introduced), machine gun crews were established in regiments with eight guns per crew, corps aviation detachments were formed as well as radio stations; nevertheless, on the whole the Russian Army remained technologically weaker than its probable opponents (Germany and Austria-Hungary). The new regulations (including a field manual) and manuals that were introduced during the period 1909-12 considerably improved the training of troops at the company and regiment level, as well as that of individual soldiers and noncommissioned officers. The quality of officer training was also improved. In 1912 a new regulation concerning pensions was put into effect, and the financial situation of officers was improved; this facilitated the enlistment into military service of young men with high educational qualifications. In 1910 new programs were introduced for military colleges, and Junker colleges were converted into military colleges; a number of new military educational institutions (colleges and schools) were opened; salaries were increased for those who served beyond their required term. These military reforms increased the combat efficiency of the Russian Army; because of a lack of funds, however, a considerable part of which was unjustifiably allocated to strengthening the navy, many intended changes were not fully carried out, and some were not implemented at all (especially regarding the strengthening of the artillery). The military reforms did not eliminate many essential defects of the Russian Army (insufficient preparedness of higher command personnel, poor technical outfitting, etc.), which were a product of the general crisis taking place in bourgeois, landowning Russia.


Zaionchkovskii, A. M. Podgotovka Rossii k imperialisticheskoi voine. Moscow, 1926.
Voennaia reforma: Sb. st. St. Petersburg, 1906.
Sukhomlinov, V. A. Vospominaniia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1926.
Ustav o voinskoi povinnosti. Compiled by P. S. Tsypkin. St. Petersburg, 1915.


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