military science

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military science:

see strategy and tacticsstrategy and tactics,
in warfare, related terms referring, respectively, to large-scale and small-scale planning to achieve military success. Strategy may be defined as the general scheme of the conduct of a war, tactics as the planning of means to achieve strategic objectives.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Military Science


the system of knowledge about the preparation for and waging of war by states, coalitions of states, or classes to achieve political purposes. In Soviet military science the nature of possible wars, the laws of wars, and methods of waging war are investigated. Theoretical principles and practical recommendations on questions of building the armed forces and preparing them for war are worked out and the principles of the art of war and the most effective forms and methods for groupings of the armed forces to wage military operations and for thoroughly sup-porting them are defined. Proceeding from political goals, the evaluation of the probable enemy and one’s own forces, and the scientific and technical achievements and economic capabilities of the state and its allies, military science, with practical experience, determines ways to improve existing means of armed combat and create new ones. The component parts of current Soviet military science are the theory of the art of war (strategy, operational art, and tactics), in which principles and recommendations on preparation for and waging military operations are worked out; the theory of building the armed forces, in which questions of their organization, technical supplies, recruitment, and mobilization are studied; the theory of military education and training for personnel of the armed forces; the theory of Party political work in the armed forces; the theory of military economics, in which is studied the use of material, technical, and financial means to support the activity of the armed forces; military geography; military history, in which the history of wars and of the art of war are studied; and technical military sciences, in which the types of weaponry, war materiel, and means of material support of the armed forces are developed. Soviet military science serves the interests of the armed defense of the Soviet socialist state. It is based on Marxist-Leninist theory and is supported by the progressive Soviet state and social systems, whose guiding and directing force is the CPSU.

The fundamental difference between bourgeois military science and Soviet military science lies in the reactionary ideological foundation and the class essence of the former. Bourgeois military science serves both the aggressive foreign policy and the reactionary domestic policy of the dominant exploiting classes of the capitalist states; it is at the service of aggressive imperialist policy, which is directed primarily against the socialist countries and the national liberation movement of the peoples of the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The modern scientific and technical revolution is causing intensive differentiation and integration of scientific knowl-edge, which leads to the appearance of new branches, directions, and disciplines in most of the sciences. A similar process is also natural for military science. Military science is developed from conclusions drawn from historical experience in the waging of wars, analysis of all types of practical activity by troops during peacetime, prediction of the development of new means of warfare and probable methods and forms of waging war in the future, and thorough study of the probable enemy and of trends in the development of international relations.

Military science took shape and developed over the course of a lengthy historical period. Its elements were conceived far back in ancient times during the period of the slaveholding society in Egypt, Persia, China, Greece, and Rome when military leaders and theoreticians formulated and solved certain questions related to strategy, tactics, military geographical conditions, and the organization and education of troops and when these military leaders and theoreticians analyzed and drew general conclusions from their experience in battles and campaigns. Military science continued to develop during the period of the Middle Ages. As the productive forces of society increased, weapons and war materiel were improved, troop control and the art of war as a whole became more complex, and military historical experience accumulated. All this led finally to the formation of military science as a definite system of knowledge.

Modern military researchers assign the formation of bourgeois military science to the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, when on the basis of the developing capitalist method of production there was a speedy development of the political, economic, and natural sciences. At this time military theory was also further developed in various countries. One of the first representatives of foreign bourgeois military science in the 18th century was the English general G. Lloyd. He outlined certain general principles of the theory of war, pointed out the links between war and politics, and emphasized the importance of the moral and political factor. However, he believed that military science was applicable only in preparing the army for war. The course and outcome of the war, in his opinion, depended entirely on the genius of the military leader, since there were no observable operating laws in this field and, consequently, it had no relationship to military science.

Major progress in the development of Russian military science at the beginning of the 18th century is linked with the name of Peter I, the government figure and military leader who carried out military reforms and established a regular army and navy. Peter I was the creator of the new Military Regulations, which outlined generalized conclusions drawn from experience in large and small battles and various questions of military administration and troop education. It marked the beginning of an independent Russian national military school. A great contribution to military science was made by major Russian military figures of the second half of the 18th century, including P. A. Rumiantsev, A. V. Suvorov, and F. F. Ushakov. Rumiantsev devoted a great deal of attention to improving the organization of the Russian Army, increasing its mobility, and improving troop combat training. He introduced the principle of decisive battle as the primary way to achieve victory. His work Order of Service (1770) was adopted as the manual of the Russian Army, and his Report to Catherine II on the Organization of the Army (1777) became the basis for further improvement in the organization of the army. Suvorov had a great influence on the formation of the art of war of the Russian Army and on the improvement of troop education and training. He sharply opposed the cordon strategy and linear tactics that prevailed in the West. In his Science of Victory (1795-96), Suvorov worked out a number of important rules on questions of military training, education, and combat operations. Ushakov worked out and applied in practice new forms and methods of combat action at sea, proving the superiority of mobile offensive tactics over the linear tactics prevailing in foreign navies.

The experience of the wars in defense of the Great French Revolution exerted a decisive influence on military theory. V. I. Lenin pointed out: “Just as the French revolutionary people then manifested within the country a maximum of revolutionary energy unprecedented for many centuries, so in the war at the end of the 18th century the people manifested equally gigantic revolutionary creativity, reshaping the entire system of strategy, breaking old laws and customs of war, and creating in place of the old armies a new revolutionary people’s army and a new conduct of war” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 32, pp. 79-80). The French military leader Napoleon I made a significant contribution to the theory and practice of the art of war. He gave divisions and corps a more orderly organization and cut back sharply on transports, as a result of which the army acquired greater mobility. Napoleon I established the utter defeat of enemy personnel in one all-out battle as the primary goal of combat action and he strove constantly to destroy the enemy by parts, achieving maximum superiority of forces on the axis of the main effort.

Very significant in the development of Russian military science was the leadership skill of M. I. Kutuzov, who was able to crush Napoleon’s army, which was one of the leading armies at the beginning of the 19th century.

Among the military theoreticians of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century in Germany, a prominent place was occupied by H. D. von Biülow, who attempted to write a theoretical summary of everything new that had been created during the age of the Great French Revolution. He considered correctly that military strategy is subordinate to politics and carries out its demands, but he did not understand the class content of politics. He divided military science into strategy and tactics and thus reduced it to nothing but the art of war.

The development of bourgeois military science in the first half of the 19th century is closely linked with the names of A. Jomini (Swiss by origin) and K. von Clausewitz (a German theoretician). They served for a significant length of time in the Russian Army and made full use of its experience in their historical and theoretical works. Jomini felt that the art of war could and should have its own scientific theory, but at the same time he recognized the predominance in the art of war of “eternal principles” inherent in all wars at all times, and thus he deprived the theory he had created of a truly scientific basis. He mistakenly asserted that the impact of politics on strategy is restricted to just the moment of decision-making, whereas during a war strategy supposedly did not depend on politics. Jomini’s theoretical principles and ideas, which emphasized the significance of military theory, found followers in various armies of the world. The service of Clausewitz was that he profoundly revealed the link between war and politics and explained many phenomena of war (the nature and essence of war, armed forces, attack, defense, the war plan, and others). He attached great significance to the material, geographical, and moral factors in war, as well as to the role of the military leader. Being a bourgeois military thinker, Clausewitz was not able to reveal the class content of politics; he defined politics as an expression of the interests of the entire society and did not tie it to classes and the class struggle.

The question of the subject and content of military science constantly attracted the attention of Russian military theoreticians. As early as 1819, Major General I. G. Burtsov pointed to the relationships between politics and war in his article entitled “Thoughts on the Theory of Military Knowledge” (see Voennyi Zhurnal, book 2, 1819, pp. 55, 63). He felt that military science could not be restricted to the art of war but should include the study of the laws of military affairs in its subject matter. Major General A. I. Astaf ev in his book On the Current Art of War (part 1, 1856) also considered that the subject of military science was broader than the art of war. Astaf’ev criticized Lloyd, Btilow, and other foreign military theoreticians for their endeavor to turn the art of war into a code of invariable rules. Prominent Russian theoreticians in the second half of the 19th century who influenced the development of military science were Minister of War D. A. Miliutin, Admiral G. I. Butakov, Generals G. A. Leer and M. I. Dragomirov, and Rear Admiral S. O. Makarov. Under Miliutin’s leadership the military reforms of the 1860’s and 1870’s were carried out to overcome backwardness and conservatism in the army. In his book First Experiments With Military Statistics (1847-48), Miliutin was the first in military science to lay out the fundamentals of military statistics (including military geography). In his work The New Foundations of Steamship Tactics (1863), Butakov drew generalized conclusions from the experience in combat operations of ships of the steam fleet and suggested rules for changing their formation in the squadron for the waging of naval combat. These.principles were acknowledged in all the navies of the world. Leer recognized the unity of politics and strategy and placed politics in the leading role. In his works Notes on Strategy (1867), The Method of the Military Sciences (1894), and Applied Tactics (1877-80), Leer summarized critically the most common views on solving many questions of strategy and tactics and developed a military theory based on generalizations drawn from military historical experience. Dragomirov gave an extensive explanation of the question of tactics and troop training and education. His Textbook of Tactics (1879) served as the basic text at the General Staff Academy for 20 years. Makarov’s works had a significant influence on the development of domestic and foreign naval thinking. Makarov’s book Discussions of Questions of Naval Tactics (1897) was the first major work on the naval tactics of the armored steam fleet. At the turn of the 20th century a definition of military science was given in the Russian encyclopedias Encyclopedia of Military and Naval Sciences (vol. 2, 1885) and Military Encyclopedia (vol. 6, 1912). The latter establishes that “military science engages in a comprehensive investigation of wars. It studies: (1) phenomena in the life of society and (2) forces, means, and methods for waging battle” (p. 476).

In the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century with further development in engineering, lines of communication, and signal methods and with the appearance of improved armament for ground forces and the armored, steam-powered navy, there was intensive development of naval art and of the strategy and tactics of ground forces. The increased complexity of troop control required the establishment of general staffs, which began to determine the general direction of development of theoretical military views and of military science as a whole. Assessing the military capacities of their own and of other states, to some degree they influenced the policies of their own states.

Along with the development of bourgeois military science in the second half of the 19th century the foundations of a military science that viewed phenomena from a dialectical materialist point of view began to be laid. Discovery of the materialist understanding of history by Marx and Engels caused a revolutionary change in the social sciences, including military science. For the first time the relationship of methods of waging war, army organization, the armament of the army, and strategy and tactics to the economic structure of society and its political superstructure was scientifically revealed. F. Engels was one of the first Marxist military theoreticians. His works are devoted to the development of the doctrine of war and the army and their origin and class essence and to questions of military science and the history of the art of war. In the manuscript entitled “Possibilities and Preconditions of the War of the Holy Alliance Against France in 1852” he presented theoretical principles on the development of the art of war in different socioeconomic structures, especially during the period of proletarian revolution and classless society. As Marx and Engels showed, the proletarian revolution demands the destruction of the old, bourgeois state apparatus and the establishment of a new one, which means, consequently, the establishment of a new, socialist military organization in the interests of armed defense of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the articles “Army,” “Infantry,” and others, which were written for the New American Encyclopedia, Engels gave the first materialist explanation of the history of military theory and practice. He showed that the development of the art of war depends on growth in productive forces, the development of social relations, and major revolutionary upheavals in society. In opposition to the theory of the “free role of the military leader,” which prevailed at that time, Engels formulated the law that “the entire organization of armies and the methods used by them to wage combat, as well as victories and defeats, are dependent on material, that is, economic, conditions: on human material and on weapons and, consequently, on the quality and quantity of population and on matériel” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 20, p. 175).

World War I (1914-18) had a great influence on the development of bourgeois military science. During this war technical military means of combat continued to develop and new combat arms (aviation, tank, and chemical troops) appeared; rich experience was gained in the fields of the organization of wars, operational art, and tactics. After the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution the main task of bourgeois military science became the development of methods of waging war that would ensure the rapid defeat of the Soviet state and the revolutionary movements in the capitalist countries.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s theories of waging war were being created that took into consideration the possibility of equipping armies with qualitatively new, more effective war materiel and replacing the human being with the machine. At that time the bourgeois military theories of the “small army” (J. Fuller and Liddell Hart in Great Britain and H. Seekt in Germany) and of “air war” (G. Douhet in Italy and W. Mitchell in the United States) became widely known. Fuller first presented his views in the book Tanks in the Great War, 1914-18 (1923). In this work the role of materiel is over-estimated and the human role is underestimated. The theory of “air war” assigned the decisive role in war to the air force. It was considered that victory could be achieved in war simply by winning dominance in the air, after which the air force would neutralize the resistance of the enemy country in a short period of time by extensive offensive operations. Ground forces were given nothing but occupation functions in the country that had been subjected to devastation by aviation.

The military science of fascist Germany was directed primarily to developing the theory of the blitzkrieg, which envisioned a sudden attack and swift advance by tank groupings with aviation support for the purpose of crushing the enemy like “lightning.” The plans of German imperialism, which were counted on to gain world dominance, were based on the theory of “total war” developed earlier by the military ideologist of German imperialism E. Ludendorff. He felt that such a war would be lightning-like in nature, but in scope it would encompass the entire territory of the warring states, and to achieve victory it would require the participation in the war of the entire people, not just the armed forces. In French military science the conception of “static warfare” was dominant; defense was considered more effective than attack. Great hopes were placed on the permanent fortification elements of the Maginot Line and the Belgian fortified regions. A continuous front relying on a developed system of fortification was considered to be the basis for waging war. In the United States and Great Britain the theory of “naval power” was most widespread; in accordance with this theory, primary attention was devoted to the navy as the most important armed service.

After the Great October Socialist Revolution, Soviet military science began to take shape. At its foundation lay the principles of Marxism-Leninism concerning war and the army developed by Lenin as applicable to the new conditions of the age of imperialism. He revealed the economic basis of wars and classified them. Lenin pointed out that “there are just and unjust wars, progressive and reactionary wars, wars of the progressive classes and wars of the backward classes, wars serving to consolidate class oppression and wars serving to overthrow it” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 38, p. 337).

From conclusions drawn from the experience of armed proletarian uprisings and wars of the age of imperialism, Lenin developed many points of Marxist military theory, including the decisive role of the popular masses; the economic and moral and political factors in modern warfare; the relationship of military organization and the art of war to the social and state system and the status and development of war matériel; the rules, methods, and forms of military operations; and the unity of political and military leadership in war. He created an integral and harmonious teaching on the new type of army and the defense of the socialist homeland; he pointed out concrete ways to build the Soviet armed forces; and he worked out the principles of training and education for army and navy soldiers, the unity of the army and the people, the unity of the front and rear, the leadership of the Communist Party over the armed forces, centralism, one-man management and collectivism in leadership, effectiveness in troop control, checks on performance, the selection and dis-position of cadres, and conscious military discipline. Lenin taught a creative approach to accomplishing the missions of defending the socialist homeland, and he also taught that the real ratio of friendly forces and the forces of probable enemies, economic and sociopolitical factors, and the state of the armed forces must be taken into account. Working out the theoretical foundations of the building of military strength, Lenin wrote that “without science it is impossible to build a modern army” (ibid., vol. 40, p. 183). During the Civil War, Lenin participated directly in guiding military operations. Soviet military science took shape and developed during these years. The works of V. I. Lenin and his practical activity have been invaluable for the development of Soviet military science. The Marxist-Leninist principles of purposefulness, activism, determination, and boldness combined with a high level of skill in carrying out military operations have been enormously significant in all the military vic-tories of the Soviet people.

A large contribution to the development of Soviet military science was made by prominent military figures of the Soviet state, such as M. V. Frunze, M. N. Tukhachevskii, and B. M. Shaposhnikov, as well as N. E. Varfolomeev, V. K. Triandafillov, V. A. Alafuzov, and I. S. Isakov. The progressive Soviet school of military theory gradually took shape. A special role belongs to Frunze’s works, including Uniform Military Doctrine and the Red Army and The Front and the Rear in the War of the Future. Frunze worked out such very important questions of military science as the nature of future warfare, directions for the development of the armed ser-vices and the combat arms, and principles for training and educating personnel of the armed forces. In his three-volume work The Brain of the Army (vols. 1-3, 1927-29), B. M. Shaposhnikov analyzed a large amount of historical material, showed the role and functions of the General Staff, and made valuable proposals on the theory of military strategy, the development of war plans, and strategic leadership. In 1929 the book The Nature of the Operations of Modern Armies by V. K. Triandafillov was published. The author made a pro-found scientific analysis of the state and prospects for development of the armies of that time and disclosed the rules for the supply of materiel and their organization. Triandafillov took note of the increased role of tanks and considered them one of the most powerful offensive means in a future war. He investigated the offensive and defensive capabilities of the division, corps, army, and group of armies and studied the questions of the approach of troops to the field of battle, beginning and carrying on battle, and the duration and depth of an operation. In the period 1930-37, M. N. Tukhachevskii published his theoretical military articles on the nature of future warfare and principles of strategy and operational art in both theory and practice. Tukhachevskii proved that new forms of deep battle were being born. He advocated the proposition that there is an inseparable link between the art of war and a country’s social system and production base, and he investigated the initial period of a future war.

An outstanding achievement of Soviet military science was the working out of the theory of the deep offensive operation, the foundations of which were outlined in the “Instruction on Waging Deep Battle” (1932). This theory helped develop a way to end the deadlock of static warfare, which had become established during World War I. Soviet military theory received concrete expression in the Temporary Field Service Regulations of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (1936). The regulations emphasize the decisive nature of the Soviet art of war—establishing superiority over the enemy along the main operational axis, the coordinated action of all combat arms, surprise and speed in operations, and skillful maneuvering. In its recommendations on building the armed forces, Soviet theoretical military thought assumed the probability of war with fascist Germany and its allies. A profound analysis of the state and prospects for development of the armed forces of the probable enemy made it possible for Soviet military science to assume on a sound basis that the war would be intensive and long and would require mobilization of the efforts of all the people, of the country as a whole. The primary type of strategic operations was considered to be the attack, securing the utter defeat of the enemy on his territory. Defense was assigned a subordinate role as a forced and temporary phenomenon ensuring a later transition to the attack.

In its view concerning the initial period of the war, Soviet military science proceeded from the notion that wars in the modern age are not declared and that aggressive states strive to initiate sudden attacks on the enemy. Under these conditions, from the very beginning military action would assume the form of decisive operations and would be primarily mobile in nature. However, static forms of fighting in certain theaters of military action and along various strategic axes were not excluded. Soviet military science assigned an important place to developing the theory of using the air force and large mechanized units in operations and to methods of modern warfare at sea.

The Great Patriotic War (1941-45) showed that the views concerning the nature and methods of military operations developed by Soviet military science were generally correct. From the start of the war it became necessary to further develop such important problems of the theory of the Soviet art of war and practice of conducting operations as leadership of the armed forces in the situation of the initial period of a war, when a general mobilization is being carried out, when groupings of armed forces are being deployed, and when the national economy is being transferred onto a military footing; as the centralization of control over groupings of the armed forces operating in different theaters of military action (axes); and as the coordination of the efforts of the armed forces. The war enriched the Soviet armed forces with an enormous amount of combat experience. During the war there was comprehensive development of the problems of selecting the direction of the main effort considering not only the theoretical principles of the art of war but also the demands of policy and economics; organizing and carrying on a strategic offensive and strategic defense; breaking through the enemy’s strategic front; strategic employment of the armed services and the coordination of their efforts for combined accomplishment of important strategic missions; secret formation, use, and restoration of strategic reserves; using the factor of strategic surprise; organizing and conducting operations to encircle and destroy large enemy groupings; directing a partisan movement; and others. The high level of the Soviet art of war manifested itself with particular brilliance in the battles near Moscow, Stalingrad, and Kursk; in the operations in the Right-bank Ukraine and Byelorussia; and in the laşi-Kishinev, Vistula-Oder, Berlin, and Manchurian operations.

During World War II the American and British armed forces gained experience in conducting strategic bombing, carrying out large-scale air operations, waging combat action at sea, and conducting operations with field armies and groups of armies in coordination with large-scale aviation forces, primarily where they had an overwhelming superiority over the enemy. Through military science problems were worked out on the conduct of large-scale naval landing operations with participation by ground forces, the navy, aviation, and airborne landing forces; the organization of a strategic coalition for troop leadership; the planning and support of operations; and others.

The postwar development of Soviet military science has relied on conclusions drawn from the experience of World War II and has taken the direction of the further refinement of the theory of the art of war with due regard for the development of armament and combat materiel and the organization of the armed forces. A large contribution to the development of the theoretical principles of military science and to the practice of the art of war during the war years and the postwar period was made by Soviet military leaders, scholars and theoreticians, generals, admirals, and officers of the General Staff, the general staffs of the armed services and the staffs of the combat arms, military educational institutions, military science agencies, and headquarters of army, air force, and navy units.

In the most developed countries the course of military science has been characterized by research on a broad range of problems related to the appearance of nuclear weapons in the 1950’s. This new weaponry has brought about a change in the nature of warfare, the forms and means for the conduct of military operations, and new methods for the training and educating of personnel. A greater role has fallen to the psychological preparation of soldiers and officers for war, the development of methods of propaganda and counter-propaganda in “psychological warfare,” and other areas.

Military science is not developing identically in all capitalist countries. In the second half of the 20th century it has been most extensively developed in such capitalist powers as the USA, Great Britain, and France. The other capitalist countries borrow a great deal from them.

In the postwar years Soviet military science has developed new theoretical views on the nature of a future war, the role and significance of the armed services and means of armed combat, and methods of waging battles and operations. It has become obvious that a war, if it cannot be prevented, will be waged by essentially new means. A favorable influence has been exerted on the development of Soviet military science by the principles of the Program of the CPSU and the decisions and documents of Party congresses and plenums of the Central Committee of the CPSU. Thorough investigations have been conducted concerning the role and significance of economic, sociopolitical, and psychological and morale factors in achieving victory in modern war. Soviet military science has disclosed and substantiated the nature of a possible future world war and created the theoretical basis for shaping a modern military doctrine of the state.

The aggressive policy of the imperialist states, their preparation for a new war against the countries of socialism, and the unrestrained arms race demand that Soviet military science continue to develop effective ways to ensure high readiness in the Soviet armed forces to crush any aggressor.


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Group of authors under the editorship of Marshal of the Soviet Union


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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