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Crime Statistics of the Russian Army and Soldiers' Attitudes

서울대학교 러시아연구소
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  • History
  • Political Science


The impact of the 1905-6 Revolution on the Russian polity and various social groups has been inquired by historians for deeper understanding of the coming of the 1917 Revolution. Recent social histories of the working class and peasantry during and after 1905-06 reveal how the chasm between the tsarist regime and the mass became wider after the Revolution. However, it was rarely highlighted about the attitudes of soldiers, some of whom involved in mutinies once, but most of whom eventually came around to quell down the Revolution in support of the tsarist regime. The issue of soldiers‘ attitudes afterward was closely related with historical discussion of the so-called ‘revolutionary crisis' of the Russian polity on the eve of the First World War. The reason why this issue has not been dealt with by historians seems mainly due to the lack of materials that mirror the world of soldiers in barracks. the method to overcome this problem in this article is to analyze the crime statistics of Russian soldiers between 1900 and 1912, focusing on the years, 1905-1912. By following the fluctuation of particular crimes such as, ‘state crime', ‘mutiny and overt rebellion’ ‘insubordination’ ‘breach of officer’s title’ ‘theft’and so on in conjunction with factors like soldiers' social background as well as type of the units they served, this article tries to evaluate the degree of soldiers' political disaffection, social discontents toward the authority and conflicts with officers. The conclusions can be summed up as follows. First, soldiers’revolts which skyrocketed in 1905-6 was motivated not so much by political issues as social ones concerning inhumane treatment and social injustice in barracks. Second, soldiers’crime patterns after 1906 demonstrated two trends. There remained a relatively high degree of disaffection towards officer’s privileged status and harsh disciplinary system until 1912 especially among well-educated soldiers as well as in units mainly filled with former workers, artisans and clerks. On the other hand, the degree of social disaffection was relatively low in the Guards and infantry units where soldiers were composed of the ill-educated peasants. In these units comprising the majority of the army, the military ethos proved not to be much shaken by the Revolution. Given these findings and the lack of any significant record of revolutionary activities in the army on the eve of the First World War, it can be argued that the revolutionary crisis within the Russian army was fomented under a horrible burden of the war and the resulting social dislocation rather than by 'class antagonism' existing even before the war as Soviet historians argue. However, it must be recognized that the soldiers' discontents regarding inhumane treatment and social injustice before the First World War was an undercurrent which remained to weaken the social bond between officers and soldiers until the final denouement in 1917.

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