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DixieDivision1418

Question on Imperial Russian Units

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DixieDivision1418

David Stone mentions in his book that Russian soldiers tended to serve in units away from their home regions (at least I think I understood him here). Would officers have been similar, being placed wherever there was a spot to be filled?

 

Could an officer from Odessa, for example, expect to be placed in a unit far from Odessa? I expect this would not apply as much in the case of Caucasian and Siberian units due to distance, but this is just a guess.

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James A Pratt III

Pre-WW I the Russians had there units as 2/3 Russian and 1/3 other, when WW I started they filled up units with local reservists. I think an officer would have gone to what ever unit he was assigned to after getting his commission pre-WW I. Wartime officers would have been moved around to fill up slots. So I would say an officer from Odessa could be assigned to a unit far from Odessa even a Siberian unit if someone  disliked him or he wanted to go there or its wartime replacements are needed, or for the more senior ranks there is a commanders slot open.

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DixieDivision1418
2 hours ago, James A Pratt III said:

Pre-WW I the Russians had there units as 2/3 Russian and 1/3 other, when WW I started they filled up units with local reservists. I think an officer would have gone to what ever unit he was assigned to after getting his commission pre-WW I. Wartime officers would have been moved around to fill up slots. So I would say an officer from Odessa could be assigned to a unit far from Odessa even a Siberian unit if someone  disliked him or he wanted to go there or its wartime replacements are needed, or for the more senior ranks there is a commanders slot open.

Ah, thanks. Do you think Siberian units tended to use mostly Siberian officers and men due to the distances involved?

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James A Pratt III

I really can't say for sure. However it would seem in peacetime that an officer from Siberia would like to serve in a Siberian unit. If the unit was short of officers in peacetime some other officer would be assigned there. Also the high ranks and staff positions would be filled by non-Siberians based on the needs of the service. In wartime Russo-Japanese or WW I officer would be assigned to these units just to fill in the slots ect.

 

In Russian guards regiments the other officers of these units had to approve of which new officers would join their units. The most famous rejection from the Guards cavalry regiments is prince Felix Yussopov. No Guards cavalry regiment wanted this draft dodging, cross dressing bi-sexual. This may have been one of the reasons he murdered Rasputin.

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James A Pratt III

some books:

The Russian Imperial Army 1796-1917 editied by Roger Reese articles:

"The Imperial Russian Life Guards Grenadier Regiment  by David R Jones

"The Tsarist Officer Corps 1881-1914 Customs, Duties, Inefficiency" by John Bushnell

 

Novels

"The Duel" Alexander Kurpin on archive.org

"From Eagle to Red Flag" Peter Krasnov

 

book

End of the Russian Imperial Army" by Allan Wildman

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James A Pratt III

Ooops! the book is "From Double Eagle to Red Flag"

 

archive.org book "With the Russian Army 1914-1917" by Alfred Knox has some insights into the Russian Army

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jwsleser

I will need to look at my copy of D. Stone to read what he says about this topic. 

 

Given the nature of the conscript armies prior to 1914 and the associated war plans, active units will normally be stationed away from their military districts. The question is whether other active units are stationed in their place as garrison units. 

 

Russian units were recruited/conscripted by military districts. The changes in the mobilization plans (I can't remember off the top of my head whether Schedule 18 or 19) moved the garrison locations of the units closer to their recruitment/conscript areas. This was to reduce the burden on the transportation system and allow the faster mobilization of units. The deployment plans then moved only mobilized units long distances. 

 

Officers weren't regionally based and, as James stated, assigned where needed. While officers from certain regions (Siberia, Turkistan, etc.) would likely be assigned to those types of units, there wasn't a hard/fast rule. As officer promotion normally depended on having an open billet to fill, some movement would happen. Company-grade officers (Lt - Cpt) would normally stay in their original regiment unless favoritism/special skills entered the picture. Graduating from a staff course or the Nicholas Academy opened many more doors to positions/promotion. 

 

During the Russo-Japanese War, a fairly significant number of officers were 'seconded' from their regiments to serve in Manchuria. This was more due to officers not wanting to 'miss the fight' than a shortage of officers in those units. Some reservists were replaced after they demonstrated their unsuitability for modern warfare (age, health, etc.). Again as James has stated, the big war threw all the rules out the window and officers were assigned where needed. 

 

v/r  Jeff

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Ron Clifton

There is also a "Handbook on the Russian Army" prepared by the British General Staff before the war, and reprinted a few years ago by the IWM. I am sure that it will cover the questions you have raised.

 

As far as I recall, other ranks were assigned to units on a deliberately mixed basis, so as to reduce both desertion (to their homes) and any regional bias or prejudices. This was certainly the case with the Soviet Army after WW2.

 

Ron

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jwsleser

I have reviewed D. Stone and it appears you are referencing pp. 35-36. Here he does state that "Russia's complex ethnic geography, with less than half the population of the empire ethnically Russian, dictated a complex system of non-territorial service." I feel the problem is that this doesn't match the 'late tsarist requirement' that the regiments be at least 75% ethnic eastern slavs. If the composition is as such, the issue of non-ethnicity has been addressed. Furthermore, his example (128th Starooskol'sakii Regiment) is in fact ethnically slav if recruited from the Kursk region. Why would this regiment be posted away since it shouldn't be an ethnic threat?

 

The Handbook of the Russian Army 1914 doesn't mention this point at all (non-territoral service). It does confirm the 75% percent (p.11). Neither does N. Stone in his The Eastern Front or Golovine in either of his books (The Russian Army in the World War and The Russian Campaign of 1914).

 

My uncertainly is that I have researched the Russian Army prewar planning for many years. While the issue of non-territorial service was very evident in the 1700s and 1800s, it doesn't appear to play any major consideration in war planning after the 1850s. Units were stationed near the borders (and by definition away from their recruiting areas) based on mobilization and war plans. Turkistani and Caucasian were peacetime garrisoned in their home regions. The 75% rule ensured that ethnic minorities were spread throughout the army. 

 

Menning in his Bayonets before Bullets discusses the issue of garrison locations vice recruiting areas (pp. 221-227). The issue of ethnicity only appears in terms of the changing demographics and maintaining the 75% rule. Station location of troops is addressed only in terms of war planning.

 

I checked several other books in my library but didn't find anything that indicated ethnicity was a factor in garrison locations. As I indicated in my previous post, Stone does state that "Though in 1910 the system was adjusted to increase the number of recruits serving near their home, its overall principals reminded the same." This indicates that the issue of troops serving near their home wasn't seen as a significant issue, if it was considered at all. 

 

While it is possible that the concept existed in 1914, the implementation of the modern conscription system tied to a mobilization scheme pretty much made it a non-factor. 

 

v/r  Jeff

 

 

Edited by jwsleser

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