Bayonets before Bullets: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861-1914

Bayonets before Bullets: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861-1914

Bayonets before Bullets: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861-1914

Bayonets before Bullets: The Imperial Russian Army, 1861-1914

Synopsis

Bayonets before Bullets is the first comprehensive institutional and operational history of the Imperial Russian Army during the crucial period of its modernization, 1861-1914. Bruce W. Menning surveys the development of organization, doctrine, and strategy from the aftermath of Russia's defeat in the Crimean War through the wars against Turkey in 1877-1878 and Japan in 1904-1905, to the eve of World War I. Describing how the Russian army organized, trained, and armed itself to fight during a critical era of change, Menning weaves analysis of reforms in technology and military art with lively accounts of combat operations and portraits of the personalities involved. Enhanced by superb battlefield maps, operational diagrams, and rare photographs of the leading Russian military commanders, Bayonets before Bullets provides a fascinating account of how the Imperial Russian Army struggled to modernize in a Darwinian world that dealt harshly with those who failed to adapt to changes in technology and military art.

Excerpt

This study traces the organization and military art of the Imperial Russian Army through two wars and two phases of the industrial revolution. The story begins with the soul searching which followed Crimean defeat, describes the principal changes of the reform era, and provides an operational and tactical narrative of the RussoTurkish War of 1877-78. The book goes on to depict the Russians' response both to their own wartime experiences and to perceptions of other conflicts, to show how the Imperial Russian Army adapted to smokeless powder weaponry and to reveal why that army failed to meet the test of Far Eastern combat in 1904-5. In 1905-14, the story closes as it begins, with a round of profound introspection and military reform in anticipation of possible future war.

This survey focuses on the Imperial Russian Army as a military institution. It is a description of how that army organized, trained, and armed itself to fight. It is a depiction of war and combat experience. It is an account of tacticians, inventors, teachers, politicians, organizers, and dreamers. Above all, it is the story of how a military institution struggled mightily to accommodate itself to change in a Darwinian world which dealt harshly with failure and the inability to adapt.

Part of this study is organizational and doctrinal, and the other part is combat. Modern military experience suggests that the two are bound together across time through peace and war, a realization which the historian Peter Paret has reaffirmed by asserting recently that all the essentials of action in war find their initiation and development in peacetime. The current study acknowledges this unity by combin-

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