The Military and Society in Russia: 1450-1917

By Eric Lohr; Marshall Poe | Go to book overview

TSAR ALEKSEI MIKHAILOVICH: MUSCOVITE MILITARY
COMMAND STYLE AND LEGACY TO RUSSIAN
MILITARY HISTORY
Peter B. Brown

Whether entrance into the 21st century constitutes a perelomnyi moment— a decisive turning point—in Russian history remains at this time actuarial. This is nonetheless the first time in four centuries in which a Russian government bore neither the name “Imperial” nor “Soviet.” It is to coming generations of historians to assess more definitively the unfolding contours of Russian history, especially its military history, in the 21st century.

Both the Imperial and Soviet periods, with which we are much more familiar, possessed several supreme leaders acting as aggressive, military strategists and even, in one instance, as a field commander: Peter the Great, Paul, Nicholas I, Lenin, Stalin, and perhaps others. But just as no investigator would deny antecedents to these men, who performed their roles from the 18th century onwards, likewise it would be erroneous to assume that only with Peter did Russia know charismatic military leadership combined with the person of the sovereign.

More than any other early modern Russian ruler before Peter, his father, Aleksei Mikhailovich (1645–76) embodied these characteristics, served as a model for his son. By integrating his own charisma, military talents, and managerial flair and by imbuing them into a reasonably well-organized army and governmental apparatus, Aleksei established a pattern for future rulers.1 During the 13 Years' War

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1
Russia, to be sure, had by no means asserted any monopoly over political leaders doubling as military palladins; e.g., one need only recall various Bourbon rulers, the first and third Napoleons, Winston Churchill, and a slew of Prussian and German statesmen and rulers from Frederick the Great to Hitler. There are no good Russianlanguage biographies of Aleksei Mikhailovicha, although the best is probably the venerable Vasilii N. Berkh, Tsarstvovanie tsaria Alekseia Mikhailovicha, pt. 1 (St. Petersburg: Tipografiia Kh. Gintse, 1831); in English there are Philip Longworth, Alexis Tsar of all the Russias (New York: Franklin Watts, 1984) and Joseph Fuhrmann, Tsar Alexis, His Reign and His Russia (Gulf Breeze, Florida: Academic International Press, 1981). Two solid monographs on the reign of Aleksei Mikhailovich remain Ilia Ia. Gurliand, Prikaz velikogo gosudaria tainykh del (Iaroslavl': Tipografiia gubernskogo pravleniia, 1902) and Aleksandr I. Zaozerskii, Tsar' Aleksei Mikhailovich v svoem khoziaistve (Petrograd, 1917). Second rev. ed. published as Tsarskaia votchina xvii v. Iz istorii khoziaistvennoi i prikaznoi politiki Alekseia Mikhailovicha, 2d rev. ed. (Moscow: Sotsekgiz, 1937). Of the many biographies on Ivan the Terrible see Sergei F. Platonov, Ivan Groznyi, 1530–1584 (Petrograd: Brokgauz-Efron, 1923. [Eng. trans., Joseph L. Wieczynski, ed., trans., Ivan the Terrible {Gulf Breeze, Florida: Academic International Press, 1974}. See Richard Hellie's introductory article in this volume.]); Boris N. Floria, Ivan Groznyi (Moscow: Molodaia gvardiia, 1999); Sigord O. Shmidt, Rossiia Ivana Groznogo (Moscow: Nauka, 1999); Ruslan G. Skrynnikov, Velikii gosudar' Ioann Vasil'evich Groznyi (Smolensk: Rusich, 1998).

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