The Military and Society in Russia: 1450-1917

By Eric Lohr; Marshall Poe | Go to book overview

THE NOBILITY AND THE OFFICER CORPS IN THE
NINETEENTH CENTURY
Walter M. Pintner

Although most aspects of the interrelationship of the Imperial Russian Army and Russian society in general have been little studied, at least until very recently, the officer corps in the last decades of the old regime has received considerable attention.1 The focus of these studies has been on the officer corps itself: the social strata represented in it, their training, characteristic career patterns, values, and so forth have all been examined. The discussion that follows is partly an attempt to pull together what these various studies have to say. But beyond that it is an effort to assess the impact military service had on the nobility as a group in the last years of the empire.

The first step is to try to sort out the quantitative relationship between the officer corps and nobility. The task is more difficult than it appears. In 1897 there were 885,754 hereditary nobles in the Russian Empire (excluding the Baltic Provinces, Poland, and Finland) according to the first modern census. However 46 percent of these (407,918) were in the nine Western Provinces where the bulk of the nobility were Polish. Because Poles were not heavily represented in the officer corps (see below) it seems reasonable to exclude that area from our calculations, giving a total of 477,836 hereditary nobles in 1897 in the remaining 41 provinces of European Russia (excluding the Baltic Provinces, Poland, and Finland), of whom

____________________
1
Peter Kenez, “A Profile of the Pre-Revolutionary Russian Officer Corps, ” California Slavic Studies 7 (1973); Matitiahu Mayzel, “The Formation of the Russian General Staff, 1880–1917: A Social Study, ” Cahiers du monde russe et sovietique 16 (1975); Allan K. Wildman, The End of the Russian Imperial Army: The Old Army and the Soldier's Revolt (March–April, 1917) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980); P. A. Zaionchkovskii, Samoderzhavie i russkaia armiia na rubezhe XIX–XX stoletii (Moscow: Mysl, 1973); Dmitry Ponomareff, The Political Loyalty and Social Composition of a Military Elite: The Russian Officer Corps, 1861–1903, The Rand Corporation, Paper No. 6052, November 1977; John Bushnell, “The Tsarist Officer Corps, 1881–1914: Customs, Duties, Inefficiency, ” American Historical Review 4 (1981); Hans-Peter Stein, “Der offizier des russischen Heere im Zeitabschnitt zwischen Reform und Revolution (1861–1905), ” Forschungen zur Osteuropäischen Geschichte 13 (1967).

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