The Military and Society in Russia: 1450-1917

By Eric Lohr; Marshall Poe | Go to book overview

IMPERIAL WAR GAMES (1898–1906): SYMBOLIC DISPLAYS
OF POWER OR PRACTICAL TRAINING?
John W. Steinberg

In his novel, From Double Eagle to Red Flag, Petr Nikolaevich Krasnov poignantly portrayed a lasting image of peacetime war games in late Imperial Russia. He defined the controversy that surrounded the raison d'être for maneuvers in the course of a dialogue between a Guards officer of the Imperial Suite and a General Staff officer during “the principle maneuver of the year.”1 Once the General Staff officer started to explain the goal of the following day's exercise, the Guards officer interrupted him: “Ah, leave the academic craftiness for other occasions. You forget that the maneuvers are in the Imperial presence. ”2 Upon realizing that the representative of the Imperial Suite was ordering the dismantling of the maneuver for the purposes of diverting troops into an enormous pass and review exercise, the General Staff officer exclaimed: “Your Excellency, the maneuver will lose all of its instructive value.”3 Barely concerned by such matters, the Guards officer reminded the General Staff officer that soldiers must see their tsar in person and that ceremonial promotions of cadets in the tsar and tsarina's presence were irreplaceable. The Guards officer went on to point out that the tsarina, who demands a good show, would be observing, and would attend the planned feast for six hundred court dignitaries and officers. He also warned the General Staff officer that he could ruin his career if he failed to follow orders. Realizing the hopelessness of trying to conduct a maneuver for practical training purposes, the General Staff officer gave way to the Guards officer's arguments and conducted a traditional maneuver aimed more to symbolically project an image of imperial power than to pragmatically test battle concepts and train participants in the exercise.4

____________________
1
See P. N. Krasnov, From Double Eagle to Red Flag, vol. 1 (New York: Duffield and Company, 1928), 95.
2
Ibid., 96.
3
Ibid., 97.
4
Ibid., 95–97.

-253-

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