Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics


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Statute on Commanding a Large Active Army

Translated and edited by Alexander Mikaberidze



Statute on Commanding a Large Active Army - Uchrezhdenie dlya upravleniya Bolshoi Deistvuyushei Armii – is a legislative document that defined the organization, structure and functions of the Russian military during the concluding years of the Napoleonic Wars. It was a result of a long work undertaken by the Commission on Drafting Military Statutes and regulations [Komissiya sostavleniya voyennikh ustavov i ulozhenii] led by Mikhail Magnitsky and under direct supervision of Minister of War Mikhail Barclay de Tolly. The Ministry of War, during Barclay de Tolly’s tenure, introduced a series of military reforms in 1810-1812 to modernize Russian military considering experiences of the 1805-1807 Campaigns against Napoleonic France, the Russo-Swedish War of 1808-1809 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1806-1812. These military reforms adopted some elements of the French military, revising the existing divisional organization, establishing a corps system, creating new regiments, and expanding the existing units to three-battalion structure.  The reforms also revised the functions of the Ministry of War and created Russian Military Intelligence and Internal Guard system. The recruitment system was reorganized and new depots were established.

Besides structural and organization changes, the reforms developed a legislative basis for changes. In 1811, Military Statute on Infantry Service [Voinskii ustav o pekhotnoi sluzhbe] and the Manual on the Jager Training [Nastavlenie o egerskom uchenii] were adopted while early 1812 saw the approval of Statute on Commanding Large Active Army and the Cavalry Drill Statute [O stroyevoi kavaleriiskoi sluzhbe].

Statute on Commanding a Large Active Army was approved on 27 January 1812 and defined the structure, functions, and responsibilities of a commander-in-chief, his main headquarters, corps and divisional commanders and their headquarters and determined means and methods of commanding a field army. The document consists of 2 parts [chast], each divided into chapters [glava] that are in turn sub-divided into sections [otdelenie]. Each section contains articles on specific topics, with a total of 514 articles.

Part One contains five chapters (each consisting of two sections) and 61 articles. It primarily deals with functions and responsibilities of a commander-in-chief, his main headquarters and corps and divisional commanders and their headquarters. Part Two contains two chapters (with 25 sections) that contain the remaining 453 articles.  

To the editor's knowledge, this is the first English translation of the Statute. While the text was translated as close to the original as possible, a few changes were necessary to maintain fluidity of the translation.  The first word of the Statute's title – “uchrezhdenie” - is often translated literally as ‘Establishment' but this editor feels that the term “Statute” better reflects the document’s essence. Some scholars, for example Frederick Kagan in his The Military reforms of Nicholas I, refers to the Statute as “the Establishment of the Administration of the Large Active Army” but the translation seems to be awkward and too literal. I chose to translate it as "Statute on Commanding a Large Active Army."

Also,  'Glavnii Shtab' and 'Glavnaia Kvartira' are translated as 'Main Staff' and 'Headquarters.' Glavnaia Kvartira operated within Glavnii Shtab and referred to Commander-in-Chief and a small circle of officers and adjutants attached to him. 

To avoid any confusion, original Russian terms are often provided in brackets after English terms. Editorial comments are also included inside brackets.

The editor will be grateful for any comments regarding the technicalities of translation.

Placed on the Napoleon Series: November 2007 - January 2008


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