Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics



Military Paper Award

 

Notes

 

The Development of the Russian Inspectorate, 1762-1806: Introduction

By Robert Goetz


From the earliest days of military modernization under Peter the Great, Russia faced serious problems with regard to maintaining its army.  Logistically, the vast distances of Russia made it difficult to field a force that could defend effectively against Tartar, Turk, Pole, Prussian and Swede.  Because of the size of Russia, it was not possible to employ interior lines to shift troops from front to front, as Frederick the Great was able to do when ringed by enemies during the Seven Years’ War.  If Russia concentrated her forces to meet any of these enemies, she left herself exposed to attack from another quarter. 

Russia’s solution from the time of Peter the Great was to maintain a large standing army, an army that became the largest in Europe by the 1780s, in order to field armies simultaneously at several points along the length of the frontiers.[1] This solution, however, created additional challenges.  The scattered population made supply of the army in peacetime problematic without considerable dispersal and the vast distances between potential enemies made rapid concentration extremely difficult. The differences in the methods of warfare employed in the west and on the steppes of Ukraine and central Asia posed additional problems in equipping and training the army.  While threats from the north and west involved western-style armies, in the south the unpredictable raids of the Tatars and their Turkish allies posed a different challenge.  As a result of the need for dispersal of forces, the total number of men that could be made available on any given front reflected a small fraction of the total forces under arms.[2]

Throughout the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century, the fundamental underlying problem of maintaining a very large army in a state of preparedness near the frontiers remained paramount.  The Military Commission created by Catherine the Great in the first year of her reign devised a lasting solution for these problems.  The initial work of this commission produced an administrative structure of “divisions” to address the concerns of the northern and western frontiers and was later extended to organize the administration of the southern and eastern frontiers.  This system left the established regimental organization largely unchanged, but shifted the physical location of the regimental cantons closer to the frontiers.  The divisions underwent considerable “tuning” under Tsar Paul to improve the efficiency of the organization and to reduce rampant corruption within the administration of both the divisions and individual regiments.  Aside from these administrative adjustments, the divisions proved to be a viable solution to the problems Russia faced.  The structure put in place in 1762 provided an organizational framework for the Russian army for 44 years.  Moreover, the divisional structure provided the framework for the 1806 establishment of permanent higher operational formations (“divisions” in the modern sense), which would ultimately lead the Russian army to the establishment of a Corps d’Armée structure along the Napoleonic model in 1810. 

 

 

 

Notes

[1] Regular troops under arms in 1756:  Russia 220,000; France 220,000 (reaching a maximum of 330,000 during the Seven Years’ War); Prussia 143,000, Austria 177,000 (reaching 200,000 during the Seven Years’ War).  Regular troops under arms in 1788-89:  Russia  426,000; Austria  300,000; Prussia 200,000; France 170,000.  C. Duffy, The Military Experience in the Age of Reason London; 1987, p. 17; C. Duffy, The Army of Frederick the Great New York; 1974, p. 165; C. Duffy, The Army of Maria Theresa New York; 1977, p. 170.

[2] Russia had 437,823 men under arms in 1756, approximately 220,000 of which were regular army.  Of these, only 79,000 regular troops and 16,000 Cossacks could be committed in the Seven Years’ War.  Duffy, Russia’s Military Way to the West London; 1981, p. 73. 

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2001

 

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