The Development of the Russian Inspectorate, 1762-1806:
Part II: Formation of Administrative Infrastructure (Divisions)
By Robert Goetz
In the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War, armies across Europe began implementing administrative reforms to provide an infrastructure to maintain their armies in a state of greater preparedness, reduce costs and to provide better central control over the regiments in order to achieve better consistency and quality. The Russian reforms introduced in January 1763 formed the first such administrative organization in Russia and paralleled similar establishments instituted in other countries. Prussia had led the way in establishing a canton system between 1727-35 and an Inspectorate in 1763. The Austrians dabbled with a canton structure starting in 1766, establishing it fully in 1781 while the French formed “Territorial Divisions” in the 1780s. The purpose of these administrative divisions was to provide greater peacetime control and to improve administrative efficiency and economy but fell short of producing the operational higher formations that would evolve during the French Revolutionary Wars.
The talented General Rumyantsev, hero of the Seven Years’ War, introduced the idea of the creation of larger operational formations in the Russian army in his “Thoughts Concerning the Composition of the Army” in 1777. Rumyantsev’s work echoed the thoughts of French military thinkers in the 1750s. This plan called for the formation of four permanent regional armies: a northern army in the Baltic provinces and Finland, a southwestern army in the Ukraine and Belorussia, a southeastern army in the Volga region and a central reserve army centered around Moscow. Rumyantsev’s plan was not implemented, but the idea of transforming the administrative divisions into a combined administrative/command structure foreshadowed later developments that would be implemented in 1806.
Administrative reforms initiated under Catherine the Great created an infrastructure designed to maintain the army in a state of reasonable readiness in times of peace by maintaining the regiments closer to the borders where they would be needed. The first organizational reform was enacted in 14 January 1763. This organized the army into eight military districts called “divisions” (divisyi) with all regiments assigned to these divisions. The divisions did not correspond exactly to any governmental units, although each division was assigned specific geographical territory as a means of defining the division. Within the divisions each regiment was assigned to specific villages as had been the practice previously at the regimental level. In other words, the same administrative practice that had formerly been used on an individual basis for regiments was now adapted to maintain a larger number of regiments near the frontiers.
The administrative structure created in 1763 concentrated the regiments where they were most needed – along the northwest and western frontiers to speed mobilization against Swedes, Poles or Prussians, all traditional enemies in striking distance of the Russian heartland. In the south, the two-tiered defense of Ukrainian Land Militia and Cossacks provided security, although these regiments were gradually eliminated over the 1760s and replaced with regular army units.
The original organization of the divisions distributed the 46 infantry regiments as shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Original Divisions, 1763-75
Source: Nafziger, Russian Army I, p. 5
These divisions arrayed the regular forces in the north and west from Finland to Sevsk (NE of Kiev). The considerable irregular forces covered the south while the large central reserve around Moscow could react to a threat from any direction. Details on the assignment of the four grenadier regiments and cavalry to the divisions are not readily available, but in general the larger light cavalry regiments were assigned to the southern and western plains while the heavy cavalry remained in the more wooded regions of Russia proper. Artillery was assigned to each division along with garrison battalions in fortresses falling within the geographical boundaries of the divisions.
As new territories were acquired, new divisions were established. In 1775, three new divisions were created: the Belorussian or Lithuanian division in the west and divisions at Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod in the east. The first of these appears to have been composed of the territories taken from Poland in 1772. The latter two administered forces for Orenburg and Siberia – regions without the population density to support the units required to defend them. At the same time, the Sevsk and Ukraine Divisions were merged into a single Ukraine Division, standardizing the administrative structure across the territory formerly assigned to the Land Militia (which had been formally disbanded in 1769 with the regiments being converted into line infantry and cavalry regiments). The organization of the eastern territories and Ukraine into divisions is probably a direct reaction to Pugachev’s rebellion (1773-4) and was an attempt to reduce the vulnerability of these loosely administered regions by establishing tighter control and a permanent military presence. An eleventh division, termed the Border Division, was created in 1779 in the territories of New Russia, Azov and Astrakhan. Finally, in 1791 a twelfth division was created on the Dniester called the Odessa Division.
While the Division system provided the essential infrastructure to maintain the Russian armies near the frontiers, the formation of a centralized authority to supervise the Divisions lagged behind. In 1785, Field Marshal Potemkin, President of the War College, addressed this need by creating Inspectors on the Prussian model which had been implemented by Frederick the Great in 1763. In theory each inspector would periodically inspect each regiment under his authority to ensure that it was being properly maintained, that the soldiers had received adequate training and showed the required proficiency in military exercises, and that officers were fulfilling their responsibilities. However, while Prussia initially had 5 cavalry and 6 infantry inspectors, later expanding this to 7 and 10, Potemkin initially created only 4 inspectors. This seems to have been expanded later to allow for one inspector per division. As a result the inspectors were stretched too thin and could not possibly exercise the kind of control required to curb abuses and corruption. Further, supervision of the inspectors was left in the hands of an inefficient and lethargic military bureaucracy and the appointment of inspectors fell to this same bureaucracy, leading to patronage appointments and inadequate supervision.
As a result of the deficiencies of the inspection system established by Potemkin, the inspectors simply added another layer of neglect and corruption on top of corrupt regimental administration. One inspector, for example, used his position to indulge in parties. Instead of conducting actual inspections to enforce army standards he would notify each regiment in advance when he was coming to “inspect” so that they could plan festivities. Where inspectors actually did their jobs, the colonels would often conspire to conceal any deficiencies. One officer noted that “a very strict inspector ended up by rejecting one and the same horse in four different regiments, without ever noticing the animal’s identity.” Not only did the horse fail to meet army standards, but the colonels had managed to get away with maintaining one substandard horse instead of four of the required quality. It is likely that the costs for purchasing and maintaining the three phantom horses went into the colonels’ pockets along with the savings realized from buying a bargain-basement nag. Thus the inspectors under Catherine failed completely in their assigned role of enforcers of army standards in the regiments.
One of the first targets for Paul’s military reforms was to address the widespread corruption and inefficiency that had become endemic within the Division System. In conjunction with this major effort came the reorganization of the divisions. Paul’s military obsession left him well prepared to implement immediate reforms. Paul enacted the first series of reforms beginning in November 1796, just weeks after assuming the throne. The initial reforms raised additional regiments and reorganized the jäger corps into battalions. On 3 December 1796, Paul enacted broad administrative changes that reorganized the previous divisions, re-christening them “Inspections,” and expanded the number, function and authority of the inspectors.
While the exact geographic boundaries of the divisions remain unclear, the general region covered can be approximated by the garrisons included within the each inspection as described in Table 2.
Table 2: Divisional Organization, 1796-1801
Source: Stein; 211-3.
As a part of the reorganization of the divisions, the number of inspectors was increased to three per division, the three being responsible for infantry, cavalry and artillery. These inspectors were to be appointed by the Tsar and responsible directly to him, bypassing the military bureaucracy where corruption had run rampant in the last years of Catherine. Finally, the inspectors were granted greater authority and backed by authority of the Tsar to ensure that corrective action would be taken when abuses and deficiencies were revealed.
Paul’s administrative reforms included the adjustment of regimental strength to two battalions of one grenadier company and five musketeer companies (6 grenadier companies in the battalions of the grenadier regiments, one designated the “flank company”) on 29 November 1796. This measure was followed by the formation of converged grenadier battalions of four companies each from the grenadier companies of the musketeer battalions and the flank companies from the grenadier battalions, leaving battalions of five companies each in the regiments (except in specific regiments). The distribution of forces among the new inspections, detailed in Table 3, demonstrates a concentration of forces in the west with smaller contingents on the northern, southern and eastern frontiers. Further expansion of forces continued. The jäger battalions were ordered to be brought up to regimental strength (17 May 1797), although this does not seem to have been anywhere near completion by 1799. On the eve of war in August 1798 six new regiments of musketeers and six new cavalry regiments (3 cuirassier, 2 dragoon, 1 hussar) were authorized to be raised from recruits. One additional regiment was added in 1800. Assignment of these new regiments to inspections is not clear, and it seems that these regiments were not fully formed until near the end of Paul’s reign. Most of the new cavalry regiments and several existing cavalry regiments were officially disbanded in March 1800. The exact assignment of artillery to the various divisions throughout this period also remains unclear.
Table 3: Distribution of field forces, 1796
Source: Stein, 211-3. A. V. Viskovatov; Paul See Appendix 1 for details.
The second most substantive administrative change implemented by Paul targeted the corruption in regimental management. In order to ensure that regiments were adequately maintained during peacetime, Paul created a position of shef, a general assigned to each regiment. The intention was that this general would monitor the activities of the colonel and thereby discourage the more flagrant abuses. The implementation of this change appears to have been gradual, first being applied to newly formed regiments (starting in November 1796), then being extended to individual regiments, and finally being extended to all regiments by decree of 31 October 1798. The position of shef was largely titular and it is unclear how successful this measure was in curbing the abuses in regimental management, although the absence of further measures at curbing abuses suggests that it achieved its purpose. In practice, the shef seems to have often accompanied the regiment on campaign, acting as the de facto commander. This was a double-edged sword, as it produced a rather top-heavy regimental structure, but placed the most conscientious generals with the army and provided a supply of spare generals to act as brigade commanders and as replacements for other generals who were sick, wounded or killed.
During his reign, Paul made additional adjustments to the Inspections. Paul had demonstrated conciliatory policies towards the Polish territories annexed at the end of Catherine’s reign, and did not impose any specific military obligations on them aside from the raising of two lancer regiments raised from the Polish territories (Tatar-Lithuanian Horse Regiment and Polish Horse Regiment, both raised in June 1797). This does not necessarily mean that troops were not quartered in Polish territories but rather that the regiments remained formally associated with their divisions and the Polish territories initially were not responsible for the upkeep of the regiments.
Over time additional military obligations were imposed on the Polish territories however. In the summer of 1797, Paul extended an invitation to the Prince of Condé and his corps of French émigrés, stranded in Germany by the peace, to enter Russian service. The Corps crossed into Russian territory on 1 January 1798. Paul established a separate “division” for Condé’s corps in Volyhynia and Podolia and the forces were consolidated into a grenadier regiment, two infantry regiments, and two dragoon regiments. Paul’s withdrawal from the Anglo-Austrian alliance and his shift towards France resulted in the dismissal of the corps of Condé from Russian service on 23 February 1800. On 6 October 1800 the Polish territories were incorporated into the Inspections. In the north, the Litov Inspection was extended to the new frontier, apparently incorporating Vilna and Kovno. The central portion around Brest-Litovsk and Minsk was formed into the Brest Inspection. The region of Volhynia and Podolia that had been assigned to Condé was absorbed into the Ukraine Inspection, while the eastern half of that inspection became the new Kharkov Inspection.
Though much maligned for his ill-advised reforms of uniforms, tactics and regimental names, Paul should be credited for addressing the problem of widespread abuse of power within the army administration. The assignment of a shef to each regiment and the elevation of the inspectors to a position of real authority and responsibility to the Tsar created a lasting solution to the serious problems the army faced on Paul’s accession. The system of inspectorates survived Paul into Alexander’s reign and was only changed after the disastrous 1805 campaign prompted broader organizational reform.
Upon assuming the throne after the assassination of his father, Alexander began reversing some of the more unpopular and ineffective military reforms Paul had made, but retained the core of Paul’s reforms. Most notable among the changes were the reversion to the former territorial names for regiments (enacted 29 March 1801) and the adoption of a more sensible uniform design, which took somewhat longer to work out (enacted 30 April 1802). Structural changes included re-incorporation of the converged grenadier battalions with their regiments (enacted 30 April 1802) and organization of all infantry regiments to three four-company battalions. In the case of two grenadier battalions that were on Corfu this resulted in the formation of the new Kura musketeer regiment (ordered 29 December 1802). Beyond these basic changes, however, the core reforms that Paul had implemented were retained entirely, including the use of inspectors and shefs to monitor the divisions and individual regiments.
Administratively, Alexander completed the organizational adjustments to the Inspections that Paul had ordered the previous fall. The distribution of forces among the inspections (the new Kharkov inspection receiving the new name of Kiev as shown in Table 4) is detailed in Table 5. It should be noted that while the reorganization of the regiments produced 50% more battalions, this was primarily due to the reorganization of the same twelve companies in the grenadier and musketeer regiments. Only the jäger regiments actually increased in size, expanding from ten companies to twelve.
Table 4: Divisional Organization, 1801-5
Source: Stein, pp. 233-6.
Expansion of the army continued with the addition of seven new musketeer regiments distributed one each to the border inspections, one new jäger regiment, and six new cavalry regiments distributed one each to the southern and western inspections (ordered 16 May 1803). On the outbreak of war in 1805, an additional expansion of seven musketeer regiments, two jäger regiments and two dragoon regiments was ordered, all but one dragoon regiment being assigned to the western frontier inspections (ordered 29 August 1805).
Table 5: Distribution of field forces, 1801/3
Source: Stein, pp. 233-6. See Appendix 2 for details.
The changes in the inspection system that were introduced by Alexander were aimed primarily at eliminating discontent and gaining the loyalty of the army. The continuation of the fundamental administrative changes implemented by Paul and the absence of additional measures to curb corruption indicates the success of these reforms in achieving their goals. The experience of the wars with France in 1799 and 1805 demonstrates the effectiveness of the inspection system in mobilizing forces in wartime. While remarkably similar in terms of mobilization of forces, these two campaigns produced very different results. While the organizational structure of the army cannot be viewed as the primary cause of the failure in 1805, organizational reforms were seen as a fundamental part of the solution. Subsequent reforms followed the example of the French who had made far-reaching administrative and organizational changes based on successful experimentation during the revolutionary period.
 Duffy, Military Experience in the Age of Reason 144; Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great pp. 54-7; Duffy, Army of Maria Theresa p. 52; P. Griffith, The Art of War of Revolutionary France,1789-1802 London, 1998, pp. 156-7.
 Duffy, Russia’s Military Way p. 126; Duffy, Military Experience in the Age of Reason p. 182.
 Divisions seem to have been also identified by number. Suvorov assumed command of the 6th (Moscow) division in 1784. Longworth, Art of Victory p. 131.
 Nafziger, Russian Army I, p. 5; Keep, pp. 276-8.
 F. Stein, Geschichte des Russischen Heeres Hanover, 1885, pp. 141, 165, 172; Keep, p. 279.
 Duffy, Russia’s Military Way p. 181; Duffy, Army of Frederick the Great p. 147; Keep, p. 178.
 Duffy, Russia’s Military Way p. 198; Keep, p. 176.
 Ibid; p. 203.
 Nafziger, Russian Army I, p. 8. Viskovatov, Historical Description of the Clothing and Arms of the Russian Army: The Organisation of Regiments during the Reign of Tsar Paul, 1796-1801 Woking, Surrey, England, 1999, pp. 8-21.
 The assignment of shef seems to have occurred at the same time as the change in regimental name from the traditional territorial name to the name of the shef. Duffy, Russia’s Military Way p. 204. Viskovatov, 1796-1801, pp. 7-21, 23-9.
 The Corps of Condé was comprised of a grenadier regiment (Régiment des grenadiers de Bourbon), two musketeer regiments (Régiment Noble a Pied de Conde and Régiment de Durand, formerly Hohenlohe) and two regiments of dragoons (Régiment des dragons d’Enghien and Régiment Noble a Cheval de Berry). Stein, pp. 215-6; R. Grouvel, Les Corps de Troupe L’Émigration Française II, Paris, 1961, pp. 15-17.
 Viskovatov, Paul p. 21.
 A. V. Viskovatov, Historical Description of the Clothing and Arms of the Russian Army: Volume 10a, Organization 1801-1825 Eatontown, NJ, 1993, pp. 11-13; Stein, pp. 232-6, 248-9.
 Viskovatov, 1801-25 pp. 11-13.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: January 2002
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