History- valeria, Reihshan, Nathalie

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History- Valeria, Reihshan, Nathalie

Alexander II’s military reforms

  • All of Alexander’s reforms were introduced in response to the Crimean War and the poor performance of the military - Russia’s military establishment was high on the list for examination and reform;

  • Before emancipation, serfs could not receive military training and then return to their owners.

  • Bureaucratic inertia, however, obstructed military reform until the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) demonstrated the necessity of building a modern army.

  • Minister of War Dmitry Milyutin reduced the term of service in the army from a ‘life sentence’ of 25 years to a period of six years plus 9 years in reserve;

  • Introduced universal military service (1874) to which all males were now liable at 20 years of age - w/o loopholes that allowed nobility and richer classes to escape service;

  • Abolition of brutal forms of punishment within the army, and ending military service as a punishment for criminal offences, “went far to humanise conditions in the Russian Army”.

  • The levy system introduced in 1874 gave the army a role in teaching many peasants to read and in pioneering medical education for women.

  • But the army remained backward despite these military reforms. In spite of some notable achievements, Russia did not keep pace with Western technological developments in the construction of rifles, machine guns, artillery, ships, and naval ordnance. Russia also failed to use naval modernization as a means of developing its industrial base in the 1860s.


From Europe Book pp.52-53

The concept of military reform is right in the middle of debate between Westernisers and Slavophiles. Westernisers whole-heartedly believe in reforming the army to create a modern, western-style army. Slavophiles believe that the army is strong as it is and reforming would weaken both it and by extension the state. The Crimean War and Russia’s poor showing convinced many of the Westerniser view.

1.Conscripts should only serve 15 years, not 25


  • Reduces the size and as a result the costs of maintaining a standing army(costs include wages, cost of retraining, re-equipping etc.).

  • Because of the shorter term of service, men who would otherwise be tied up in the military would be able to join the civilian workforce

    • Could contribute to Russia’s industrialisation.

  • The resultant reduction in size could improve the quality of the military

    • A smaller military allows for more intensive training and is easier to properly equip.

  • A more modern, western style (better equipped) army.


  • As this reduces the size of the army, policing the Empire and responding to outside threats becomes more difficult.

    • The Tsar’s rule becomes more difficult to maintain.

  • Soldiers retiring from active duty may become worse off than they were in the military. Considering the poor state of Russia’s economy, they may not find jobs, let alone well-paying ones - especially since they have been in the army for so long and have not been taught any skills or given other vocational training.

  • Their desolation could lead to discontent, and the Tsar would be placed in a potentially dangerous predicament.

2.Everyone should be eligible for conscription, regardless of social class


  • Creation of a more cohesive army: having nobles and upper classes in the army would signal to the lower classes that they are not the only ones serving. All the classes are fighting for Russia.

  • Inclusion of the educated classes in the army would improve the quality of the military.

  • Favorable because it increases the number of soldiers in the army, hence reestablishing the prestige of the Russian army, lost after the Crimean war.


  • This reform is unpopular with the upper classes; the upper classes form an important support base for the Tsar, and angering them would threaten the Tsar himself.

    • The Tsar’s power comes from the upper class.

    • The nobles enforce the Tsar’s rule

  • Increase in the cost of maintaining the army.

3.Promotion should be based on merit, not on social class


  • soldiers put more effort into their duties to work for promotion

    • this would improve the quality of the army because soldiers would want to learn and improve

  • it is morally fairer to promote those who work

    • this creates a more united army

  • social mobility starts increasing (since poor soldiers can be promoted)

    • a middle class starts building

  • The tsar gains popularity in the lower classes as a result of this social mobility.

  • the overall population gets more educated due to their service

    • could improve Russia’s industrialization

  • with a higher rank soldiers are willing to stay in active duty longer

    • more people join the army because they see a career in it

    • a bigger army can defend its country better

  • troops are led by eligible leaders who know what they are doing


  • The army will lose its support from the nobles because they lose their privileged position within the army.

  • The upper classes feel threatened by the resultant social mobility

  • Without the support from the nobles the tsar loses power

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