Making Red Warriors out of Peasants

volunteer

(photo)

“ I, son of the laboring people, citizen of the Soviet Republic, assume the title of warrior in the Worker-Peasant Army” (Solemn Oath on Induction into the Worker-Peasant Red Army).

Lenin and his Comrades wholeheartedly believed that a general standing Army was detrimental and only a characteristic of conformist nations. Therefore, the Imperial Russian Army was disassembled and formally turned into the Worker-Peasant Red Army. This brought a radical transformation from an Imperial Army to one of farmers and laborers tasked with defending the new state from foreign powers as well as internally from the White Army.

This drastic change in military behavior had far reaching effects on many parts of society. In April of 1918, the Soviet government instituted a draft to bolster its forces. This grew the Army to almost three million persons after only a year. Like the Soviets overturned in many aspects of political and social life, the culture of the new Red Army was very different than that of the ‘bourgeois’ states. One key alteration was the complete abolition of rank. Unlike almost every military organization before, a soldier would no longer salute, be distinct, or hold a title in order to make the military inclusive as well as equal.

Now, image an Army without a rank structure… any soldier would be able to give an order, any order could be refused because each person was equal, and it likely wouldn’t be clear who would be in charge. The forces might not be able to mass or coordinate without a leader according to this directive taken from the Soviet of People’s Commissars, Abolition of Military Ranks and Titles. Yet, this seems to almost contradict the Solemn Oath on Induction into the Worker-Peasant Red Army. “3. I accept the obligation to observe revolutionary discipline and unquestioningly carry out all orders of my commanders, who have been invested with their rank by the power of the Worker-Peasant government” (Solemn Oath). This is clear that there is a rank and file structure and therefore contradicts the previous years abolition of rank.

What this may show is that there were a wide number of developing aspects to military life after the revolutions of 1917. It is important to understand these key new aspects of life under the Soviets.

 

Image and Sources:
“Abolition of Rank in the Army.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 27 Aug. 2015, soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/red-guard-into-army/red-guard-into-army-texts/abolition-of-military-ranks-and-titles/.
“Red Army Oath.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 20 Sept. 2015, soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/red-guard-into-army/red-guard-into-army-texts/solemn-oath-on-induction-into-the-worker-peasant-red-army/.
“Red Guard into Army Images.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 9 Jan. 2016, soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/red-guard-into-army/red-guard-into-army-images/#bwg15/256.
“Red Guard into Army.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 25 Feb. 2016, soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/red-guard-into-army/.

 

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The Melon Vendor

There is a photograph found in the Library of Congress’ World Digital Library of a melon vendor in modern day Uzbekistan. Please look at the image shown below…

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(Image found here)

Taken around the year 1911 by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, the photograph elegantly shows the stark traditional nature of the city and people of which this is taken. The merchant is located in the city of Samarkand. He is dressed in traditional attire while sporting a white turban. This type of dress was traditional of Central Asian cultures at the time, according to the description by the Library of Congress. The city itself has a rich history that is important to understanding the context of the picture and how life in that city remained traditional as the world around it progressed. Samarkand has been a well established stop along important trade routes. “Samarkand first became a way station on the Silk Road in the 4th century B.C.E” (Samarkand – Geography & History). This led to a multitude of cultures and economic interests passing through the city shaping customs.

In addition to the location along the famed Silk Road, “the city of Samarkand was surrounded by oases and agricultural regions that supported the urban population. Traditional crops grown in the area included melons, watermelons, fruits, beans, and nuts” (Melon Vendor. Samarkand). The image shows the sale of such crops within a stall at a market. So, while there may have been many changes socially or economically within the Soviet Union at the time, this picture looks to stand the test of time. It appears as if the photographer could have been viewing the same stall hundreds of years earlier and seen no changes. It certainly doesn’t appear to be an semblance of 20th century technology anywhere in the photograph except for the actual picture itself. The coloring and enhancement techniques used by Prokudin-Gorskii were ahead of his time and very innovative.

This may possibly show how there was a juxtaposition between the traditional norms within Central Asian culture and the technology progression of the early 20th Century. It is very interesting to see the differences throughout the entire album that the Library of Congress provides. 

 

 

“Samarkand – Geography & History.” Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Institution, festival.si.edu/2002/the-silk-road/samarkand-geography-and-history/smithsonian.

“Melon Vendor. Samarkand.” World Digital Library, Library of Congress, 1 Jan. 1970, http://www.wdl.org/en/item/2495/#q=Prokudin-Gorskii.