“ 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/.