Making Red Warriors out of Peasants



“ 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,
“Red Army Oath.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 20 Sept. 2015,
“Red Guard into Army Images.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 9 Jan. 2016,
“Red Guard into Army.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 25 Feb. 2016,



5 thoughts on “Making Red Warriors out of Peasants”

  1. Nice post! I really like the image you included. It is interesting to see how Lenin and others applied their ideology to re-imagine military order. I agree that it is hard to imagine an army without rank. I would be interested in learning more about how the Red Army operated.


  2. A military without rank seems problematic to me. How does anyone expect anything to get done? From my understanding, decisions were made by a council in conjunction with a political commissar. All that bureaucracy should be nowhere near a battle field. No wonder the Red Army suffered so many casualties in WWII.


  3. Interesting post, mine covered the same topic. It was very interesting to me that you mentioned how the red army had no rank structure. I covered that in my own article and I found to fix this problem Trotsky had old Tsarist officers commissioned into the rank in order to lead the troops, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to overcome their foes. That would have left the new soviet state very vulnerable, which as we will see in the future is what happened during the beginning years of WWII


  4. I like how you discussed the differences between the two armies being formed in Russia! I think it’s very interesting to see the stark contrasts, for example the dissolving of a ranking system!


  5. I can’t believe they abolished rank within the Red Army. You’d think that soldiers would lose a sense of respect and motivation for work. I also cannot believe their numbers expanded to 3 million in just a year. I don’t even think the United States has 1.5 million today. Interesting post!


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