Political Loyalty and Social Composition of a Military Elite

The Russian Officer Corps, 1861-1903

by Dmitry Ponomareff


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Evaluates the claim that there is a strong correlation between social composition of an officer corps and its loyalty to a regime by studying the Russian Imperial officer corps. Of interest is the loyalty of officers in a period when ever greater numbers came from middle and lower class origins. Analysis of the officers' political activity leads to the conclusion that their loyalty to the crown was increasing. Such loyalty is explained by the socialization undergone in military schools and reinforced by mores of service life. By isolating cadets, concentrating on technical education, and promoting a sense of corporate unity and social uniqueness, the military institutions were able to inculcate in future officers total obedience to the Tsar and disdain for intellectual activity. Such loyalty was bought at the high cost of producing incompetent, unimaginative, and bureaucratic commanders. The author concludes that there is no direct correlation between the social composition of an officer corps and its political loyalty.

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