Administration, Military

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The term militiary administration was used to identify both the techniques and system of state agencies involved in the management of the armed forces.

Russian writers long distinguished between the agencies for military command and those for administration (management), and Soviet theorists added a distinction between those providing leadership of the armed forces as such, and those for overall leadership of the country's defense. Whereas the latter involves participation by the political leadership in decision making, the former deal with the military professionals' implementing of the resulting policies. And if the lines between command and management, and between the two types of leadership, sometimes blur in modern conditions, this was commonplace in the premodern periods of Russia's history.

The Kievan Rus druzhina the warband surrounding a princeprovided an ad hoc administration to the ruler, a core around which a militia of commoners rallied and, in battle, the professional commanders for the commoners. When Rus splintered into local "appanages" in the late 1000s, the druzhina's primitive administrative functions were absorbed by the puty (offices) of a princeling's dvor, or "court," while selected boyars, the descendants of the warband members, joined him in his duma (council) in peacetime and helped provide military leadership in wartime. Thus all command and military administrative functions remained concentrated in the ruler's person, with no distinction between them or, indeed, between the civil and military spheres of state life.

This system served Moscow's grand dukes during the Mongol period. But as their realm expanded and became increasingly centralized, a reorganization was clearly necessary, especially after Ivan III (14621505) began creating an army based on a mounted dvoryane (gentry) militia, whose members served in return for pomestie land grants (or fiefs). The state's more complex administrative needs were met by the creation of prikazy (chancheries), headed by civil servant dyaki (state secretaries). Of the prikazy, the Razryad most closely approximated a war ministry, but a host of others had specialized military (e.g., armaments, fortifications) or mixed civil-military (e.g., medical, communications) functions. The boyar aristocracy continued to advise their increasingly autocratic masters in the duma and to provide commanders for his armies or "hosts." But the mestnichestvo (system of places), which aimed at preserving the social status of the boyar clans, also dictated assignment to military posts. Consequently, while Muscovite military administration initially gained in efficiency, wartime appointments to field armies often reflected social rather than military prowess. This problem finally was resolved by the destruction of the boyars' genealogical records in 1682. Yet by that time the piecemeal reforms introduced by Romanov rulers after 1613 had brought the continuous creation of new, specialized prikazy that left the expanded but fragmented administrative system badly in need of modernization and another radical overhaul.

This was provided by Peter I (r. 16891725), who founded both the modern Russian Empire and the Imperial Army. He created a European-style regular or standing army (and navy), based on conscription, to fight Sweden (17001721). "Leadership of defense" remained concentrated in the ruler and a series of military-court agencies, but in 1718 Peter assigned "leadership the armed forces" to a ramified central administration headed by the Military and Admiralty Colleges, each headed by a president and board, with provincial governors overseeing the local agencies. Despite bureaucratic inefficiency and constant modification, this system remained in place until Alexander I (r. 18011825) replaced it with more streamlined ministries, headed by ministers, in 1802. Those for the army and navy now led the armed forces The two ministers helped lead defense as members of a Council of Ministers, which worked with the State Council and other military-court bodies in peacetime, while an Imperial General Headquarters (Stavka) directed the armies in wartime. This system again was streamlined by Alexander II (r. 18561881) and his war minister, Dmitry Milyutin. After 1864 his War Ministry comprised numerous specialized administrations or directorates, developed a professional General Staff, and headed a number of geographically and administratively defined, local military districts. But as before, overall leadership of defense was provided by the emperor and his court agencies. This situation remained in place even after the creation of a State Duma in 19051906, and seemingly ended only with the 1917 revolutions. Yet despite changes in terminology, a similar system reemerged during the civil war (19181921), after which the new Soviet Union recreated the network of territorial administrative-military districts, headed by People's Commissariats (after 1945, Ministries) which, aided by a powerful General Staff, led the army and fleet. Instead of an emperor and his court, leadership in defense again was provided by some sort of peacetime Defense Council (or wartime Stavka), now dominated by the Communist Party's leader through the Central Committee's Secretariat and Politburo.

See also: council of ministers, soviet; military, imperial era; military, soviet and post-soviet; sovnarkom; stavka


Derleth, James. (1991). "The Defense Council and the Evolution of the Soviet National Security Decisionmaking Apparatus." In Russia and Eurasia Armed Forces Annual, Vol., 15:, ed. T. W. Karasik. Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International.

Fuller, William C., Jr. (1985). Civil-Military Conflict in Imperial Russia, 18811914. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Hellie, Richard. (1971). Enserfment and Military Change in Muscovy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Keep, John L. H. (1985). Soldiers of the Tsar: Army and Society in Russia, 14621874. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

David R. Jones