- "Inaia zemlia, inoe nebo...": Zapad i voennaia elita Rossii, 1900-1914 gg
The 60 years between the end of the Crimean War and the outbreak of World War I were persistently difficult for Russia's military leaders and elite. With barely a decade in which to get their economic and social house in order before the emergence of unified Prussia-Germany in 1871, the army's senior officers labored to modernize the country's industrial capacity and reshape the empire's strategy to accommodate the emerging European order.
From the early 1860s onward, Russian general staff officers foresaw the implications of the new Prussian army; 1870-71 lent credibility to military reformers' call for change. They pressed for an overhaul of society from top to bottom: the liberation of the peasants and the formation of a national army based on universal military service.1 The Franco-Prussian War accelerated the technical evolution in military hardware (improving rifles and increasing the range and accuracy of artillery), which imposed new industrial and tactical imperatives to accompany the strategic and operational ones. The mind-numbing problems of mass mobilization and war by railroad timetables became the central concern of the General Staff. These were the professional issues that concerned Russia's military elite, the men responsible for the security of the empire, as it entered the 20th century. Evgenii Iur´evich Sergeev has produced a study of that elite's relationship with the West during the empire's final years.
Whether Russia's political and military elite comprehended the state's security dilemma, and whether Russia's leaders responded effectively to the strategic challenge posed by Germany, is a matter of increasing interest to historians. Soviet historians laid the groundwork in this field between the 1950s [End Page 797] and the 1970s. In the 1980s, significant studies of the social composition of the Russian General Staff broadened this framework. Not until the opening of Russian archives, however, were the first thorough reassessments of imperial security policy possible. Foremost in that work were William C. Fuller, Jr., and Bruce Menning, who analyzed and described the strategic framework of organizational and doctrinal reform of the tsar's armies.2 Recently, historians have again drawn attention to the political and social aspects of Russian military reform. Joshua Sanborn's groundbreaking study of conscription—a subversive force during both the tsarist and early Bolshevik periods and almost equally untamable by each regime—is now a starting point for discussion of the formation of Russian national consciousness, mass politics, and even the fate of governments. Sergeev's study joins this field. He has previously examined imperial Russia's military diplomats and attachés, British and German policy in East Asia (1897-1903), and other issues in late imperial Russia's security.3
Sergeev has undertaken an interdisciplinary study of how Russia's military elite formed an image of the West. He describes the composition, social structure, and activity of the Russian military elite (chapter 1) and its mentalité (chapter 2), with reference to the training, organization, and social position of military elites in a half-dozen West European countries and the United States. In a dense block of sociological and psychological analysis he argues for the existence and characteristics of the so-called military mind (voennyi sklad uma). This Russian "military mind" fashioned a particular view of the outside world, in terms of geopolitical, ethno-religious, and socio-economic factors (chapters 3, 4, and 5, respectively). Sergeev concludes that domestically determined views—neo-Slavism (neoslavizm) foremost, with explicitly ethnic and racial underpinnings—guided the military elite's views toward East and West and thus influenced the relationship between the military and such imperial objectives as Russification and pursuit of an East Asian destiny.
Neo-Slavism was to be the ideological basis for Russia's eastern expansion, which would forestall the empire's reduction to a "new Byzantium" (General Aleksei Nikolaevich Kuropatkin's term) and...