The Officer Corps, Professionalism, and Democracy in the Russian Revolution
Cambridge University Press
Russia's 'democratic' revolution of February 1917 saw all types of professions and social groups mobilize into unions and congresses to articulate their demands. Lower and middle classes dominated, but it is notable how former elite groups were quick to form bodies to defend their interests and to promote their visions of Russia's future. Historians have invariably dismissed these groups as marginal to the revolutionary process and inherently 'counter-revolutionary'. This article challenges these assumptions, using the Union of Officers, formed across the military in May 1917 to defend officers' professional interests, as a case study. The union spread quickly, published a newspaper, and agitated among politicians for greater discipline in the military. Its activities fuelled popular fears of counter-revolution, but only a few of the union's leaders actively worked against the government. General Kornilov's failed revolt in August demonstrated that most officers had doubts. Nevertheless, the union played a crucial role in mobilizing moderate and conservative forces against further reform. This exacerbated social conflict and political polarization, fatally undermining the Provisional Government and democracy in 1917.
The British Academy
Copyright © 2008 Cambridge University Press. Published version reproduced with the permission of the publisher.
Vol. 51, Issue 4, pp. 921 - 942