Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Order No. I of the Petrograd Soviet, March 14, 1917

Soldiers in Petrograd at the Time, 1

This was the first official decree of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies after the February Revolution of 1917.  There is a widespread belief that Order Number 1 infamously allowed for the election of officers, thus completely undermining military discipline. The order, however, actually makes no provision for the election of officers. The elections spoken of in the order itself are for representatives to the Petrograd Soviet. However, as historian and Russian native Michael Florinsky wrote 50 years afterward, "it struck at the very heart of army discipline and contributed powerfully to the breakdown of the armed forces. Leon Trotsky called it "the only worthy document of the February Revolution."

Date (Old Style): 1 March 1917

Order No. 1
To the garrison of the Petrograd District. To all the soldiers of the Guard, army, artillery, and fleet for immediate and precise execution, and to the workers of Petrograd for information.

The Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies has decided:

1. In all companies, battalions, regiments, depots, batteries, squadrons, and separate branches of military service of every kind and on warships immediately choose committees from the elected representatives of the soldiers and sailors of the above mentioned military units.

2. In all military units which have still not elected their representatives in the Soviet of Workers' Deputies elect one representative to a company, who should appear with written credentials in the building of the State Duma at ten o'clock on the morning of March 2.

3. In all its political demonstrations a military unit is subordinated to the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies and its committees.

4. The orders of the military commission of the State Duma are to be fulfilled only in those cases which do not contradict the orders and decisions of the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies.

5. Arms of all kinds, as rifles, machine guns, armored automobiles, and others must be at the disposition and under the control of the company and battalion committees and are not in any case to be given out to officers, even upon their command.

6. In the ranks and in fulfilling service duties soldiers must observe the strictest military discipline; but outside of service, in their political, civil, and private life soldiers cannot be discriminated against as regards those rights which all citizens enjoy.

Standing at attention and compulsory saluting outside of service are especially abolished.

7. In the same way the addressing of officers with titles: Your Excellency, Your Honor, etc., is abolished and is replaced by the forms of address: Mr. General, Mr. Colonel, etc.

Rude treatment of soldiers of all ranks, and especially addressing them as "thou," is forbidden; and soldiers are bound to bring to the attention of the company committees any violation of this rule and any misunderstandings between officers and soldiers.

This order is to be read in all companies, battalions, regiments, marine units, batteries, and other front and rear military units.


Soldiers in Petrograd at the Time, 2

Sources: Yale University's Avalon Project, Wikipedia

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