THE RUSSIAN SOLDIER.
THE surprise of the war has been the brilliance of Russian strategy. No one could have foreseen that the Russians would have learned the lessons of their war with Japan so hand- somely. As Mr. Balfour said on Monday at the Guildhall, the Grand Duke Nicholas will take his place among the great figures of military history. Those who are inclined to be sceptical about the ability of the Grand Duke, because it is rare for men who have obtained a position by the accident of birth to deserve that position by merit, will of course believe that he is, as soldiers say, "run by his Staff." That may be ; but there would still be room for much military capacity in the Grand Duke, for a weak or obstinate Commander-in-Chief cannot be saved even by a brilliant Staff. A Staff of all the talents, we imagine, could not save the German Emperor, because the function of selection that must necessarily remain to a Commander-in-Chief, no matter how much he may strip himself of personal initiative, would still be used by him unwittingly to misdirect or confuse the plans of his subordinates. But, as a matter of fact, many of the Russian Grand Dukes are noted as good soldiers ; by a familiar paradox, they have been accustomed enthusiastically to exchange " great place " (as Bacon called it), affluence, and ease for the hardships of the very realistic Russian manoeuvres. The father of the Grand Duke Nicholas was a very keen soldier before him.
It is time to admit that far too much has been made of the Russian failure in Manchuria. Students of warfare have always allowed for the extraordinary disadvantages under which the Russians fought against the Japanese; but even they perhaps did not make enough allowance, or credit the Russians with all their power of recuperation and assimilation. In the war with Japan Russia fought over five thousand miles from her base and was served by a single railway across Siberia. Yet nearly a million men were maintained at the end of this slender and vulnerable communication—a remark- able feat in itself.
Estimates of the number of Russian soldiers at present available vary so widely that we are glad of all enlighten- ment, and turn to a little book called The Russian Army from Within (Hodder and Stoughton, 2s. net). The Russian authorities have a habit of understating their numbers, so that an estimate is not very easily reached. We may judge, however, what the minimum is likely to be from the Russian population. In 1859 the population was seventy-four millions; in 1897, one hundred and twenty-nine millions, without including Finland; in 1904 it was one hundred and forty-nine millions. Some say that to-day it has reached one hundred and eighty millions, but it is at least certain that it is over one hundred and sixty millions. Every year about one million three hundred thousand men reach military age. Of this number only four hundred and fifty thousand are taken, as no more are needed ; but it is obvious that Russia has enormous resources in human material to fall back upon if she should ever improvise armies of volunteers as Germany is already doing. The Russian authorities have said that the mobilized army, with reserves,
consists of six million men. But in addition to this force there is the Opolchina, or Militia, numbering over a million. This is a kind of selected Landsturm, comprised of men who have passed through the Regular Army and the Reserve. When Russia was overrun by the Poles, it was the Opolchina of Nizhni Novgorod who marched to Moscow and drove the enemy out of the Kremlin. Besides the Opolchina, there are about sixteen thousand so-called " gendarmes," who are picked soldiers, and about thirty-five thousand frontier guards.
The frontier guards were organized by Count Witte, and have relieved the country of some of the anxiety caused by the admitted slowness of Russian mobilization. Mr. W. B.
Steveni, the author of The Russian Army from Within, thinks that the whole Russian force nominally available may not be in the field for a year. The mobilization, nevertheless, which has mustered the bulk of the Army has been more rapid than was expected. And it is already evident that the Russian Government have done something better than spend part of the enormous sum borrowed from France on new rifles and excellent field artillery—they have achieved a moral reform of their methods.
The Russian Army is in the main a peasant Army. Tartars, Little Russians, Finns, Lithuanians, Tchoovash, Khirgise, Baths, Poles, and Circassians are all represented, but the mass of the soldiers come from the Krestjane, or peasant classes. Mr. Steveni says :—
" The ordinary peasant, the man who has built up the Russian Empire with his blood and his toil, is not a big man; he is of medium stature, broad-shouldered and sturdy, with square forehead, square jaw, regular Aryan features, and a flowing beard unless he comes of Tartar or Finnish extraction. In short, the pure Russian is an Aryan like ourselves, with a considerable admixture of Scandinavian blood in his veins—especially in the northern governments, where the finest Rus or Russian types are found. The South Russian, of the beautiful, fertile land of the Ukraine, is usually tall and muscular, but he has not the energy, tenacity, or endurance of the Great Russian from the North. The Tartars also make good soldiers, and as e. rule are extremely hardy, tem- perate and trustworthy—so reliable, in fact, that often the most important posts are entrusted to their care. Not having the weakness for vodka common to the Russian soldier, the Tartar can be depended upon in a crisis to keep perfectly sober. He is, however, believed to be more cruel, probably owing to his Mongolian strain, which makes him when roused callous to human suffering and reckless of human life. The typical pure Russian is a big-hearted man. Unlike the Tartars, Finns, and other Mongolians, he is not spiteful. When injured he seldom endeavours to be revenged on his enemy, like the Tartars, Bashkirs, Khirgise, and other Turanian races. If he is a true and typical son of Russia he endeavours to forget the injury, and relieves his feelings by spitting, swearing, or simply by saying, 'Bog S'vam ' (the Lord be with thee), meaning that he leaves it to God to settle the account."
The Russian peasant, though perhaps superior to the German in mental quality, is as a matter of fact extremely ignorant., and not to be compared with the educated German soldier. About seventy per cent. cannot read when they join. the Army. They are by nature procrastinating, superstitious, happy-go- lucky, and (perhaps by consequence) extremely brave. Mr. Steveni says that the readiness of the Russian conscript to obey any order without question is proved in his common answer to an officer's question whether he knows such-and- such a thing. The conscript does not say, "I do not know," bat " I cannot know." It is a mistake to think of the typical Russian soldier as a giant. The standard of height is lower than our own. It is five feet for infantry and five feet three inches for cavalry. As most peasants are accustomed to live
on vegetables, the feeding of the Russian Army is not an
As regards the relations of officers and men Mr. Steveni writes :—
" The pay of officers usually averages from £3 to £10 a month, according to the standing of the regiment. Tho salary of a general is not extravagant, and varies from .2300 to £500 a year. In order to lessen the expenditure incurred in keeping up their households every officer is permitted to keep one or more djenshiks. (A djenshik is a soldier who serves his superior officer, without pay, in return for his board and lodging.) The majority of Russian officers are very generous to their servants, generally giving them pocket money and presents. As a rule the men prefer to serve their officers, particularly when the latter are popular. It relieves them from the trying and monotonous duty of living in barracks and eating soldiers' fare, which although plentiful and nourishing is very rough and simple. Under the influence of his superior officer, the djenshik often becomes more refined than his companions, and acquires a taste for reading and the pleasures of life. In his dress and habits he becomes clean and neat, and gains some knowledge of town life and foreign countries which he relates to an astonished village on his return. As a rule the relations between officers and their subordi- nates are quite paternal ; and an officer when addressing a soldier calls him 'little brother," friend," little pigeon,' and the soldier in return calls his commanding officer • little father' or ' brother.' Russian officers of all ranks are far more sociable and less reserved than those of other nations. In fact, I have frequently seen a simple soldier approach a Colonel or General and ask him for a light or some small favour as a matter of course. The soldiers have even nicknames for their favourite officers whom they regard as friends, advisers and in loco parentis. An officer is supposed to know everybody and to be a kind of walking encyclopwdia or 'Enquire Within' for everything, very similar to our old country parsons. If a soldier's wife has twins, if the mare has foaled, or if the children have the measles, the officer is consulted in all seriousness and his advice is taken, although he may be as ignorant as the soldier who con- sults him regarding the happy or unfortunate occurrence. Officers frequently laugh and joke with their men and call them anolodzie (bucks) and tovoratza (comrades). The simple Russian private would never dream of taking a liberty or being unduly familiar in return for this friendliness; for an officer is always an officer in the eyes of the soldier ; also a barin (gentleman), whether familiar, intoxicated or sober. The officer is obrazovanne (educated), a man of culture, while the private himself is negra- snotne (not educated, ignorant of the art of reading and writing). In the Russian Army and also in the Russian classes generally all men are brothers in a different way from that in which any other country regards its people. When duty and work are over social and class distinctions are allowed to sink into the back- ground for the time being."
On march singing is regularly encouraged by the officers, and the chief singer, who marches in front of each company, draws extra pay and enjoys other privileges. He sings some opening words, often improvised and "risky," just as the chantyman used to do in British ships, and the company
comes in on the chorus. It would be interesting to have a really scientific examination of the various national
methods of marching. The French sing a good deal on the march, but their magnificent marching seems to be due more to a kind of traditional passion for this form of achievement. A battalion will often start off in the morning grumbling and resentful under their heavy packs, but before the end of the march—if it be a real test of endurance—an exhilaration, an athletic frenzy, as it were, will descend upon them, and they will swing into their new camp lusty, proud, and strong, much finer men than when they began. There is no marching in the world quite like theirs. The endurance of the Russian soldier is particularly noticeable in his impervious- ness to wet and cold. Mr. Steveni has often marked him
asleep on the snow or stretched on sodden grass in the autumn. His Saturday visit to the banja, or vapour bath, seems to boil all the cold out of him. After the bath he will often run out naked and roll in the snow. There is a very remarkable account, we may say in passing, of the delirium produced by the intensely hot Russian vapour baths in Dostoievsky's House of the Dead. The banja is one of the chief recreations in an Army which does not support clubs or organized amusements. The Russian soldier receives practically no pay, but he is allowed in peace time to dispose of his labour outside the Army.
The Russian Army in history has won a singular reputation for failure, even while earning universal respect for its stubborn bravery. The Russian soldier is a " sticky " person, very difficult to more backwards. But it seems that corruption, drink, carelessness, and fatalistic lethargy have all beet, banished by Russia at the same moment that Britain has put behind her her legendary liking for "muddling through." Are not these facts an omen of the greatness of our common cause ? Russia is a learning Power, mounting continually higher. Who can fail to hope much of such a people? If the vast millions have much to learn, there is good reason to think that they mean to learn it.. Germany is very different ; she has achieved learning, and has put it to the worst possible use. She is condemned eternally through sinning against the light.