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Military reform of Paul I

e. V. Gavrilenko


Work is presented by department of the theory and history of state and law of the Leningrad state university of A.S. Pushkin.

The research supervisor — the doctor of jurisprudence, professor G.G. Bernatsky

In article historical traditions of reforming of the Russian army during the chronological period coinciding with time of government of Paul I are considered. The author proved and defined the historical moments which rendered both positive, and negative influence on a condition of army of the end of XVIII — the beginning of the 19th centuries

E. Gavrilenko


The article discusses the historical traditions of the Russian army reforming in the chronological period coinciding with the time of Paul I. The author justifies and defines the historical moments that have both positive and negative impact on the army of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Paul I is a personality in the Russian history difficult and ambiguous. Even estimates of his contemporaries sometimes polarly differed from each other. Therefore it is no wonder that modern researchers also cannot

to come to a consensus concerning an era of government of this emperor.

While most of noble and bourgeois historians characterized this period as "the kingdom of fear", and Paul I

called "the regal despot" (V.O. Klyuchevsky, N.K. Shilder, etc.), the small group of researchers adhered to absolutely opposite point of view (D.A. Milyutin, P.N. Butsinsky).

Over two hundred years studying aspects of life, reign and Paul I's death lasts. Large-scale material for historical and historiographic researches is during this time saved up.

Huge work was coming the emperor Paul I who came to the throne in November, 1796. In the Russian Empire the problems requiring the urgent solution collected, and Paul I did not begin to delay with transformations which, on his belief, had to bring order to the fatherland. Military reform was the most important direction of domestic policy of the first months of its reign. 40% of all legislative innovations of Paul I published during the period from November 6, 1796 to April 5, 1797 concerned various aspects of military life [5, page 194].

He was especially irritated by any smallest manifestations of indiscipline, dissoluteness in the army environment. All life, all existence of military — from privates to the senior officers — it had to be subordinated, according to him, to the interests of service, had to be ascetic, deprived of any manifestations of luxury, grandness, laziness and so forth. New charters and daily vakhtparada became the central element of military reform. Among them the major the new army regulations drafted in Gatchina [3, page 277 — 280] and the establishing new principles of the military organization and the system of training of troops naturally were.

Despite widespread opinion that charters of 1796 were the copy of the Prussian charter of 1759, their comparison shows that Paul I used Prussian sources very crucially, transforming them according to the Russian traditions. Rejection of military transformations of G.A. Potemkin and A.V. Suvorov is connected with the fact that their military system was focused on certain ingenious commanders, but not on the general officer and general management of troops according to

charter. Paul I considered more necessary exact knowledge and strict execution by everyone of the duties assigned to him by the charter and duty regulations. According to him, the army founded on such principles, even in absence of ingenious commanders will be capable to gain a victory [2, page 42 — 76].

In Pavel Petrovich's outlook two hierarchical systems — management and estates — were closed on the identity of the emperor who can interfere with internal affairs of both pyramids in spite of the fact that he is above them. The contradiction of the principles of ideal bureaucracy and ideal absolute monarchy as the monarch at the same time appears both in hierarchy, and over it is available.

Pavel Petrovich paid to reforming of army much attention still being Crown Prince that follows from the notes of a boundary of the 1770-1780th which are specially devoted to this question. The subject of reform of army was actively discussed also in correspondence with P.I. Panin [4, l. 32 about]. Judging by existence in Paul I's library of lists of officers of cavalry and infantry regiments and the fleet, sheets about a condition of troops and ranks of Admiralties boards [1, page 686], he systematically got acquainted with a condition of the Russian army and fleet, knew their needs firsthand. It gave to it certain grounds for development of full-scale military reform.

This aspiration to construct the Russian army on absolutely other bases increased at Paul I even more after the French revolution.

But events in France and attempt of fight against France exposed scandalous shortcomings of hired armies. And Paul I saw an exit in that, having kept national army by completing methods, to bring closer it by education methods to hired armies, i.e. to try to obtain proficiency and discipline of troops not on the basis of consciousness, and by means of the discipline of the rod. With same also the refusal of maneuverable tactics, and transition to linear, unique was inevitably connected at similar methods of training and education of troops. In the form of experience Paul I will reorganize by such method the Gatchina troops which active reorganization begins -

sya after the events in France. After Paul I's introduction on a throne these principles of education and the related tactical principles were postponed for all Russian army.

Undoubtedly, at Paul I it became heavier to do military service to officers, than earlier. Infinite holidays which the nobility widely used came to an end. At once after Paul I's introduction on a throne it was ordered that everything, being on long long-term vacation, were immediately returned in a system. The chamberlains, gentlemen of the bedchamber and all other court ranks which till this time were registered at regiments and receiving military ranks actually without bearing military service, from regiments were deducted. Paul I demanded that the payroll of a regiment equaled to its valid structure because till this time not only 70% of officers were on paper, but there was not enough also considerable number of soldiers. The whole recruitments were plundered. Recruits went to villages of the highest officer ranks where addressed in serfs. In 1795 from a payroll of army in 400 thousand people there were not enough 80 thousand. Instead of former idle life the officers were forced to be engaged in infinite mushtry.

It is natural that all these actions caused in certain circles discontent aggravating still that imbalance of Paul I at which any participant of the Pavlovsk parade could not be quiet for the destiny. It is possible to find a set of the facts illustrating in memoirs as the Guards officers in the Pavlovsk time felt. Went on a parade, having at themselves a certain sum of money and a stock of linen because directly from a parade it was possible to get to places very remote.

However if to reject the separate facts connected with Paul I's imbalance all of us will have to recognize that "persecutions" on noblemen in army were not.

In Paul I army consistently pursued class and noble policy, as well as in a country question. In 1798 the decrees from 3 on February (14) and 17 on April (28) excluded from military service all officers not noblemen, from the toadied corporals. It was ordered not

not to represent noblemen even to the junior officer rank because "in these ranks some noblemen have to consist". To protect the officer environment from invasion of undesirable elements, the order at which each officer, wishing to marry, had to ask the highest permission was established, "informing whom wishes to marry".

We will sum up the results of our research. Paul I, certainly, was a reformer. However to him did not get accurately developed purpose of what he wants to reach, and, above all — time. Peter I knew what he wanted to make with the country. Paul I, except army reform, had nothing concrete.

Paul I practically had no adherents. All its decrees were perceived as wild behavior by most of the population. To what finally would bring reforms into armies — it is hard to say. An original condition of the Russian army of the end of XVIII — the beginning of the 19th centuries, its obvious superiority over the opponent in possible "collisions with resolute French infantry" the one who then was one of the best military leaders of the world — Napoleon Bonaparte could estimate correctly. He offered the Russian Empire the union. In allies choose equal.

Secondly, reorganization of army for Paul I also had the nature of opposition to policy of mother and her generals.

Thirdly, apparently on its note 1774, strengthening of Paul I army considered as a security guarantee and from internal social shocks, and from external revolutionary danger.

Certainly, the attempt which found reflection in the decree of December 23 was progressive

1800 on which "transfer of the soldiers who passed 25-year service life to the category of free plowmen with investment with 10 tithes of the earth in the Saratov province" was planned. It is possible to estimate differently these intentions, but it is obvious that it is the first step on the way of a gradual abolition of serfdom. To be fair it is necessary to notice that it did not prevent to distribute the state peasants in serf.


1. GE archive. F.1. Op. VI. Unit letter G. hr. 3.1. Page 194.
2. S.V. wolves. Russian officer corps. Page 42 — 76.
3. P.S. Lebedev. Transformation of the Russian army to reign of the emperor Pavel Petrovich, 1796 —
1801 //RS. 1877. Prince 2. Page 277-280.
4. RGB SHOUTING. T. 222. To. XIV. Unit 11. L. 32 about.
5. RGADA. T. 10. Op. 1 Units hr. 685. Part 1-2; 686.
Harry Jacob Charles
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