March 01, 2015

Peter's Reform

On April 26, 1715, Peter I published his Military Statute, which remained in effect until the mid-nineteenth century. Peter, who was deeply committed to reorganizing Russia’s army along European lines, needed the statute so as to codify the rules regulating military life for both officers and soldiers down to the smallest detail. This was consistent with Peter’s desire to introduce rules governing all aspects of Russian life.

The statute enumerated the rules of behavior for officers and soldiers and the punishment for deserters or anyone late in drawing his sword. It placed bans on duels (apparently with little effect) and the plundering of wares from travelers, and officers were deprived of the right to release a soldier from service without approval from above. The penalty for drunkenness while on guard duty was death, and any military man who betrayed his oath of service lost the two fingers raised as part of his pledge and was sentenced to a term of forced labor.

The statute began with a chapter devoted to “fear of the Almighty.” Apparently Peter was not too sure that it would be possible to maintain order in the army unless a proper fear of God was instilled in the troops.

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