Dissolution of the Old Army

Letter from the Front. February 2, 1918



Original Source: Novaia zhizn’, No. 24, 14 February 1918.

In December [1917] elections of army officers took place. The attitude of the [old] officers varied. Some tried to fight “democratization” by abstaining altogether from the elections … others … submitted to the orders of the new power. A private … was elected commander of our [artillery] brigade … He understands next to nothing about problems relating to field service and very little about what concerns the everyday life of the brigade. The brigade is run by a committee … in which there is not a single officer. Things are in great confusion and every battery lives as it pleases.

The divisional commander is also a private a youngster about twenty years old … In four batteries former officers were re-elected. The attitude toward officers who were not re-elected is on the whole good but many of these officers left the army under various pretexts. Out of forty-two officers only fourteen remained in our brigade. In some of the batteries not a single officer was left.

Prior to the Bolshevik overturn there were very few deserters among the artillery soldiers. During December and January, in connection with the conflicting rumors of a final conclusion of peace and of a break in the negotiations, desertion assumed enormous proportions, Very few batteries retained half of their personnel. In some only forty men remained in place of 219 On account of this “demobilization” the food situation became greatly improved … though this cannot be said about the feeding of horses … the situation in that respect was very alarming. About half or three-fourths of the horses either starved to death or else were given away to the inhabitants.

The soldiers are chiefly occupied with sleep, card-playing, and drinking and tediously wait … for the time when it will be possible to divide the property of the battery … The bold insist on dividing the money belonging to the battery, being the only thing which keeps them at the front … One company decided to send a special delegation to Lenin to ask his per mission to divide the money The first line trenches are deserted. was received with utter indifference. Not a single soldier joined the Red Army …

Our unit is completely cut off … from other units.

The news of the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly …

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, ed., Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918; Documents and Materials (Stanford: Stanford University Press; H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934), pp. 567-568.

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