Russian History: Order Number 1

Essay by joshparselsCollege, UndergraduateA-, March 2009

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Following the February Revolution, Order Number 1 was issued March 1, 1917 by The Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers Deputies. The Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies was a collection of mainly lower-class soldiers and factory workers whom were dissatisfied with their non-representative voting in the Duma. The order was to ensure that these soldiers and workers would be represented and not abused as they were before the revolution by officers and high-class citizens. It also had the effect affect of limiting the Provisional Government and Military Commission of their respected entitlements in government. Many in the Petrograd Soviet feared that officers were sympathetic towards the Duma and might try to crush the revolution. Order Number 1 reflected this distrust of officers by taking control of all armories away and giving them to committees of lower-classed soldiers. The Petrograd Soviet also reserved for itself the right to contradict and reverse any military orders given by the Provisional Government.

Although The Petrograd Soviets' leaders did not wish to take formal power over the country; they were also unwilling to give the Provisional Government that power. Order Number 1 effectively changed who controlled the Russian army and its' workers.

The articles of Order Number 1 set forth rendered the new Provisional Government subject to the will of the Petrograd Soviets in military affairs. In the first article, it called upon all military entities to form committees of low ranked soldiers. In all political actions the military is to listen to its' committees (Article Three). They were to carry out any orders given to them by the Duma and Provisional Government unless in disagreement with the Petrograd Soviet (Article Four), and when this happened they were to follow the orders of the Petrograd Soviets and its' committees. In article five, Order Number 1 gave control of all armory and weaponry to the elected committees of their respective divisions. While the first five articles were meant to limit the power of the Provisional Government, and indirectly give it to themselves, the last bit of the Order is directed more towards the personal lives of a soldier. Article six essentially gives soldiers the right of personal freedom enjoyed by all other citizens when they are not actively serving in the military; they no longer had to stand at attention of salute when they were off duty. In article seven, all titles of officers were replaced by a title that was more befit of an equal rather than a title of ownership. It did away with traditional titles used from the pre-modernization era such as Your Excellency or Your Honour, and replaced them with more befitting titles such as Mr. General and Mr. Colonel.

Order Number 1 became wildly popular with disgruntled soldiers across the country and effectively rendered officers, especially those sympathetic to the right, unable to use their power to put down the revolution. Many soldiers felt justifiably associated with the Petrograd Soviet because it represented them and addressed their grievances. As a result, dual power was yielded in the Government, and the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet would finally come to a head later that year in November, starting the second revolution of 1917.

Ronald Grigor Suny, ed. The Structure of Soviet History: Essays and Documents (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003)Walter G. Moss, A History of Russia Volume II: Since 1855 (New York: McGraw-Hill Primis Custom Publishing, 2002)