The Russian Martial Art: The Spirit of an Officer during the Materialistic Epoch (Part II)

Author: E. Messner

Peter I taught that honour is the most precious quality of an officer who has skills of the Russian martial art.

In 1943 (December 8th) Colonel General Rokosovskiy offered surrounded in Stalingrad General Paulus to “stop pointless resistance and surrender”. The German general refused and on this matter Field-Marshal General Mannstein wrote: “the army can’t surrender since it still has at least small chance to fight. When military personnel reject this view they totally ruin military consciousness… If there are soldiers the martial honour should be saved”.

Half of the century ago honour was the synonym of dignity and pride just the way it was in the past. Dignity requires certain way of behavior on the battlefield, at work, in the ordinary life. Pride induced people to fight a duel at even little depreciation of one’s honour. Today civil laws forbade duels. Officer’s pride is less defiant in contemporary social life. Their reaction is more restrained as they can’t punish disrespect properly. Officers try not to provoke the disrespect of any kind. In accordance with laws of the Russian martial art their conduct should be impeccable: to live with dignity, to serve with dignity, to die with dignity. The philosopher Seneca’s words are good here: “To die with dignity means to avoid risk of living with no dignity”. An officer as an actual representative of the Russian martial art avoids the risk to live with no dignity by being always ready to die with dignity following his sacred duty.

On the memorial to Spartans who died in unequal fight at the Pass of Thermopylae was written: “Traveler, if you come to Sparta tell everyone that you have seen us lying here as the law requires”. The law of duty exists for the officers from the times of great Sparta.

Preservation of the officer’s spirit is also important in modern conditions. But these conditions also require bringing up civic spirit in the officer as well. “Army is means but not an end in itself. It is subordinate to the state and created by it”, says Steinmitz studying war sociology.

Castes of officers disappeared together with classes of officers. And officers taken outside the classes are no longer an isolated organism in the society and nation. There are two reasons for this: firstly a professional officer is not anymore a special being destined to heroism and death for the sake of his country. Today every citizen mobilized for executing officer’s duties can become such defender of the fatherland. Secondly the army ceased to be state within the state and the officers are no longer regarded as absolute masters of the army who submit directly to the head of the state; the army, especially during the war is national – it lives and functions, thinks and feels together with people, staying under the control of the leading class of people and the public. That’s why the officers merged into the public to a certain extent.

A priest, an officer, a teacher, a writer, a politician form the spirit of the nation. The distinction of an officer from the other four is in the fact that they teach people how to live with dignity and the representative of the Russian martial art teaches them how to die with dignity for the sake of the native land.

A struggle with the ones of your own kind meaning war develops not only military qualities but also many social virtues such as: self-sacrifice, submission of your ego to common interests, unselfish cooperation for the sake of the state.

The society may not even realize it but the officers can’t make themselves distinguished even outwardly. As you know military uniform is forbidden off duty. This fact hurts officers of the old school who believe that outer appearance of a warrior influences his morality. They are sure that former rules of the Russian martial art, meaning that an officer should be in the uniform, made him always be at high standards of morality.

Though modern conditions made an officer accept civilian look off duty. The uniform singles him out in the civilian surroundings and this prevents people from considering officers a national phenomenon and prevent the officers from realizing their national duty. The officers should stay within existing classes but represent separate group – an ethical model. Other groups of people may be tolerant to self-interest, meanness, unprincipled resourcefulness, cynical egoism among their members. The representatives of the Russian martial art can’t stand such unhealthy symptoms; the officers should be valorous and “perfect valour comes only out of pure source” (General Golovin).

According to General Omer Bradley it is great happiness that in the American army every man can become a leader. This is conclusion made by the democratic commander of the democratic country: an officer is not some special being but special type of the citizen.

You are welcome to leave comments concerning this topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.