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

Author: E. Messner

The General Michael Dragomirov wrote that nothing can make you to strain all your spiritual qualities and demonstrate your will so much as a war. The same point expressed a civil writer Steinmitz in his book “Sociological Wars”: “Nothing could develop the abilities of a human being better than struggle with the ones of his own kind”. Uppermost this refers to those who devoted themselves to the Russian martial art and inherited the gifts of the preceding generations of officers over the military upbringing and developed these skills in themselves due to military combat activity and trainings. This doesn’t refer to those who get a commission having no the officer’s spiritual heredity. Such parasites of the officer corps may be capable to command and have a tactical flair but they have no genuine military spirit, skills of the Russian martial art and they lack such characteristic as whole-hearted self-sacrifice in the name of the duty.

“Only those deserve to live who are always ready to die” – these words from a soldier’s song were always like an oath of faith for the officers. And this is still so no matter how many machines are used in the army and how hard the materialistic approach tries to diminish the Russian martial art.

In the end of the last century General Moltke – the admirer of military science maintained that “peculiarities of one’s temper is more important at war than peculiarities of one’s knowledge”. Even today when people fight using rockets, jets, radars and other electronic devices the qualities of the officer’s spirit prevail over technics and technical knowledge.

In the last century an officer didn’t need vast technical knowledge; in the beginning of this century he didn’t want to become a “fire worshipper” (according to M.Dragomirov) he tried to broaden his technical worldview. And now he should be equipped with thorough technical knowledge, having at the same time military and spiritual consciousness. This is the way a good warrior who has skills of the Russian martial art should be.

The spirit of an officer. The American general Bradley maintains that a soldier of the United States is a perfect individualist. This meets the modern requirements made to a warrior: to be a self-reliant soldier. In the end of the training a German soldier spends seven days in the forest where he learns how to find his bearings without a compass, camouflage himself, move around leaving no trace and eat everything eatable in the forest. After this he is left 100 kilometers away from the barrack in the unfamiliar surroundings.  He has to carry out various tactical tasks on his way back to the barrack. He should be back in three days. This is the way individual military abilities are developed. People still want to develop them though it looks like they don’t. 10 000 young German people join French foreign legion every year in their wish to become soldiers.

If every soldier should be self-reliant and initiative an officer should be so much the more. “Activity, dynamics are the main values of a military man”, – wrote Aleksandr Suvorov. According to the Russian martial art an officer should be dynamic and self-reliant meaning that he should be active and initiative to be capable to command and carry out tasks in the first place and in the second place to set a personal example for soldiers. “Ivan is fearless when he follows an officer” – wrote Gartkopf about the Russian soldier. General Mannstein also requires that generals and corps commanders were at the battlefield together with their troops. In this case a fighter won’t say about them in a scornful manner: “Those who are behind our backs…”

An officer shouldn’t be afraid of responsibility, on the contrary he should love responsibility. Among officers will always live words uttered by General Zeidlitz during Tzondorf battle. When Friedrich cried at him severely the general said: “The king can dispose of my head after the battle and let me use it in the battle”. Responsibility and initiative always go along. These qualities are inseparable in the officer of the Russian martial art. They are even more important for modern officers then for those who fought in former wars as a war-rebellion is a real mess and requires a lot of improvisation.

Though no matter how great is the difference between former execution of the order and nowadays creative work within the bounds of the order the precept Suvorov said to the officers is still actual: “Bravery, courage, insight, prudence, order, moderation, rule, good eye, speed, energy, humanity, pacification, oblivion”. The last three words are included by the great commander and psychologist on the ground of the experience he had gotten in two civil wars and one revolutionary war (against Pugachev, the Poles and the French revolutionists in Italy). This part of his precept is quite apt for a war-rebellion.

Thenadays from the point of view of generals of the Russian martial art Suvorov was a revolutionist as he used to say: “The local one who is closer to the circumstances is better than the distant one”. Today at war every local commander will have chance to make better decision than his chief who has higher rank but he is too far away from the situation.

The revival of Suvorov’s lessons doesn’t mean that an officer should go back to the Russian martial art of XVIII century. It means that in his judgment Aleksandr Suvorov was two centuries ahead of his age.

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