The Officer’s Code of Honour in Russian Empire



The Russian army in 1914 was considerably larger than that of Germany at 5 million men against the 4.5 million of Germany. Even when the 3.35 million men of the Austro – Hungarian empire are included in the total, only war on a single front would give the Central Powers enough strength to attack Russia with any chance of success.

The Russian officer corps itself was a curious one, split between aristocrats and men of lesser birth with nearly two fifths of the ranks below colonel held by men of lower class origin. The promotion of lower class officers to General rank was rare but both Sukhomlinov and those who opposed him used the promotion system to put placemen in positions of influence rather than promoting on merit. In this way the officer system itself was deeply flawed. Here is the list of rules for all officers:

Nicholas II of Russia painted by Earnest Lipgart

Nicholas II of Russia painted by Earnest Lipgart

  • If you are abrupt and haughty, you will be despised by all.
  • Be polite and modest in your dealings with all people.
  • Do not promise if you are not certain of your ability to follow through.
  • Carry yourself simply, with dignity, but without exquisiteness.
  • Be concise, accurate and tactful always, with all and everywhere.
  • Be considerate and attentive but not intrusive and adulatory.
  • Know how to leave in a timely manner and not be unwanted.
  • It is necessary to remember the boundary where dignified politeness ends and where sycophancy begins.
  • Do not carouse, as this will not prove one brave but rather likely compromise you.
  • Do be in a hurry to get familiar with someone you do not know well.
  • Avoid keeping financial tabs for friends. Money always spoils relations.
  • If you can, help out your comrade with money, but personally avoid accepting money, as it will demean you.
  • If you cannot say anything nice about someone, also refrain from saying anything bad if you happen to know of such.
  • Do not dismiss the advice of others – hear it out. You will always have the option to deciding whether to heed it.
  • Knowing how to use the good advice of others is an art no less useful than being able to provide good advice yourself.
The officer of Russian Imperial Army

The officer of Russian Imperial Army

  • Honor fortifies the heart and ennobles bravery.
  • Safeguard the reputation of any woman who has confided in you, regardless of who she is.
  • There are times in life when one must forget the heart and heed reason.
  • Be guided by instinct, a sense of fairness and duty to decency.
  • Always be on guard and never slack off.
  • May your words be soft but arguments be strong. Try to convince rather than annoy one’s opponent.
  • When speaking avoid gesticulation and raising one’s voice.
  • There is nothing worse than indecisiveness. A bad decision is better than hesitancy and inaction.
  • A moment lost can never be returned.
  • The person who is not afraid is more powerful than the person whom everyone fears.
  • When two people quarrel, they are always both wrong.
  • The greatest delusions are those which go unquestioned.
  • There is wisdom in keeping silent.
  • Modesty is not about being indifferent to praise so much as it is being attentive to reprimands.

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