Technology versus the Moral Element: Emerging Views in the Russian Officer Corps, 1870–1904

  • Robert F. Baumann

Abstract

Among the quotations of Napoleon I most often repeated by nineteenth-century military analysts was his maxim that in war the moral element is three times as important as the material. What in essence he meant by this was that the psychological attributes of discipline, willingness to sacrifice, determination, and loyalty are crucial to the dynamics of battle, the object of which is to impose one’s will upon that of one’s adversary. Belief in the importance of the moral element in battle was a cornerstone of military thought in all European armies. The French theorist Charles Ardant du Picq was the first to study the subject deeply in the years preceding the Franco-Prussian War. He believed that battle was a conflict of ‘two moral forces’ of which, assuming rough parity of means, the greater would ordinarily prevail. The human challenge of war since ancient times had been to overcome fear and maintain organisational cohesion long enough to defeat the enemy. Ardant du Picq was especially insightful in his understanding of the ways in which recent improvements in weaponry had increased the psychological demands on soldiers in battle, driving many to the breaking point. Consequently, in the future it would be crucial for armies that methods of training, tactics and leadership evolve which could best preserve moral strength in combat.1

Keywords

Corn Europe Steam Amid Flare 

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Many excellent works have been written on this subject. See in particular Michael Howard, War in European History (Oxford, 1976) pp. 94–116; Richard Preston, Sydney Wise and Herman Werner, Men in Arms: A History of Warfare and its Interrelationships with Western Society (New York, Praeger, 1962) pp. 234–54.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
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  3. 4.
    The most useful works on the evolution of Russian military thought include the following: G. P. Meshcheryakov, Russkaya voennaya mysl’ v XIX v. (Moskva, Nauka, 1973)Google Scholar
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  8. 35.
    Hans Rogger, ‘The Skobelev Phenomenon’, Oxford Slavonic Papers, IX (1976) pp. 46–78.Google Scholar
  9. 40.
    For comprehensive discussion of the logic of military reform, see P. A. Zaionchkovskii, Voennye reformy 1860–1870 godov v Rossii (Moscow, Nauka, 1952)Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© International Committee for Soviet and East European Studies, and Robert B. McKean 1992

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  • Robert F. Baumann

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