Army Order No. 1 was established in Russia on March 2nd 1917. During the political turmoil that accompanied the Russian Revolution (1917), volatile soldiers were committing mutinies and coups. In the Soviet an appeal was being drawn up for the garrison in which the soldiers were asked to stop lynching their officers, but were reassured that they would keep their weapons. However, these proceedings were interrupted by a group of agitated soldiers who suddenly appeared and insisted that the response should go much further.
They dictated that:
| 1. In all companies, battalions, regiments, batteries, squadrons and separate services of various military departments and on board naval ships committees shall be immediately elected from among representatives of the rankers of the foregoing units. 2. In all units which have not yet elected their representatives to the Soviet of Workers' Deputies, one representative from each company shall be elected. All representatives, carrying appropriate identity cards, are to arrive at the building of the State Duma by 10 a. m., March 2, 1917. |
3. In all their political actions, units are subordinated to the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies and their own committees.
4. All orders issued by the Military Commission of the State Duma shall be carried out, except those which run counter to the orders and decrees issued by the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies.
5. All kinds of weapons, namely rifles, machine-guns, armoured cars and so forth, shall be placed at the disposal and under the control of the company and battalion committees and shall by no means be issued to the officers, not even at their insistence.
6. In formation and on duty, soldiers shall strictly observe military discipline; however, off duty and formation, in their political, civic and private life, soldiers shall fully enjoy the rights granted to all citizens. In particular, standing to attention and obligatory saluting off duty shall be cancelled.
7. Likewise, officers shall be addressed as Mr. General, Mr. Colonel, etc., instead of Your Excellency, Your Honour, etc
These demands were so extreme that even the revolutionary politicians in the Soviet leadership were reluctant to accept these terms for fear of the response of the High Command; however, at the insistence of the soldiers, they had no choice. The Duma leaders and the military leadership were also horrified by this move. The demands of the soldiers demonstrated to the highest extent that the revolution was genuine, and that it would be truly impossible for politicians to keep any vestiges of the Old Regime. Following the passing of Order No. 1 by the Petrograd Soviet, Rodzianko realised that there was no way of saving Tsar Nicholas II. Thus, it was Rodzianko's communication of this to the Tsar and the High Command that precipitated the abdication.
Soviet Order No. 1 First Action of the Provisional Committee of the Duma
The Duma Provisional Committee that had been hastily formed after the revolutionary crowds reached the Tauride Palace nervously watched the emergence of this alternative government, and discussed how it should react, and how it could ensure the neutrality of the High Command. If the Tsar ordered the High Command to smash the Soviet, he might easily go on and smash the Duma. Only with reluctance did they begin to act.
At 2:00 a.m. on the 28 Feb, with the Soviet still in session in another part of the building, the Provisional Committee finally moved to issue two proclamations: 1) an appeal for order; 2) an explanation that it Œhas had to take the responsibility for restoring national and public order1.
The Provisional Committee also decided to take over the Military Commission and the Food Commission that the Soviet had set up.
The following day the Duma Committee appointed a number of commissioners who took charge of the separate Ministries. Bublikov caused a sensation in the Ministry of Transport by telegraphing all railway stations and informing them incorrectly that the old regime had fallen and that the State Duma had formed a new government. Subsequent messages corrected this somewhat premature statement. Rodzianko also had the first of a series of very careful discussions with the commanders of all fronts, and attempted to allay their fears and ensure that there would be no assault on St. Petersburg. Rodzianko then turned to the Military Commission which had originally been set up under the Soviet, and issued a proclamation calling upon the soldiers to return to their barracks and to obey their officers. This immediately provoked the storm of protest from many troops, and appears to have precipitated the decision of some of them to draw up what became known as Order No. 1, on the following day on 1 March.
The Soviets and Order No. 1
The soldiers were extremely suspicious of Rodzianko's appeal. They had put their necks on the line during the mutiny and were disinclined to trust a politician who in their eyes was still closely associated with the tsar. In the Soviet an appeal was being drawn up for the garrison in which the soldiers were asked to stop lynching their officers, but were reassured that they would keep their weapons. However these proceedings were interrupted by a group of agitated soldiers who suddenly appeared and insisted that the response should go much further.
They dictated the following demands:
Soviet Order No. 1: 1. Committees to be elected immediately from the ranks of all military and naval units 2. One delegate from each company to be elected to the Petrograd Soviet 3. Armed forces are subordinate to the Petrograd Soviet in all their political actions 4. Orders of Military Commission of the Duma are to be carried out only if they do not conflict with the orders of the Petrograd Soviet 5. All weapons to remain under the control of company and battalion committees, and in no circumstances to be handed over to officers 6. While on duty soldiers must observe strict military discipline, but off-duty soldiers enjoy the same rights as other citizens; saluting off-duty is abolished 7. Honorific titles of officers are abolished (Your Excellency) 8. All coarse conduct by officers towards soldiers (use of the familiar ty) is abolished, and cases of it must be reported to the committee.
Even the revolutionary politicians in the Soviet leadership were reluctant to accept these terms for fear of the response of the High Command, but at the insistence of armed soldier delegates they had no choice. The Duma leaders and the military leadership were also horrified by this move. This more than anything demonstrated to the Old Regime that the Revolution was for real and that it would be impossible for the politicians to keep any vestiges of the old regime. It was following the passing of Order No. 1 by the Petrograd Soviet that Rodzianko realised that there was no way of saving the Tsar and that he would have to abdicate. It was Rodzianko's communication of this to the Tsar and the High Command that precipitated the abdication.