In the new edition of the Basic Laws of the Russian Empire (1906), the sovereign emperor was defined as “the sovereign leader of the Russian army and fleet", Which owns the" supreme command over all the land and naval forces of the Russian state. " The real situation since the beginning of the war was different. The whole territory of Russia was divided into two parts - the theater of operations and the internal regions of the country, that is, the front zone and rear. At the front, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Grand Duke Adjutant General Nikolai Nikolaevich, who headed the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander, had unlimited rights. He was subordinated exclusively to the emperor. No government body had the right to give him any orders and orders. But the power of the Headquarters was limited only to the theater of operations.
In the interior areas, all military forces and institutions were led by the Minister of War Vladimir Aleksandrovich Sukhomlinov, who was subordinate not to the Supreme Commander, but only to the emperor. The structure of the Military Ministry included the main directorates: artillery, quartermaster, military-technical, on the satisfaction of the troops, and others. Glavkoverh could not directly manage the combat supplies of the army, contentment, and reserves. The new Regulation on the Field Administration of the 1914 of the Year, adopted after the outbreak of the war, although it contained important measures to manage the rear, but left the central army supply agencies under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of War. At the same time, the emperor was also somewhat limited in his managerial abilities - he could not freely dispose of funds without the sanction of the Budget Commission of the State Duma.
Significant shortcomings in the organization of the military-state administration revealed the Russian-Japanese war. One of the most serious problems was the fact that the army and the navy were guided by bodies independent of each other - the military and naval ministries. In March, 1905, in Tsarskoye Selo, chaired by Nicholas II, a meeting of the top leaders of the army and navy was held, at which this situation was discussed. At the suggestion of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, it was decided to immediately form a Council of State Defense. This body was supposed to combine the activities of the Military and Maritime Ministries and coordinate it with the activities of government agencies on matters relating to the security of the state. The nominal head of the council was the emperor himself, the actual grand duke Nikolai Nikolayevich. The chairman of the council, vested with enormous powers, was considered the main person responsible for the defense of the country and had the right to make inquiries to all agencies on any matter relating to national defense. The military and naval ministries were obliged to inform him of all their important enterprises and plans. Foreign Minister - to inform about everything that was related to defense.
According to Sergei Yulievich Vitte, the case was that the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich was appointed under the guise of the chairman of the Council of State Defense as the head of both the Military and the Naval Ministry. The creation of the council caused sharp discontent on the part of the highest military hierarchy. The Minister of War Viktor Sakharov, as well as the future head of the military department (at that time, the commander of the troops of the Kiev military district) Vladimir Alexandrovich Sukhomlinov, criticized this body.
Torn by contradictions
Sharp controversies in the ruling circles of the Russian empire regarding the priority directions of the development of the armed forces, that is, determining which of the two types - the army or the fleet - to give priority and accordingly send the main funding, played an extremely negative role in the fate of the State Defense Council.
Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich believed that first of all it was necessary to strengthen the ground forces and only then as far as possible to restore the navy, which suffered serious losses in the war with Japan. The king was convinced of the opposite: first, the fleet, only then land forces. All of this ultimately predetermined the resignation of the chairman, and then the liquidation of the council itself in August 1909.
Following the same course of separation of powers played a detrimental role in the years of the First World War. The absence of a single body in which all military and state power would be concentrated will be one of the most important reasons for the defeat of the Russian army in 1914 – 1915. Already during the war, the principle of separation of the front zone from the rear of the state was subjected to harsh criticism. State Duma Deputy Vasily Vitalyevich Shulgin, in February 1916, drafted the “wishes” in which the first paragraph emphasized that the division of the country into two parts, managed by various authorities and difficult to reconcile, does not meet the requirements of modern warfare. This provision "cannot but be reflected in the highest degree negatively on the defense of the state, which requires above all the unity of action throughout the whole space of the empire."
Needless to say, it was the Minister of War Sukhomlinov who was considered the main culprit of military defeats. He was accused of a shortage of shells and weapons. The poor supply of troops was the main subject of the Chief Chief's complaints to the emperor during his visits. Stakes in the spring of 1915.
At the same time, Sukhomlinov’s power was not complete, since only military institutions of the rear were subordinate to him, and civilian ministries were beyond his competence. Many high-ranking military officials understood the need to restore a single firm power in the rear.
15 June 1916, Chief of Staff of the Supreme Commander General of Infantry Mikhail Vasilievich Alekseev in a memo to Nikolay II suggested concentrating all power in all internal areas of the empire in the hands of one authorized person, who would be called the supreme minister of state defense. According to Alekseev, he “must be given to unite, direct and direct, by a single will, the activities of all ministers, state and public institutions outside the theater of operations”. The orders of the Supreme Minister of State Defense must be executed within the empire by all government agencies and public organizations. However, the proposal was met with hostility by the ministers headed by the chairman of the Council of Ministers Sturmer. The king did not support him either.
Could not change the situation and the appointment of Nicholas II himself to the post of Commander in Chief in August 1915. As Vladimir Degoev wrote, this was one of the most unsuccessful personnel decisions of the tsar: “If a tough and decisive politician of a dictatorial warehouse were in his place, perhaps this step would be a success. But since Nicholas II did not belong to the category of strong personalities, his gesture was perceived as a farce, a gesture of despair, or a foolish whim. ” Indeed, after this, in the eyes of almost all walks of life, Nicholas II became the main culprit in all defeats.
In the absence of strict control, the supply of the existing army with everything necessary was organized inefficiently. The four Special Meetings created — on state defense, transportation, fuel, food — were initially bulky bodies, soon overgrown with innumerable committees. In this situation, private producers could impose their conditions on the government.
Even attempts to unite the work of such an important industry as railways have failed. Subsequently, the head of the Railway Administration of the Ministry of Railways, Eduard Bronislavovich Voinovsky-Krieger, recalled: “A great inconvenience was in dividing the entire network into two parts, one subordinate to the Ministry of Railways, and the other was under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Railways, the organ of the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander, this led often to inconsistent orders and actions. ” However, his immediate superior, the Minister of Railways Alexander Fedorovich Trepov, did not think so. Speaking at a meeting of the State Duma in August 1915, he said: “The full combination of military and civilian traffic of the empire in the hands of one power seems unacceptable during the war.”
The historian Nikolai Yakovlev made a fair conclusion: “The uncompromising division into the front and rear, contrary to the logic of warfare and common sense, turned out for Russia to have the gravest consequences.”
What happened is a consequence of the very nature of Russian autocratic power. Too much depended on the identity of the one on the throne, especially in war conditions. A strong, tough monarch, such as Peter I, suppressed the destructive activities of various pressure groups. With a softer ruler, such as Alexander I, intrigue and the struggle of court factions flourished. A similar situation manifested itself back in the Patriotic War of the 1812 year, when the supply of the army and its provision with reserves were outside the control of Commander-in-Chief Kutuzov. This, of course, had negative consequences, but not as tragic as in the conditions of a total world conflict.
At the same time, even democratic countries of that time, for the sake of victory, promptly resorted to tough measures to centralize the military-political leadership. Thus, in England, with the beginning of the war, deficiencies in the supply of armed forces with ammunition and food, which began to affect the course of hostilities, appeared. In 1914 – 1915, laws were passed on the “protection of the kingdom”, which affirmed the unconditional priority of state interests over private ones. These laws were supposed to legally justify the actions of the authorities to unite all forces to achieve victory over the enemy. The laws sanctioned the establishment of state control over enterprises producing military products, railroads, fleets, strategic materials, etc. The state had the right to confiscate any enterprise for a wartime period whose products had strategic importance. By the end of the war, more than 80 percent of the British industry was under his control. David Lloyd-George, who became Prime Minister in December 1916, created a five-member military cabinet within the government, which concentrated in his hands all the functions of the military and civilian administration of the country during the war (liberals left the government in protest). Similar measures were taken in France and in other countries. They largely contributed to the turning point of the situation on the fronts.
In the interest of war
The Bolsheviks who came to power in October 1917 largely took into account the tsarist government’s miscalculations. Faced with the harsh reality of the Civil War and military intervention, they took a series of emergency measures to centralize the activities of the front and rear. “Since it came to war, everything must be subordinated to the interests of war, the whole inner life must be subordinated to war, the slightest hesitation on this score is unacceptable” - these words of Lenin become the practical program of their activities. The Soviet Republic really turned into a single military camp, and this was the most important reason for the victory of the Reds over the scattered, unalloyed leadership of the White movement and the interventionists.
Since the beginning of World War II, the situation in the leadership of the country somewhat resembled the position of Russia in 1914. Thus, the Navy was not subordinate to the USSR People's Commissar for Defense of the USSR Semyon Konstantinovich Tymoshenko, since he was supervised by the Navy Commissar Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov. Border troops and military units of the NKVD were not subordinate to him. The People's Commissar of Defense could not dispose of rail transportation, evacuation of objects, could not give orders to civilian and party institutions, did not know the issues of supply and reserves. The newly created system of effective management took into account the experience of the Civil War. The Supreme Command Headquarters (the final name) and the State Defense Committee, which had full military and state power, appeared. A number of other emergency measures were taken.
Apparently, under conditions when the top leadership of the USSR was aware of the inevitability of the German attack, such a system had to be created and functionally worked out in advance, and not after the war had become a fait accompli. In the opinion of Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, “our lack of a supreme body of military leadership at the time of the attack by fascist Germany, naturally, could not at first not affect the command and control, the results of the first operations and the overall operational-strategic situation”.
Created after the start of the war, the system of leadership and management was constantly being improved and improved, but by the year of 1943 it had proved its effectiveness, which made it possible to achieve a radical change at the beginning, and then a final victory. History confirmed the words of Zhukov that "no military-political leadership of any other country would have stood the tests and would not have found a way out of this extremely unfavorable situation."
Thus, the Soviet leadership, faced with the crisis of the military-state administration when it entered the world war, managed, in contrast to the Nikolaev government, to quickly recognize it, overcome it and achieve victory.