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Old October 27th, 2017, 04:20 AM   #1
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Petrograd Garrison 1917


Hey guys,

I am currently researching the role of the Petrograd Garisson in the first revolution of 1917. I have found plenty of material, from first hand accounts to analyses etc, but what I am struggling to find is any precise information regarding the units comprising the Petrograd Garrison in 1917.

My question therefore is: Do any of you know a good source in English with a list of Russian military units stationed in or around Petrograd in early 1917?

So far I have only found mentions of one specific unit, namely the Pavlovsky Regiment. Other than that in all the texts I have read military units are described rather vaguely ("a guards cavalry regiment", "a rifle regiment", etc.).

Any pointers into the right direction would be much appreciated.
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Old October 28th, 2017, 01:10 AM   #2

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I cannot give a title to a book in English about this, however, to know what units were there at that time is not so difficult. The depots of the regiments of the Imperial Life Guard where in and around Petrograd, and in March 1917 due to the ongoing war there were only the reserve battalions stationed at Petrograd. These had the function of not just forming a military garrison, but also of inducting and training the large numbers of recruits entering the Guard to make up losses suffered at the front. In March 1917 the strength of the Guard at Petrograd was about 200,000 with many being as yet untrained men, mostly ex factory workers from Petrograd and the local area, and many politically "infected". So to know what units were at Petrograd in March 1917 you only need to find a list of all the Guard regiments as they all had reserve/depot/training units at the city.

The reason why the Life-guard Pavlovsky regiment gets a specific mention, is that while Cossacks and police had been dealing with unrest in the city, the situation had degenerated over the evening of 25th to 26th February, and the Emperor, at the front at that time, gave orders to the Petrograd garrison commander, General Khabalov, to use the Guard to restore order. On the 26th a company of the Pavlovsky refuses to intervene against the citizens and fires upon other Guard units. This company is subdued and arrested. The following day the Volynsky regiment, led by their NCOs, shoots an officer and mutinies. Their actions then spread to the Preobazhensky, Semenovsky and Litovsky regiments. Only one regiment, Movskovsky, holds and confronts rioters in the city. They fire off one volley, probably with most soldiers firing over the heads of the rioters, as had men of the Volynsky the previous day, before being swamped by rioters. Soon after, the Guard in Petrograd essentially dissolves.

This wiki article gives a list of the Guard as it was and where the units were based on the eve of the beginning of the war. It will be the reserve units of all the regiments listed that will be in Petrograd in March 1917. In the wiki it lists the Volynsky as being at Warsaw, which was correct for that time, but the reserve battalion was in Petrograd in 1917.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Guard_(Russia)

It is important to note that while accounts of March 1917 all use the names of Guard regiments and make it seem that it was these regiments per se that had mutinied, it was only the reserve elements and these were mostly raw recruits and hardly representative of the actual Guard regiments fighting at the front. Many of those, who survived, saw it as a slur that the history shows that, for instance, the Preobrazhensky had mutined, when it was just a bunch of politically motivated recruits who had despoiled the regiment's name. This is a bone of contention among descendants of men who served in the Guards regiments, who will argue hotly, and correctly, that "their" regiment had never mutinied in Petrograd, only recruits with no sense of loyalty to the regiment or hardly any knowledge of it.

Last edited by Corvidius; October 28th, 2017 at 01:16 AM.
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Old October 29th, 2017, 07:22 AM   #3
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Thank you very much, Corvidius.

That did help me a lot.
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Old October 29th, 2017, 10:09 AM   #4

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No bother.

I would make this addition. The Guard had always recruited from all over Russia, but due to logistical problems at that stage of the war it had become too difficult to continue doing this. They then had no other option but to recruit from only Petrograd and surrounding areas. That is why many of these new recruits in March 1917 were factory workers, and had been a prime target for Bolshevik propaganda for years. This is a big, but often overlooked reason for the Guard to mutiny on such a scale. If the recruits had still been coming from all over Russia, many would not have been politicized, or nothing like as much as the Petrograd workers.

The authority on the Guard is Жерар Горохов - Gerard Gororkhoff, grandson of a Guards officer. He writes in French and Russian on this topic.

Last edited by Corvidius; October 29th, 2017 at 10:20 AM.
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