Military Districts [Voennye Okruga]
(From Sytin's Voennaya Entsiklopediya, 1911.)
Before 1862 our military administration “was distinguished by its extreme centralization, which destroyed all initiative on the part of administrative offices. Local administrations were oppressed by meticulous oversight on the part of higher authorities that themselves were deprived of the ability to provide respectable supervision and real control over the actions of subordinate personnel and offices.” (Report of 15 January 1862.) The most direct step to eliminate these deficiencies was a change to a district system of administration with the goal of decentralizing the war ministry's executive power of the by the transfer of a significant portion to various local offices so that the remaining responsibilities of the ministry would be only the higher direction of all local organs and top level control. This was especially important in our country where the breadth of territory, geographical variation, differences in conditions, the large number of troops and military agencies, and excessive centralization of all administration in the war ministry unavoidably led to slow decisions and massive amounts of correspondence. Military districts now have the concentrated power to control all troops, units, and military offices, and executive authority for the main military logistical operations for supplying the forces. When the district system was introduced, however, not everyone approved of it, deducing that a territorial system would subordinate overall strategic viewpoints to the districts’ local interests, and during a defensive war might lead to a cordon system. Those opposed to the districts included such prominent men of the time as N.N. Murav’ev, M.N. Murav’ev, and Lüders.
For local control of forces and military agencies the entire Empire is now divided into 12 military districts, outside of which is only the Don Host territory. Military districts were introduced gradually: in 1862 – Warsaw, Vilna, Kiev, and Odessa districts; in 1864 – Riga (in 1870 mostly joined to the Vilna district, and the remainder to the St.-Peterburg district), St. Petersburg, Finland (in 1905 joined to St. Petersburg), Khar’kov (abolished in 1888), Moscow, and Kazan; in 1865 – Caucasus, Orenburg (in 1881 joined to Kazan); Western Siberia, and Eastern Siberia; in 1867 – Turkestan. In 1882 the Western Siberia district, with the addition of the Semirech’e territory from the Turkestan district, was renamed the Omsk district. In 1884 Eastern Siberia was divided into two: the Irkutsk and the Amur. In 1899 the Irkutsk district was abolished and along with the Omsk reorganized as a new Siberia Military District. Finally, in 1906 the Siberia district was again divided into Omsk and Irkutsk. Currently the districts contain provinces and territories as follows:
St. Petersburg Military District – Peterburg, Novgorod, Pskov, Estonia, Livonia (except for the Riga uezd which is part of the Vilna district), Olonets, Arkhangel; the Vologda, Gryazovets, and Kadnikov uezdy of Vologda province; the Poshekhon’e, Mologa, Lyubim, and Danilov uezdy of Yaroslav province; the Ves’egonsk, Vyshnii Volochek, Ostashkov, Bezhetsk, Kalyazin, and Kashin uezdy of Tver’ province; the Porech’e, Belyi, Dukhovshchina, Sychevka, and Dorogobuzh uezdy of Smolensk province; the Lyutsin, Sebezh, and Nevel’ uezdy of Vitebsk province; and all of Finland;
Vilna Military District – Vilna, Kovno, the remaining uezdy of Vitebsk province, Minsk, Mogilev, Suvalki, Courland, the Grodno and Slonim uezdy of Grodno province, the Riga uezd of Livonia, and the Surazh, Mglin, Novozybkov, Starodub, and Novgorodseversk uezdy of Chernigov province;
Warsaw Military District – Warsaw, Kalisz, Kielce, Lomza, Lublin, Piotrokowo, Plock, Radom, Siedlce, the remaining uezdy of Grodno and Vladimir-Volhynia provinces, and the Kovel’ uezd of Volhynia province;
Kiev Military District – Kiev, Podolia (without Balta uezd), Poltava, Kursk, Khar’kov, the remaining uezdy of Volhynia and the Chernigov and Khotin uezdy of Bessarabia;
Odessa Military District – Kherson, Yekaterinoslav, Taurica, Bessarabia (less Khotin uezd), and Balta uezd of Podolia province;
Moscow Military District – Moscow, Kostroma, Vladimr, Nizhnii-Novgorod, Kaluga, Tula, Ryazan, Tambov, Orel, Voronezh, the remaining uezdy of Tver’, Yaroslav, Vologda, and Smolensk provinces, the Kotel’nich and Orlov uezdy of Vyatka province and the Krasnoslobodsk, Narovchat, and Kerensk uezdy of Penza province;
Kazan’ Military District – Kazan’, Perm’, Simbirsk, Samara, Saratov, Astrakhan’, Orenburg, Ufa, the remaining uezdy of Vyatka and Penza, and the Ural and Turgaisk territories;
Caucasus Military Districts – Caucasus region and Stavropol province;
Turkestan Military District – Syr-Darya, Fergana, Samarkand, Trans-Caspian, and Semirech’e territories;
Omsk Military District – Tobol’sk and Tomsk provinces, Akmolinsk and Semipalatinsk territories;
Irkutsk Military District – Irkutsk and Yeniseisk provinces, Yakutsk and Trans-Baikal territories;
Amur Military District – Amur and Maritime territories and the island of Sakhalin.
The territory of the Don Host stands apart. Each district is controlled by a commander-in-chief titled the “commander of district forces,” to whom are subordinated all troops, military administrative establishments, and military personnel. In some military districts the commander of forces is simultaneously the local governor-general.
(Bogdanovich, Istoricheskii ocherk deyatelnosti voennago upravleniya v Rossii 1855-80 gg.; Svod Voennykh Postanovlenii 1869, Book II, 1908 ed.; Orders to the military administration 1899, No. 161, 1905 No. 400, 1906 No. 292; Highest Order of 29 August 1910; Stoletie Voennago Ministerstva. Istroricheskii ocherk razvitiya voennago upravleniya v Rossii, Vol. I, 1902.)
Translated by Mark Conrad, 1999.