No GNW (or “Peter goes South”)

If ITTL Germany is smaller and less aggressive quite a few things may go differently.
Generally with stronger France, smaller Austria and stronger Russia, plus completely different European dynamics things are bound to go more, or less differently even with Greater Germany, let alone smaller option.

Well, honestly, this is somewhat of a distraction: I’m still trying to figure out how to deal with the coming issue of the Russian revolutionaries without dramatically changing personalities of the Russian rulers and certain social attitudes: it is increasingly tempting to get anachronistic and use post-1917 experience but where to get the right people?…

I mean just by Alexei surviving and succeeding Peter, plus Russia being more advanced country that started to industrialize earlier you should have different personalities and society.

You can't really compare Russia of otl 1860s to ITTL Russia of 1860s as otl Russia industrialized in late 1800s while it ITTL counterpart started the process in early 1800s.

This means that Russia should already be experiencing problems it's OTL counterpart experienced down the line, which means that it's ruler's should be aware of it and in this case it's Alex II and III that will be dealing with those problems.

As for people with personalities? Given that Russia is in better shape than otl shouldn't it have educated people that can deal with the problem? Just pull out someone from the future timeline.

Here's an interesting though, Stalin being born a Russian and joining Russian bureaucracy , or secret police seems like interesting scenario, especially if you pair him with Alex the III reign. They could purge a lot of people together.
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Generally with stronger France, smaller Austria and stronger Russia, plus completely different European dynamics things are bound to go more, or less differently even with Greater Germany, let alone smaller option.

I mean just by Alexei surviving and succeeding Peter, plus Russia being more advanced country that started to industrialize earlier you should have different personalities and society.

You can't really compare Russia of otl 1860s to ITTL Russia of 1860s as otl Russia industrialized in late 1800s while it ITTL counterpart started the process in early 1800s.

This means that Russia should already be experiencing problems it's OTL counterpart experienced down the line, which means that it's ruler's should be aware of it and in this case it's Alex II and III that will be dealing with those problems.

As for people with personalities? Given that Russia is in better shape than otl shouldn't it have educated people that can deal with the problem? Just pull out someone from the future timeline.
The problem was not in a luck of the educated people but in mentality of those deployed by the regime. At the tome of AII and probably even AIII they were generally unprepared to dealing with the ruthless scum like Nechaev, Zeliabov, Perovskaya & Co. It’s like using Marquis Queensbury rules in a street knight fighting. The regime needed equally ruthless scumbags not restricted by the moral considerations on the laws. The Bolsheviks deployed a lot of those by 1918 so the “cadres” were around but they were outside the standard pool of the imperial employees: the regime had to be much more “democratic” in that area.

In OTL scale of a sheet ineptitude is amazing. During (don’t remember which attempt exactly) AII was walking by a street and “security officer” (single) was more than 20 steps away with a police officer more than 60 steps away. Assailant managed to shoot 5 or 6 times. Much later, the “brilliant” idea was to have VIPs accompanied by the police officers on the bicycles. Wasn’t obvious that, unlike the mounted convoy, they would not be able to shoot, etc.

Various officials had been attacked and killed with an impunity except for the cases when the assailants themselves screwed up the escape arrangements. “Preventive measures” were minimal and generally ineffective mostly because they were handled by the wrong people: giving power to the few governors as AII did was not efficient because these governors were the former military people and effective security apparatus was non-existent. The special tribunals were better than the trials by jury as a tool to fight the terror but they were not functioning in all empire and those not hanged still were getting a preferential treatment due to the political convicts. Notice that the Soviets had it other way around.

Not sure if AII or AIII could act as their communist successors and the same goes for the available cadres most of which had been nobility with all resulting behavioral taboos.

Here's an interesting though, Stalin being born a Russian and joining Russian bureaucracy , or secret police seems like interesting scenario, especially if you pair him with Alex the III reign. They could purge a lot of people together.

As often, we are thinking along the similar lines but Stalin is too young (born in 1878). OTOH, he was not the only violent criminal in the Russian Empire. The problem is to find the bureaucrats ready to find and deploy that type of people and to provide them with a legal immunity and funds. I still have to figure out the framework.

Another problem is the attitude of “educated classes”: they could offer little of a positive practical value but had been routinely unhappy with whatever reforms had been introduced. Actually, everybody likes to talk about the Duma as some kind of a solution but do you think it took more than 5 minutes about them being unhappy about it as well?
Every concession led to the open-ended demands for more and I’m sure that if OTL NII would offer the British style arrangement with him being just a well-paid clown, in no time there would be a demand to confiscate the Romanov’s property and then to get rid of the monarchy. Pretty much as was the case with LXVI. So the resistance to these demands is easy to understand but a workable compromise scenario is difficult to figure out. The easiest route for me is to contain situation all the way to 1900 after which the TL will have to stop by the rules of the game. 😂
As often, we are thinking along the similar lines but Stalin is too young (born in 1878)

I mean he could always be born a little bit earlier. Otherwise yea bureaucrats employing that type of people is the problem, but generally a little accident befalling member of the imperial family on the streets with a right kind of guy stepping in and helping out could earn him a promotion.
I mean he could always be born a little bit earlier. Otherwise yea bureaucrats employing that type of people is the problem, but generally a little accident befalling member of the imperial family on the streets with a right kind of guy stepping in and helping out could earn him a promotion.
Well, to be objective, Cheka as a functional prototype of GPU/NKVD/etc. was created by a minor Lithuanian noble (turned revolutionary) and neither he nor his immediate subordinates (quite international crew) had any previous experience in the needed area. So the task is doable, especially in a more organized environment. The same goes for finding the people with the necessary talents: if those in charge do not suffer from the some high principles, then quite a few candidates could be found including those in a criminal world. One more component is legalization and it is a matter of issuing the needed laws, which can be easily done before creating Duma or whatever.
Trouble in Russia
256. Trouble in Russia

«Не было бы счастья да несчастье помогло» [1]
Russian proverb.
«Искать себе не будем идеала,
Ни основных общественных начал
В Америке. Америка отстала:
В ней собственность царит и капитал.
Британия строй жизни запятнала
Законностью. А я уж доказал:
Законность есть народное стесненье,
Гнуснейшее меж всеми преступленье!
» [2]
A.K. Tolstoy, ‘Popov’s dream’
“Let your wishes come true.”
Chinese curse

Russia 1866. End of the era.
Expectation that the reforms are going to solve the Russian domestic problems proved to be quite optimistic. Paradoxically (or not), most of the negative reaction was coming not from those really oppressed but from those reasonably well off. On one hand “the little people” had been playing the increasingly prominent role in the zemstvos of the rural areas and towns’ dumas and quite a few of them were buying the estates of the impoverished nobles basically erasing the class distinctions and pushing aside the old landed nobility in the terms of influence. OTOH, the less productive layer of the society (students, “literators” [3] , even the minor bureaucrats) had been quite radicalized by the writings of their ideologists.

It is necessary to destroy everything that can be destroyed. Only what can withstand the blows is worthy of existence. Everything else, broken into thousands of pieces, is unnecessary junk. So destroy everything right and left.”
Surely, breaking things to pieces was going to be a much greater fun than creating things, especially when you have good feelings doing that. So far the government was looking at the ongoing developments with leniency, which was producing results opposite to expected: the most progressive ideologists already demanded establishment of a democratic republic
We can create a federal republican union instead of a despotic regime. The power should pass to national and regional assemblies... The day is near when we will unfold the banner of the future, the red banner, in front of the Winter Palace and with the cry "Long live the socialist and democratic Russian Republic!" We will erase its inhabitants from the face of the earth.”

Alexander’s Minister of Interior, Valuev, proposed to create a kind of "higher Duma", a legislative body elected by the people and acting in harmony with the monarch. Alexander seriously thought about this problem, and Valuev even developed a corresponding project. It provided for the creation of a "Special Congress" under the Council of State consisting of 150-177 elected and 30-35 members appointed by the emperor, which would meet every year to discuss the most important cases and send fourteen of its members and two vice-chairmen to the plenary session of the State Council that makes final decisions [4]. "In all European countries," Valuev told the emperor, "citizens take part in the management of public affairs. Since this order is established everywhere, it will also be established in our country." But Alexander and most of his ministers (Milytin being an exception) still considered this change being too dramatic for the country to absorb. In his opinion the population should had been given time to fully absorb his liberal ideas before moving forward. In his attitude he reminded a softhearted owner of a fox-terrier puppy who had been cutting of the dog’s tail one joint at a time so that it will get used to the procedure.

Students who once dreamed of radiant socialism became professional conspirators. They united in underground circles and organized printing houses in the basements, where they printed proclamations. In their free time they were preaching “rehabilitation of the flesh" and uselessness of any art which does not carry a social message. When all that rubbish of the legacy of the past is thrown aside, the Russian people, inspired by the Messianic faith, will organize their lives on the model of the rural community. They believed that Europeans were constrained by outdated traditions and only Slavs could gain courage and throw off their historical chains. Inspired barbarians, they will shake the world and establish a new order.

There was an additional twist to the situation. It was quite popular among the students to continue their education in Switzerland and the practice was supported by the government in expectation that abroad they’ll acquire the additional knowledge which will be then useful at home. Understandably, these students were not exactly from impoverished families and had little to nothing in common with the “working classes”: education abroad was not cheap. Not surprisingly, they had the most radical ideas regarding the needs of the oppressed ones and the right future of the Russian state: Switzerland was one of the favorite countries to be visited by all kinds of the revolutionary ideologists and these young well off suckers were both an attentive audience and a nice herd to fleece [5]. Plus, in Switzerland they were completely free from any governmental restrictions (and parental control) and could keep plotting to their hearts content without any risk. The end product were two distinct groups:
  • “True revolutionaries” led by Nechaev. They had been preaching terror without any moral restrictions. Murder was the only acceptable way of action applicable even to the members of the group suspected in deviation from the course.
  • More liberal branch that was planning, upon return to Russia, to go to the rural areas and politically enlighten the peasants.
The government kept drifting in its clueless manner spending time on confiscating the leaflets and forbidding the students’ clubs but not creating any effective “political police” capable of countering the anti-governmental activities. In 1866 push came to shove.

Two things happened in a short sequence.


#1. On April 4 (April 16 according to the Gregorian calendar), 1866, at four o'clock in the afternoon, the emperor left the Summer Garden after a traditional walk accompanied by his nephew, Duke Nicholas of Wurttemberg, and his niece, Princess Mary of Baden, and headed to the carriage waiting for them. As always, a group of street onlookers gathered at the gates of the garden. The moment he was climbing into the carriage, a man separated from the group and pointed a revolver at him. Before anybody could prevent the assasssin, he shot Alexander at a point blank range. The peasant who stood nearby jumped up to him shouted: "What are you doing?!" - and quickly pushed the barrel of the revolver aside but it was too late. The madman prepared to shoot for the second time, but people had already attacked him and knocked him down. Breaking out, he shouted: "Why did you grab me? I'm a peasant! [6] The emperor deceived you! He didn't give you enough land!" The crowd grew rapidly. There were calls to kill the criminal but he was taken by the imperial convoy. Alexander was still alive and when brought to the Winter Palace even joked: “Well, gentlemen, I think I'm going to do something else, since they're trying to kill me!” but then situation deteriorated and he became comatose and within a week he was dead. The revolutionaries’ wish came true but not exactly as they expected…

As a side notice, this was a perfect demonstration of the inefficiency of the security arrangements based upon the optimistic assumption that nobody in Russia would even think about attacking an emperor. Nobody was controlling the crowd, the convoy was too far to provide a protection or even apprehend the assassin before he was caught by a crowd. Actually, the imperial convoy was almost absolutely useless in the terms of protection: they were high-quality horsemen good with their swords and firearms but they were military men not trained for the security duties.

#2. Few days later fires broke out in different quarters of St. Petersburg. Fires began on May 15 or 16. On May 16, several houses on Ligovsky Prospekt burned down. On the morning of May 21, 25 houses in Bolshaya Okhta burned down, the next day - about 25 houses on Ligovsky Prospekt. On May 23, fires broke out in 5 different places of the city, 40 houses burned down in Malaya Okhta, which destroyed Soldier's settlement. Yamskaya Street, Karetnaya and Moscow units suffered from numerous fires.


The largest fire occurred on Dukhov Day on May 28 in Apraksin Dvor and its environs. Because of the holiday, many shops were closed, but trading at the Tolkuchy market still took place when a fire broke out in one of the shops around 5 p.m. The fire quickly spread through a huge market and by nine in the evening the entire quadrilateral between Sadovaya Street, Apraksin and Chernyshev Lanes, and Fontanka was burning.

The flames threatened the Assignation Bank building on the other side of Sadovaya Street, but the fire that occurred there was quickly extinguished. Apraksin Lane failed to restrain the fire with its roadway, and several houses on the other side burned down. The building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs caught fire from the roof due to the wind. Then either this fire spread east through the Chernyshev Bridge, or there was its source on the other side of the river, but by night the quarters between Fontanka and Troitsky Lane were burning, the fire was moving along Shcherbakov Lane to Vladimir Cathedral.

Firefighters, using an English fire engine from the Whiteens factory, scattered around the perimeter of the fire and prevented its advance. But a single engine was not enough and they were carrying water in the buckets. Due to the strong wind most of the city had been covered with a heavy smoke making breathing difficult.

One of the underlying problems was an absolute inadequacy of the firefighting organization in St.-Petersburg and Moscow. This fire was not the first in St.-Petersburg and in Moscow they were happening even more often even if usually on a lesser scale. After this specific fiasco, finally, the measures had been taken to remedy situation in official and unofficial capitals with the pattern followed by the lesser places. Every city got a properly organized fire service for each of its administrative districts. Each of these fire commands had the water pumps, ladders and well-trained personnel. Its quarters had a tall tower from which a sentry had been watching for a smoke and a special set of signals had been designed to indicate seriousness of a fire and a need of help from the neighboring commands. As a matter of pride, each of these commands had its equipment carried by the horses of the same color.

The main equipment of the city team was a fire engine driven by one or two horses and consisting of a metal barrel and a hand pump. This engine was served by a combat crew of one piper (head of the crew), four fire fighters and a coachman. Besides engine the crew had a ladder and special mask allowing to get into the smoke-filled buildings. The main crews had been riding to the fire on the open carts driven by 4 horses.

Evil rumors had been spreading among the maddened inhabitants of St.-Petersburg. Of course, this is not the first time that the fire destroyed wooden buildings in St. Petersburg, but this time the disaster has acquired such proportions that the idea of malicious intent was involuntarily asked. Didn't these long-haired students call in their proclamations for the overthrow of the monarchy and the destruction of property? They began to carry out their threats. First, by murdering a kind monarch and now by destroying the city. The late monarch had been too kind to them and look how it turned out. One of the big areas that seriously suffered from the fires was populated by the working class and as a result “proletariat” was seriously pissed off with those whom they considered guilty. Among the “high end of the uneducated classes” (small-scale traders, butchers, waiters, coachmen, employees of the shops, etc.) they were not popular to start with and now were even less so (especially those whose businesses or jobs had been impacted by the fire). The conventional liberals joined the chorus (probably first time in their lives being on the same pages with the lower classes) demanding the strong measures. It was one thing request the reforms and quite another to kill a monarch and burn a big part of the city. As a cherry on a top of the cake, the leading liberal poet and publisher, Nekrasov, wrote and published a verse saying “don’t spare the guilty ones”. Presumably to distance himself and his magazine from those who were considered the cute darlings and now qualified as the criminals of the worst sort.

The sentiments had been spreading into the provinces and Moscow with the rumors providing more gross details, the numbers of the fire victims growing beyond the realistic limits, number of destroyed buildings reaching many thousands and the assassination story growing into a wide spread plot hatched abroad and most probably paid by a certain government unfriendly to Russia. The last part was unwittingly but convincingly supported by Herzen who in his “Bell” was denouncing some prominent Russian liberals for the change of their position toward regime. Of course, he was publishing his magazine on the income from his estate in Russia [8] but who was going to check these obscure details when there was an undeniable fact that the magazine was published in London?

Now, the great thinkers of the English Club in Moscow came to a wise conclusion that a major fire of 1862 in Rogozsky Settlement which lasted for 3 days and destroyed 165 buildings was just the first action of the same plotters. And conclusions like that tended to spread from the said club all over the capital within very few days. The Moscow University did not came under the siege but the students who stubbornly wanted to preserve their “revolutionary” appearances had been doing it at their risk, especially taking into an account that one of the citadels of the Russian conservatism, Okhotni Riad (district of the meat shops), was just within a spitting distance from this citadel of education and progressive ideas.

“Anyone who wore blue glasses or long hair, subscribed to the magazine "Contemporary" and read the novel "What to do?" felt outlawed and in the greatest fright expected some monstrous and terrible massacre, and hurried to insure himself against all suspicions with exaggerated cries of "hooray". Anyone who did not shout "hooray" was considered almost a state criminal, an accomplice of that "a gang of underground villains who in mad blindness enraged on the sacred person of the tsar". [9]

There were incidents in the cities and rural areas and for a while the police was not excessively eager to prevent the beatings: why would they if these weird young people had been implicated in various heinous crimes including expressed wish to get rid of police, these servants of the oppressors? In the rural areas the things were even less controlled and for a while “semi-official” attitude was to leave the issues to the local jurisdiction of the lowest level, the village meetings. The logic was simple: if these young people came to the villages to live among the peasants, then it is up to the peasants to deal with them unless they are committing crimes falling into a higher jurisdiction. The well-intentional idealists were not liked by those whom they tried to enlighten and without protection from the authorities those who were not smart enough to flee could find themselves flogged by decision of a village meeting after which the proselytizing enthusiasm usually was dying out. Many of the nihilists had been from well off and even influential families which they were earlier denouncing but to which they now fled for protection.

Russia 1866. New era.

Grand Duke Alexander, now Emperor Alexander III, was 21 years old. With his elder brother, Nicholas, dying previous year he, quite unexpectedly became heir to the throne and now was going through the crash course of the education fitting heir to the throne and was scheduled to make a proposal to the Princess Dagmar of Denmark coming summer. He was big, strong and clumsy and usually a butt of the family jokes in which he was considered to be not too bright because, unlike his older brother, he did not have a habit of talking and thinking simultaneously. So far, his attitude toward father’s policies (which nobody bothered to ask even after he became a heir) was ambivalent: on one hand there were clearly some useful and needed things but OTOH, the chaotic introduction and rolling back of these things was clearly going against young Alexander’s character. In his opinion every action has to be thoroughly considered and, if necessary modified in a process, but after the decision was made, it had to be followed though unless it is found to be absolutely wrong. And the changes must be as simple and straightforward as possible: so far, most of the reforms proved to be too complicated with a resulting problems and misinterpretations along the way.

But the first things first. The prevailing mood has to be encouraged and used to strengthen the regime. And to achieve this “everybody” must get something of value.
  • The peasants, still a majority, have to get the head tax replaced with something either income or consumption based (practical enough to be collectable) and the crippling release payments to be abolished even if this is going to cost money to the state. [10]
  • The manufacturing workers should get some regulations improving their situation and some government’s oversight bodies allowing to control implementation of these regulations and acting as the mediators in the conflict situations.
  • The numerous internal customs have to be abolished.
  • Interests of the domestic manufacturers have to be protected against the foreign competition.
  • The elective rural and city bodies have to be encouraged with some of the most vexing government’s functions dumped upon them and presented as a sign of a great trust.
  • Valuev’s proposal must be reviewed, simplified and implemented as the trial balloon for the future functional expansion if this organ will prove to be helpful to the government. The usefulness as a mandatory condition for getting further must be advertised with a definite decision making date being set and publicized.
  • Censorship should be limited to strictly political issues.
  • Military reform must be modified to make processes simpler and to address the issues already voiced by the field officers.
  • Create a legal framework for effectively dealing with the political terrorism.
Not that there was clarity on all these items and the new emperor did not feel himself well prepared to address all these issues so the task #1 was to find the people needed for each of these jobs.

Actually, there was one more item which he was planning not to make public for as long as possible. And it was creation of the powerful security apparatus capable not just to protect a monarch and the top officials but to destroy the revolutionary opposition preemptively. Of course, the Emperor of Russia could not simply engage in the acts of political revenge disregarding the laws and he knew just a man who, being properly positioned, will write the necessary laws in absolutely impeccable way while the search for the people enforcing these laws will be going on.

[1] “There would be no success but misfortune helped.”. Pretty much the same as Churchill’s “Never let a good crisis go to waste”.
[2] “Let's not look for an ideal,
Neither the main public principles
In America. America is behind:
It is being reigned by property and capital.
Britain has tarnished the system of life
By the Legality. And I've already proved:
Legality is a people's oppression ,
The most abominable offense imaginable!”
The poem was mocking both the liberal demagoguery and the government’s methods of dealing with the radicals.
[3] Situation with the literature and art was rather peculiar. On one hand there were quite a few really good writers, composers, etc. and OTOH there was a bunch of the “literators” with a limited or no talent but the firmly set ideological convictions which they had been expressing in the no uncertain terms. It is an open question why a “literary critic” was spending most of his time writing political pamphlets, etc. Probably it should come as no surprise that this last group gained a huge influence over the minds of young people.
[4] This was in OTL well ahead of much advertised proposal of Loris-Melikov and more “democratic”.
[5] Unlike the “old school” liberals who lived off the incomes from their estates in Russia the new ideologists mostly (Prince Kropotkin was one of the few exceptions) were from the much humbler backgrounds, did not have any intention to join the ranks of a proletariat and no useful skills for being professionally employed. But they had to live and preferably in comfort so the suckers were needed. Bakunin, IIRC, tended to be forgetful about the money he was borrowing from the admirers.
[6] This was a lie. Karakozov was from a minor nobility, a jurisprudence student expelled from Moscow University them serving as a minor clerk of a provincial judge. Just as Marx, Engels, Plekhanov, Lenin, Stalin had nothing to do with “proletariat”.
[7] I had to get rid of him ahead of the schedule: while alt-AIII can be (as @Kris convincingly argued) from the original one due to a different environment, it is too late to change AII’s character convincingly ITTL and his vacillations between the liberal intentions and conservatism would inevitably produce something close to OTL and very difficult to remedy. In 1866 he is still a bone fide darling for the non-extremists. Besides, without a war of 1877-78, conquest of the CA (already happened) and humiliation of Berlin Congress, what is there for him to do besides screwing Princess Dolgorukova and pissing off his family? 😉
[8] In OTL until the Russian government forbade distribution of this magazine in Russian Empire a single copy had been sold and a coin received was proudly displayed for few years in magazine’s office.
[9] The only problem with the quoted livid picture is a trifle: its author, who described the horrors following OTL Karakozov’s attempt was born in 1882, 16 years after it happened, and hardly can be considered as anything more than a hearsay. 😂
[10] In case you forgot, the state compensated the former owners and the peasants now had been paying their “debt” to the government. At the rate of 5% interest annually for 40 years the government was expecting to get 200% at the end of the term. Obviously, for this ripoff schema to work, artificial preservation of a rural community as a collective payer was almost a must.
At least he got far more dignified end. Not being blasted by the Bomb and having entire family present in the last moments and aftermath will do wonder's.
Wonders for whom?

Well, there is no Dolgorukova affair so at least he is not hated by his own family, the death is probably less painful and there are no extra victims including the horses: they usually are not being mentioned but surely there were some casualties not to mention the moral traumas for the surviving poor innocent beasts caused by two blasts. Taking into an account that in 1881 the society was not as advanced as nowadays, I doubt that cruelty to the animals was on a list of accusations for Perovkaya & Co. 😜
Specially the horses, please not them!
What could our Duma do without its most prestigious senators?!
Well, actually the Senators were in the Senate and the dumas existed only on the city levels and had the deputies. Which does not mean that the horses should be deprived of the participation in any of these bodies. The same applies to the pure breed hounds (pugs, Maltese and mongrels are still being discriminated and the same goes for the human females: truly universal election rights are still matter of the future.
I was going to include chihuahuas into the eligibility list based upon the obvious fact that they are more intelligent than an average horse (the hounds are plain stupid but they were Russian cultural phenomena, something like the British lords) and can easily manipulate an average human being into figuring out what they want and implementing not too complicated orders [1]. However, this would be a gross anachronism: I did not find any mentioning of these members of the Master Race inhabiting Russian Empire of the 1860s [2].

But, getting back to the subject, can you imagine effect on a jury during Zelyabov, Perovskaya, etc. trial if prosecutor brought one of the surviving horses as a material witness to tell about the mental (and perhaps even physical) post-assassination sufferings? If such a testimony was published, popularity of the revolutionaries would hit the ground.

[1] As of right now: “Pick me up and assume a proper position on a couch so that I can take a nap on your lap. And don’t move!”
[2] Jacqueline Susann insisted that the French poodles also are members of the Master Race and they surely lived in Russia of that period so perhaps they would make quite descent people’s representatives. One fantasy writer went as far as declaring that all dogs belong to the Master Race but IMO this is not evident: while the manipulative skills are obvious, some breeds are surely suffer from a low IQ. Look at all these enthusiastic idiots chasing a ball all over the beach when a human slave would bring it to them. The same goes for so-called “tricks”: why do these humiliating exercises when the goal (getting a treat) can be easily achieved by hypnotizing or issuing extremely annoying qazi-ultrasound noises which a human slave can’t tolerate for more than 1 minute? Not to offend the canines in general, ages ago I visited Las Vegas and in one of the casinos there was a enclosure with few lions served by a human slave. The lions had been laying on the fake rocks and you can almost hear one of them telling another: “look, I’ll kick that ball in front of me and the stupid slave will bring it back for me to kick it again; isn’t it a fun?”
Well, actually the Senators were in the Senate and the dumas existed only on the city levels and had the deputies.
Oh forgive me, I must be too used to french politics
After all France was even so kind enough to restore the Consulate in homage to the most enlightened rule of Consul Incitatus back in Roman Times and thanks to that now cavalry can truly guide the state just like on it's Napoleonic-Ops, I mean Bernadottian heydays in accordance to the french tradition of a carrot & a regime change one at a time

Thus following the prussian example there who lately have been so progressive as to allow one of our aforementioned pug friends to rise to the Chancellery[1] and as such I have great expectations for their future 😊

Perhaps someday Russia may learn from their good example too 🤔

Looking for a war
257. Looking for a war
General Boum (Commander-in-Chief): “Silence when you're speaking to an officer!…
My plan is simple. Your Highness must bear in mind
that the whole art of war is summed up in two words
- surprise and circumvention….
My forces, thus distributed,
will proceed by three different routes to one central point,
where I have decided to concentrate them…
I don't care where the enemy are, but what I do know is -
that I shall annihilate them!”

Jacques Offenbach, Halévy, Ludovic, Meilhac, Henri, “Grande Duchesse Gerolstein”
"C'est tout-à-fait ça!" (That's exactly how it is!)
Bismarck after watching performance of “Grande Duchesse…”
You are the only SOB here who knows what he wants.”

Prussia. Bismarck in charge. 1865 - early 1866.
As the PM of Prussia Bismarck had a pretty clear idea on what he wanted. He wanted unification of the Northern (Protestant) German states under the tight Prussian control. Unlike the HRE arrangements, his “dream state” was going to be closely united by having the one parliament and effective central (Prussian) government. The member states would be divided into two categories. The bigger ones will preserve certain autonomy with their own titular rulers, parliaments and armies but their functions are going to be limited to the local issues and the armed forces are going to be under control of the central Ministry of War. The small ones are going to be directly absorbed into Kingdom of Prussia with the present rulers preserving their titles and possessions and perhaps getting some pensions.
So far, number of the enthusiasts was limited to very few.

German Allies.

The most prominent was the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg: for all practical purposes it was pretty much surrounded by the Prussian territories and, due to the fact that the Grand Duchy was rather poor and backward, its rulers had been routinely having a second job (and source of income) serving on the high positions in Prussian Army. The current one, Frederick Francis II, had been linked to both Hohenzollerns and Romanovs ( maternal first cousin of both Prussian Crown Prince Frederick and Russian Tsar Alexander II) and served in Prussian army, presently in the staff of Generalfeldmarschall Friedrich Graf von Wrangel, so that he was going to get the best deal possible.


Then there was the Duchy of Brunswick the duke of which, William III, left most government business to his ministers, and spent most of his time outside of his state at his possessions in Oels, in Prussian Silesia. Quite clearly, the best way for him to retain his private possessions and to get a good deal for his duchy was to side with Prussia. Not that this duchy possessed any military force worth mentioning.


Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. The Grand Duke, Peter II, had close ties to the Russian imperial family (there was the whole branch of the Russian Oldenburgs) and on good terms with the Hohenzollerns. In the military terms his duchy with population of 800,000 was not a serious factor but geographically the Grand Duchy was important for the overall Bismarck’s plan of unification.

Then, there were minor principalities mostly squeezed between Prussia and Saxony or already surrounded by the Prussian territories: Anhalt, Saxe Coburg & Cotha, Saxe-Aattenburg, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Waldeck, Lippe. Sum total of their military importance was zero.
The free cities of Lubeck, Bremen and Hamburg also were on the Prussian side expecting trade increases in the case of united Northern Germany.

International situation.
was sympathetic to Bismarck’s plans. Alexander II insisted only that his relative, the Grand Duke of Hesse, should not suffer too much during the redegiance of Germany, and Bismarck could easily satisfy this policy of family feelings. It was promised that all necessary efforts will be made to prevent the Polish intervention on Austrian side in the case of war.

Britain also was busy with its internal and colonial affairs and experienced a period of reduced interest in European politics.

France was not against Bismarck’s plans and, anyway, King Oscar was getting old, his health was failing and his main attention was to secure a safe succession for his son by improving the domestic situation in France. The unnecessary war definitely was not on his agenda. But he could and did help to negotiate alliance with Italy.

Italy. King Victor-Emmanuel wanted three things:
  • Get Venice from Austria
  • Get the whole Italy
  • To show that his army and navy are not a laughingstock most of Europe considered them to be. Which meant that he would be inclined to join a war against Austria.
Hungary was not quite ready for a big war. King Szilard I ceded most of his powers to the Diet and his subjects were more interested in improving their own well-being than in the military adventures. Its top general and Minister of War, Artúr Görgei, was, of course, a national hero but his arguments in favor of a big modern army were not completely successful and his own achievements of 1848-49 had been used as a counter-argument: why burden state with a big standing army when it was proven that in the case of need the people would rise in defense of the fatherland and defeat the professional armies of the invaders? Some kind of a compromise had been reached almost along the old Prussian lines: a relatively small regular army with 6 years term of service and a bigger land militia passing through some kind of a military training.
Then, there was an ongoing low-level trouble in Transylvania where the Hapsburg agents kept spreading pro-Hapsburg agitation among the Rumanian population. It was not fully successful but had been getting certain traction and there was a need to maintain certain military presence in the region. So, realistically, it could be expected that in the best case scenario Hungary would be able to post 50-60,000 troops on the border forcing Austrians to keep comparable numbers on their side of the Leithe River to protect Vienna.

Domestically. Bismarck thus succeeded in the political preparation of the war outside Germany. In domestic politics, the situation was worse. Since the military reform of 1860, the Prussian government has been in a cruel quarrel with the Prussian Landtag, who refused to approve the budget annually, and led the state against the wishes of the vast liberal majority of the Prussian bourgeoisie. Opposition to Bismarck's government was almost on the verge of revolution; the government had a reputation as rotten reactionaries; the masses of the people were far from its support. Only rare, most insightful representatives of the Prussian bourgeoisie, watching Bismarck's firm hand, began to understand that they were facing the person who is able to unite Germany and realize the dream of the German bourgeoisie. Bismarck attached great importance to the preparation for war in domestic political terms and decided to wage war under the broad slogan of the North German union. The slogan increased popularity of his rule in Prussia but, as was already mentioned, pushed most of the HRE states into the Austrian camp. In the coming war, Prussia had to meet extra 4 corps of hostile troops, however, of poor quality, mobilized for a long time, not united by a common command. But the war was put in the plane of struggle for a great slogan, not a fratricidal massacre for dynastic interests - the increase in the territory of Prussia at the expense of other members of the HRE. Still, the general attitudes in Prussia were rather lukewarm. Which meant that Bismarck had to convince Prussian population that the war he was planning is actually a defensive war. And for this he needed to create a plausible cause.

Creating a plausible cause.

The Duchy of Saxe-Lauenburg existed from 1296 and, starting at least from the early XVIII, it was usually serving as spare change in various international territorial readjustments. Between the LNW of 1700-04 and 1866 it managed to belong (sometimes more than once) to pretty much each and every regional power: Sweden, Hanover, Denmark, Prussia. In 1815-64 it was ruled by the Kings of Denmark (Kings of Denmark-Norway, Great Dukes of Gottorp from Oldenburg House) on terms of the personal union. Unlike all other components of the Oldenburg possessions, the Duchy was never fully integrated and retained a completely independent administration. Its population was completely German and in 1848-49 there was an attempt of a separatist uprising under umbrella of a popular idea of “unification of the German nation”. The leaders of the uprising had been counting upon military help from Frankfurt Parliament but it did not materialized. FWIV of Prussia sent a small force, which was easily repelled by the Danish troops and the leaders of uprising fled from the duchy.

However, in 1863 situation changed. The main line of the Oldenburg dynasty became extinct and their territories were inherited by theGlücksburg line. This resulted in a dynastic crisis because the German population of the duchy supported the House of Augustenburg, a cadet and strictly German branch of the Danish royal family. Things became worse when in 1864 Christian IX signed a constitution which was going to integrate the duchy with the rest of the state. This was considered within the HRE as a gross violation of the previous international agreements and in 1864 Austria and Prussia (and the rest of the HRE) were threatening Denmark with a war.


Taking into an account a minuscule importance of the duchy for “Denmark”, Christian was willing to negotiate and arranged selling of the duchy into a joined possession of Austria and Prussia for £300,000. These money he was planning to spend on improvement of the waterways: the Elder Canal built in the late XVIII century (blue on the map) was too narrow and shallow for the modern needs allowing passage of the ships under 300 tons and a bigger one was needed (yellow on the map). All the Powers (with the understandable exception of Prussia) involved in Baltic trade had been supporting this idea: a bigger canal was needed and neither Britain nor Russia wanted it to be controlled by a Great Power.

So, in a rare unison, they applied the diplomatic pressure and in 1865 the deal passed through. Denmark started construction of a new canal and the Duchy got Austrian and Prussian governors who were expected to administer it together.

The crisis starts.
As a byproduct this agreement provided Bismarck with a perfect scenario for making Austria an aggressor. Due to the obvious geographic reasons Austria could not accomplish annexation of the Duchy and, as a result, was supporting scenario of making it an independent member of the HRE ruled by a duke from Augustenburg House while Prussia wanted to incorporate it as one of her provinces. The crisis started on 26 January 1866, when Prussia protested the decision of the Austrian Governor of the Duchy to permit its estates to call up a united assembly and to allow agitation in Augustenburg’s favor, declaring the Austrian decision as a breach of the principle of joint sovereignty. Austria replied on 7 February, asserting that its decision did not infringe on Prussia's rights in the Duchy. In March 1866, Austria reinforced its troops along its frontier with Prussia. To this “obvious act of aggression” Prussia responded with a partial mobilization of five divisions on 28 March.

Bismarck made an alliance with Italy on 8 April, committing it to the war if Prussia entered one against Austria within three months, which was an obvious incentive for Bismarck to go to war with Austria within three months so that Italy would divert Austrian strength away from Prussia. Austria responded with a mobilization of its Southern Army on the Italian border on 21 April. Italy called for a general mobilization on 26 April and Austria ordered its own general mobilization the next day.[6] Prussia's general mobilization orders were signed in steps on 3, 5, 7, 8, 10 and 12 May.

When Austria brought the dispute before the German Diet on 1 June and also decided on 5 June to convene the Diet of Saxe-Lauenburg on 11 June, Prussia declared that the Gastein Convention of 14 August 1865 had thereby been nullified and invaded the Duchy on 9 June. When the German Diet responded by voting for a partial mobilization against Prussia on 14 June, Bismarck claimed that the Prussian membership in the HRE had ended.

Comic relief.
In February 1866 Victor-Emannuel made Austria a proposal to buy Veneto for 1,000,000 lira but the offer was rejected and Italy made an alliance with Prussia. Now FJI re-though the offer and asked Emperor Oscar to act as an intermediary: Veneto will be passed to France so that France will give it to Italy as a present. [1]

Now V-E could get what he wanted without a fight but he felt bound by his alliance to Prussia, there was a full-scale mobilization and military hysteria in Italy with everybody itching to fight the hated enemy again. So he declared war on Austria anyway.

Of course, it would be wiser for Austria to go down to direct negotiations with Italy, or at least evacuate its Italian possessions before the outbreak of hostilities, than to spend 80,000 good field troops and almost the same number of secondary fortresses in the garrisons to defend the province, which was already cut off from the state. But this did not happen.

In practical terms, with the Austrian main port being now Trieste, the Veneto region was not strategically important anymore.

Getting ready. Prussia and Austria. To push Austrians further to a full mobilization, Bismarck leaked a fake Prussian plan of the campaign which involved immediate Prussian attack without a complete mobilization and declaration of war. In the deep world, unmobilized Prussian troops were to break into the allied fortress of Mainz and disarm the Austrian and Allied troops that made up its garrison. At the same time, on the first day of mobilization, Prussian troops had to break into Saxony from different sides, take unmobilized Saxon troops by surprise in their barracks and, only after ending them, begin mobilization; having finished the latter, two armies - 193,000 and 54,000 - had to invade Bohemia and defeat the Austrian armies before they have time to assemble. [2]

As soon as rumors of a possible sudden Prussian attack reached Vienna, a marshal's council was assembled in Vienna in the first half of March - a meeting of representatives of the highest military power in the capital, reinforced by corps commanders and outstanding generals invited from the provinces. The Marshal Council began discussing the campaign plan and decided, first of all, to strengthen the I Corps located in Bohemia by 6,700 men in order to bring it to full peacetime strength.

This was all that Bismarck needed. His press greatly inflated the strengthening of Austrian troops in Bohemia; on March 28, Prussia began to strengthen the battalions of 5 divisions located near the Saxon and Austrian borders, from 530 people per 685 people. Subsequently, horses for field artillery followed. Austria was forced to react to the new events. To hide them, Austrian censorship forbade newspapers to print any information about the movement of troops or the strengthening of their composition. Bismarck also used this circumstance by inviting the Prussian press to place verified data on changes in the deployment and composition of Prussian troops and sketching a shadow of preparation for the war on Austria. On April 27, Austria announced a general mobilization.

The Prussian king still resisted the mobilization of the Prussian army. Only sequentially, on May 3, 5 and 12, Roon and Bismarck snatched mobilization decrees from him, which in three steps covered the entire Prussian army. Thus, Bismarck preferred to abandon the benefits of the speed of Prussian mobilization in the war of 1866 in order not to assume the odiousness of the beginning of the war and not to put Prussia in an unfavorable political position. Politics has subjugate the strategy.

Austria did not want war, and, as always in such cases, believed that it would not come to war; Austria did not conduct systematic political preparation for the war. Contrary to Franz Joseph, most Austrian generals were convinced of the superiority of Prussian weapons and Prussian troops. The assistance of the middle and small German states was not regarded too high. So far the only achievement of Austrian policy was to attract most of the German Union states, frightened by the Bismarck program, which deprived them of sovereignty. These German allies of Austria had a war time armies totaling 142,000. However, while Italy, Austria and Prussia started arming in April, the troops of the Austrian German allies remained unmobilized.

Only on June 14, at the request of Austria, the Imperial Diet (Council of the HRE in Frankfurt am Main) decided to mobilize four corps - a contingent of the Imperial Army raised by medium and small states. But this decision to mobilize has already been taken by Prussia as a declaration of war. Hostilities between the mobilized Prussians and the unmobilized allies of Austria began the next day, June 15. Only Saxon troops were ready in advance and withdrew from Saxony, where the Prussians invaded, to Bohemia to meet the Austrian army. The most valuable thing Austria received from its allies was thus the 23,000-strong Saxon Corps.

Austrian plans.
The Chief of the Austrian General Staff, Baron Genikstein, a rich aristocratic man, least thought about the issues of strategy and operational art. Archduke Albert, son of Archduke Charles, the most prominent candidate of the dynasty to command the troops, hurried to get a calm Italian front on the pretext that it is impossible to put the reputation of the dynasty at risk of defeat.

General Benedek, an excellent field officer who commanded the Italian army in peacetime and had a deep knowledge of Lombardy, but was completely unprepared for leadership of the large masses and unfamiliar with the conditions of the Austro-Prussian front, was nominated to the Bohemian theater, against his desire; at the same time, Archduke Albrecht did not allow Benedek to take with him his Chief of Staff, General Ion, who was most capable of dealing with the major issues of all officers of the Austrian General Staff.

When, in view of the threat of war, in March 1866, a plan of operations against Prussia was required from the Chief of the Austrian General Staff, Baron Henikstein, the latter proposed to draw up one to Colonel Nieber, a professor of strategy of the military academy. The latter said that for this work he needed data on the mobilization readiness of the Austrian army. The Ministry of War provided Neiber with an extremely pessimistic assessment of the condition of the Austrian troops; only after a few months could the army become quite combat-ready. Therefore, Neiber spoke in favor of the Austrian army to gather in a defensive position near the fortress of Olmütz before the operations and enter Bohemia, threatened by the Prussians on both sides, only after gaining sufficient combat capability.

Then, under the patronage of Archduke Albert, Neiber's predecessor in the Department of Strategy, General Krismanich, was appointed Chief of Operations of the Bohemian Army.


He was a connoisseur of the Seven Years' War and believed that in a hundred years the picture of Down and Lassi's operations against Frederick the Great would be repeated. Krismanich edited the military-geographical description of Bohemia and studied all sorts of positions that existed at the Bohemian theater.


Krismanich retained Neiber's idea of the preliminary concentration of the Austrians in the fortified camp near Olmütz, with the exception of the I Bohemian Corps, which remained in the vanguard, in Bohemia, to take over the retreat of the Saxons. All 8 corps, 3 cavalry divisions and an artillery reserve destined to operate in Bohemia were to represent one army. Krismanich refused to attack Silesia, as he did not see favorable "positions" for the battle in this direction. Disregarding the railways, Krismanich expected the concentration of all Prussian forces in Silesia and their direct movement to Vienna. As a separate option, the movement of the Austrian army on three roads from Olmütz to the area of the right bank of the Elbe was developed.

In Austria, secret maps were still published with black semicircles - "positions" emphasized on them. Krismanich's plan presented a mixture from memories of the struggle against Frederick the Great, from several principles of the military art of the early XIX century, several principles of Clausewitz (Austria pursues a negative political goal, why it should conduct defensive actions accordingly) and a detailed depiction of all kinds of defensive lines, borders and positions. His plan was impressive, it was difficult to read, reported by Krismanich unusually self-confidently; Krismanich impressed with his optimism and professorial appeal of judgments. Not surprisingly, the poorly educated Austrian generals were overwhelmed by the confidence and academicism that Krismanich deployed - generally a lazy, superficial and limited person; but for us it is a mystery as it could. Kristmanich's plan can be considered an exemplary 40 years later in strategy textbooks.

Undoubtedly, if the Austrians divided their forces into two armies and chose two different areas, such as Prague and Olmütz, to concentrate them, they could make much better use of railways, rather complete deployment, would not deprive troops and retain much greater maneuverability. But for this, they had to take in military art the step forward that remained so far incomprehensible to the military theorists.

Italy fielded 165,000 field troops. The Prussian military commissioner, General Bernhardi, and the Prussian envoy persuaded the Italian command to vigorously start operations: to transfer the bulk of troops through the lower course of the river Po and march it forward to Padua, to the deep rear of the Austrian army concentrated in the quadrilateral of fortresses (Mantuya, Peschiera, Verona, Legnago), which would lead to a battle with the inverted front; then launch an energetic offensive in the inner regions of Austria - on Vienna. Of course, Italy, whose interests were ensured even before the outbreak of hostilities, was not inclining to follow these advices, and the Austrians could limit themselves to a minimum of forces on the Italian front from the very beginning of the war; however, the strategy on both sides did not fully use the benefits of Austria's political retreat from Italy.

Intermission. “The curse of concentration”.
Available experience of the previous wars had been saying that strategic deployment on a wide front carries with itself a risk of being defeated piecemeal and, as such has to be avoided by all means possible. Even the text book Bonaparte’s operations during the Great Polish War of 1805-06 had been pointing to this direction, including a precarious final battle which almost turned into a disaster because one of his armies was late to join the main force. The fundamental changes happening since then were mostly ignored as insignificant comparing to the “fundamental laws of a war”. Besides the higher professional level of the staff officers who, unlike the Bonaparte’s time, had been getting a professional education, now during the campaign, telegraph wires were stretching behind the headquarters, allowing commander to monitor the actions of troops scattered over hundreds of miles and coordinate them with the same convenience as if they were removed from the commander for the normal mileage of an aid’s horse ride.

The separation of forces was recommended in the second half of the XIX century also by the depth of marching columns, which has increased since the start of the century, due to the increase in the numbers of troops, artillery, parks and supply trains. Also, the wide dirt roads of the XVIII with proliferation of railroads gave way to the narrower paved roads limited on both sides by the fences and ditches and preventing marching in the wide platoon columns. The number of the “wheels” of all types moving with the columns greatly increased and the humongous columns had been suffering all kinds of problems on a march.

Krismanich, who tried in 1866 to resurrect the “historic” way of action along the inner lines and moved the Austrian army (6 corps) from the vicinity of Olmütz to the upper Elbe, concentratedly, on 3 roads, caused enormous hardships for the troops, as a 120-mile long column of 4 corps and two cavalry divisions crowded on one road; the troops walked through rich Bohemia, as in the desert - even wells along the way were drawn to the bottom.

The same goes for the “classic” method of amassing before a battle powerful reserve which was going to be gradually deployed during a battle. Hence, with significantly longer battle fronts, difficulties in the flank coverage and natural gravitation to the frontal blow-breakthrough of the enemy center.

If on the eve of the battle such concentration really takes place, then a blow to the enemy from two crossing directions, which has the greatest chance of success, can be achieved only through a new, time- and effor-consuming, dangerous flank march in front of the enemy front, in order to divide your own troops into two masses.

Now, if somebody is under impression that sticking to the old cliches and being incompetent was plaguing only the Austrian army, don’t be too optimistic. 😜

[1] As I understand (and I may be wrong) by that time it would be just a free gift.
[2] In OTL this was Moltke’s proposal made in 1865, which was not realistic in 1866 by the reasons of domestic politics and generally negative attitude to the war. Launching unprovoked war in a violation of all international norms could easily turn mobilization into a revolution against unpopular Bismarck’s government. But as a tool of provocation it did work well.
Can't wait to see where the future of Germany will be heading, will the HRE pull through, will Austria hang on or the proud Imperial Eagle will have it's wings clipped?
Austrian nightmare
258. Austrian nightmare

Order in the Austrian army is maintained, as the Austrian himself testifies, between soldiers - by stick, between officers - by ill-treatment. The power of regimental commanders is not limited by anything: there is no appeal against their actions.. This system has borne fruit: an officer in punishing of a soldier is not restrained; a soldier does not love the officer and does not believe him.”
“The promotion system is best considered in the sense of inclining an officer as little as possible to serious studying of his profession and as much as possible to sycophancy and intrigue.”

General Dragomirov on Austrian army [1]
"Individual trees may provide a good protection, depending on their thickness. The shooter must get close to the tree in such a way that he will touch it with his left hand. To shoot, he will lean the gun to the right side of the tree, as well as the wrist of his left hand; he will expose his head no more than is necessary for aiming, keeping the body back as much as possible."
Austrian instruction for the infantry.​

Austrian Army.
Austrian army was plagued by the numerous problems and not the least of them was a view upon a soldier as a complete idiot who has to be provided by the explicit instructions on each and every possible eventuality [2]. There was a certain logical contradiction: how a certified idiot (aka, a soldier of the Austrian army) was expected to memorize and use all these instructions? Well, the military minds tend to work in mysterious ways.

The intentions were good but their pedantic implementation on all level could quite often produce the results opposite to the expected.
Preservation of reserves led to the piecemeal deployment of the Austrian forces; blind following the prescribed tactical rules led to the units either throwing themselves almost without preparation into bayonet charges, or, when appearing unexpectedly in front of the enemy, preparing an attack with artillery losing a surprise factor, etc. Add to this an absence of the initiative due to a fear of the responsibility and a panic mode after any offset. All these problems became obvious during the last Italian war but the remedies were just new instructions without serious changes in attitudes and training. The most suffering branch was infantry because “in cavalry a man can hide behind his horse and in artillery behind his gun”.

The corps of the infantry officers was not very good in the terms of a professional competence and tended to be very rude and even cruel to the soldiers with whom they quite often could not even communicate due to the language differences. The corporate spirit was there but mostly in communications with the outside world of the despised civilians. Within the corp protection was still the most common tool for the promotion, things being made worse by the surviving from the XVIII century institute of the honorary chiefs of the regiments, usually the elderly and even retired generals, who had a right to keep their own aids and promote the regiment’s officers up to the captain rank or, as an option, to delegate this right to a regimental commander.
The physical punishments (beating with the sticks) were officially permitted and non-coms tended to use their fists as important education tool.

Austrian cavalry always was good and, as was known to both sides, superior to Prussian.

The Prussian high command just hoped that having the bigger squadrons will level the chances in the encounters of the equal numbers of units. Its improvements after the Italian war were to a great degree results of the efforts of Leopold von Edelsheim-Gyulai, one of the best cavalry officers pf that time.

At Solferino, he commanded a regiment that overturned the cavalry covering the left flank of McMahon. This brilliant feat put forward it. Having then earned the trust of the emperor, he began to transform the Austrian cavalry stressing the personal training and maneuvers in a realistic environment [3] involving the ling marches and swimming across the rivers.

Artillery was in a good condition. There were only two calibers of the field artillery, 4- and 8-pounders.
Combat artillerymen knew the combat tactics of their weapons perfectly. In particular, Austrian artillerymen were remarkable by selflessness and freedom from two prejudices to which many artillerymen of that period were suffering : 1) that the loss of a gun seems to be tantamount to losing a banner; 2) that rifled artillery should try not to approach the enemy closer than the greatest effectiveness of its fire. Austrian artillerymen understood very well that where people are dying in thousands, there is no time to regret a piece of metal; that it reaches its highest purpose by causing as much harm to the enemy as possible, and that this cannot be achieved by artillery without the risk of being captured. On its side, the Austrian infantry did not have a habit of rescuing its artillery.


General Staff. “The corps of the Austrian General Staff is characterized by academic pedantry in the complete absence of practicality. Cabinet calculations they are able to make, but they don't know how to set goals. Dispositions and instructions are extremely long, and with a claim to write everything so that the field commander has not to think too much but rather to remember what paragraph he should execute at each specific moment.” [4]

Being representatives of theoretical knowledge in an army in which the spirit of officers is not conducive to acquiring this knowledge, officers of the General Staff were obviously put in an isolated position; as a result, there were many among them who believed in their mental superiority over combat officers only because they knew, let's say, military history. In turn, combatants could not avoid to be indignant at such conceit, especially since, when faced with the practice of business, it did not justify itself at all and lead to all types of blunders when it came to the life of troops. Thus, the first group imagined themselves to be above their true value, while the second group was more against them more than they deserved, and these two forces, instead of going hand in hand, were undermining each other.

Corps of Engineers suffered from the pedantic attention to the details at the expense of practicality, which was demonstrated during the Italian war. Their field fortifications had been meticulously implemented in all tiny details but its positioning was quite often far from good.

Austrian army was formed by universal conscription of all males reaching age of 20 but it was possible to bail out. Annual contingent was 80 - 85,000. The term of service in the active troops was eight, in the reserve is two years. The latter was not doing any training at peacetime.

The regiments had been raised in the permanently assigned regions which, in the multi-ethnic Austrian monarchy, was producing the units quite often hostile to each other and to the dominating Germans. Due to the same considerations the regiments were never located in the areas from which they are raised and usually their officers were from a nationalities different from one of the soldiers. Quite often the mutual understanding was limited to few command words.

The field army included:
  • Infantry. 80 regiments, 4 battalions and one reserve battalion each; from the latter in wartime, two companies were formed, appointed to serve in fortresses. Battalions had 6 companies. 38 Jaeger battalions are also six-companies, including the Imperial Jaeger Regiment. Each battalion had a cadre to form one reserve company during the war. The line infantry was armed with rifled rifles with triangular bayonets, and the light infantry (jaegers) was armed with the carbines with double-edged bayonets; a standard battle formation - two rows.
  • Cavalry. 12 cuirassier regiments of five squadrons; 2 dragoon, 14 hussar, 13 Uhlan six squadrons. In wartime, the fifth squadrons in heavy and sixth in light regiments were separated from regiments and make up reserve units for recruiting and training of horses.
  • Artillery. 12 regiments of ten-batteries each: 9 of them have 6 four-pounder and 2 eight-pounder foot batteries , 2 four-pounder eight-gun horse batteries; one park, four fortress companies and one missile battery. The remaining three regiments had 1 four-pounder, 4 eight-pounder foot and 5 horse batteries. All artillery had bronze rifled muzzle-loading guns.
  • Engineering troops. Two engineering regiments, four battalions each, four-company personnel. With martial law, one reserve company was formed for each battalion. There were six pioneer battalions, four-companies each.
  • Sanitary companies - 10. The shortage of doctors forced the government, at the very beginning of the mobilization, to invite free practitioners to serve, canceling their preliminary three-month test and assigning 200 guilders to senior and 100 junior doctors as a reward, not counting the moving expenses.

To provide food to the army, contracts were signed back in May supply contracts in Bohemia and Italy.

To care for the wounded, the Ministry of War ordered the construction of hospitals on the main railway lines, on navigable rivers, away from big cities, in noble castles and state buildings. Many hospitals were entrusted to the care of civilian doctors, urban societies and individuals.

The population responded to this call more sympathetically than could be expected by the apathy to which it was led by domestic policy in Austria. What they would not have done from sympathy to their own government, they were ready to make out of hatred of the Prussians. The middle class was inspired by anger at the instigators of the war, which threatened to undermine its already shaky, well-being. The nobility was also ready to make some sacrifices, because the Prussian tendencies to unite Germany threatened to undermine the Austrian order, thanks to which this nobility was very, very prosperous, despite the disasters of the people. These fears resulted in the fact that not only in German, but also in other provinces, the developed part of the population was quite favorable toward the war. But there could be no special internal strength in such a mood, which was revealed by the extreme modesty of donations made to the army.

On paper, strength of the Austrian army was 558,000 of the field army and 163,000 of the reserve. There was a substantial difference between the paper and real numbers but nobody could tell for sure how big it was.

As a part of mobilization 2 new army corps had to be formed, the fact which Milutin and some of his proponents in Russia used as a proof of the uselessness of the peace time corps organization.

The Northern Army commanded by Benedek consisted of 7 corps and 5 cavalry divisions (199 battalions, 163 squadrons, 648 guns, 6 pioneer battalions, 12 engineering and 5 sanitary companies):
  • The corps consisted of:
    • four brigades (the divisions were abolished after the Italian campaign), each having two infantry regiments, Jaeger battalion, battery 4-pound, cavalry squadron and engineering company.
    • The artillery reserve to 6 batteries, with a squadron as an assigned protection.
    • Pioneer Battalion and four engineering companies.
    • One sanitary company.
    • Two field infirmaries.
    • Telegraph Department
  • The first light cavalry division consisted of three, the second consisted of two brigades; three reserve - each of two.


To these forces we have to add the Saxon army, remarkable both in its excellent spirit and the fact that of the small German armies, only it was ready on time. In terms of spirit and education of officers, it stood quite close to the Prussian army: despite the fact that during campaign the Saxon army was in all cases against the greater masses of Prussian forces, it did not succumb to the needle rifle panic, fought perfectly everywhere and always retreated in a good order.

The Saxon army represented a corps of 20 battalions, 16 squadrons, 58 guns, consisting of two infantry divisions, one cavalry and an artillery reserve. Two squadrons were seconded to each infantry division. The artillery consisted of half rifled guns of the Prussian system, half of howitzers. Two batteries were assigned to each of the infantry divisions, and one battery to the cavalry division; the remaining five batteries were an artillery reserve.

Top commanders.
Benedek, the son of a poor doctor or pharmacist, achieved his position thanks to unparalleled personal courage and exceptional, under Austrian system, luck. He was now 60 years old but well preserved. In 1848, he and his regiment decided to win at Novara; he also took Brescia, and at Solferino, he not only was not defeated, but defeated the Italians, and if he retreated, it was only because the whole army retreated. After the Italian campaign, Benedek was appointed commander-in-chief in the Venetian region. The soldiers adored him; Benedek appreciated this love.

His personal energy was beyond doubt: he was an indispensable person to send troops into battle to achieve this goal; but he was hardly able to set it for himself. In short: being a remarkable tactician, Benedek was not a strategist at all. He reluctantly went to Bohemia, because he did not know, by his own admission, neither the theater of war nor the enemy with whom he had to fight. These reasons suggest that it is unlikely that Benedek had theoretical preparedness for the high command: his strength was in the practical routine acquired in the Italian theater of war. In Italy he would probably show himself brilliantly.

The lack of theoretical training best explains Benedek's indecision and weakness in strategic combinations, because he had no lack of practical knowledge and personal determination. In any case, he had more practice than any of the Prussian generals: therefore, the difference between them was mainly in the power of thought developed by the former by almost exclusively theoretical studies.

This one-sided talent completely natural in Benedek, as in an Austrian combat officer, was joined by a lack of faith in the strength of his position.
Benedek stayed in Italy in peacetime and, in anticipation of war, was appointed commander-in-chief of the northern army. The voice of the people and army pointed to his appointment as satisfying all sympathies and hopes; but it was the front side of the coin: the reverse side was his shaky position in Vienna, his distrust of himself and of the army trusted to him. This was instinctively transferred to the headquarters, and from it to the army. Benedek was resisting to his appointment to Bohemia, but he was reassured by the arguments that situation probably would not end in the war and that he would receive the widest power. Neither of which proved to be true. As far as the power was involved, he could not even chose his own immediate subordinates.


Thus, the Chief of Staff, von Henikstein, is said to have taken this place for reasons that had nothing to do with such an important appointment. While still in Italy, Benedek contributed to the appointment of Henikstein to Chief of General Staff to defend his interests in Vienna. The choice for this purpose was excellent: Henikstein was undoubtedly capable, but directed his abilities to improvement not so much in the military as in the specialty that made it easier to become important in Austria. Extremely active and sarcastic, Genikstein briefly gained strong influence in the Ministry of War.
When forming the Bohemian army, his former protege was appointed his chief of staff: Benedek could not claim that Henikstein, whom he himself had recommended as Chief of General Staff, was not suitable for his new position. Actually, Henikstein was an efficient officer on the corps level, and was promoted above his qualification and in spite of his own initial rejection of the appointment. Now, being saddled with him in a position for which he was hardly suitable, Benedek more or less limited his functions to runing a camping typography and communication with foreign correspondents. In solving military issues, the predominant voice belonged to Krismanich, Assistant Chief of Staff, who had never served under Benedek's command before, and therefore it is doubtful that he was elected.

Krismanich, being a person not without abilities, did not allow other people's ideas, and yet he did not have the right view and ability to assess the circumstances and made a quick decision. Except for him, no one had an influence on Benedek because Krismanich was not a person to tolerate a person next to him who could eclipse him.

As far as the field commanders were involved, Benedek had 2 corps commanders which were considered above the general level. In other words, not too much.

Austrian high commanders, like the Prussians, also issued instructions, although it was extra luxury, because, instructions were not routinely read in the Austrian army even by the senior commanders, not to mention officers - they did not read such documents because they look at them as a thing sent by the army commanders only to clear their conscience. This was reflection of the degree of apathy into which the army existed and which even war cannot stir up. The most curious people were asking "what's written there" from their Chiefs of Staff. And how to read it? Half of Benedek's instructions, which was made public after the war, took 18 pages of fine small print: and how with such instructions to contact people who do not want to read? In comparison, instruction issued by Prussian Prince Frederick-Karl to his army contained only 3 pages in a big font.

Of course, this instruction had little to do with Benedek except for the signature and looked much more as a scientific dissertation than an order to the troops. It contained very detailed, down to the company-level description of the Prussian tactics which, being more confused than useful, was ending with an absolutely wrong conclusion that the Prussian infantry is obsessed with firing from a covered position and, as a result, very reluctant to attack. Turning to how Austrian troops should act, the instruction fell completely into the tone of the scientific thesis, starting with the fact that the statutory rules in any case remain valid, because trust in their sanctity is a condition for success in war. It was obvious that here "preservation of force" should mean slave submission to the statutory norms, no matter how inapplicable. Again, for comparison, Frederick-Karl in his instruction left it to the discretion of the field officers to chose whichever tactics they consider most advantageous for specific occasion.

Then began the general truths appropriate in the theoretical guide, but strange in the practical instruction, because nothing can be squeezed out of them. Thus, it was recalled that both reckless courage and great indecision are equally bad; that when using different types of weapons, it is necessary to take into account the peculiarities of each of them, and if they act together, then everyone should be used in a timely manner, etc.

This part was followed by the advices regarding operations in the “special cases”. It was starting with a detailed geographic description of Prussian terrain followed with the valuable advices:
  • The first advice stated that divisional (two-companies) columns should be used in a rugged terrain and battalion columns in open terrain.
  • The second was that if an unit suffers from fire, it should be moved;
  • The third, that in defense, infantry should be hiding behind local objects or lie down, etc.
Why all this applies to the Prussian plain, and not to any area, was difficult to decide.

And this treasury of the “useful” knowledge kept going on with the rare valuable items, like unit’s cohesion, squeezed between the item regarding the daily reports and instruction that the officers who were supposed to be on a horseback must not get off their horses during a battle. Then there was a wise observation that while the officers’ bravery is a good thing, it must be exercised in moderation because a fighting unit without its officers will disintegrate.

But there were some valuable items as well:
  • It was allowed to permit soldiers, mainly in hot times, to relax their ties and unbutton the uniforms; it is also allowed to strengthen yourself with food during the battle intervals, without leaving the ranks.
  • Infantry can lie on the ground without leaving the ranks, to shelter from the enemy's eyes. Note, only "can", not “should”; this was more a concession of human weakness than a measure due to the need to save troops...

To be fair, instruction issued by Archduke Albrecht to his army in Italywas shorter and contained some truly valuable items, especially regarding effective use of the artillery.

[1] Understandably for the Russian of that time, Dragomirov did not like the Austrians and rather liked the Prussians. As a result, his description of the Astrian-Prussian War is seriously biased with the serious problems on the Prussian side being glossed over and those on Austrian side emphasized. But pretty much all sources that I read are agreeing that the Austrians were much worse on pretty much all levels.
[2] Instruction on using the trenches is along the same lines.
[3] At that time the French cavalry had been doing maneuvers in the specially selected nice open terrain without any obstacles. Russian Guards cavalry was doing pretty much the same. At the start of WWI French cavalry suffered huge losses of the horses on its march to the front because it was crossing even the small rivers by the bridges leaving horses without a water.
[4] Dragomirov, again.
[5] But they were OK in Prussia and in most of Austrian army so this argument does not look convincing.