Page for one of the reenactor units
Even on Christmas Eve, we don’t want to miss giving you all a W4. So go and check out BergenSchild.ru.
First, the bad news: it’s all in Russian. (Somewhere in Russia, Max Popenker shrugs. “What’s the big deal about that?”).
And he’s not the only one. The officers of the 54th Minsk Infantry Regiment are cool with that. Here they are, in one of the pictures on the site. The Polkovnik and his senior officers appear to be front and center. Apparently, you needed whiskers to be an Imperial Russian officer:
Now, the good news: Bergenschild.ru is a treasure trove of primary documents we haven’t found elsewhere, including reproductions of Russian equivalents of what in the US Army are technical manuals (about stuff, like rifles and cannons) and field manuals (about how to do stuff, like fight with bayonets or employ an infantry unit in combat).
So what? We can hear you thinking. That Soviet doctrinal stuff is all over the net, what’s the big deal?
The big deal is that this isn’t Soviet stuff. In fact, it’s older: it’s Tsarist doctrinal material from the era of the Russo-Japanese War and World War I, mostly. We were able to negotiate it with our thready and weak Russian language skills, but you could also attack the site through Google Translate, always bearing in mind the Monty Python Hungarian Dictionary Sketch. “Your hovercraft is full of eels!”
Now, as you might expect, Tsarist doctrine went a long way to form early Soviet doctrine; entire units changed sides in the Revolution and Civil War, and they brought their way of doing things with them. The Soviets talked a good game about “a new way of war,” but that’s mostly what it was, talk. (One thing they did do is decrease the hereditary and increased the meritocratic input to officer selection, which brought Russia into line with other modern nations).
Whether you’re interested in this period or the later, Soviet, period, this next document should be especially delightful to you Mosin-Nagant fans who wonder how Ivan really intended to use that bayonet:
Both include the original plates illustrating the fighting positions and moves. Unfortunately there’s no whole-document .pdf download.
The site \ belongs to a group of historian-reenactors who call themselves “Mountain Shield,” and they are as fascinated and obsessed by the technology and culture of the pre-revolutionary Imperial Russian Army as any reenactors anywhere are fascinated by their chosen period. Compared to even the Russian Civil War or the Russo-Polish War (let alone the Great Patriotic War, as Russian historiography styles their fight for survival in World War II), the military culture of Tsar Nicholas II is a historical black hole.
And some of it is just… mysterious. This 1905-dated photo, which appears to have been scanned from halftone in a book, shows Russian troops lounging in an unidentified port, possibly Port Arthur, on top of a Jules Verne vision, which the caption defines as an “underwater boat”. Russian, or Japanese? Ya neznayu.
1905 submarine with Russian soldiers. Anyone know more?
It looks like a stouter CSS Hunley, actually. It’s part of a gallery that begins on a page described: Equipment of the Russo-Japanese War (“Niva,” 1905). Another picture from that page shows a soldier in a plowed field, about to handle an unexploded 11-inch battleship shell, with a smaller Japanese shrapnel dud next to his leg.
As anybody from EOD can tell you, after the first couple ounces, all the rest of the explosives are “free.”
The following is captioned, “In position. Mounted machine gun before an enemy attack,” and is credited to “Special Correspondent V. Taburin” of “Niva” (presumably a news magazine of the period). (Link).
The mount of the Maxim is very interesting, as is the gun itself which may be a bought British-made gun, not a Russian-produced M1905. The mount looks like it may have had a matching limber for ammunition, and been drawn by draught horses or by men. It’s also interesting that the crewmen do not have fixed bayonets. The casual stances of the officers on the right suggest that this photo was taken nowhere near the threat of enemy fire, caption notwithstanding.
In another photo taken behind the same gun, you can see that the rifles are definitely Mosin-Nagants. And in yet another photo, from a different gallery of Russo-Japanese War pictures, you can see a marksman taking aim (“at the enemy,” the caption assures us). His Mosin clearly has the bayonet mounted. If you blow up the picture you see that other soldiers formed a human ladder to assist him and the binocs-using officer up the tree.
Treasures like this are why we like Bergenschild.ru. Perhaps you will, too!