Back to the Future? Tolstoy and Post‐Communist Russian Military Politics


Political Science and International Affairs

Document Type


Publication Date



Past attempts to understand the phenomena of corruption, insubordination, and factionalism within the post‐Communist Russian military have tended to focus on the question of military professionalism. Unfortunately, in spite of a great deal of superb research, no conclusive evidence has yet to emerge that can truly explain the evolution of these unexpected phenomena. This article suggests that at least some insight may be gained through an examination of Russian military culture as interpreted by the great pre‐Communist writer Leo Tolstoy. With this in mind, Tolstoy's War and Peace (1865–69), the greatest of all literary works with regard to Russian military affairs, is examined in an effort to explain Russian military behaviour. This article suggests that it is not unreasonable to conclude that the perceived military culture of Russia's past may very well affect the way in which military politics are to be conducted today. The Russian military may very well be looking ‘back to the future’ for guidance as to the role they should play in the politics of the new Russia.