In This Review

Politics and the Russian Army: Civil-Military Relations, 1689-2000
Politics and the Russian Army: Civil-Military Relations, 1689-2000
By Brian D. Taylor
Cambridge University Press, 2003, 374 pp

Taylor, in this unique account of Russian civil-military relations from pre-Soviet times to the post-Soviet era, asks why such a powerful military did not intervene in government even when political turmoil invited it to do so. Although Taylor's attempts at social science are rather tortuous, with a lot on "organizational norms" and little on political ideology, his actual descriptions of civil-military relations over the course of Russian history are readable and consistently interesting, particularly for the Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin periods. His basic thesis, persuasive as far as it goes, is that a well-established organizational culture dating from the nineteenth century discouraged coups even when the opportunity arose. Taylor avoids "monocausal explanations" and recognizes the significance of changing political structures. In a story that includes multiple revolutions, two world wars, and the dead hand of Stalinism, the civil half of the equation is just as important as the military.