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Slavic Library

Military Science of Russia

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This section of the Guide does not purport to be in any way comprehensive. This is in part the result of the sheer volume of the material published on Russian military science. Russian culture has been intimately intertwined with its military throughout its history, and it is impossible to overestimate the pride Russians feel for their military and the importance the successive regimes have placed on developing military might. Tsar Alexander III summed up this attitude well when he quipped, "Russia has only two allies, its army and its navy." No wonder then that the amount of Russian literature on military matters is vast. The bibliographic apparatus to this literature, on the other hand, is surprisingly weak. Good bibliographies are few and far between, and many have been published only in tiny print runs, making them virtually inaccessible. The dearth of bibliographies of bibliographies on the subject is symptomatic of the problem.

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Several reasons for this situation could be posited. First, the Russian approach to military matters is more holistic than is the case with Western countries. Simply put, this means that the Russians often do not draw a precise line between the military and civilian sectors. Throughout Russia's history, the civilian and military spheres of life have been tightly interwoven, from the structuring of industrial production and its very leadership to the integration of military training into the system of education.

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An example of the result of this situation is the virtual lack of bibliographies on the issue of civil defense, which is given a major role in Soviet/Russian military doctrine (to a far greater extent than is done in the West). The citations of works on civil defense are scattered throughout tiny bibliographies ('informatsionnyi spisok literatury'), published by various libraries in sizes of just a few pages and print runs about 100 copies. A researcher of the topic of 'grazhdanskaia oborona'  must pursue leads in works on a whole series of related topics that contain material pertinent to the subject, such as works on DOSAAF (and its successor organizations) or items discussing the plans for defense against a WMD attack.

When considering the question of the publication of guides to military material, one should not underestimate the all-pervasive culture of secrecy, particularly when touching upon broadly defined national security issues. The necessity of safeguarding perceived military secrets is a distinct cultural attitude spanning centuries of Russian history. The researcher must also bear in mind that the military literature has been heavily censored and tainted by ever-present propaganda.

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The guide contains bibliographies that may overlap chronologically, but due to changing censorship rules and the availability of material one cannot expect bibliographies published at different times to contain the same items, even if the historical period described is the same. Similarly, some of the guides with a visual component (i.e. guides to uniforms and decorations) also show chronological overlap.   There is a plethora of such guides available in English, some of which were published in limited editions.  As with other sections of the Guide, however, the focus here is on the major Russian-language sources.

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Research in the area of Russian/Soviet military science is perhaps the easiest for historians, since bibliographies centered around particular historical events are most abundant. Publication of modern bibliographies lags behind, so in tracking the recent developments, online databases (INION's Gosudarstvo i Pravo database for example or EastView's Russian National Bibliographic database for current publications),  and quality websites are the researcher's best bet. Researchers must be somewhat creative in finding lists of sources. In doing so it is important to keep in mind the abovementioned intertwining of the military and civilian sectors, which makes it worthwhile to search online resources that are not dedicated strictly to military matters.

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