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Sukhomlinov Effect

An Army may travel on its stomach, but defeat or victory rides on the epaulets. In a conflict between two armies with uniforms, the troops with the more elaborate uniforms will lose. Special attention goes to the uniforms of the officers: big hats, jangling medals, and feather plumes spell certain defeat.

The Sukhomlinov Effect is named after the sartorially smashing but [supposedly] strategically stumbling World War I Czarist War Minister, V.A. Sukhomlinov. The 'law' that wars are lost by the side that wears snappier uniforms is named after the Russian chief of general staff and minister of war (until 1915) Vladimir Sukhomlinov. He wore uniforms with gold braid up to his elbows and is often [unfairly] held responsible for the Russian unpreparedness for war in 1914. Barbara Tuchman gives a thoroughly negative view of Sukhomlinov in her Guns of August, but other accounts of his career are rather more favorable.

"There is a curious, disturbingly regular, pattern apparent here. In war, victory goes to the side whose leaders appear the least prepossessing. The handsome dressers lose. This is particularly obvious for military field dress. ... It is not accidental, therefore, that the revolutionary's garb is puritanical, a symbol of renunciation of the old order. There is Mao Tse Tung's boiler suit. Ho Chi Minh's simple jacket. Fidel Castro's messy fatigues. It is the outlook which such renunciation garb represents that gives staying power to the Long March, single purpose to the revolution, and appeals so seductively to the jaded mentality of bourgeois intellectuals." [James, BJ; Beaumont, RA (1971) The Law of Military Plumage (Dressed Up to Kill). Transition [Magazine] 39: 2427.]

In Dirty Little Secrets, James F. Dunnigan and Albert Nofi write [on page 283]: "Consider the lessons of history: the barbarian invasions, the Dutch War for Independence, the English Civil War, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War, WWI, the Russian Revolution, WWII, the several Arab-Israeli Wars, the Vietnam War, and the Afghan War were all lost by the side that had the snappier uniforms. There is more than a coincidence here, though the suggestion of a "law" at work is perhaps a bit facetious. ... The Sukhomlinov Effect describes a common pathology of armies. Particularly in peacetime, armies tend to concern themselves more with appearances and style than with fighting skill, which cannot, after all, be demonstrated. Men who "look" like generals- tall, ruggedly handsome guys with broad shoulders and splendid posture who wear the uniform well- are more likely to be promoted than those who may have a real talent for war, since the latter may not meet the peacetime criteria. Although lots of fine commanders have been short, and fat, and slovenly, they had to wait around for a war before they could prove themselves. There is no known way to pick the able generals in peacetime. As a result, despite a few notable exceptions, the generals who command at the onset of a war are rarely still in charge by its conclusion."

In 1899 the Prince of Wales had the right to wear seventeen, British Naval and Military uniforms and four foreign uniforms. In the first place. His Royal Highness was a field-marshal. Then he was colouel-in-chief of the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, and of the Royal Hors^ Guards. He was also colonel of the 10th Hussars, and captain-general and colonel of the Honourable Artillery Company. Besides these he was honorary colonel of the following: The Norfolk Artillery (Eastern Division R.A.), the 3rd Battilion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, 3rd Battalion Gordon Highlanders, 4th Volunteer Battalion Suffolk Regiment (the Cambridge University Volunteers), 1st Volunteer Battalion Oxfordshire Light Infantry, the 6th Volunteer Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps (for service in which battalion he wears the Volunteer Decoration), 2nd Volunteer Battalion Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, the Duke of Albany's), the 2nd Regiment of the Ghoorka Infantry, the 6th Bengal Cavalry, and the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteers.

He also had the right to wear a Naval uniform as an honorary Admiral of the Fleet.

The Prince also had four foreign uniforms, namely, as honorary co!onel of the 5th Pomeranian (Blucher) Hussars, the 12th Austro-Hungarian Hussars, and the Kieff Regimeut of Russian Dragoons, and of the 1st Prussian Regiment of Dragoon Guards. The uniform of the 5th Pomeranian Hussars was a crimson coat and dark blue trousers. The 12th Austro-Hungarian Hussars wear blue coats and red trousers. The Kieff Regiment of Russian Dragoons had dark green tunics and blue trousers. The 1st Prussian Regiment of Dragoon Guards were red coated, with light blue facings and dark blue trousers.

It is reported that Kaiser Wilhelm II could find no better way of expressing his resentment at Great Britain when the war broke out, than by renouncing his titles, and returning his British uniforms. He sent a message to that effect to the British Ambassador in Berlin before the war was many hours old. "His Majesty begs that you will tell the King that he has been proud of the titles of British Field Marshal and British Admiral, but that in consequence of what has occurred, he must now at once divest himself of those titles."

The uniforms have duly been returned, but it was said that the Kaiser was still able to wear more different uniforms than any other man in the history of the world. He was entitled to wear 150 different kinds of foreign uniform alone, while the variety of German uniforms he could assume brought the total up to well over 500. A whole suite of apartments, full of wardrobes, was devoted at' Potsdam to the housing of the Kaiser's uniforms, and it is said that he often wore ten or a dozen uniforms in the course of a day. If, for instance, he were receiving a distinguished Russian in uniform, he would put on one of his thirty Russian uniforms for the occasion; and so on. It was not surprising to learn that he has the privilege, in some honorary capacity, of wearing the uniform of every regiment in the German Army. He cherished this privilege, and exercised it.

Vladimir Aleksandrovich SukhomlinovVladimir Aleksandrovich Sukhomlinov (1848-1926), the Russian general and war minister, was born in 16 August 1848. He passed through the cavalry school in St. Petersburg, and in 1867 was given a commission in the Guard Ulans. He graduated from the Academy of the General Staff in 1874. He took part in the war with Turkey in 1877-8 as an officer of the general staff, and was awarded the St. George Cross of the fourth degree.

From 1884 to 1886 he commanded a dragoon regiment and from 1886 to 1897 he was the head of the officers' cavalry school in St. Petersburg, having meantime in 1890 been promoted to the rank of general. His next appointment was as commander of the 10th Cavalry Division. In 1899, while commanding the troops of the Kiev military district, Gen. Dragomirov appointed him as his chiefof-staff and later as his assistant. His close connexion with Gen. Dragomirov, who enjoyed enormous prestige in the Russian army, ensured Sukhomlinov's future career. After the death of Dragomirov, he was appointed commander in Kiev.

In March 1909, Vladimir Sukhomlinov took over the post of Minister of War of the Russian Empire. He was a proponent of the development and use of new technologies; Thanks to him, the Russian army established automotive units and a naval air fleet. In 1911, the Russian army military counter-intelligence was established.

In the Council of Ministers at Suhomlinova had a difficult relationship with Minister of finance V.N. Kokovcovym, who sought to reduce military spending. In the midst of the first world war, when in the spring of 1915, the biggest disadvantage of shells and other military equipment, Suhomlinova became regarded as the main perpetrator of poor supply of the Russian army. In June 1915, he was dismissed from his post as Minister of war, and soon there began investigations of his activities at the ministerial post.

In March 1916, Vladimir Sukhomlinov was dismissed from military service in April was arrested and while the investigation continued, had been detained in Trubeckom bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress. In October, he was transferred to house arrest. As co-defendants were also his wife E.B. Butovic.

The trial of Suhomlinovym lasted for months. He was charged with treason, idle power and bribery. The majority of the allegations had been substantiated, however, Vladimir Sukhomlinov was found guilty of unpreparedness of the army for war and sentenced to indefinite and deprivation of all rights. His wife was acquitted. Katorga was soon replaced by a term of imprisonment, and was placed in Sukhomlinov Trubetskoy bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress.

After the October revolution, Vladimir Sukhomlinov was transferred to another prison. In May 1918, as a result of an amnesty, he was released and then travelled to Finland and from there to Germany. In exile, wrote memoirs, which tried to rehabilitate him. Vladimir Aleksandrovich Sukhomlinov February 2, 1926 died in Berlin.

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Page last modified: 20-05-2012 19:07:30 ZULU