CADET CORPS AS CENTRES OF CHARACTER AND MENTALITY TRAINING OF THE OFFICERS OF THE RUSSIAN IMPERIAL ARMY (1825-1916) (Korpusy kadetów jako osrodki ksztaltowania osobowosci i mentalnosci oficerów armii carskiej (1825-1916))
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This article deals with the functioning of the Russian cadet corps, the primary stage in the system of military service training in Tsarist Russia. This study is based on diaries, memoirs and other accounts written by men with direct experience of that educational institution. In 1917 the Russian Empire had 23 cadet corps and two elite establishments, the Corps of Pages and the Marine Corps (the latter two were, of course, in every respect superior to the rest). Between 1825 and 1916 all cadet corps produced a total of 68,611 officers. The cadet corps functioned as designated prep and boarding schools: the youngest recruits were boys nine to twelve years old, predominantly from the families of the gentry and the military. Although the curriculum was fairly broad, the quality of education offered by those schools was hardly impressive. The reasons for it must be sought in the heavy-handed style of education, lack of appropriate teaching aids, and the generally low level of pedagogical skills and professional knowledge among the staff. The boys spent a lot of time practicing military drill and in the summer had to go to special training camps. The educational system was founded on drill and a code of harsh punishments, from whipping to expulsion or relegation to an NCO post in the army. Rigourous discipline was to make the cadets stop thinking for themselves and to transform them into obedient tools of Russia's ruling dynasty. Yet, in spite of all the surveillance, the cadets were not completely cut off from 'subversive' literature. At least some of them were able to at get access to progressive ideas and independent assessments of the political situation in the Russian Empire. Whereas in the first half of the 19th century most of the graduates of the Cadet Corps took up the officer's post in the army, in the later decades an increasing number of graduates wanted to continue their education and sought admission to military academies.
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