“Statute on National Defense Council” adopted

21 June 1905

8 (21) June 1905 was adopted a “Statute on National Defense Council”.

Decision on establishment of the Council of National Defense was due to failures of the Russian-Japanese war and the desire to reorganize the country's armed forces, to coordinate the activities of higher military and maritime departments among themselves and with other government agencies. On behalf of Nicholas II the Statute was developed by a special meeting chaired by the Grand Duke Nicholas, who 23 (10) June was appointed to head the new agency.

Under the Statute, the newly established Council reported directly to the Emperor. It consisted of eight indispensable officio members (Minister of War, Head of the Marine Department, Chief of the General Staff and the Naval Staff and 4 Inspector-Generals in accordance with arms of the service) and 6 permanent members, annually appointed by the Emperor from among the generals and admirals. Also, the Council could invite as members other ministers, chief superintendents and "higher authorities of the army and navy."

Chairman appointed by the Emperor had the sovereign right of a personal report, as well as the right to make inquiries to ministers and heads of departments on matters within the competence of the Council. The War Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, manager of the Marine Department and Chief of General Staff informed the chairman on major projects and proposals related to national defense. In case of absence or illness of the chairman, his duties were fulfilled by a member of the Council appointment by the Emperor.

The Council was charged with the analysis of measures to strengthen national defense, preparatory works in case of war, proposals regarding changes in the activities of military and naval authorities caused by special circumstances, the coordination of interagency disagreements on issues of national defense. The most important task of the Council was also monitoring the implementation of measures to restructure the country's defense.

The Council had the right to submit proposals to the Emperor relating to matters of national defense, but it did not possess executive power. Council’s resolutions approved by the Emperor were carried out by the ministers, to whose agency they belonged.

In a short time the National Defense Council had focused not only on consideration of issues regarding the national defense but also to some extent, on the practical leadership of the army, sharing this task with the Council of the General Directorate of the General Staff. Thus, 6 (19) April 1906 under the Council of National Defense was established the Higher Attestation Committee, concerned with the suitability for service of generals and their readiness to be appointed to various command posts. Resolutions of the Committee were submitted for the imperial approval.

In total, the Council had considered 72 issues, eliminated the isolation of various departments in the higher military command and control, centralized the control of all kinds of troops, limited the influence and interference of the Grand Dukes in the governing of the armed forces.

In 1908 began a return to a centralized military command under the auspices of the reorganized military department, and in August 1909 the National Defense Council was abolished, the General Staff became part of the Military Department, and all powers of governing  the arms of the service were given over to the heads of the main departments.


Lit.: Бурдужук В. И. «Властное многоголовье» и как его ликвидировали… // Военно-исторический журнал. 1995. № 5. С.4-10; Военная реформа: сб. ст. СПб., 1906; Высшие и центральные государственные учреждения России, 1801—1917. Т. 1. СПб., 2000. С. 204—205; Кузин В. В. Совет Государственной Обороны (1908—1909 гг.). М., 1950; Письмо председателя Совета Государственной обороны министру иностранных дел, 3 февраля 1908 г. // Вестник Народного комиссариата иностранных дел. 1919. № 1. С. 25-26.

From the Presidential library materials:

Полное собрание законов Российской империи. Собрание 3‑е. Т. 25 (1905). СПб., 1908. № 26374. С. 439—442.