Porridge from an axe and Russian Mentality
Andrei Tarkovsky
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Army Training under Peter the Great

Russians soon understood что с необученным войском против шведа не повоюешь (that with an untrained army against the Swedes, they would had no chances to win). Peter the Great decided to form a constant army. Пусть солдаты занимаются ружейными приемами (let the soldiers learn the techniques of guns) and привыкают к дисциплине и порядку (get accustomed to discipline and order).

One day, Петр ехал мимо солдатских казарм (Peter was going past the soldiers’ barracks). He saw the soldiers learning ходить строем (to march in formation). A young officer was standing next to the soldiers подает команды (leading them). The Tsar heard something quite unusual from the team:

Сено, солома! (Hay, Straw!) – shouted the officer. – Сено, солома! (Hay, Straw!)

“What’s that?” – thought Peter. He stopped his horse and looked closer: something was tied at the feet of the soldiers. Looking even closer, the Tsar realised that each soldier had hay attached on his left leg and straw on his right one.

When the officer noticed Peter, he shouted:

Смирно! (Attention!)

The soldiers froze and the officer ran to the Tsar.

– Sir Captain bombardier, training company officer Vyazemsky.
Вольно! (Stand at ease!) Ordered Peter.

The Tsar liked Vyazemsky. Peter was angry about this “hay and straw” and wanted to tell the officer, but instead he thought for a minute and ask Vyazemsky:

– What sort of rubbish are tied to your soldiers’ feet?
– This is not rubbish, Captain bombardier, – answered the officer.
– How’s that, no rubbish! – Peter objected. – This is a disgrace for a soldier. Устав не знаешь (there is nothing like that in the manual of service regulations).
– No, Sir! – he said. – It’s to make it easier for soldiers to learn. Темнота, бомбардир-капитан, никак не могут различить, где левая нога, где правая (ignorance can’t discern their left leg from their right ones). And with hay and straw, they can’t be confused: they are rural.

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The Tsar marvelled at the ingenuity and grinned. А вскоре Петр принимал парад (soon, Peter was reviewing his troupes). The best one was the last company.

– Who is the commander? – asked Peter to the General.
– The officer Vyazemsky, – said the general.

Ирина Антонова