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The notion of the Labor army (трудовая армия, трудармия) was introduced in Soviet Russia during 1920. Initially the term was applied to regiments of Red Army transferred from military activity to labor activity, such as logging, coal mining, firewood stocking, etc.
The first labor army (1я Трудармия, 1-я армия труда) was created after the defeat of Kolchak on the base of the 3rd Army located in the Urals region by the initiative of the army commander Mikhail Matiyasevich (командарм Михаил Степанович Матиясевич).
Leon Trotsky, acting as People's Commissar of Army and Fleet Affairs and Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic at this time, developed this idea further. He argued that the economic situation in the country required introduction of the universal labor duty. In the case of workers, this could be done with the help of trade unions, while in the case of peasantry, Trotsky argued, it was possible only through mobilization.
He argued further that "army-type organization is in fact inherently Soviet type of organization".
His critics argued that this idea was leading back to the times of tsarism and slavery. Trotsky retorted that unlike old times, workers were supposed to work not for exploiters, but for their own good, for their own state, i.e., labor duty is the fulfillment of the obligations of the liberated working class with respect to their "worker-peasant state" in the cases of emergency.
By the end of the Russian Civil War and the introduction of New Economic Policy (partially supported by Trotsky) the idea of the labor army ended, especially after Joseph Stalin's assumption of power and the implementation of his policies of industrialization and collectivization, which effectively solved the problem of workforce mobilization both in industry and agriculture.
Later Soviet Union
Until the last days of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Army incorporated the idea of the labor army. With obligatory military duty in the state, men deemed unfit for regular military duty, as well as many able-bodied ones, were assigned to construction battalions (стройбаты). This tradition continues in a number of post-Soviet states, notably Russia and Belarus.