Talk:Soviet Armed Forces

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In order to properly expand and rewrite the article on the Soviet Army Ground Forces, I'm splitting away an article on the Soviet Armed Forces as a whole. Any help's appreciated. Buckshot06 23:14, 27 October 2006 (UTC)

Not correct[edit]

Why is'nt the annexation of the three Baltic States in 1940 mentioned here? It was a part of Molotov-Ribbentroph pact also, just as sharing Polen and attacking Finland was.

And the KIA/MIA numbers I am very skeptic too. KIA on Soviet side must be higher. Do NEVER trust soviet sources when it comes to WWII!

The article also says: "Red Army T-34 tanks outclassed any other tanks in the world". This is not correct. German Tiger, and later KoningsTiger was far better. Also others where better than T34. T34 where easy to shoot trough, due to armor of not the higest quality. Only reason T34 reached Berlin, is that it was produced in such high numbers. (only reason why Soviet won the east front, is due to extreme numbers of material and personell, not cleverness, but that is another story). Has this article been written by a russian?? (or a stupid propagandaist, I see the main contributor has been banned from Wikipedia).

Confusing introduction[edit]

The introduction is just perplexing.

The Military of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was the Armed Forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from their establishment, before the USSR itself was formed, by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War in 1918, to the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

I just can't tell what this is saying. From whose establishment? How could it be the armed forces of the USSR before the USSR was formed?

According to the compulsory service law of September 1918, the Soviet Armed Forces as a whole consisted of the Ground Forces, the Air Forces, naval forces, the OGPU, predecessor of the KGB and MVD, and convoy guards.[1]

Impossible to parse. Which was the predecessor of the KGB and MVD, and convoy guards—the Soviet Armed Forces or the OGPU? Or was the convoy guards the fifth element of the Soviet Armed Forces? Why are some of these capitalized and some not?

Later the state security apparatus was made independent.

Is the "state security apparatus" the Armed Forces or the OGPU? What was it made independent from?

After the Second World War the Strategic Rocket Forces and the Air Defense Forces were added, standing first and third in the official Soviet reckoning of comparative importance (with the Ground Forces being second, the Air Forces being fourth, and the Navy fifth).

Were these existing organizations which were added to the "Armed Forces", or were they created after WWII? Michael Z. 2007-08-05 06:35 Z

new structure proposal[edit]

Here it is

  • 1 Legacy, origins and history
1.1 Russian Civil War
1.2 Party Control of the Armed Forces
1.3 Polish-Soviet War
1.4 Under Stalin's control
1.5 Far East
1.6 Purges
1.7 Great Patriotic War (separate article)
1.1 The Scope of the War
1.2 The Polish Campaign
1.3 The Finnish Campaigns
1.4 1st period of GPW
1.5 2nd Period of GPW
1.6 3rd Period of GPW
1.7 The Manchurian Campaign
1.8 post-war Soviet Armed Forces (separate article for Cold War)
1.9 The Korean War
1.10 The Vietnam War
1.11 Foreign military assistance
1.12 The limited contingent in Afghanistan

Transition from Soviet Army to Armed forces of the Russian Federation and former Soviet republics in a separate article

  • 2 Military doctrine (as a process of learning from history)
2.1 Deep Operations
2.2 Stalin's "eagles" (the rise, destruction and rise of the Red Air forces)
2.3 Operational Manoeuvre Groups
2.4 Gorshkov's Navy
2.5 The Strategic Nuclear Forces
  • 3 Organisation (organising for the doctrines)
3.1 Higher command structure
3.2 Administrative structure and Rear Services
3.3 Arms of Service, Service Corps and command establishments
3.4 Peace and Wartime field structures (links to articles on organisation of formations and units)
3.5 Post-GPW changes
3.6 Post-Stalinist changes
3.7 "Nuclear battlefield" impact
  • 4 Personnel
4.1 Rank structure
4.2 General Staff
4.3 Military education
4.4 Officers and enlisted personnel
4.5 Armed Forces culture
  • 5 Weapons and equipment (developing the equipment for the personnel)

(Links to equipment articles by Arm of Service)

5.1 Ground Forces
5.2 Air Forces
5.3 Soviet Navy
5.3 Ministry of Internal Affairs
5.4 Strategic Rocket Forces
5.5 Air Defense Forces
  • 6 Desolution of the Soviet Armed Forces
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References

--mrg3105 (comms) ♠♣ 01:37, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

why are there two of the same articels?[edit]

there is this article and then there is an article called "the red army" that is the same thing. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:41, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

This is the entire armed forces. Red Army is the land forces only. Buckshot06(prof) 12:59, 12 January 2009 (UTC)

This isn't made clear in the article. Also, the Red Army isn't mentioned after World War II, is there a reason for that? (talk) 04:02, 23 July 2012 (UTC)

Suggested corrections and annotations[edit]

The Soviet Armed Forces refers to the armed forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from its establishment during the Russian Civil War in 1918 by the Bolsheviks to the its dissolution in December 1991. [It is not true. The Red Army was officially created on 23 of February 1918. But in reality head of the Soviet Government V. Lenin signed decree of creation of Workers-Peasants Red Army or WPRA, direct transliteration RKKA (Russian: Рабоче-Крестьянская Красная Армия – РККА) on 15 of January (Julian Calendar; or 28 of January – Gregorian Calendar) 1918. A decree to create Workers-Peasants Red Navy WPRN, direct transliteration RKKF (Russian: Рабочее-Крестьянский Красный Флот – РККФ) was signed by Lenin on 29 January (Gregorian Calendar – 11 of February) 1918. Both were created exclusively in order to defend the Soviet state from Kaiser Wilhelm’s Army (for a reason of international proletarian solidarity the German army was not called then “German”, but the “Kaiser’s” army).

18 of February (Gregorian Calendar from now on) the Kaiser’s army began strategic offensive on its Eastern Front, occupying Minsk on 21st of February, and, later also Tallinn (on 25th), Pskov (on 25th) and Narva (on 3rd of March) and threatening Petrograd – the then capital of Russia and that of the October Revolution. On 21st of February Soviet Government in Petrograd issued a Manifesto dubbed “Socialist Fatherland in Danger!” {ironically, it was the first and the last instance when Bolsheviks afforded to call a country “fatherland”, since according to their beliefs a country could only be a “motherland”, while the “Fatherland” belonged to the Heavenly Father – i.e. located in the World to Come; but in this particular case they were in a real danger and were appealing to the “backward” population inherited from a previous regime, so they afforded that blasphemy; but the next time Russians would revert from “motherland” concept back to “fatherland” only in 1995 – when the last remnants of communism were all over; but this is just a lyrical digression} On 23rd of February in Petrograd was conducted a “Red Army Day” under the slogan of protection of “Socialist Fatherland” from the Kaiser’s Germany. Since then the 23 of February was being celebrated as the birth day of the Red and later – of the Soviet Army. It is being in fact celebrated privately by many people up to this day. During celebrations (for as late as beginning of 90s) it was always officially reminded to people that the Red Army was created in order to stop Kaiser’s offensive towards Pskov and Narva and it was always credited for saving Petrograd from the Kaiser’s army. It has never been mentioned that the Red Army’s creation has anything to do with the Civil War which in reality started much later. On 10 of February 1995 the Russian State Duma passed a law according to which the 23 of February was officially dubbed as follows: “23 февраля — День победы Красной Армии над кайзеровскими войсками Германии (1918 год) — День защитника Отечества”.- “23 of February – Day of victory of Red Army over Kaiser’s troops of Germany (1918) – Day of Protector of Fatherland” {this was, by the way, the very moment when Russian officially denounced a Bolshevist concept of motherland and finally reverted to Tsarist concept of fatherland – so striking out of their language the last remaining revolutionary reminder}]

[a red flag with yellow star in its middle shown to the right is a North Vietnamese flag; it has absolutely nothing to do either with Red, or with Soviet Army. You can see a typical Red Flag of the Red/Soviet Army here: but this one is a general purpose flag – for example, flag of this kind was hoisted over the fascist Reichstag in 1945. Regimental Red Banners looked very differently, for example, a typical Red Banner of a regiment bearing a honorable title “Guards’ regiment” during 40s, 50s and up to 80s you can see here:Знамя%20полка.jpg - this particular one belongs to 336th Separate Guard’s Belostok Marines Regiment – taken from this site ; a Red Banner of an ordinary (not honorably titled) regiment looked about the same but without Lenin’s face embroidered in its middle; an example of an Honorable Revolutionary Red Banner presented by the Government to some deserving rifle regiment during Civil War times you could see here: ; a few more various regimental red banners you could see here: ]

According to the compulsory service law of September 1918, the Soviet Armed Forces consisted of five components: the Ground Forces, the Air Forces, the Navy, the State Political Directorate (OGPU) (predecessor of the Committee for State Security and Ministry of Internal Affairs), and Internal Troops.[1] The OGPU was later made independent. After World War II the Strategic Rocket Forces and the Air Defense Forces were added, standing first and third in the official Soviet reckoning of comparative importance (with the Ground Forces being second, the Air Forces fourth, and the Navy fifth.


The Council of People's Commissars set up the Red Army by decree on January 15, 1918 (Old Style) (January 28, 1918), basing it on the already-existing Red Guard. The official Red Army Day of February 23, 1918 marked the day of the first mass draft of the Red Army in Petrograd and Moscow, and of the first combat action against the occupying imperial German army. February 23 became an important national holiday in the Soviet Union, later celebrated as "Soviet Army Day", and it continues as a day of celebration in present-day Russia as Defenders of the Motherland Day. [as I have mentioned above Fatherland, not Motherland] Credit as the founder of the Red Army generally goes to Leon Trotsky, the People's Commissar for War from 1918 to 1924. [It is not true. Credit goes to Lenin, not to Trotsky. Trotsky was indeed a very successful military commander in Civil War, but not the founder as claimed. Moreover, Trotsky later attempted to fight against main-stream communists, was declared an enemy of people and deported. While abroad he became a sworn enemy of the Soviet Union and that of the Communist Cause in general. He greatly contributed to profanation and to eventual demise of the Communist Idea. Trotsky and his followers, for example, are rightfully blamed for the fall of Madrid to fascists, to schism in the Burmese Communist party (and in some other Communist parties as well) and it is widely believed that he was indeed a traitor at the pay of imperialism. Trotsky was (and is) much hated personality in Russia and in the USSR (not to say about Spain and Latin America where they still hate him for his betrayal during Spanish Civil War). No “credit” goes to him at all. Don’t even doubt it. Nobody likes him either before or now, except for very narrow circle of intellectuals who have nothing to do with the military. So there are simply no people available who could give him such a “credit”.]

At the beginning of its existence, the Red Army functioned as a voluntary formation, without ranks or insignia. Democratic elections selected the officers. However, a decree of May 29, 1918 imposed obligatory military service for men of ages 18 to 40. To service the massive draft, the Bolsheviks formed regional military commissariats (военный комиссариат, военкомат (voenkomat)), which as of 2005 still exist in Russia in this function and under this name. (Note: do not confuse military commissariats with the institution of military political commissars.)

After General Aleksei Brusilov offered the Bolsheviks his professional services in 1920, they decided to permit the conscription of former officers of the army of Imperial Russia. The Bolshevik authorities set up a special commission under the chair of Lev Glezarov (Лев Маркович Глезаров), and by August 1920 had drafted about 315,000 ex-officers. Most often they held the position of military advisor (voyenspets: "военспец" an abbreviation of "военный специалист", i.e., "military specialist"). A number of prominent Soviet Army commanders had previously served as Imperial Russian generals. In fact, a number of former Imperial military men, notably a member of the Supreme Military Council, Mikhail Bonch-Bruevich, had joined the Bolsheviks earlier.

The Bolshevik authorities assigned to every unit of the Red Army a political commissar, or politruk [not true – “politruks” appeared only during Second World War and not earlier; “politruks” were relatively minor political officers – about a size of a typical platoon commander (first-second-senior lieutenants, maximum captains) and they were acting as a deputies of companies commanders for political affairs, they mostly acted on a company-level; many politruks in fact were acting as ordinary combat platoon commanders; while commissars were much higher than that – political officers acting on regimental and divisional levels and bearing ranks equal to lieutenant-colonels and higher; there were also corps- and army- ranks commissars who bear ranks comparable to generals] , who had the authority to override unit commanders' decisions if they ran counter to the principles of the Communist Party. Although this sometimes resulted in inefficient command, the Party leadership considered political control over the military necessary, as the Army relied more and more on experienced officers from the pre-revolutionary Tsarist period.



Ranks and Titles

The early Red Army abandoned [in fact not ‘abandoned’, but simply “never adopted”] the institution of a professional officer corps as a "heritage of tsarism" in the course of the Revolution. In particular, the Bolsheviks condemned the use of the word "officer" and used the word "commander" instead. The Red Army abandoned [again not ‘abandoned’, but simply “never adopted”] epaulettes and ranks, using purely functional titles such as "Division Commander", "Corps Commander", and similar titles. [sense of this was a little bit deeper than that; Red commanders did not have any personal military ranks; they were addressed by their functional titles – such as “Comrade KomDiv” rather than “Comrade General-Major”, but it does not mean that they bear such titles; for example, a Colonel is called “Colonel” even when he retired, because it is a personal rank, not a functional one; but in Red Army if you are not holding a position of Division Commander right now you can not be called “KomDiv” simply because it was not a personalized rank. It was amended only in the next stage which is described next in you article – in 1924] In 1924 it supplemented this system with "service categories", from K-1 (lowest) to K-14 (highest). The service categories essentially operated as ranks in disguise: they indicated the experience and qualifications of a commander. The insignia now denoted the category, not the position of a commander. However, one still had to use functional titles to address commanders, which could become as awkward as "comrade deputy head-of-staff of corps". If one did not know a commander's position, one used one of the possible positions - for example: "Regiment Commander" for K-9.

On September 22, 1935 the Red Army abandoned service categories and introduced personal ranks. These ranks, however, used a unique mix of functional titles and traditional ranks. For example, the ranks included "Lieutenant" and "Komdiv" (Комдив, Division Commander). Further complications ensued from the functional and categorical ranks for political officers (e.g., "Brigade Commissar", "Army Commissar 2nd Rank"), for technical corps (e.g., "Engineer 3rd Rank", "Division Engineer"), for administrative, medical and other non-combatant branches.

On May 7, 1940 further modifications to the system took place. The ranks of "General" or "Admiral" replaced the senior functional ranks of Kombrig, Komdiv, Komkor, Komandarm; the other senior functional ranks ("Division Commissar", "Division Engineer", etc) remained unaffected. On November 2, 1940, the system underwent further modification with the abolition of functional ranks for NCOs and the introduction of the Podpolkovnik (Lieutenant Colonel) rank.

In early 1942 all the functional ranks in technical and administrative corps became regularised ranks (e.g., "Engineer Major", "Engineer Colonel", "Captain of the Intendant Service", etc.). On October 9, 1942 the authorities abolished the system of military commissars, together with the commissar ranks. [here is the very point where “politruks” appeared. Before it were commissars only (as far as I can recollect there were no commissars lower than on regimental level, the only exception was in case of a separate battalion). After their abolishment there were new political positions introduced – starting from company level and higher; on battalion level and above they were called “zampolits” literary meaning “a deputy of a commander (of battalion, regiment etc.) for political affairs”. On a company level they were called “politruks” literary – “political leader”; however, “politruks” did not exist for long. Soon company-level political offices were granted the same name “zampolit” – as it were on battalion level and above; so former politruks by the end of the WWII become simply “deputies of company commanders for political affairs” and survived in this capacity up to the end of a so-called “Perestroika” (nowadays they are also available in Russian military but under a new name – “deputies of commanders for pedagogical affairs” – these are basically former “zampolits” who retained all their military-political colleges and an academy, which are now all renamed from “political” to “pedagogical”). Coming back to the event discussed. The main sense for abolishment of commissars institute and replacement of it with “zampolits” and “politruks” was that unlike former commissars who were equal in commanding power to military commanders and were technically able to challenge the latter’s orders, new political officers were one step lower than corresponding military commanders – new political officers were simply “deputies for political affairs” and they could not challenge orders. However, they could do another thing – they could complain over heads of their immediate superiors directly to higher political officers of higher levels. Which they often did] The functional ranks remained only in medical, veterinary and legislative corps.

In early 1943 a unification of the system saw the abolition of all the remaining functional ranks. The word "officer" became officially endorsed, together with the epaulettes that superseded the previous rank insignia. The ranks and insignia of 1943 did not change much until the last days of the USSR; the contemporary Russian Army uses largely the same system. The old functional ranks of Kombat (Battalion or Battery Commander), Kombrig (Brigade Commander) and Komdiv (Division Commander) continue in informal use.

General Staff

On September 22, 1935, the authorities renamed the RKKA Staff as the General Staff, which essentially reincarnated the General Staff of the Russian Empire. Many of the former RKKA Staff officers had served as General Staff officers in the Russian Empire and became General Staff officers in the USSR. General Staff officers typically had extensive combat experience and solid academic training.

Military Education

During the Civil War the commander cadres received training at the General Staff Academy of the RKKA (Академия Генерального штаба РККА), an alias of the Nicholas General Staff Academy (Николаевская академия Генерального штаба) of the Russian Empire. On August 5, 1921 the Academy became the Military Academy of the RKKA (Военная академия РККА), and in 1925 the Frunze (М.В. Фрунзе) Military Academy of the RKKA. The senior and supreme commanders received training at the Higher Military Academic Courses (Высшие военно-академические курсы), renamed in 1925 as the Advanced Courses for Supreme Command (Курсы усовершенствования высшего начальствующего состава); in 1931, the establishment of an Operations Faculty at the Frunze Military Academy supplemented these courses. April 2, 1936 saw the re-instatement of the General Staff Academy; it would become a principal school for the senior and supreme commanders of the Red Army, as well as a centre for advanced military studies.

One should note that Red Army (and later Soviet Army) educational facilities called "academies" do not correspond to the military academies in Western countries. Those Soviet Academies were the post-graduate schools, mandatory for officers applying for senior ranks (e.g., the rank of Colonel since 1950s) [Not correct; first of all Colonels do not apply for their ranks; it is done in a form of promotion initiated by their superiors, not by “applicants” themselves. Secondly, it is only partly true. There were a lot of Colonels, and even some Generals who did not study in any Academy. So word “mandatory” could not be used in this sense. It was highly recommended that an officer that aspires to take a position of a commander of regiment would finish an academy first and when there was a choice - preference would be given to the one with an academy grade, rather than to the one without it, but it was not mandatory, still. Some officers were promoted based on their experience and on their achievements, rather than on their diplomas.]. While a basic officer education in the Red Army was provided by the facilities named военная школа or военное училище - which may be generally translated as "School" and compared to Western "academies" like West Point or Sandhurst. [I would suggest expanding this. I wrote down a lot, but you could select what you think is suitable for a short article. Military schools and military colleges in Soviet Union were of few different grades. The most military schools were equal in grade to high schools in civil life. They used to give basic military education along with full secondary civil education. There were not many of such in later Soviet times, but mostly in 30s to 50s where there were still many uneducated adults available. Later, when most of citizens would finish high-schools anyhow, there was no need to continue to maintain such military schools. Military schools of later times would not give any civil education at all, but only some basic military one and they were intended to train military specialists (let’s call them here military school type I), to train would-be junior sergeants of various military specialties (military school type II), and to train would-be warrant-officers (military school type III) {note “types I II III” is my own remark, this terminology was not used as such”}. Schools “type I” and “type II” were intended to admit young conscripts and to train them for 6 months. Upon graduation from school “type I” cadets would be given status “specialist” (but their rank “private” will remain the same as given at the day they entered the army) and assigned to combat army units. Cadets from schools “type II” would be given rank of “junior sergeants” and assigned to combat army units where they would be typically given command of a detachment (one third of a platoon). Schools “type III” were intended to admit either non-commissioned officers who wanted to be promoted to warrant-officers, or to admit some aspiring conscripts who wanted to continue their military service as warrant-officers; the minimum requirement for conscripts in this case was at least 1.5 year service as soldiers or as conscript-sergeants first. The full course in schools type III would take normally 9 months. Upon graduation a status “specialist” (in corresponding military specialty) and rank of warrant-officer would be given. Usually after graduation these warrant-officers would be sent back to those military units that sent them to study in such a school. Schools type IV (usually called not “schools” but “courses”, in fact) were intended to train second lieutenants; full course would take 11 months; only warrant-officers, or non-commissioned officers, or conscripts who completed 2 years prior service could be admitted; upon graduation a rank of second lieutenant was given but not any diploma (as opposed to graduates from real military colleges who upon graduation got rank of first lieutenant and some diploma). Typically, most of officers that enter these kinds of courses would be discharged from the military upon graduation, since the main purpose of these courses is to train reserve officers. However, some of these second lieutenants might remain in the military and continue their active service right away. These “11-months second-lieutenants courses” as they were known in the military were not really popular among those who wanted to be commissioned officers in active service. These would rather prefer to go to study in some military college, instead, because they would have better education, higher rank, diploma in both – civil and military education, and better chances in future careers. However, there was a limitation of age – 23 years and not older for enlisting in a standard military college (except for warrant-officers who could be up to 26 years old), while for “11-months second-lieutenant courses” even elder people could be admitted. Another thing was that for a military college one has to pass on entry exams in 4 different subjects (2 common and 2 profiling) and it was sometimes very difficult, since there could be as many as 5 to 10 aspirants to each available cadet’s position and harsh competition on entry exams, while for 11-months courses there were no any special requirements and it was much easier to get enlisted in. Military colleges. They were of two different kinds. Those offering higher civil education along military one (let’s call them here type I) and those offering upper-intermediate civil education along with military one (type II). First ones would give you a diploma equal to that of a university, the second ones would give you a diploma equal to that given by a technical school that is lower than a college that gives a higher education. Full course in “type II” military college would typically take 3 years. Rank of first lieutenant would be given upon graduation. Graduates would be assigned to various army units usually as platoon commanders (or their equivalent in other troops and services). When it comes to “type I” military colleges are sub-divided into few different varieties. Type Ia – so-called “commanding military colleges” full course would take 4 years; Type Ib – so-called “engineering military colleges” – full course would take 5 years; Type Ic – medical military colleges – full course would take 6 years. Upon graduation a corresponding diploma equal to that given by a university and a rank of first lieutenant will be given. Only aspirants who completed high-school and passed entry exams on 4 subjects + fitness test could be admitted into any military college – either with 3-, 4-, 5- or 6- years courses as mentioned above (though it was comparatively easier to be admitted to a type II college than to be admitted into a type I one). However, when it comes to “11-months-second-liuetenants courses” even people with secondary school education could have a chance to enter. Some security clearance of various degrees could be required to enter some kind of military colleges (especially cryptographic and communication ones and those belonging to the GRU, to Strategic Rocket Forces, and those that train stuff for strategic bombers and for submarines). In Soviet times no women could be admitted to any kind of military college, except only one: the Moscow Institute of Military Interpreters. It was the only one military college that had girls-cadets. The rest of women-officers known to serve in the Soviet Army and Navy were all graduated from civil universities and later enlisted into military while heaving their diploma already. It was a policy in the Soviet Union that graduates from civil universities with corresponding profiles (such as medical doctors or communication engineers, for example) could also be enlisted into military with starting ranks of “first lieutenant” – without any sexual discrimination in this case (except that women-officers could not occupy commanding positions – such as platoon- or company- etc. commanders, of course). It shall be clarified also that abovementioned “engineering military colleges” (type Ib) have nothing to do with engineering troops. In fact there could be a “commanding military college of engineering troops” (type Ia) and there could be an “engineering military college of communication troops” (type Ib); an “engineering military college of engineering troops” (type Ib) was available also. So the word “engineering” in the name of a military college has no relevance to engineering troops. It means that such a military college trains officers for engineering positions for various troops, rather than for commanding positions in these troops. If, let’s say a “commanding military college of communication troops” (with 4 years course) trains officers for starting position of “commander of communication troops platoon”, an “engineering military college of communication troops” (with 5 years course) trains officers for starting position of “communication engineer at a military signal center”. Practically, all various troops of the Soviet Army have both – corresponding commanding and engineering colleges (usually proportion of a total number of existing commanding colleges to engineering ones was 8:1 – approximately, of course, it might slightly differ for various troops). The commanding and engineering colleges have different status and also distinctly different internal structure. Commander of a typical commanding (type Ia) college was a Major-General, all his deputies – Colonels. Structure was typical to a regiment. Cadets of first year were grouped into platoons, companies and eventually – into the “first year battalion”. Cadets of the second year – into the “second year battalion”, and so on. Commander of each year battalion was a Colonel, of a company – Major, of a platoon – Captain. Military engineering college (type Ib) has distinctly different structure. Firstly, it was higher in status compare to the “type Ia”. Its Commander was a Lieutenant-General with his first deputy – Major-General. Secondly, by its internal structure engineering military college resembles university, rather than a regiment. It is divided not into battalions, but into faculties. Cadets are grouped not in accordance with their year of entry, but in accordance with their actual specialties. So cadets of one specialty would be grouped into platoons (in type Ib colleges called “studying groups” rather than “platoons”) and into one company (which in type Ib colleges is called “course” rather than “company”). Five companies (“courses”) of each year of entry (5 different years - 5 different companies, but of one specialty all) would be grouped into one faculty. Engineering colleges could have different number of faculties, depending on their profile (from three to ten). While commanding colleges would always have only 4 battalions, not more and not less – because of their 4 years course. So, as you can see, commanding colleges have “parallel” structure, while engineering ones have “vertical” structure when it comes to grouping of cadets of various ages. Commanding officers ranks in engineering colleges (type Ib) are also higher than in commanding ones (type Ia). For example: in a commanding college a battalion commander only is a Colonel, his deputies are Lieutenant-Colonels, company commanders are Majors. While in an engineering college a faculty commander is a Colonel, his both deputies are Colonels as well, and all company (“courses”) commanders are Lieutenant-Colonels with two-three helpers in a rank of Captains (platoon commanders in engineering colleges were usually not appointed – the actual platoons were commanded by sergeants from among cadets). Structure of a typical medical military college is exactly the same as that of an engineering college described above. A slightly differently are organized military aviation colleges. They are actually divided into three kinds, rather than two. They have: 1) commanding (pilot’s) colleges with 4 years courses – organized in the same manner as commanding colleges “type Ia”. These colleges train pilots. The main starting position upon graduation is a “pilot” with a prospect of promotion such as typical commanding ranks in aviation (chief-pilot, squadron leader and so on). Then there are colleges that train flight-navigators – organized in nearly the same manner. Then there are colleges that train aviation engineers. These are organized differently – in the same manner as described above engineering colleges “type Ib”. Full course is 5 years, starting position after graduation is an “engineer” with future prospect of promotion in aviation engineering service. But in aviation there is yet another kind of military colleges – aviation-technical ones - also subdivided into two kinds – 4-years course (akin to type Ia) and with 3-years course (akin to type II). These train aircraft technicians, rather than aviation engineers. Expected position after graduating from such a college is an aviation technician that is attached to an individual aircraft – much in the same manner as a pilot is attached to one aircraft. These aviation-technical colleges are distinctly different than aviation-engineering ones. Normally, people who got this kind of specialty have not much chance to be promoted – they typically remain technicians permanently attached to some aircraft till the rest of their services and maximum of what they could hope is to get a rank of a Captain when they near their age of retirement. In addition to typically commanding and typically engineering colleges there are (there were in Soviet times) also military political colleges. These colleges used to train political officers as those described in above chapters (that succeeded commissars). They all have 4 years courses and status and structures akin to commanding colleges (type Ia). Typical position that officers would be assigned upon graduation from such a college – a “deputy company commander for political affairs”. From among all political colleges in the USSR there was one that differed from the rest. It was the Lvov Military-Political College (located in Lvov, Ukraine). It had two faculties that trained military journalists and would be chiefs of officers clubs, rather than typical “deputies for political affairs”. Besides of very common typical commanding, political and engineering colleges, belonging to various kinds of troops and branches of the military, there are a few very specific military colleges. Among them these: Moscow Military Institute (trains military interpreters and military jurists; resembles typical civilian university in that sense and also by its structure); financial military college (trains would be chiefs of military financial service – teaches course that is similar to any financial course of a civilian university, but resembles by its status an structure a typically commanding college (type Ia); cryptographic military college (word “cryptographic” is not actually used in its name) – trains military cryptographers – resembles by its status and structure commanding college (type Ia); Mojaiski Military Institute in St Petersburg – trains various military engineers for the Soviet Space Forces – by its status and structure resembles a military academy, rather than a college, but offers courses that are akin to those in a typical military engineering college (type Ib); Military Institute of Physical Culture (aka “Sport”) – a military establishment (in St Petersburg) that is equal in educational status to a Sports faculty of a civilian university, but in military status and in structure – to a typical commanding college (type Ia); its course is 4 years – it trains cadets who wish to become sport- and physical exercise- organizing officers on a regimental level. This Institute also hosts additional “11-months-second-lieutenants courses” for military sportsmen (of soldiers and sergeants ranks) who wish to be educated as sports-coaches and to continue to serve in the military in this capacity. A Military Medical Academy (in St Petersburg) teaches cadets (not commissioned officers as any other academies do) but by its status and structure resembles an academy. All military colleges that belong to Internal Troops (Ministry of Internal Affairs) and to Border Guards (part of KGB) have exactly the same structure and status as typical military commanding colleges (type Ia) that belong to the Ministry of Defense. It should be mentioned also that some engineering military colleges offer “by correspondence” courses. These are intended not for young cadets, but for serving commissioned officers who would like to get higher education (such as those who have only completed “11-months-second-leutenant courses” or 3-year military colleges (type II), or for those who wish to upgrade from commanding education (received in a college type Ia) to an engineering one (such as offered by a college type Ib). Not only commissioned officers, but warrant-officers as well could also study on these “by correspondence” courses in military engineering colleges. These will get a rank of first lieutenant upon graduation – along with cadets who study daily. But the ready commission officers upon graduation will get only diploma, not any upgrade in their ranks. Some military colleges were also known to admit commissioned officers (not older than 28 years of age) on their “daily” courses. All these military colleges bear revealing names that contain mentioning of the city they are located in, of the troops or services they belong to, whether they give higher- or medium technical education, and indication of whether they are commanding or engineering. Example: Leningrad High Military Commanding Topography College, or Leningrad High Military Commanding Anti-Aircraft Missile College. Or Leningrad High Military Engineering Communication College. However, it did not apply to military colleges that belong to the Strategic Rocket Forces and to only College that trains military cryptographers. Those simply called like this: “[city name] High Military Commanding [or Engineering] College”. This approach, ironically, effectively betrays these colleges as belonging to the Strategic Rocket Forces, since only they bear such “unrevealing” names. Former infantry colleges also do not bear indication that they are “infantry”. In the Soviet Union they were called “all-troops colleges”. These do not have word “military” in their official names and they also can not be engineering, but only commanding. So, infantry colleges are called, for example, like this: “Moscow High All-Troops Commanding College” or “Leningrad High All-Troops Commanding College”. Unlike military colleges, military schools of all kinds as described above do not bear any official names of this kind. They are officially called “training military units” (“training regiment”, “training battalion” etc.) and are being referred to as any other military unit in Soviet Union by their coded numbers (in Russian в/ч – v/ch and 5 digits). It shall be noted also that by the beginning of 80s there were practically no more military colleges of type II (those with 3-year course and without higher education). Almost all of them were slowly upgraded to the high (type Ia or Ib) military colleges. The next grade is military academies. These are intended to provide higher military education for commissioned officers only. If a typical military college described above (commanding, political or engineering one) teaches officers with a maximum prospect of becoming a division commander (theoretically only, but on practice you can not get a position of a division commander and even that of a regiment commander, unless you graduate from some academy), a typical military academy upgrades their military education with a maximum prospect of becoming an army commander. In the Soviet Union there were few academies – one for each branch of armed forces, or troops. One academy for a general purpose – Frunze Military Academy in Moscow (all-troops academy, also could be informally called “infantry academy” or “all-troops”) – typically upgrades education of infantry commanders, but also commanders of paratroopers, marines, special purpose forces (“Spetsnaz” etc.) and, in some cases, also admits tank- and artillery- commanders; typically all high-ranking commanders in the Soviet Union and Russia (as in any other army) come from infantry ranks and almost all of them are graduates from the Frunze Academy. One academy is for tank troops – Mailnovski Armored Troops Academy in Moscow. One academy for artillery – Kalinin Artillery Academy in Leningrad (formerly there were two artillery academies, but one – Dzerjinski Academy in Moscow – was given over to the Strategic Rocket Forces later when they were created). One academy for transportation troops and rear-services – Military Academy of Rear Services and Troops in Leningrad. One academy for engineering troops – Kuibyshev Military-Engineers Troops Academy in Moscow. One academy for chemical troops – Timoshenko Academy of Chemical Defense in Moscow. One academy for Strategic Rocket Forces, also with a special faculty belonging to the 12th Chief Directorate teaching about nuclear weapons handling (in this one “strategic rocket forces” words are not used in its official name) – Dzerjinski Military Academy in Moscow. One academy – for GRU (also bearing name that does not suggest which troops it really belongs to – it is simply called “Academy of Soviet Army”, located in Moscow). One academy – for communication troops – Budennyi Military Academy of Communication Troops (in Leningrad). One academy for Navy – Military Maritime Academy (in Leningrad). Two academies for Troops of National Air Defence – Govorov Military Academy of Air Defense (located in Kharkov, now Ukraine) and Zhukov Military Commanding Academy of Air Defense in Kalinin (now Tver); the last one now is re-named into “Zhukov Military Academy of Space and Air Defense”. One Academy – for political officers (Lenin Military-Political Academy in Moscow). One Medical Academy located in Leningrad (but this one teaches cadets, rather than commissioned officers; the cadets there have status of conscript soldiers for the first 3 years, then get ranks of second-lieutenants and study 3.5 years more as commissioned officers, then, upon graduation, get ranks of first lieutenants; in the 80s this tradition was broken and the cadets remained cadets for the entire 6.5 years till graduation – probably it was done in order to save money, since cadets do not have any salary, unlike commissioned officers). Two academies for Air Force – one Zhukovski Air Force Academy in Moscow (teaches aviation engineers) and another one – Gagarin Air Force Academy in Monino, near Moscow (this one upgrades education of pilots and flight navigators). Actually, formerly Air Force has one more academy – Mojaiski Academy in Leningrad, but this one was later given first to the Strategic Rocket Forces, and later – to the Space Forces. Eventually, it began to teach cadets much in the same manner as described above in case of the Military Medical Academy – they got ranks of second-lieutenants on their 3rd year of study, but in the 80s this tradition was broken and they began to remain cadets for the entire 5 years. Later this Mojaiski Academy was re-named into “Mojaiski Military Institute”, but retained structure of a former academy, but a new status of a military engineering college (akin to “type Ib” described above). It still belongs to the Space Forces. All academies bear unique names, but, unlike in case of military colleges, names of the cities they are located in are not used in their official names (since there is only one academy of each kind it could not be mistaken with anything else anyways). Each of these academies (except “all-troops”-, aviation- and political ones) is typically sub-divided into “commanding faculty” and “engineering faculty” – much in the same sense as described above commanding (type Ia) and engineering (type Ib) colleges are. In some academies besides these two main faculties there could also be some smaller groups that train officers of scientific research specialties, but also in military history, and in some other minor professions. All these academies could offer courses of 5 years long (for those officers who completed 3-year (type II) military colleges) and 3 years long (for those who completed 4- and 5- years colleges (type I) that give higher education). Such 5 years long course would also additionally provide standard higher education and a diploma equal to that of university. Normally, those officers who were educated from commanding colleges (type Ia or II) could select whether to study in such an academy on its engineering or on its commanding faculties. But those officers who were educated from engineering colleges (type Ib) have no choice – they could only study on commanding faculties, since engineering faculty gives almost the same kind of education they have already after their colleges. Normally all officers would go to study in the same academy that corresponds to their main specialty – i.e. officers of artillery – to the artillery academy, officers of engineering troops – to the engineering troops academy etc. However, there could be some exceptions. It sometimes happens that artillery officers decided to be re-educated as chemical forces officers, for example. And in this case they could apply to study in a “non-profile” academy. But usually such requests are denied, unless there is some big re-organization of military in general and some officers are moved from one kind of troops to another as a part of some new policy. All these academies offer both – daily- and “by correspondence” courses. After completing “daily” studying (I mean upon graduation) students will be assigned to new positions; those who were lower than battalion commanders before entering the academy, would be typically assigned as battalion commanders (with some exceptions); those, who were already battalion commanders before the academy, would be assigned to some higher positions – may be, deputies of regiment commanders; those who studied on engineering faculties, would be assigned to some engineering positions equal in status to those of at least a battalion commander or higher. Those, who studied on “by correspondence” basis, would not be given any new positions – they would remain where they were, but have an extra diploma only; their possible promotions due to upgrades in their education would entirely depend on their superiors. Certain privileged students might remain in the academy after completion of its full course in order to upgrade their education even further, because usually all academies have a so-called “adjuncture” – a kind of post-graduate course after which a scientific degree could be claimed - such as that equivalent of Doctor of science in the West (because what is called “Doctor” in Russian is in fact one step higher than what called “Doctor” in the West; the Russian equivalent of Western “Doctor” called “Candidate of Science” – this is exactly what is possible to claim after post-graduation in adjuncture at military academies. Requirements to enter these kinds of academies are typically the following. An officer must have a good record of his current service, he must be fluent in at least one foreign language (usually in either English, German, French or Spanish), physically fit, he must currently occupy a position corresponding to a rank of a Major (but not necessarily a rank of Major, it means a position corresponding to that rank only - meaning that typical company commanders that occupy positions corresponding to a rank of a Captain are not eligible to apply to study in academies, unless they have some very special privilege – for example if they are Heroes of Soviet Union or in some other exceptional cases; while in normal cases those who are eligible to study in academies are deputies of chiefs of staffs of battalion commanders and their equivalents in engineering or other services – this is limitation because of too many aspirants every year apply to study in academies, but there are no means to accommodate requests of all of them), they must be not older than 28 years to study daily, and not older than 33 years to study by correspondence, they must have already at least the following educations: either completed a military college (type II or type I), or military institute, or civil institute of higher education, or civil university – meaning those who completed only 11-month long second-lieutenant courses are not eligible (unless they possess an extra diploma in a higher education); successfully pass entry exams in at least three subjects (one in foreign language and two – in profiling subjects + physical fitness test) on competition basis – much like in case of a military college, where for one available student’s seat could be as many as 3-7 aspirants. As far as I know, female commissioned officers were not eligible to study in military academies, probably with only a very few exceptional cases, upon interference of a Minister of Defense or some other high-ranking official on their behalf. Commanding officers at the academy are mostly generals. The Chief of the Academy – is usually a three-star General, all his deputies – Lieutenant-Generals, chiefs of faculties and senior professors are all Majors-General at least. All these academies belong exclusively to the Ministry of Defense. However, they admit students from other ministries – such as from the KGB and from Ministry of Internal Affairs. These officers are normally grouped into separate studying groups, not to be mixed with army officers, but taught basically the same course. Some academies, as well as some military colleges, also admit foreign cadets and officers, but these could be taught different courses, for example, some secret subjects and some secret techniques could be withheld. Contrary to common misunderstanding, the highest General Staff Academy has nothing to do with the abovementioned academies neither in status, nor in structure. General Staff Academy is intended to train only high-ranking commanding officers. While military colleges train officers with future maximum prospect of becoming division commanders, and academies train officers with future maximum prospect of becoming army commanders, the General Staff Academy trains officers for potentially higher positions (though all armies commanders, in fact, are expected to graduate from the General Staff Academy). To be eligible to apply to study at the General Staff Academy, an officer must be “prospective”, he must be relatively young, he must complete at minimum a “normal” military academy as described above, and he must currently occupy a position of at least corresponding to a rank of a Major-General (such as a typical division commander or its equivalent, or even higher than that, though it is possible that a commander of a brigade in some cases could also be eligible, but not a commander of a regiment). Therefore majority of students of the General Staff Academy are Generals of various ranks, with relatively fewer Colonels. Upon graduation from the General Staff Academy the officers would most likely be given a Major-General rank (if they are still Colonels) and given command of at least a division, or most probably some higher position than that. The only exception is a so-called “Military History Faculty” at the General Staff Academy which is relatively easy to enter, but after completing of this faculty one could not expect any promotion or any active position, but probably only some inactive post. This is an overview of education in the Soviet Army. I forgot to mention that there were also military high-school and even secondary-schools called “Suvorov Schools” and “Nakhimov Schools”; pupils in them used to wear military (but black rather than khaki) and navy uniforms correspondingly. “Nakhimov Schools” were not too many, only in some big cities housing navy bases, for example in Leningrad. But “Suvorov Schools” were available in almost every big city. Children in these schools were taught subjects corresponding to high school, but they have a few military subjects, in addition (and in “Nakhimov Schools” – subjects pertaining to the Navy, in addition). Both of these military schools for children corresponded to the 9th and 10th years (i.e. to the last two years) of a civil high school (meaning the children were around 14-15 years of age when they enter and they supposed to have completed 8 years of a standard secondary school education first + to successfully pass entry exams). However, there was one more children military school that admitted children starting from 4th year (10 years old children) – so the full course there was 6 years (till the last 10th year of a standard high-school). This one was a military musical school in Moscow, but pupils in it were dressed in the same kind of military uniform as those in “Suvorov Schools” (a military uniform akin to army, but of black color, rather than khaki). Children upon completion of that school were expected to enlist to the High Musical Military College and to become upon graduation conductors of military orchestras (though any one talented in music was eligible to apply to study in Musical Military College, not only these children from this particular military school). Those pupils who completed “Suvorov Schools” and “Nakhimov Schools” were given a standard diploma of high-school, but given some preferential treatment upon entering high military colleges – they supposed to have a better chance in competition on entry exams compare to other aspirants. Practically, they had guaranteed admission. That is why some career army officers who wished their children to follow their steps, but were not quite sure if their children would be able to pass entry exams in a “normal” way, would prefer to send their children to study in “Suvorov-“ or “Nakhimov Schools” first to ensure their entries to military colleges. Others preferred to send their children to study there because they wanted to protect them from bad influence in this critical age (since these schools had a well maintained discipline, organized studying and practically no time for bad things.

Upon graduation from all these military colleges and academies of various kinds some badges were issued, along with diplomas. They supposed to be worn then on any military or navy uniform. I placed here a few samples:]

Your browser may not support display of this image. this one was given after graduating from a 3-year course military college (what I called here “type II”) but by the beginning of 80s there were not many of these colleges remained, almost all of them have been already upgraded to “High” by that time.

Your browser may not support display of this image.this one was given after graduating from a 4-year course high commanding military college (what I called here “type Ia”). The same one was given after a military-political college.

Your browser may not support display of this image.this one was given after graduating from a 5-year course high engineering military college (what I called here “type Ib”) and also from Military Institutes. However, by the end of the 80s it seems that graduates from 4-year (type Ia) commanding and political colleges began to be issued these badges as well, so it was eventually unified.

Your browser may not support display of this image.this one was given after graduating from a military academy. Particularly on this badge (this is an old one, from 60s or possibly from 70s) there is an additional plate with an engraved name of the “Frunze Military Academy” (abbreviated). However, in the 80s they typically issued these white badges without any additional plates and inscriptions – one kind for all military academies, like the one below: However, many officers made their own orders for these additional plates with engraved names of their academies (much like it was in the 60s and the 70s). Some also made personalized plates with the names of their military colleges and attached them to blue badges from engineering military colleges as shown above.

Your browser may not support display of this image.I was not able to find a photo of a badge of the General Staff Academy, but it looked exactly the same as above, but it was of gold color on its perimeter, rather than of silver.

Your browser may not support display of this image. This one is a badge given after graduation from a civilian university (also many military officers in the Soviet Army and Nave used to wear these badges).

Your browser may not support display of this image. This is a badge given after graduation from Suvorov School, as well as from Military Musical School, (usually commissioned officers used to wear it along with any of those shown above).

Your browser may not support display of this image. This is a badge given after graduation from Nakhimov School (usually commissioned Navy officers used to wear it along with any of those shown above).

I hope I made a good overview of the Soviet military education, and you find some use to it.


This article or section contains weasel words, vague phrasing that often accompanies biased or unverifiable information. Such statements should be clarified or removed.

The late 1930s saw the so-called "Purges of the Red Army cadres", occurring against the historical background of the Great Purge. The Purges had the objective of cleansing the Red Army of "politically unreliable elements", mainly among the higher-ranking officers. This inevitably provided a convenient pretext for settling personal vendettas and eventually resulted in a witch-hunt. In 1937, the Red Army numbered around 1.3 million, and it grew to almost three times that number by June 1941. This necessitated quick promotion of junior officers, often despite their lack of experience or training, with obvious grave implications for the effectiveness of the Army in the coming war against Germany.

In the highest echelons of the Red Army the Purges removed 3 of the 5 marshals [this is true], 13 of 15 generals of the army [but I don’t think this is true], 8 of 9 admirals [this can not be], 50 of 57 army corps generals [I don’t think so], 154 out of 186 division generals [I don’t think so], 16 of 16 army commissars, and 25 of 28 army corps commissars [I don’t think it is true in regard to these commissars, because the main point of these purges was that a certain group of former Tsarist officers who joined the Red Army during Civil War (sometimes doing so under duress) by the end of the 30s began to dream of overthrowing the Communist regime and restoring “Great Russian Empire”; they created this conspiracy using their former Tsarist officers’ “class-solidarity”, but at some point they were unmasked and neutralized, before they could execute their plans. None of them, in fact was “purged”. They were all officially arrested on treason accusations, brought to court and sued in a legal manner. Those who were found innocent were released and restored. And even some of those found guilty, but considered to be “forgivable” were forgiven, released and also restored. Some most malicious ones were executed or jailed. These are well-known facts, since trials were held in open and all materials were meticulously published in newspapers. However, when it comes to the abovementioned commissars, it is very unlikely that they could join such a conspiracy, because they were of very different social background and could not have anything common at all with those former Tsarist officers, their “class solidarity”, and their “restoration” ideas. So, I don’t think that such a big number of commissars could have been removed as claimed here.].

Party Control of the Armed Forces

The Communist Party had a number of mechanisms of control over the country's armed forces. First, starting from a certain rank, only a Party member could be a military commander [it is not true – there were a lot of high-ranking (up to armies’ and fronts’ commanders) generals who were not members of the Communist Party – for example Marshal of USSR Govorov, Marshal of USSR Meretskov, Marshal of USSR Bagramyan, and some four-star Generals as well, not to say about lower ones; the Communist Party indeed tried its best to control the army and it was that only from its Central Committee’s consent some high-ranking military positions could be occupied by particular persons, but still, these persons themselves sometimes were not members of the Communist Party; but, of course, majority of commissioned officers starting from about a rank of Captain were Communists, probably, about 98% of them, but still not 100%; particularly it was true in case of the highest-ranking officers, who were sometimes “too stained” by their services in Tsarists or in White armies, or, sometimes, by their mingling with 1937-conspirators - to be members of the Communist Party, which admitted only “clean” people], and was thus subject to Party discipline. Second, the top military leaders had been systematically integrated into the highest echelons of the party. Third, the party placed a network of political officers throughout the armed forces to influence the activities of the military. [the rest is true]

A political commander (zampolit) [as I explained above a “commissar” was replaced by “zampolit” when institute of commissars was abolished whatsoever; commissar was equal in status, rank and in commanding power to the corresponding military commander, while “zamplit” was purely his deputy] served as a political commissar of the armed forces. A zampolit supervised party organizations and conducted party political work within a military unit. He lectured troops on Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet view of international affairs, and the party's tasks for the armed forces. During World War II the zampolit lost veto authority over the commander's decisions [no, he did not lose this veto, because it was “commissar” who had this veto, not “zampolit”] but retained the power to report to the next highest political officer or organization on the political attitudes and performance of the unit's commander.

In 1989 over 20% of all armed forces personnel were party members or Komsomol members. Over 90% of all officers in the armed forces were party or Komsomol members.

Weapons and Equipment

The Soviet Union established an indigenous arms industry as part of Stalin's industrialization program in the 1920s and 1930s.

The five round, magazine fed, bolt action Mosin-Nagant rifle remained the primary shoulder firearm of the Red Army through World War II. Over 17 million model 91/30 Mosin-Nagant rifles were manufactured from 1930 to 1945 by various Soviet arsenals. In 1943 design started on the M44, designed to replace the M91/30. Full production began in 1944, and remained in production until 1948, when it was replaced by the SKS semiautomatic rifle.[2]

The Red Army suffered from a shortage of adequate machine guns and semiautomatic firearms throughout WWII. The semiautomatic Tokarev SVT Model 38 and Model 40, chambered for the same 7.62x54R cartridge used by the Mosin-Nagants. The rifle, though of sound design, was never manufactured in the same numbers as the Mosin-Nagants and did not replace them. [it is partly true, but it shall be noted that you completely failed to mention here that either before (starting from Finnish campaign), or during the WWII the Red Army has ever increasing numbers of PPD, PPSh and PPS sub-machineguns from among which the PPSh is particularly well-known. In the mid-war probably half of all rifle infantry units (and all without any exception mechanized infantry units) were already armed with PPShs as primary weapons. By numbers of sub-machineguns deployed the Red Army definitely excelled American and British armies, at least it was so starting from 1943.]

Soviet experimentation with small-arms began during the Second World War [you completely forgot about PPShs… In fact “experimentation” began much earlier – in 30s, when even Mafia in the United States was already armed with sub-machine guns. What do you think about Red Army which officially claimed to be “invincible”?]. In 1945 the Red Army adopted the Siminov SKS, a semi-automatic 7.62x39mm carbine. In 1949 production of the 7.62x39mm Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle began: planners envisaged troops using it in conjunction with the SKS, but it soon replaced the SKS completely. In 1978 the 5.45x39mm AK-74 assault rifle replaced the AK-47: it utilized no less than 51% of the AK-47's parts. [it is not correct. Soviet Army, in fact, starting from 1957-58 was no longer armed with AK-47, but with AKM, which looked nearly the same, but were different. They were 1 kilogram lighter due to their parts were stamped, not casted like in AK-47, plus they had a “compensator” at the end of the barrel that compensated bullet’s deviation caused by rifled barrel, but AK-47 did not have that “compensator” yet. So the AK-74, in fact, replaced AKM, not AK-47. Moreover, this replacement did not occur until 1988-89. Only some few units were armed with AK-74 by 1982 and few more (mostly based in Afghanistan) were supplied with AK-74 during the mid-80s] Designers put together the new weapon as a counterpart to the American 5.56x45mm cartridge used in the M-16 assault rifle, and the Russian army continues to use it today.

Civil War

Main article: Russian Civil War


Polish-Soviet War

Main article: Polish-Soviet War

The Polish-Soviet War represented the first foreign campaign of the Red Army. The Soviet counter-offensive following the 1920 Polish invasion of Ukraine at first met with success, but Polish forces halted it at the disastrous (for the Soviets) Battle of Warsaw (1920).

Far East

     This article appears to contradict another article: Battle of Khalkhin Gol.

Please see discussion on the talk page.

Main article: Battle of Khalkhin Gol

In 1934, Mongolia and the USSR, recognising the threat from the mounting Japanese military presence in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, agreed to co-operate in the field of defence. On March 12, 1936, the co-operation increased with the ten-year Mongolian-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, which included a mutual defence protocol.

Red Army flag [here you have again North Vietnamese flag, not Soviet one !!]

In May 1939, a Mongolian cavalry unit clashed with Manchukuoan cavalry in the disputed territory east of the Halha River (also know in Russian as Халхин-Гол, Halhin Gol). There followed a clash with a Japanese detachment, which drove the Mongolians over the river. The Soviet troops quartered there in accordance with the mutual defence protocol intervened and obliterated the detachment. Escalation of the conflict appeared imminent, and both sides spent June amassing forces. On July 1 the Japanese force numbered 38,000 troops. The combined Soviet-Mongol force had 12,500 troops. The Japanese crossed the river, but after a three-day battle their opponents threw them back over the river. The Japanese kept probing the Soviet defences throughout July, without success.

On August 20 [General] Georgy Zhukov opened a major offensive with heavy air attack and three hours of artillery bombardment, after which three infantry divisions and five armoured brigades, supported by a fighter regiment and masses of artillery (57 thousand troops in total), stormed the 75,000 Japanese force deeply entrenched in the area. On August 23 the entire Japanese force found itself encircled, and on August 31 largely destroyed. Artillery and air attacks wiped out those Japanese who refused to surrender. Japan requested a cease-fire, and the conflict concluded with an agreement between the USSR, Mongolia and Japan signed on September 15 in Moscow.

In the conflict, the Red Army losses were 9,703 KIA and MIA and 15,952 wounded. The Japanese lost 25,000 KIA; the grand total was 61,000 killed, missing, wounded and taken prisoner.

Shortly after the cease-fire, the Japanese negotiated access to the battlefields to collect their dead. Finding thousands upon thousands of dead bodies came as a further shock to the already shaken morale of the Japanese soldiers. The scale of the defeat probably became a major factor in discouraging a Japanese attack on the USSR during World War II, which allowed the Red Army to switch a large number of its Far Eastern troops into the European Theatre in the desperate autumn of 1941.

World War II


The Scope of the War

As its name implies, World War II involved many countries and military theaters. It subsumed many different conflicts, which some historians may or may not consider part of the same war, depending on the perception and, alas, prejudice of the examiner. However, common usage accepts that World War II began on September 1, 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and ended on August 15, 1945, when Japan announced its surrender. Consequently, we may regard all major military conflicts within this period as episodes of World War II. This method of analysis has special significance for the European theatre, where any “independent” use of military force within this period had the potential to affect the balance of power and thus directly influence the course of World War II. The Soviet Army [Red Army, still] played a major role in the war, with the greatest amount of casualties of all the nations that fought in it.

The Polish Campaign

Main article: Invasion of Poland (1939)

On September 17, 1939 the Red Army marched its troops into the eastern territories of Poland (now part of Belarus and Ukraine) , using the official pretext of coming to the aid of the Ukrainians and the Belarusians threatened by Germany,[3] which had attacked Poland on September 1, 1939. The Soviet invasion opened a second front for the Poles and forced them to abandon plans for defense in the Romanian bridgehead area, thus hastening the Polish defeat. The Soviet and German advance halted roughly at the Curzon Line [of course, because Poland was occupying these lands since its 1920 invasion that rightfully belonged to the Soviet Union in accordance with all treaties finalizing the WW I; otherwise, it would look that the Red Army “occupied” Polish lands].

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which had included a secret protocol delimiting the “spheres of interest” of each party, set the scene for the remarkably smooth partition of Poland between Germany and the USSR [read the above note – the USSR was taking back what was stolen by Poland in result of its aggression in 1920; nothing more was taken than supposed to belong to the USSR officially]. The defined Soviet sphere of interest matched the territory subsequently captured in the campaign. The territory became part of the Ukrainian and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republics.

Even though water barriers separated most of the spheres of interest, the Soviet and German troops met each other on a number of occasions. The most remarkable event of this kind happened in Brest-Litovsk on 22 September, 1939. The German 19th panzer corps under the command of Heinz Guderian had occupied Brest-Litovsk, which lay within the Soviet sphere of interest. When the Soviet 29th Tank Brigade under the command of S. M. Krivoshein approached Brest-Litovsk, the commanders negotiated that the German troops would withdraw and the Soviet troops enter the city saluting each other.[4] Just three days earlier, however, the parties had a more damaging encounter near Lviv [then still “Lvov” because it became “Lviv” only in 1993; I guess it is so, but I could be mistaken], when the German 137th Gebirgsjägerregimenter (mountain infantry regiment) attacked a reconnaissance detachment of the Soviet 24th Tank Brigade; after a few casualties on both sides, the parties turned to negotiations, as a result of which the German troops left the area, and the Red Army troops entered L'viv [the same comment on both – city’s name and reason of its taking; German troops left Brest and Lvov not because they were so “kind”, but because they were too exited in pursuing defeated Poles and accidentally encroached on the territory that belonged to the Soviet Union; otherwise it looks too biased… especially for those treated by anti-Soviet propaganda in the past and for those who know nothing about history] on 22 September.

According to Soviet casualties and combat losses in the twentieth century edited by Colonel-General Krivosheev, the Red Army force in Poland numbered 466,516.[5]Polish sources give a number of over 800,000[6] The Red Army troops faced little resistance, mainly due to the entanglement of the majority of the Polish forces in fighting Germans along the Western border, but partly due to an official order by the Polish Supreme Command not to engage in combat with the Soviet troops, and also partly because many Polish citizens in the Kresy region - Ukrainians and Belarusians - viewed the advancing troops as liberators.[7] Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists rose against the Poles, and communist partisans organised local revolts, e.g. in Skidel, robbing and murdering Poles.[8] Nonetheless the Red Army sustained losses of 1,475 killed and missing and 2,383 wounded.[9] The losses of the opposing Polish troops are estimated at 6,000-7,000[10]; the Red Army reported that it had "disarmed" 452,536 men (Ibid.) but this figure probably included a large number not enrolled as regular Polish Army servicemen. The Polish PWN encyclopaedia gives the number of approximately 240,000 prisoners taken by the Red Army.[6]

The Finnish Campaigns

See the Winter War (1939 - 1940) and the Continuation War (1941 - 1944).


The Great Patriotic War, 1941 - 1945

Main articles: Eastern Front (World War II) and Great Patriotic War

The Soviet Army, World War II Victory Monument in Riga

By the autumn of 1940 a new world order had emerged. Nazi Germany and its allies dominated most of the European continent. Only the United Kingdom (in the West) and the Soviet Union (in the East) could challenge fascist hegemony. Nazi Germany and Britain had no common land border, but a state of war existed between them; the Germans had an extensive land border with the Soviet Union, but the latter remained neutral, bound by a non-aggression pact and by numerous trade agreements.

For Hitler, no dilemma ever existed in this situation. Drang nach Osten (German for "Drive towards the East") remained the order of the day. This culminated, on December 18, in the issuing of ‘Directive No. 21 – Case Barbarossa’, which opened by saying “the German Armed Forces must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign before the end of the war against England”. Even before the issuing of the directive, the German General Staff had developed detailed plans for an anti-Soviet campaign. On February 3, 1941, the final plan of Operation Barbarossa gained approval, and the attack was scheduled for the middle of May, 1941. However, the events in Greece and Yugoslavia necessitated a delay — to the second half of June.

At the time of the Nazi assault on the USSR in June 1941, the Red Army had 303 divisions and 22 brigades (4.8 million troops), including 166 divisions and 9 brigades (2.9 million troops) stationed in the western military districts. Their Axis opponents deployed on the Eastern Front 181 divisions and 18 brigades (5.5 million troops). The first weeks of the war saw the annihilation of virtually the entire Soviet Air Force on the ground, the loss of major equipment, tanks, artillery, and major Soviet defeats as German forces trapped hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers in vast pockets.

Soviet forces suffered heavy damage in the field as a result of poor levels of preparedness, which was primarily caused by a reluctant, half-hearted and ultimately belated decision by the Soviet Government and High Command to mobilize the army. Equally important was a general tactical superiority of the German army, which was conducting the kind of warfare that it had been combat-testing and fine-tuning for two years. The hasty pre-war growth and over-promotion of the Red Army cadres as well as the removal of experienced officers caused by the Purges offset the balance even more favourably for the Germans. Finally, the sheer numeric superiority of the Axis cannot be underestimated.

A generation of brilliant Soviet commanders (most notably Zhukov) learned from the defeats, and Soviet victories in the Battle of Moscow, at Stalingrad, Kursk and later in Operation Bagration [not many people, in fact, know that Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation was code-named “Bagration”, it might be confusing; in general in the Soviet Union all these strategic operations were popularly known NOT by their staff code-names, but by their geographical names – such as Vistula-Order Operation, Berlin Operation, Petsamo-Kirkeness Operation, Yassy-Kishinev Operation, etc. in fact the Belorussian Operation was not the best known of them, probably Vistula-Order- and Yassy-Kishinev Operations are better known] proved decisive in what became known to the Soviets as the Great Patriotic War.

The Soviet government adopted a number of measures to improve the state and morale of the retreating Red Army in 1941. Soviet propaganda turned away from political notions of class struggle, and instead invoked the deeper-rooted patriotic feelings of the population, embracing pre-revolutionary Russian history. Propagandists proclaimed the War against the German aggressors as the "Great Patriotic War", in allusion to the Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon. References to ancient Russian military heroes such as Alexander Nevski and Mikhail Kutuzov appeared. Repressions against the Russian Orthodox Church stopped, and priests revived the tradition of blessing arms before battle. The Communist Party abolished the institution of political commissars — although it soon restored them [it is not true – see above about “zampolits”]. The Red Army re-introduced military ranks and adopted many additional individual distinctions such as medals and orders. The concept of a Guard re-appeared: units which had shown exceptional heroism in combat gained the names of "Guards Regiment", "Guards Army", etc.

During the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army drafted a staggering 29,574,900 in addition to the 4,826,907 in service at the beginning of the war. Of these it lost 6,329,600 KIA, 555,400 deaths by disease and 4,559,000 MIA (most captured). Of these 11,444,100, however, 939,700 re-joined the ranks in the subsequently-liberated Soviet territory, and a further 1,836,000 returned from German captivity. Thus the grand total of losses amounted to 8,668,400 [in the Soviet Union it was believed that losses were around 20.000.000; it is the official digit; but now (after Perestroika) they begin to claim even more – 27 millions; however, these are numbers about total, including civilian casualties, not only those of the Red Army]. The majority of the losses comprised ethnic Russians (5,756,000), followed by ethnic Ukrainians (1,377,400).[11]

The German losses on the Eastern Front comprised an estimated 3,604,800 KIA/MIA (most killed) and 3,576,300 captured (total 7,181,100); the losses of the German satellites on the Eastern Front approximated 668,163 KIA/MIA and 799,982 captured (total 1,468,145). Of these 8,649,300, the Soviets released 3,572,600 from captivity after the war, thus the grand total of the Axis losses came to an estimated 5,076,700.

A comparison of the losses demonstrates the cruel treatment of the Soviet POWs by the Nazis. The majority of Axis POWs taken prisoner by the Soviets died in captivity. [I don’t see any sense in this – who was “cruel” – Germans or Russians in treating POWs?] Of the all the German troops taken prisoner at Stalingrad [shall be put some digit here, otherwise it is impossible to understand, if 5.000 is a big number or small], only about 5,000 even made it back to Germany.[citation needed] The fate of the Soviet POWs was equally bad or worse.

US-Government poster showing a friendly Russian soldier as portrayed by the Allies during World War II.

In the first part of the war, the Red Army fielded weaponry of mixed quality. It had excellent artillery, but it did not have enough trucks to manoeuvre and supply it; as a result the Wehrmacht (which rated it highly) captured much of it. Red Army T-34 tanks outclassed any other tanks in the world, yet most of the Soviet armoured units were less advanced models; likewise, the same supply problem handicapped even the formations equipped with the most modern tanks. The Soviet Air Force initially performed poorly against the Germans. The quick advance of the Germans into the Soviet territory made reinforcement difficult, if not impossible, since much of the Soviet Union's military industry lay in the west of the country.

The Manchurian Campaign

As a postscript to the war in Europe, the Red Army attacked Japan and Manchukuo, Japan's puppet state in Manchuria, on 9 August 1945, and in combination with Mongolian and Chinese Communist forces rapidly overwhelmed the outnumbered Kwantung Army. Soviet forces also attacked in Sakhalin, in the Kuril Islands and in northern Korea. Japan surrendered unconditionally on 2 September 1945.

The Cold War

Main article: Cold War

The Soviet Union only had Ground Forces, Air Forces, and the Navy in 1945.[12] The two Narkomats, one supervising the Ground Forces and Air Forces, and the other directing the Navy, were combined into the Ministry of the Armed Forces in March 1946. A fourth service, the Troops of National Air Defence, was formed in 1948. The Ministry was briefly divided into two again from 1950 to 1953, but then was amalgamated again as the Ministry of Defence. Six years later the Strategic Rocket Forces were formed. The VDV, the Airborne Forces, were also active by this time as a Reserve of the Supreme High Command. Also falling within the Soviet Armed Forces were the Tyl, or Rear Services, of the Armed Forces, the Troops of Civil Defence, and the Border and Internal Troops, neither of which came under command of the Ministry of Defence [“Tyl” or Rear Services and Troops of Civil Defence were under command of the Ministry of Defense. This is for sure. Border Guards and Internal Troops were not.].

Men within the Soviet Army dropped from around 13 million to approximately 5 million after the war [I guess it was still Red Army, not Soviet, because it was re-named only 25 February 1946]. In order to control this demobilisation process, the number of military districts was temporarily increased to thirty-three, dropping to twenty-one in 1946.[13] The size of the Army throughout the Cold War remained between 3 million and 5 million, according to Western estimates. Soviet law required all able-bodied males of age to serve a minimum of 2 [it was 3 years in the Army and 4 years in the Navy, it was decreased by 1 year to 2 and 3 years correspondingly only in 1967] years. As a result, the Soviet Army remained the largest active army in the world from 1945 to 1991. Soviet Army units which had took over the countries of Eastern Europe from German rule remained in some of them to secure the régimes in what became satellite states of the Soviet Union and to deter and to fend off pro-independence resistance and later NATO forces. The greatest Soviet military presence was in East Germany, in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, but there were also smaller forces elsewhere, including the Northern Group of Forces in Poland, the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia, and the Southern Group of Forces in Hungary. In the Soviet Union itself, forces were divided by the 1950s among fifteen military districts, including the Moscow, Leningrad, and Baltic Military Districts.

The trauma of the devastating German invasion of 1941 influenced the Soviet Cold War military doctrine of fighting enemies on their own territory, or in a buffer zone under Soviet hegemony, but in any case preventing any war from reaching Soviet soil. In order to secure Soviet interests in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Army moved in to quell anti-Soviet uprisings in the German Democratic Republic (1953), Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968). As a result of the Sino-Soviet border conflict, a sixteenth military district was created in 1969, the Central Asian Military District, with headquarters at Alma-Ata.[14] To improve capabilities for war at a theatre level, in the late 1970s and early 1980s four high commands [High Commands on War Theaters – official names, in the 80s they were re-named into High Commands on Sectors; except only for the Far-Eastern one; that was always named the same: “High Command of Troops in Siberia and in Far East”] were established, grouping the military districts, groups of forces, and fleets.[15]The Far Eastern High Command was established first, followed by the Western and South-Western High Commands towards Europe, and the Southern High Command at Baku, oriented toward the Middle East. [capitals of High Commands on War Theaters were: Baku (Azerbaijan) for Southern, Kishinev (Moldavia) for South-Western, Ulan-Ude for Far Eastern, for Western, unfortunately, I can’t recollect – but it appears to me that it was in a city of Legbice or Legbitse or Legbitze or Legbize (direct transliteration from Russian Легбице, since I don’t know correct spelling in German) in Eastern Germany, but I could be mistaken.]

Confrontation with the US and NATO during the Cold War mainly took the form of threatened mutual deterrence with nuclear weapons. The Soviet Union invested heavily in the Army's nuclear capacity, especially in the production of ballistic missiles and of nuclear submarines to deliver them. Open hostilities took the form of wars by proxy, with the Soviet Union and the US supporting loyal client régimes or rebel movements in Third World countries.

Manpower and Enlisted Men

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The Soviet Armed Forces were manned through conscription, which had been reduced in 1967 from three to two years. This system was administered through the thousands of military commissariats (военный комиссариат, военкомат (voyenkomat)) located throughout the Soviet Union. Between January and May of every year [it is not correct. There were two yearly “summons” in a form of “summon orders” signed by the Minister of Defense, that happened in autumn and in spring, that require every eligible male of 18 years old to be summoned to service; the same order also read to discharge from service those conscripts who completed their 2 or 3 years service; execution of the summoning part was entrusted to military commissars (“voenkoms”), execution of discharging part - to regimental (separate battalion’s) or navy ships commanders. Upon coming into force of such Minister’s order, military commissars (in “rayon” and “oblast” levels) had to order their subordinates to serve summons on registered would-be conscripts and only after than the would-be conscripts had to appear. Then officers serving at a “voenkomat” (actually it was called “military commissariat” officially and in official language, “voenkomat” is a kind of colloquial expression) had to organize reception, medical examination, professional examination etc. of the newcomers, and to sort them out in order to assign them to various places of their service in accordance with their preparedness, level of intellect, state of health, knowledge of foreign language, common impression, civil profession, sport achievements, education, and other parameters. After sorting the conscripts (still in civilian dress) were handed over in groups to “buyers” from various military units and escorted under their command to their destinations (mostly to military schools that train either specialists or junior sergeants). Internal Troops, Militia (it also had conscript units), firefighters (they also had some conscript units) of the Ministry of Home Affairs, KGB troops and Border Guards of KGB, as well as troops belonging to the Ministry of Railways and to the Ministry of Communication were all supplied with conscripts under the same order of the Minister of Defence.], every young Soviet male citizen was required to report to the local voyenkomat for assessment for military service, following a summons based on lists from every school and employer in the area. The voyenkomat worked to quotas sent out by a department of the General Staff, listing how young men are required by each service and branch of the Armed Forces.[16] The new conscripts were then picked up by an officer [not necessary an officer, it could be a warrant-officer or a sergeant] from their future unit and usually sent by train across the country. On arrival, they would begin the Young Soldiers' course, and become part of the system of hazing and domination by an older class of draftees, known as dedovshchina, literally "rule by the grandfathers." [sounds too biased. In fact, during Young Soldier’s Course no one could touch youngsters, except only a sergeant and an officer appointed to train them; the conscripts at that moment are totally isolated from the “grandfathers” who could not even come near. Those appointed to train young soldiers, in fact, treated them far more leniently compare to that practiced in the US military during similar process. Moreover, even after Young Soldier Course “grandfathers” could not come near to these conscripts (at least in 95% of cases), since most of conscripts spend their first 6 months in training regiments (military schools) where “grandfathers” are simply absent. These training regiments considered to be model regiments usually headed by model commanders who prefer to have under their command model sergeants and these kinds of excesses could not be tolerated at all. What is called “dedovshchina” in reality is not “unwarranted relations” between conscript sergeants and conscript privates, despite common misconception; it is “unwarranted relations” between privates who have already served 1.5 years and privates who just came to the unit from 6 months military school (training regiment). Moreover, this thing did not exist in every military unit, but only endemic to some units and to some troops. It has also never been condoned by commissioned officers and it was always fought against to the best of their abilities. Usually this kind of excesses could occur only during night time when commissioned officers are absent and conscript are left alone being under command of some young conscript sergeant who can not cope with the “grandfathers”. The picture is about like this, not like you paint it here.] There were only a very small number of professional non-commissioned officers (NCOs), as most NCOs were conscripts sent on short courses[17] to prepare them for section commanders' and platoon sergeants' positions. [strangely enough, conscript sergeants and what you call “NCOs” (who are indeed the same sergeant with the same rank who has a real salary, unlike a conscript who has only a few rubles for his ice-cream) are both “professional” to about the same extent – since either of them completed 6-month long training courses on the same subject. The only difference might be that the NCOs could have more practice due to their longer service, or more authority over youngsters due to their older age (but not because of their actual rank). But nothing more than that – the level of “professionalism” is the same. In fact, conscript sergeants in most of cases are more diligent than NCOs, because it they are new at service and as any newcomer they try to do their best. ] These conscript NCOs were supplemented by praporshchik warrant officers, positions created in the 1960s to support the increased variety of skills required for modern weapons.[18]

Military Doctrine

The Soviet meaning of military doctrine was much different from U.S. military usage of the term. Soviet Minister of Defence Marshal Grechko defined it in 1975 as 'a system of views on the nature of war and methods of waging it, and on the preparation of the country and army for war, officially adopted in a given state and its armed forces.' Soviet theorists emphasised both the political and 'military-technical' sides of military doctrine, while from the Soviet point of view, Westerners ignored the political side. However the political side of Soviet military doctrine, Western commentators Harriet F Scott and William Scott said, 'best explained Soviet moves in the international arena'.[19]

The limited contingent in Afghanistan

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In 1979, however, the Soviet Army intervened in a civil war raging in Afghanistan. The Soviet Army came to back a Soviet-friendly secular government threatened by Muslim fundamentalist guerillas equipped and financed by the United States. Technically superior, the Soviets did not have enough troops to establish control over the countryside and to secure the border. This resulted from hesitancy in the Politburo, which allowed only a "limited contingent", averaging between 80,000 and 100,000 troops. Consequently, local insurgents could effectively employ hit-and-run tactics, using easy escape-routes and good supply-channels. This made the Soviet situation hopeless from the military point of view (short of using "scorched earth" tactics, which the Soviets did not practise except in World War II in their own territory). The understanding of this made the war highly unpopular within the Army. [Sounds too biased. Soviet troops did not leave Afghanistan as losers. And they never lose battles during being there, in fact. Compare casualties, for example – thousand from Soviet side - against hundreds of thousands from mujahidin side. Yes, they did not win the war, but there were no war, so there was nothing to win. Nobody actually gave them order to engage into a full-scale war in order to take over Afghanistan. The troops were tasked with “maintaining order” which they did to the best of their abilities. So, I don’t think that phrases like “make Soviet situation hopeless” are really appropriate. You can say so about German troops encircled in Stalingrad or in Berlin, but unlikely about the best trained and best supplied Soviet troops stationed in Afghanistan and engaged in minor routine skirmishes. I guess the current “hopeless situation” of American troops in Afghanistan is much, much more “hopeless” than that of Soviet troops 20 years ago.] With the coming of glasnost, Soviet media started to report heavy losses, which made the war very unpopular in the USSR in general, even though actual losses remained modest, averaging 1670 per year. [Sounds too biased again. In fact, those who believed that this war was a wrong cause were widely available well before so-called “glasnost” (also within the military). They did not change their opinions when “glasnost” occurred. On the other hand, there were many who believed that this war was a right cause and they did not change or modify their opinion after “glasnost”. Many of them continue to maintain so even up to this day. In fact, “glasnost” changed nothing at all on this particular subject. “Glasnost” indeed changed public opinion on some subjects – like leading role of the Communist Party, or personality of Lenin, for example. But it changed practically nothing on the Afghanistan adventure issue.] The war also became a sensitive issue internationally, which finally led Gorbachev to withdraw the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The "Afghan Syndrome" suffered by the Army parallels the American Vietnam Syndrome trauma over their own lost war in Vietnam. [I don’t think so. There is no (and there never was) a feeling that the Soviet Army allegedly “lost war” in Afghanistan. There was a feeling that some old idiots in Politburo for some idiotic reasons sent Soviet Army to fight in a country which is not actually our land and a feeling that another idiot (Gorbachev) withdrew an army without solidifying at least some gains already achieved in this war, despite its apparent craziness. So general feelings were about this. But nobody felt that it was “lost war” or “military defeat”. They rather felt that someone has betrayed them by sending them to the war first and then declaring that the war was a “mistake”.] Tactically, both sides concentrated on attacking supply lines, but Afghan mujahideen were well dug-in with tunnels and defensive positions, holding out against artillery and air attacks. [sounds too biased again; the mujahidin were fighting bravely, in fact, but desperately; they had no chance to win and they realized it, unlike Western readers subjected to an intense anti-Soviet propaganda] In the Soviet attack on Zhawar in 1986 before withdrawing [does not sound correct, about “before withdrawing” since they withdrew in 1989 and it was not yet planned in 1986], 800 guerillas prevailed against a Soviet force 6,600 and 12 days of bombing The Campaign for the Caves.

Eventually, the enormous cost of maintaining a 5-million-man peacetime army, as well as of waging a 9-year war in Afghanistan, would prove a major factor contributing to the decay of the Soviet economy and the Soviet Union as a whole. [this is surely correct (to a certain extent, still, because the main cause of the Soviet Union weakening was neither its general military expenditure, nor the war in Afghanistan in particular. The main cause was well-organized by the CIA sharp decline in oil prices. Probably the second main cause was the well-calculated by the CIA so-called “anti-vodka” campaign conducted by Gorbachev that crippled the Soviet economy. The rest of the CIA-planned things (such as Chernobyl “disaster”, Afghanistan war, Korean Flight 007, etc. were secondary reasons, which, nonetheless, all greatly contributed to the main cause)]

The end of the Soviet Union

Monument to the Red Army, still standing in Berlin

From around 1985 to 1990, the new leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to reduce the strain the Army placed on economic demands. His government slowly reduced the size of the army. By 1989 Soviet troops had completely left their Warsaw Pact neighbors to fend for themselves. That same year Soviet forces left Afghanistan. By the end of 1990, the entire Eastern Bloc had collapsed in the wake of democratic revolutions. As a result, Soviet citizens quickly began to turn against the Communist government as well. In March 1990, nationalism in Lithuania caused that republic to declare its independence. A series of out-lying republics would also declare their independence that year. Gorbachev reacted in limited fashion, declining to turn the Army against the citizenry, and a crisis developed. [I don’t think it was like this. The nationalistic tendencies always existed in many Soviet republics, but they were typically suppressed by ruling communist regimes which simply did not allow any nationalist to come to power or to open his mouth in public. In result of Gorbachev’s policy of so-called “glasnost” nationalists were allowed to participate in it as well and to open their mouths in public. It resulted in many nationalistic publications, which before that were simply unimaginable. These resulted in many insults to neighboring ethnic nationalities and in many places resulted in conflicts and also in armed conflicts. Gorbachev was too weak to promptly interfere to quash these conflicts and they slowly grew to become untreatable wounds (much like in North Ireland for example). In the same time the Communist Party loosened its grip on power due to “democratization” which resulted in that nationalists in many places increased their hold on power and eventually wrestled power from the Communists. Once the Communists lost their power in Baltic states (which had the strongest drive towards nationalism and secessionism from among all Soviet republics) it become an example for some high-ranking nationalists in other republics who believed that it was a good chance for them (personally for them, not for their people or for their lands) to become rich and politically influential by elevating from former “provincial governor” status to a status of an independent state’s president. Especially attractive to them appeared a possibility of direct, independent dealing with the United States on a stat-to-state level. Russia, even though it was a center of the Soviet Union and a unifying power behind its existence, too was headed by people seeking to elevate their own statuses from “Russian republic presidents” to “Independent Russia presidents” thus unseating Kremlin government by default. Combination of these events and tendencies led to eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union. It shall be known also, that these “good guys” who dissolved the Soviet Union did not ask opinion of population in neither if its former republics in neither form. They did not make any voting or any referendum to find out if people want that or not. The new heads of republics simply assembled in some very narrow circle and annulled the Union Treaty which made them technically “independent” automatically. But if they only asked opinions of people in each republics, the picture would be approximately as follows: in Baltic States probably from 35 to 55% would be pro-independence, in the rest of republics this figure would be from 1-2 to maximum 5-7% only. That is why population was not asked, but simply forced to accept the fact. ] By mid-1991, the Soviet union had reached a state of emergency. [Again, the Soviet Union has never reached any “state of emergency”. It was much the same as always, save for some isolated nationalistic conflicts in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, which, though, did not bother much the rest of the people. The August 1991 putsch was not because of gradually increasing “state of emergency” as it might appear to some, but simply because some high-ranking Communist Party, KGB and military officials (that were still “state-thinking” as opposed to newly arisen nationalists and other opportunists in power who were clearly egoistic) noticed that if they would not remove from power traitor Gorbachev right now, then tomorrow it will be too late. That time people still loved the Soviet Union and achievements of October Revolution and they were still proud of being citizens of such a great country that was about to be stolen from under their very noses. It is quite easy to understand them and their feelings from merely psychological point of view. So these guys ventured into a coup d’état. Their chances seemed to be high. The Communists by that time did not lose power yet, and it was still possible to regain it in some republics where they partly lost it. The army and police were still under firm control, patriotic, and obedient to orders. High-ranking nationalists in republics have not yet distanced themselves too far from Moscow and have not dismantled the Soviet system yet. The people in general still wholeheartedly supported socialist system and existence of the Soviet Union. So, chances were indeed much more than just 50x50. However, this coup in fact resulted in disaster. Soviet people began to realize that Gorbachev was a traitor at the pay of the CIA, only at the middle of 90s. This realization has not come to them yet in 1991. By that time Gorbachev was extremely popular figure; he conducted populist policies liked by many; by today he won’t get even a half-percent of vote – he tried it once in the mid 90s and he got slightly over 1%, but with the course of time even more people began to hate him and now he won’t get even a quarter of that; but it was not so in 1991. Probably about 90 % of people liked Gorbachev very much and when they heard about the coup d’état it appeared to them that some hard-liners akin to Trotsky or Stalin (who was much feared then) are going to take over their beloved “reformist” Gorbachev. So many people went to streets to support Yeltsin (head of Russia) against putschists (representing Soviet Government). It so happened that public sentiment to this cause was so intense that army which was sent to take under control some facilities in Moscow, was unable to perform orders and eventually found itself on the side of Yeltsin. It resulted seemingly only in defeat of the putsch, arrest of the putschists (accused of treason and attempt to unlawfully dismiss acting president of the Soviet Union) and in restoration of Gorbachev as the head of the Soviet Union. But, practically, it resulted in something much more serious than this. Nationalists everywhere (including Yeltsin and Co.) saw a chance in this occurrence. Yeltsin saw a chance to unseat the Soviet Government and to become a sole authority, the rest of nationalists in republics were driven by similarly egoistic motives. They immediately began to scare population trying to convince it that the central power of the Soviet Union has to be “not abolished”, but “improved” since it proved its danger right now. It worked out. Anti-Union sentiment was increased partly. But anti-Communist sentiment was increased greatly. The Communist Party that supported the putsch lost its appeal completely in one single day. Using this chance, nationalistic leaders of Russia and the rest of the Soviet republic made a clandestine meeting where they nullified Union Treaty which made them technically independent right away. Gorbachev’s and Soviet Government’s and Legislature powers over no longer existing Soviet Union were nullified automatically. It was declared to the peoples in all republics (except three Baltic states that voted for independence on parliamentary level) that they do not have to worry, the Soviet Union would be re-created soon under a new Union Treaty, more “beneficial” for each signatory. This was cheating. It never happened. That is the true story of the Soviet Union’s “collapse”. In fact it has never collapsed; it was simply stolen by a few guys who pursued their personal interests. What about that unfortunate coup d’état in August 1991 (they call it “putsch” in the former Soviet Union) it ironically killed the Soviet Union, instead of saving it. Because if not that putsch, the nationalist leaders would never dare to dissolve the Soviet Union with the same ease they did using the failed putsch as a pretext. The Soviet Union, despite its apparent weakling was still so strong in August 1991 that there was simply no chance that it could collapse in foreseeable future. To dissolve it by nullifying Union Treaty was not an option either. So, the putsch gave a chance to these things to happen and all opportunists did not fail to use this chance.]

According to the official commission (the Soviet Academy of Sciences) appointed by the Supreme Soviet (the higher chamber of the Russian parliament) immediately after the events of August 1991, the Army did not play a significant role in what some describe as coup d'état of old-guard communists. Commanders sent tanks into the streets of Moscow, but (according to all the commanders and soldiers) only with orders to ensure the safety of the people. [It is true. The leaders of the coup in fact were so sure that everybody would obey them by default that they did not even expect such a great public protest. But even if they knew it in advance, they would not send army to crash this protest anyways. They would simply abstain from staging that coup. There should not be any slightest doubt in this regard.] It remains unclear why exactly the military forces entered the city, but they clearly did not have the goal of overthrowing Gorbachev (absent on the Black Sea coast at the time) or the government. The coup failed primarily because the participants didn't take any decisive action [but, in fact, they had no chance to take any “decisive action”; their leaders simply miscalculated their chances; they hoped for public support and when they encountered public protest, instead, they simply have nothing else to do than to sit and to wait what happens next], and after several days of their inaction the coup simply stopped. Only one confrontation took place between civilians and the tank crews during the coup, which led to the deaths of three civilians [Actually it so happened that I myself witnessed that event. The tank crew was not guilty at all; the tank stuck in a small tunnel because an exit of the tunnel was blocked by a trolleybus. So the tank attempted to turn around in a narrow space and it accidentally smashed some people by its rear against the tunnel’s wall. There was no intention to kill anybody by that way.]. Although the victims became proclaimed heroes, the authorities acquitted the tank crew of all charges. Nobody issued orders to shoot at anyone.

Following the coup attempt of August 1991, the leadership of the Soviet Union retained practically no authority over the component republics. Nearly every Soviet Republic declared its intention to secede and began passing laws defying the Supreme Soviet. On December 8, 1991, the Presidents of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine declared the Soviet Union dissolved and signed the document setting up the Commonwealth of Independent States. Gorbachev finally resigned on December 25, 1991, and the following day the Supreme Soviet, the highest governmental body, dissolved itself, officially ending the Soviet Union's existence. For the next year and a half various attempts to keep its unity and transform it into the military of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) failed. Steadily, the units stationed in Ukraine and some other breakaway republics swore loyalty to their new national governments, while a series of treaties between the newly independent states divided up the military's assets. After the following collapse of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Army dissolved and the USSR's successor states divided its assets among themselves. The divide mostly occurred along a regional basis, with Soviet soldiers from Russia becoming part of the new Russian Army, while Soviet soldiers originating from Kazakhstan became part of the new Kazakh Army. As a result, the bulk of the Soviet Army, including most of the nuclear missile forces, became incorporated in the Russian Ground Forces. [It was not so exactly. Division of the Soviet Armed Forces described above was only regarding those military units belonging to corresponding military districts. There were also military units of central subordination – such as those belonging to the Strategic Rocket Forces, to the 12th Chief Directorate, to the GRU, and to some other serious organizations (such as those dealing with chemical and bacteriological weapons, for example). These were never divided up. They were first made in so-called CIS Strategic Forces, which were at first “inter-republic”. These CIS Strategic Forces were commanded by Marshal of Aviation Shaposhnikov, who had sole authority over these troops. Yeltsin got control over these troops not immediately, but only after some time. By the time Marshal Shaposhnikov transferred his authority over these Strategic Troops to the new Russian Government, all nuclear weapons and all other dangerous staff was either already evacuated to Russian jurisdiction, or disassembled and securely destroyed. This process took two years at least. There were also some conflicts over custody of nuclear weapons, such as it was with Ukraine who declared its intention to appropriate nuclear warheads being kept on her territory and to become another nuclear state; but all these excesses were solved positively. In fact, those guys who run the nuclear arsenal and the Strategic Rocket Forces were too serious to allow different nationalistic leaders (Yeltsin including) to come near their dangerous staff. It was done only after some serious negotiations were conducted and guarantees of their sanity were provided by the new Russian leaders.]

In mid-March 1992, Yeltsin appointed himself as the new Russian minister of defence, marking a crucial step in the creation of the new Russian armed forces, comprising the bulk of what was still left of the military. The last vestiges of the old Soviet command structure were finally dissolved in June 1993 [that is what I am talking about – it was still indivisible CIS Strategic Forces that managed to survive the Soviet Union by almost two years].

In the next few years, the former Soviet forces withdrew from central and Eastern Europe (including the Baltic states), [here there is a contradiction in your statement: how “Soviet” troops could have been withdrawn from Azerbaijan, for example, if the previous paragraph says that they became an army of a new Azerbaijan state? Possibly we can talk here that some centrally subordinated units of the former CIS Strategic Forces that could not have been given over to any republic were evacuated to Russia.] as well as from the newly independent post-Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia(partially), Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan. Now-Russian forces remained in Tajikistan, and at isolated outposts including the Garbala space tracking station in Azerbaijan, the Baikonur Cosmodrome and other space facilities in Kazakstan, and a naval test centre at Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan. While in many places the withdrawal took place without any problems, the Russian army remained in some disputed areas such as the Sevastopol naval base in the Crimea as well as in Abkhazia, Georgia, where the Russian military presence was deeply resented, and Transnistria. [Sevastopol is no longer “disputed” area. It was officially rented by the Russian Government from the Ukrainian Government – much like the United States rent Guantanamo base from Cuba. Troops in “Transnistria” and in Tajikistan remained there not because they were remnants of the former Soviet troops that have not been withdrawn yet, but because they were sent there as peacekeepers – to stop some exceptionally bloody regional conflicts; so they remained there for some time only as peace guarantors. Space related troops in Garbala and Baikonur are stationed there on newly signed intergovernmental agreements, not as “remnants of Soviet troops” – these places were simply rented by the new Russian Government, much like any other’s foreign military base. From Georgia, as far as I can recollect, all former Russian military bases were evacuated because of extreme anti-Russian sentiment of the new Georgian government. In Kyrgyzstan Russia rented a newly created military base, which is a totally new development which has nothing to do with former Soviet troops. The same thing applies to Uzbekistan and to few bases in Kazakhsatn. Russian 102nd military base in Armenia did not remain there from the Soviet times. It was created in 1995 based on some Russian-Armenian intergovernmental treaty. In its major part it was created to house troops and weaponry that were removed from military bases in Georgia. So there is nothing sinister in current existence of any Russian military base in neither of these republics. Practically there is no place were Russian troops still stay today against the will of a local government or people (save for Chechnya, may be). Everywhere they rented bases which is mutually beneficial. When Georgia requested Russians to withdraw their two bases the requests were honored the request to the best of their abilities (I am talking about withdrawal of former military bases in 2007, not about a conflict over South Ossetia and about brief occupation of a part of Georgia by Russian troops in 2008). About Russian troops remaining in South Ossetia and in Abkhazia – again, they did not remain there from Soviet times. They were sent there much later as peacekeepers – to stop some bloody regional conflicts. So, they remain there as peacekeepers in accordance with international agreements.]


...fails to mention Border Troops and Internal Troops - also part of the Soviet Armed Forces. -- (talk) 11:19, 3 September 2009 (UTC)

Is it Four or Five original services[edit]

The first sentence of the second paragraph says that there were Five services originally -- and lists four. (talk) 15:27, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Unit structure missing.[edit]

A unit struture and size somparison would be useful. What was the size of a Soviet Army comparted to a German or Western allied one. What is a "front" compare to an "Army Group" etc. -- (talk) 01:07, 10 August 2013 (UTC)

Afghan subheading[edit]

There appears to be few to no citations in this subheading... I don't know how to add citation needed tag to that (new!) but maybe someone can revisit that.