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The Soviet Armed Forces, also called the Armed Forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Armed Forces of the Soviet Union (, Вооружённые Силы Советского Союза) were the armed forces of the
Russian SFSR The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR or RSFSR; rus, links=no, Российская Советская Федеративная Социалистическая Республика, Rossiyskaya Sovetskaya Federativnaya ...
(1917–1922), the Soviet Union (1922–1991) and the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Abbreviated in Russian as КПСС or ''KPSS''. was the founding and ruling political party of the Soviet Union. The CPSU was the One-party state, sole governing party of the Soviet Union until 19 ...
from their beginnings in the aftermath of the
Russian Civil War , date = October Revolution, 7 November 1917 – Yakut revolt, 16 June 1923{{Efn, The main phase ended on 25 October 1922. Revolt against the Bolsheviks continued Basmachi movement, in Central Asia and Tungus Republic, the Far East th ...
to its
dissolution Dissolution may refer to: Arts and entertainment Books * Dissolution (Forgotten Realms novel), ''Dissolution'' (''Forgotten Realms'' novel), a 2002 fantasy novel by Richard Lee Byers * Dissolution (Sansom novel), ''Dissolution'' (Sansom novel), a 2 ...
on 26 December 1991. The Soviet Armed Forces officially ceased to exist on 7 May 1992. According to the all-union military service law of September 1925, the Soviet Armed Forces consisted of three components: the
Ground Forces An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-based military branch Military branch ...
, the Air Forces, the
Navy A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense ...
, the
State Political Directorate The State Political Directorate (also translated as the State Political Administration) (GPU) was the intelligence service and secret police Secret police (or political police) are intelligence, security or police agencies that engage in cov ...
(OGPU), and the convoy guards. The OGPU was later made independent and amalgamated with the
NKVD The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (: ''Naródnyy komissariát vnútrennikh del''; ), abbreviated NKVD ( ), was the interior ministry An interior ministry (sometimes called ministry of internal affairs or ministry of home affairs) ...
in 1934, and thus its
Internal Troops The Internal Troops, full name Internal Troops of the Ministry for Internal Affairs (MVD) (russian: Внутренние войска Министерства внутренних дел, Vnutrenniye Voiska Ministerstva Vnutrennikh Del; abbreviated ...
were under the joint management of the Defense and Interior Commisariats. After World War II, the
Strategic Rocket Forces The Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation or the Strategic Missile Forces of the Russian Federation (RVSN RF; russian: Ракетные войска стратегического назначения Российской Фед ...
(1959), Air Defence Forces (1948) and troops of the All-Union National
Civil Defence Civil defense (civil defence in UK English) or civil protection is an effort to protect the citizens of a state (generally non-combatants) from military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organ ...

Civil Defence
Forces (1970) were added, standing first, third and sixth in the official Soviet reckoning of comparative importance (with the Ground Forces being second, the Air Forces fourth, and the Navy fifth).


Names

*
Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне), Russian language term ...
: , *
Ukrainian Ukrainian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Ukraine * Something relating to Ukrainians an East Slavic people from Eastern Europe * Something relating to Demographics of Ukraine, in terms of demography: population of Ukraine * Somethi ...
: , *
Belarusian Belarusian may refer to: * Something of, or related to Belarus * Belarusians, people from Belarus, or of Belarusian descent * A citizen of Belarus, see Demographics of Belarus * Belarusian language * Belarusian culture * Belarusian cuisine * Byeloru ...
: , *
Uzbek
Uzbek
: , * Kazakh: , *
Georgian Georgian may refer to: Common meanings * Anything related to, or originating from Georgia (country) **Georgians, an indigenous Caucasian ethnic group **Georgian language, a Kartvelian language spoken by Georgians **Georgian scripts, three scripts ...
: , *
Azerbaijani Azerbaijani may refer to: * Something of, or related to Azerbaijan * Azerbaijanis * Azerbaijani language See also

* Azerbaijan (disambiguation) * Azeri (disambiguation) * Azerbaijani cuisine * Culture of Azerbaijan * {{Disambig Language a ...
: , *
Lithuanian Lithuanian may refer to: * Lithuanians Lithuanians ( lt, lietuviai, singular ''lietuvis/lietuvė'') are a Balts, Baltic ethnic group. They are native to Lithuania, where they number around 2,561,300 people. Another million or more make up the Lith ...
: *
Romanian Romanian may refer to: *anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Romania Romania ( ; ro, România ) is a country at the crossroads of Central Europe, Central, Eastern Europe, Eastern and Southeast Europe, Southeastern Euro ...
: (
Moldovan Cyrillic The Moldovan Cyrillic alphabet is a Cyrillic alphabets, Cyrillic alphabet designed for the local language of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in the Soviet Union, then known as "Moldavian" and referred to as Moldovan language, Moldovan in ...
: Форцеле армате але Униунии Републичилор Сочиалисте Совиетиче) * Latvian: *
KyrgyzKyrgyz, Kirghiz or Kyrgyzstani may refer to: *Things related to Kyrgyzstan *Kyrgyz people *Kyrgyz language *Kyrgyz culture *Kyrgyz cuisine *Yenisei Kirghiz *The Fuyu Kyrgyz language, Fuyü Gïrgïs language in Northeastern China {{Disambig Languag ...
: , * Tajik: , *
Armenian Armenian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Armenia, a country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia * Armenians, the national people of Armenia, or people of Armenian descent ** Armenian language, the Indo-European language spoken ...
: , * Turkmen: , *
Estonian Estonian may refer to: *Something of, from, or related to Estonia, a country in the Baltic region in northern Europe *Estonians, people from Estonia, or of Estonian descent *Estonian language *Estonian cuisine *Estonian culture See also

* * La ...
:


History


Origins

The
Council of People's Commissars The Council of People's Commissars (SNK; russian: Совет народных комиссаров (СНК), ''Sovet narodnykh kommissarov''), commonly known as the ''Sovnarkom'' (Совнарком), were the highest executive authorities of the ...
set up the
Red Army The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army,) frequently shortened to Red Army, was the army and air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (Russian SFSR or RSFSR; rus, links= ...
by decree on January 15, 1918 (
Old Style Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) indicate a dating system from before and after a calendar change, respectively. Usually this is the change from the to the as enacted in various European countries between 1582 and the 20th century. In ...
) (January 28, 1918), basing it on the already-existing
Red Guard Red Guards () was a mass student-led paramilitary social movement Mobilization, mobilized and guided by Chairman of the Communist Party of China, Chairman Mao Zedong in 1966 through 1967, during the first phase of the Chinese Cultural Revolution ...
. The official Red Army Day of February 23, 1918 marked the day of the first mass draft of the Red Army in
Petrograd Saint Petersburg ( rus, links=no, Санкт-Петербург, a=Ru-Sankt Peterburg Leningrad Petrograd Piter.ogg, r=Sankt-Peterburg, p=ˈsankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk), formerly known as Petrograd (1914–1924) and later Leningrad (1924–1991), ...
and Moscow, and of the first combat action against the rapidly advancing
Imperial German Army The Imperial German Army (1871–1919), officially referred to as the German Army (german: Deutsches Heer), was the unified ground and air force of the German Empire. It was established in 1871 with the political unification of Germany under the l ...
. 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 Russia as Defenders of the Motherland Day. Credit as the founder of the Red Army generally goes to
Leon Trotsky Lev Davidovich Bronstein. ( – 21 August 1940), better known as Leon Trotsky; uk, link= no, Лев Давидович Троцький; also transliterated ''Lyev'', ''Trotski'', ''Trotskij'', ''Trockij'' and ''Trotzky''. (), was a Ukrainian ...

Leon Trotsky
, the People's Commissar for War from 1918 to 1924. 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 still exist in Russia in this function and under this name. (Note: do not confuse military commissariats with the institution of military
political commissar In the military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, ...
s.) Democratic election of officers was also abolished by decree, while separate quarters for officers, special forms of address, saluting, and higher pay were all reinstated. After General
Aleksei Brusilov Aleksey Alekseyevich Brusilov (russian: Алексе́й Алексе́евич Бруси́лов, translit=Alekséj Alekséevič Brusílov; – 17 March 1926) was a Russian general most noted for the development of new offensive tactics used i ...
offered the Bolsheviks his professional services in 1920, they decided to permit the conscription of former officers of the
Imperial Russian Army The Imperial Russian Army (russian: Ру́сская импера́торская а́рмия, tr. ) was the land armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily in ...

Imperial Russian Army
. 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 Military advisors, or combat advisors advise on military matters. Some are soldiers sent to foreign countries to aid such countries with their military training, organization, and other various military tasks. The Foreign powers or organizations ma ...
(''voyenspets'': "военспец" an abbreviation of "военный специалист", i.e., "
military specialist The military history of the Soviet Union began in the days following the 1917 October Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power. In 1918 the new government formed the Red Army, which then defeated its various internal enemies in the Russian ...
"). 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
Mikhail Bonch-Bruevich
, had joined the Bolsheviks earlier. The Bolshevik authorities assigned to every unit of the Red Army a
political commissar In the military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, ...
, or ''politruk'', who had the authority to override unit commanders' decisions if they ran counter to the principles of the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union The Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Abbreviated in Russian as КПСС or ''KPSS''. was the founding and ruling political party of the Soviet Union. The CPSU was the One-party state, sole governing party of the Soviet Union until 19 ...
. 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
Tsar Tsar ( or ), also spelled ''czar'', ''tzar'', or ''csar'', is a Royal and noble ranks, title used to designate Orthodox Slavs, East and South Slavic monarchs. In this last capacity it lends its name to a system of government, tsarist autocra ...

Tsar
ist period.


Civil War


Polish–Soviet War

The
Polish–Soviet War The Polish–Soviet War (Polish–Bolshevik War, Polish–Soviet War, Polish–Russian War 1919–1921) * russian: Советско-польская война (''Sovetsko-polskaya voyna'', Soviet-Polish War), Польский фронт ('' ...
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) The Battle of Warsaw ( Polish: ''Bitwa Warszawska'', Russian: ''Варшавская битва'', transcription: ''Varshavskaya bitva'', Ukrainian: ''Варшавська битва'', transcription: ''Varshavsʹka bytva''), also known as the Mi ...
.


Far East

In 1934,
Mongolia Mongolia (, mn, Монгол Улс, Mongol Uls, Mongolian script, Traditional Mongolian: '; literal translation, lit. "Mongol Nation" or "State of Mongolia") is a landlocked country in East Asia. It is bordered by Russia Mongolia–Russia ...

Mongolia
and the USSR, recognising the threat from the mounting Japanese military presence in
Manchuria Manchuria is an exonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its populatio ...

Manchuria
and
Inner Mongolia Inner Mongolia, officially the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous administrative division (also referred to as an autonomous area, entity, unit, region, subdivision, or territory) is a subnati ...

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. In May 1939, a Mongolian
cavalry Historically, cavalry (from the French word ''cavalerie'', itself derived from "cheval" meaning "horse") are soldier A soldier is a person who is a member of a professional army An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via O ...

cavalry
unit clashed with
Manchukuo Manchukuo, officially the State of Manchuria prior to 1934 and the Empire of (Great) Manchuria after 1934, was a puppet state of the Empire of Japan in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia from 1932 until 1945. It was founded as a republic in 19 ...
an cavalry in the disputed territory east of the Halha River (also known in Russian as Халхин-Гол, Halhin Gol). There followed a clash with a Japanese
detachment Detachment or detached may refer to: * Single-family detached home A stand-alone house (also called a single-detached dwelling, detached residence or detached house) is a free-standing residential building. It is sometimes referred to as a sing ...
, 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
Georgy Zhukov Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (russian: Георгий Константинович Жуков; ; 1 December 1896 – 18 June 1974) was a Soviet and . He also served as , , and was a member of the (later Politburo). During the , Zhukov ...
opened a major offensive with heavy air attack and three hours of
artillery Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch Ammunition, munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry firearms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications dur ...

artillery
bombardment A bombardment is an attack by artillery Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch Ammunition, munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry firearms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to ...
, after which three
infantry Infantry is an army specialization whose military personnel, personnel engage in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and armored warfare, armored forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantrymen or infanteer, i ...

infantry
division Division or divider may refer to: Mathematics *Division (mathematics), the inverse of multiplication *Division algorithm, a method for computing the result of mathematical division Military *Division (military), a formation typically consisting o ...
s and five armoured
brigade A brigade is a major tactical military formation Military organization or military organisation is the structuring of the armed forces of a State (polity), state so as to offer such military capability as a military policy, national de ...

brigade
s, supported by a
fighter
fighter
regiment A regiment is a military unit Military organization or military organisation is the structuring of the armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intend ...
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 A ceasefire (or truce), also spelled cease fire (the antonym of 'open fire'), is a temporary stoppage of a war War is an intense armed conflict between states, government A government is the system or group of people governi ...
, 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 killed in action (KIA) and missing in action (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 The Far East is a geographical region that includes East Asia, East and Southeast Asia as well as the Russian Far East. South Asia is sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons. The term "Far East" came into use in European geopoli ...
troops into the
European Theatre The European theatre of World War II was the main Theater (warfare), theatre of combat during World War II. It saw heavy fighting across Europe for almost six years, starting with Nazi Germany, Germany's invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 and ...
in the desperate autumn of 1941.


Second World War


The Polish Campaign

On September 17, 1939, the Red Army marched its troops into the eastern territories of
Poland Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 Voivodeships of Poland, administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely Temperate climate, temperate seasonal cli ...
(now part of
Belarus , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Minsk Minsk ( be, Мінск , russian: link=no, Минск) is the capital and the largest city of Belarus, located on the Svislach (Berezina), Svislach and the now subterranean Nyamiha, Niam ...

Belarus
and
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...

Ukraine
), using the official pretext of coming to the aid of the Ukrainians and the Belarusians threatened by Germany, 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 defence in the Romanian bridgehead area, thus hastening the Polish defeat. The Soviet and German advance halted roughly at the
Curzon Line The Curzon Line was a proposed demarcation line{{Refimprove, date=January 2008 A political demarcation line is a geopolitical border, often agreed upon as part of an armistice or ceasefire. Africa * Moroccan Wall, delimiting the Moroc ...
. The
Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact , long_name = , image = Bundesarchiv Bild 183-H27337, Moskau, Stalin und Ribbentrop im Kreml.jpg , image_width = 200 , caption = Joseph Stalin, Stalin and Joachim von Ribbentrop, Ribbentrop shaking hands after the signing of the pact in the Mos ...
, 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. The defined Soviet sphere of interest matched the territory subsequently captured in the campaign. The territory became part of the
Ukrainian Ukrainian may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to Ukraine * Something relating to Ukrainians an East Slavic people from Eastern Europe * Something relating to Demographics of Ukraine, in terms of demography: population of Ukraine * Somethi ...
and the Byelorussian
Soviet Socialist Republics The Republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or the Union Republics ( rus, Сою́зные Респу́блики, r=Soyúznye Respúbliki) were National delimitation in the Soviet Union, ethnically based administrative units of ...
. 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 Brest ( be, Брэст, Brest, ; russian: Брест, Brest, ; pl, Brześć; lt, Brasta; uk, Берестя, Berestia; yi, בריסק, Brisk), formerly Brest-Litovsk ( be, links=no, Берасце, Берасце Літоўскі (Брэс ...
on 22 September 1939. The German 19th Panzer Corps under the command of
Heinz Guderian Heinz Wilhelm Guderian (; 17 June 1888 – 14 May 1954) was a German general during World War II World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a that lasted from 1939 to 1945. It involved —in ...

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. Just three days earlier, however, the parties had a more damaging encounter near
Lviv Lviv ( ; uk, Львів ; pl, Lwów ; russian: Львов ; german: Lemberg; see also other names Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also refer to: Books * The Oth ...

Lviv
, 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 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. Polish sources give a number of over 800,000KAMPANIA WRZEŚNIOWA 1939
from PWN Encyklopedia. Please note that the above link is the
Internet Archive The Internet Archive is an American digital library A digital library, also called an online library, an internet library, a digital repository, or a digital collection is an online databaseAn online database is a database In computing ...
version, mid-2006. Th
new PWN article
is significantly shorter.
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 Eastern Borderlands ( pl, Kresy Wschodnie) or simply Borderlands ( pl, Kresy ) was a term coined for the eastern part of the Second Polish Republic The Second Polish Republic, at the time officially known as the Republic of Poland, was a count ...
region—Ukrainians and Belarusians—viewed the advancing troops as liberators.
Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) ( uk, Організація Українських Націоналістів (ОУН), ) was a radical Far-right politics, far-right Ukraine, Ukrainian Ultranationalism, ultranationalist political ...

Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
rose against the Poles, and communist partisans organised local revolts, e.g. in Skidel, robbing and murdering Poles.For example, see events as described in: Bronisław Konieczny, ''Mój wrzesień 1939. Pamiętnik z kampanii wrześniowej spisany w obozie jenieckim'', KSIĘGARNIA AKADEMICKA SP. Z O.O./Biblioteka Centrum Dokumentacji Czynu Niepodległościowego,

and ''Moje życie w mundurze. Czasy narodzin i upadku II RP'', KSIĘGARNIA AKADEMICKA SP. Z O.O., 2005

/ref> Nonetheless, the Red Army sustained losses of 1,475 killed and missing and 2,383 wounded. The losses of the opposing Polish troops are estimated at 6,000–7,000;Edukacja Humanistyczna w wojsku
. 1/2005. Dom wydawniczy Wojska Polskiego. . (Official publication of the Polish Army). Last accessed on 28 November 2006.
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 The Land Forces () are a military branch of the Polish Armed Forces. They currently contain some 62,000 active personnel and form many components of the European Union and NATO deployments around the world. Poland's recorded military history str ...
servicemen. The Polish PWN encyclopedia gives the number of approximately 240,000 prisoners taken by the Red Army.


The Finnish campaigns

The Winter War ( fi, talvisota, , sv, vinterkriget) or the Soviet-Finnish War () began when the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the invasion of Poland by Germany that started World War II. Because the attack was judged as illegal, the Soviet Union was expelled from the
League of Nations The League of Nations (french: Société des Nations ), was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation An intergovernmental organization (IGO) is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states (referred to as ''member state ...
on 14 December. The Continuation War ( fi, jatkosota, sv, fortsättningskriget, was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II. At the time Finns used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War of 30 November 1939 to 13 March 1940, the first of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II. The Soviet Union, however, perceived the war merely as one of the fronts of the
German–Soviet War The Eastern Front of World War II was a Theater (warfare), theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers against the Soviet Union (USSR), Polish Armed Forces in the East, Poland and other Allies of World War II, Allies, which encompa ...
against
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
and its allies.
Great Soviet Encyclopedia The ''Great Soviet Encyclopedia'' (GSE; ) is one of the largest Russian-language encyclopedias, published in the Soviet Union from 1926 to 1990. After 2002, the encyclopedia's data was partially included into the later ''Bolshaya Rossiyskaya en ...
, ''Finland'', Moscow, 1974,
Similarly, Germany saw its own operations in the region as a part of its overall war efforts of World War II. Finland was a
co-belligerentCo-belligerence is the waging of a war in cooperation against a common enemy with or without a formal treaty of military alliance. Generally, the term is used for cases where no alliance exists. Likewise, allies may not become co-belligerents in a wa ...
with Germany against the Soviet Union rather than an ally for the duration of the Continuation War.


Barbarossa, 1941–1945 (Great Patriotic War)

By the autumn of 1940,
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...

Nazi Germany
and its allies dominated most of the European continent. Only the United Kingdom (in the West) was actively challenging
national socialist Nazism (), officially National Socialism (german: Nationalsozialismus; ), is the ideology An ideology () is a set of beliefs or philosophies attributed to a person or group of persons, especially as held for reasons that are not purely ep ...
and
fascist Fascism () is a form of far-right Far-right politics, also referred to as the extreme right or right-wing extremism, are politics further on the right of the left–right political spectrum than the standard political right, particular ...

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, adhering to a
non-aggression pact A non-aggression pact or neutrality pact is a treaty A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered into by sovereign states and international organizations, but can sometime ...
and by numerous
trade agreement A trade agreement (also known as trade pact) is a wide-ranging taxes, tariff and trade treaty A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public internatio ...
s. For
Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Adolf Hitler
, no dilemma ever existed in this situation. ''
Drang nach Osten (, "Drive to the East",Ulrich Best, ''Transgression as a Rule: German–Polish cross-border cooperation, border discourse and EU-enlargement'', 2008, p. 58, , "push eastward",Jerzy Jan Lerski, Piotr Wróbel, Richard J. Kozicki, ''Historical Dicti ...
'' (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 Barbarossa, a name meaning "red beard" in Italian, may refer to: Arts and entertainment Fictional characters * Barbarossa Rugner, a character in the 1995 ''Suikoden'' PlayStation role-playing game * Barbarossa, pirate and protagonist in the 1953 ...

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 A military staff (often referred to as general staff, army staff, navy staff, or air staff within the individual services) is a group of officers, enlisted and civilian personnel that are responsible for the administrative, operational and ...
had developed detailed plans for a 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 Yugoslavia (; sh, Jugoslavija / ; sl, Jugoslavija ; mk, Југославија ;; rup, Iugoslavia; hu, Jugoszlávia; Pannonian Rusyn Image:Novi Sad mayor office.jpg, 250px, Mayor office written in four official languages used in the ...

Yugoslavia
necessitated a delay — to the second half of June. At the time of the Nazi assault on the Soviet Union 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 FrontEastern Front may refer to: * Eastern Front (World War I) * Eastern Front (World War II) * Eastern Front (Turkey), of the Turkish War of Independence ** Turkish–Armenian War, often referred to by itself as the Eastern Front * Eastern Front (Sudan) ...
181 divisions and 18 brigades (3.8 million troops). The first weeks of the war saw the annihilation of virtually the entire
Soviet Air Force The Soviet Air Forces ( rus, Военно-воздушные силы, r=Voyenno-Vozdushnyye Sily (VVS), literally "Military Air Forces") were one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces. The Air Forces ...
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 In history, religion and political science, a purge is a position removal or execution of people who are considered undesirable by those in power from a government, another organization, their team leaders, or society as a whole. A group undertakin ...
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
Georgy Zhukov Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov (russian: Георгий Константинович Жуков; ; 1 December 1896 – 18 June 1974) was a Soviet and . He also served as , , and was a member of the (later Politburo). During the , Zhukov ...
) learned from the defeats, and Soviet victories in the
Battle of Moscow The Battle of Moscow was a military campaign that consisted of two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern FrontEastern Front may refer to: * Eastern Front (World War I) * Eastern Front (World War II) * Easter ...

Battle of Moscow
, at
Stalingrad Volgograd (russian: Волгогра́д, Volgográd, a=ru-Volgograd.ogg, p=vəɫɡɐˈɡrat), geographical renaming, formerly Tsaritsyn (russian: Цари́цын, Tsarítsyn) (1589–1925), and Stalingrad (russian: Сталингра́д, Stal ...

Stalingrad
,
Kursk Kursk ( rus, Курск, p=ˈkursk) is a city A city is a large .Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, J., eds (1996) ''The Social Science Encyclopedia''. 2nd edition. London: Ro ...
and later in
Operation Bagration Operation Bagration (; russian: Операция Багратио́н, Operatsiya Bagration) was the codename for the 1944 Soviet Belorussian Strategic Offensive Operation (russian: Белорусская наступательная опера ...
proved decisive in what became known to the Soviets as the
Great Patriotic War The Eastern Front of World War II was a Theater (warfare), theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers against the Soviet Union (USSR), Polish Armed Forces in the East, Poland and other Allies of World War II, Allies, which encompa ...
. 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 Class conflict, also referred to as class struggle and class warfare, is the political tension and economic antagonism that exists in society A society is a Social group, group of individuals involved in persistent Social relation, socia ...
, and instead invoked the deeper-rooted patriotic feelings of the population, embracing Tsarist Russian history. Propagandists proclaimed the War against the German aggressors as the "Great Patriotic War", in allusion to the
Patriotic War of 1812 The French invasion of Russia, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812 (russian: Отечественная война 1812 года, translit= Otechestvennaya voyna 1812 goda) and in France as the Russian campaign (french: Campagne de R ...
against
Napoleon Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution The French Revolution ( ) refers to the period that began with the Estates General o ...
. References to ancient Russian military heroes such as Alexander Nevski and
Mikhail Kutuzov Prince Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov ( rus, Князь Михаи́л Илларио́нович Голени́щев-Куту́зов, Knyaz' Mikhaíl Illariónovich Goleníshchev-Kutúzov; german: Mikhail Illarion Golenishchev-Kutu ...
appeared. Repressions against the
Russian Orthodox Church , native_name_lang = ru , image = Moscow July 2011-7a.jpg , imagewidth = , alt = , caption = Cathedral of Christ the Saviour The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour ( rus, Храм Хр ...

Russian Orthodox Church
stopped, and priests revived the tradition of blessing arms before battle. The Communist Party abolished the institution of
political commissar In the military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, ...
s—although it soon restored them. The Red Army re-introduced military ranks and adopted many additional individual distinctions such as medals and orders. The concept of a
Guard Guard or guards may refer to: Professional occupations * Bodyguard, who protects an individual from personal assault * Crossing guard, who stops traffic so pedestrians can cross the street * Lifeguard, who rescues people from drowning * Prison gua ...
re-appeared: units which had shown exceptional heroism in combat gained the names of "Guards Regiment", "Guards Army", etc. During the
German–Soviet War The Eastern Front of World War II was a Theater (warfare), theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers against the Soviet Union (USSR), Polish Armed Forces in the East, Poland and other Allies of World War II, Allies, which encompa ...
, 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 re-took Soviet territory, and a further 1,836,000 returned from German captivity. Thus the grand total of losses amounted to 8,668,400. The majority of the losses comprised ethnic Russians (5,756,000), followed by ethnic Ukrainians (1,377,400). 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 Axis allies 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. 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 tank The T-34 is a introduced in 1940, famously deployed with the during against . Its 76.2 mm (3 in) was more powerful than its contemporaries while its 60 degree provided good protection against weapons. The was inherited from ...
s outclassed any other tanks the Germans had when they appeared in 1941, 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

After the end of the war in Europe, the Red Army attacked Japan and
Manchukuo Manchukuo, officially the State of Manchuria prior to 1934 and the Empire of (Great) Manchuria after 1934, was a puppet state of the Empire of Japan in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia from 1932 until 1945. It was founded as a republic in 19 ...
(Japan's
puppet state A puppet state, puppet régime or puppet government or dummy government is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State ( ...
in
Manchuria Manchuria is an exonym An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its populatio ...

Manchuria
) on 9 August 1945, and in combination with Mongolian and Chinese Communist forces rapidly overwhelmed the outnumbered
Kwantung Army ''Kantō-gun'' , image=Kwantung Army Headquarters.JPG , image_size=300px , caption=Kwantung Army headquarters in Hsinking, Manchukuo Manchukuo, officially the State of Manchuria prior to 1934 and the Empire of Manchuria after 1934, was a pupp ...
. Soviet forces also attacked in
Sakhalin Sakhalin; ja, 樺太 ''Karafuto'') is the largest island of Russia Russia ( rus, link=no, Россия, Rossiya, ), or the Russian Federation, is a country spanning Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is the eastern region of Europe. The ...

Sakhalin
, in the
Kuril Islands The Kuril Islands or Kurile Islands; Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan , image_flag = Flag of Japan.svg , alt_flag = Centered deep red circle on a white rectangle , ...
and in northern
Korea Korea is a region In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and the environment (environmental ...

Korea
. Japan surrendered unconditionally on 2 September 1945.


The Cold War

The Soviet Union only had Ground Forces, Air Forces, and the Navy in 1945. The two Narkomats, one supervising the Ground Forces and Air Forces, and the other directing the
Navy A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense ...
, 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 DefenceMinistry of Defence or Ministry of Defense may refer to: * Ministry of defence, a type of government department responsible for matters of defence Current ministries * Ministry of Defense (Afghanistan) * Ministry of Defence (Albania) * Ministry ...
. Six years later the
Strategic Rocket Forces The Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation or the Strategic Missile Forces of the Russian Federation (RVSN RF; russian: Ракетные войска стратегического назначения Российской Фед ...
were formed. The VDV, the Airborne Forces, were also active by this time as a
Reserve of the Supreme High Command The Reserve of the Supreme High Command (Russian: Резерв Верховного Главнокомандования; also known as the ''Stavka'' Reserve or RVGK) comprised formations and units which acted as the principal military reserve of ...
. 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. Men within the Soviet Army dropped from around 13 million to approximately 2.8 million in 1948. In order to control this demobilisation process, the number of
military district Military districts (also called military regions) are formation Formation may refer to: Linguistics * Back-formation, the process of creating a new lexeme by removing or affixes * Word formation, the creation of a new word by adding affixes Math ...
s was temporarily increased to thirty-three, dropping to twenty-one in 1946. The size of the Army throughout most time of the Cold War remained between 4 million and 5 million, according to Western estimates. Soviet law required all able-bodied males of age to serve a minimum of 2 years. As a result, the Soviet Army remained the largest active army in the world from 1945 to 1991. Soviet Army units which had taken over the countries of Eastern Europe from German rule remained in some of them to secure the régimes in what became
satellite states A satellite state is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or citizenship. A country may be an independent sovereign state o ...
of the Soviet Union and to deter and to fend off pro-independence resistance and later
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance A military alliance is a formal agreement betwe ...
forces. The greatest Soviet military presence was in
East Germany East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic (GDR; german: Deutsche Demokratische Republik, , DDR, ), was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990 in eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current ...
, in the
Group of Soviet Forces in Germany The Western Group of Forces (WGF),. previously known as the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany (GSOFG). and the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GSFG),. were the troops of the Soviet Army in East Germany. The Group of Soviet Occupati ...
, but there were also smaller forces elsewhere, including the
Northern Group of Forces The Northern Group of Forces was the military formation of the Soviet Army The Soviet Ground Forces (russian: Советские сухопутные войска, Sovetskiye sukhoputnye voyska, SSV) was the main land warfare uniform servi ...
in Poland, the
Central Group of Forces Soviet officers in Libavá training center, Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic, Latvia SSR winter 1985 The Central Group of Forces (Russian: Центральная группа войск) was a formation of the Soviet Armed Forces used to incorpora ...
in
Czechoslovakia , , yi, טשעכאסלאוואקיי, , common_name = Czechoslovakia , life_span = 1918–19391945–1992 , p1 = Austria-Hungary , image_p1 = , s1 = Czech Re ...

Czechoslovakia
, and the
Southern Group of ForcesThe Southern Group of Forces (YUGV) was a Soviet Armed Forces formation formed twice following the Second World War, most notably around the time of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. First Formation On June 15, 1945, the 26th Army (Soviet Union), 26 ...
in Hungary. In the Soviet Union itself, forces were divided by the 1950s among fifteen
military district Military districts (also called military regions) are formation Formation may refer to: Linguistics * Back-formation, the process of creating a new lexeme by removing or affixes * Word formation, the creation of a new word by adding affixes Math ...
s, including the
Moscow Moscow ( , American English, US chiefly ; rus, links=no, Москва, r=Moskva, p=mɐˈskva, a=Москва.ogg) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities and towns in Russia by population, largest city of Russia. The city stands on the ...
,
Leningrad Saint Petersburg ( rus, links=no, Санкт-Петербург, a=Ru-Sankt Peterburg Leningrad Petrograd Piter.ogg, r=Sankt-Peterburg, p=ˈsankt pʲɪtʲɪrˈburk), formerly known as Petrograd (1914–1924) and later Leningrad (1924–1991), ...
, and
Baltic Military District The Baltic Military District () was a military district of the Soviet armed forces in the Military occupation, occupied Baltic states, formed briefly before the Operation Barbarossa, German invasion during the World War II. After end of the war the ...
s. 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 German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ger ...
(1953), Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968). As a result of the
Sino-Soviet border conflict The Sino-Soviet border conflict was a seven-month undeclared military conflict between the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 ...
, a sixteenth military district was created in 1969, the Central Asian Military District, with headquarters at
Alma-Ata Almaty (; ; cyrl, Алматы), formerly known as Alma-Ata and Verny (russian: Верный), is the largest city in Kazakhstan, with a population of about 2,000,000 people, about 11% of the country's total population, and more than 2.7 milli ...

Alma-Ata
. To improve capabilities for war at a theatre level, in the late 1970s and early 1980s four high commands were established, grouping the military districts, groups of forces, and fleets. 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. Confrontation with the US and NATO during the Cold War mainly took the form of threatened mutual deterrence with
nuclear weapons A nuclear weapon (also known as an atom bomb, atomic bomb, nuclear bomb or nuclear warhead, and colloquially as an A-bomb or nuke) is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reaction In nuclear physics Nucl ...

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 The term "Third World" arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either NATO or the Warsaw Pact. The United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Western European nations and their allies represented the "First Wor ...

Third World
countries.


Military doctrine

The Soviet meaning of
military doctrine Military doctrine is the expression of how military force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between Sta ...
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. According to Harriet F carey and William Scott, the political side of Soviet military doctrine, best explained the international moves that the Soviet Union undertook during the cold war.


The limited contingent in Afghanistan

In 1979, however, the Soviet Army intervened in a civil war raging in
Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto Pashto (,; / , ), sometimes spelled Pukhto or Pakhto, is an Eastern Iranian language The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of t ...

Afghanistan
. The Soviet Army came to back a Soviet-friendly communist government threatened by a multinational, mainly afghan, insurgent groups called the mujahideen. The insurgents received military training in neighboring Pakistan, China, and billions of dollars from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. 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 A politburo () or political bureau is the executive committee for communist party, communist parties. It is present in most former and existing communist states. Names The term "politburo" in English comes from the Russian language, Russian ''Polit ...
, 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 A scorched-earth policy is a military strategy Military strategy is a set of ideas implemented by military organization Military organization or military organisation is the structuring of the s of a so as to offer such as a may req ...

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. With the coming of
glasnost In the Russian language Russian (, tr. ''russkiy yazyk'') is an East Slavic language The East Slavic languages constitute one of the three regional subgroups of Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic langu ...
, 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. The war also became a sensitive issue internationally, which finally led General Secretary
Mikhail Gorbachev Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (born 2 March 1931) is a Russian and former Soviet politician, lawyer, and statesman. The List of leaders of the Soviet Union, eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, he was the General Secretary of the ...

Mikhail Gorbachev
to withdraw the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The " Afghan Syndrome" suffered by the Army parallels the American
Vietnam Syndrome Vietnam Syndrome is a term in US politics that refers to public aversion to American overseas military involvements after the domestic controversy over the Vietnam War {{Infobox military conflict , conflict = Vietnam War{{native na ...
trauma over their own unsuccessful war in
Vietnam Vietnam ( vi, Việt Nam, ), officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,, group="n" is a country in Southeast Asia Southeast Asia, also spelled South East Asia and South-East Asia, and also known as Southeastern Asia or SEA, is the ...

Vietnam
. 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. The decade long war resulted in millions of Afghans fleeing their country, mostly to Pakistan and Iran. At least half a million Afghan civilians were killed in addition to the rebels in the war.


The end of the Soviet Union

From around 1985 to 1991, the new leader of the Soviet Union
Mikhail Gorbachev Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (born 2 March 1931) is a Russian and former Soviet politician, lawyer, and statesman. The List of leaders of the Soviet Union, eighth and final leader of the Soviet Union, he was the General Secretary of the ...

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 were leaving their
Warsaw Pact The Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO), officially the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, commonly known as the Warsaw Pact (WP), was a collective defense Collective security can be understood as a security arrangement ...
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 Soviet government as well. As the Soviet Union moved towards disintegration, the reduced military was rendered feeble and ineffective and could no longer prop up the ailing Soviet government. The military got involved in trying to suppress conflicts and unrest in
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north, including the former Soviet Union, Soviet republics of the Sov ...

Central Asia
and the
Caucasus The Caucasus (), or Caucasia (), is a region spanning Europe and Asia. It is situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and mainly occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia (country), Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia. It is home to ...
but it often proved incapable of restoring peace and order. On April 9, 1989, the army, together with
MVD The Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation (MVD, russian: Министерство внутренних дел (МВД), ''Ministerstvo vnutrennikh del'') is the interior ministry of Russia. The MVD is responsible for law enfor ...

MVD
units, massacred about 190 demonstrators in
Tbilisi Tbilisi ( ; ka, თბილისი ), in some languages still known by its pre-1936 name Tiflis ( ), is the capital Capital most commonly refers to: * Capital letter Letter case (or just case) is the distinction between the letters ...

Tbilisi
in Georgia. The next major crisis occurred in
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...

Azerbaijan
, when the Soviet army forcibly entered
Baku Baku (, ; az, Bakı, ) is the Capital city, capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, as well as the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. Baku is located below sea level, which makes it the List of capital cities by altitu ...

Baku
on January 19–20, 1990, removing the rebellious republic government and allegedly killing hundreds of civilians in the process. On January 13, 1991, Soviet forces stormed the State Radio and Television Building and the television retranslation tower in
Vilnius Vilnius ( , ; see also other names Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also refer to: Books * The Other (Tryon novel), ''The Other'' (Tryon novel), a 1971 horror n ...

Vilnius
,
Lithuania Lithuania (; lt, Lietuva ), officially the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublika, links=no), is a country in the Baltic region The terms Baltic Sea Region, Baltic Rim countries (or simply Baltic Rim), and the Baltic Sea countr ...
, both under opposition control, killing 14 people and injuring 700. This action was perceived by many as heavy-handed and achieved little. By mid-1991, the Soviet Union had reached a state of emergency. According to the official commission (the Soviet Academy of Sciences) appointed by the
Supreme Soviet The Supreme Soviet (russian: Верховный Совет, Verkhovny Sovet, Supreme Council) was the common name for the legislative bodies A legislature is a deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any ...
(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 A coup d'état (; French for "blow of state"), often shortened to coup in English, (also known as an overthrow) is a seizure and removal of a government and its powers. Typically, it is an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a politic ...
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 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 did not take any decisive action, 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. 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 The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS; russian: Содружество Независимых Государств, СНГ, translit=Sodruzhestvo Nezavisimykh Gosudarstv, SNG) is a regional intergovernmental organization in Eastern Euro ...

Commonwealth of Independent States
(CIS). 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 CIS failed. Steadily, the units stationed in
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...

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. Following
dissolution of the Soviet Union The dissolution of the Soviet Union, also negatively connoted as rus, Разва́л Сове́тского Сою́за, r=Razvál Sovétskovo Sojúza, ''Ruining of the Soviet Union''. (1988–1991) was the process of internal political, ...
, the Soviet Army dissolved and the USSR's successor states shared out its assets among themselves. The share out mostly occurred on 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 The Kazakh Ground Forces (; ) is the land Land is the solid surface of the Earth that is not permanently covered by water. The vast majority of human activity throughout history has occurred in land areas that support agriculture Agr ...
. In mid-March 1992, Yeltsin appointed himself as the new Russian Minister of Defence, marking a crucial step in the creation of the new
Armed Forces of the Russian Federation The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, commonly known as the Russian Armed Forces, are the military forces of the Russian Federation. They are divided into the Russian Ground Forces, Ground Forces, Russian Navy, Navy, and Russian Aerosp ...
, 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. In the next few years, the former Soviet forces withdrew from central and Eastern Europe (including the
Baltic states The Baltic states ( et, Balti riigid, Baltimaad; lv, Baltijas valstis; lt, Baltijos valstybės), also known as the Baltic countries, Baltic republics, Baltic nations, or simply the Baltics, is a geopolitical term, typically used to group the ...

Baltic states
), as well as from the newly independent post-Soviet republics of
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan (, ; az, Azərbaycan ), officially the Republic of Azerbaijan ( az, Azərbaycan Respublikası ), is a country in the Transcaucasia, Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, it is boun ...

Azerbaijan
,
Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country), a country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia * Georgia (U.S. state), one of the states of the United States of America Georgia may also refer to: Historical states and entities * Democratic Republ ...
(partially),
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan ( or ; tk, Türkmenistan, ), also known as Turkmenia, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basin, endorheic basins. There ar ...

Turkmenistan
and
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan (, ; uz, Ozbekiston, ), officially the Republic of Uzbekistan ( uz, Ozbekiston Respublikasi), is a landlocked country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land ...

Uzbekistan
. In 2020, Russian forces remained in
Abkhazia Abkhazia, , ka, აფხაზეთი, , rus, Абха́зия, r=Abkhaziya, p=ɐˈpxazʲɪjə xmf, აბჟუა, or , ( or ) is a partially recognized state in the South Caucasus Transcaucasia, also known as the South Caucasus, ...

Abkhazia
,
Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is ...

Armenia
,
Belarus , image_map = , map_caption = , capital = Minsk Minsk ( be, Мінск , russian: link=no, Минск) is the capital and the largest city of Belarus, located on the Svislach (Berezina), Svislach and the now subterranean Nyamiha, Niam ...

Belarus
,
Kazakhstan Kazakhstan ( kk, Қазақстан, Qazaqstan; russian: Казахстан, Kazakhstan), officially the Republic of Kazakhstan,; russian: Республика Казахстан, Respublika Kazakhstan, link=no) is a country located mainly in ...

Kazakhstan
,
Kyrgyzstan russian: Киргизская Республика, Kirgizskaya Respublika , image_flag = Flag of Kyrgyzstan.svg , image_coat = Emblem of Kyrgyzstan.svg , symbol_type = Emblem , motto = " ...

Kyrgyzstan
,
South Ossetia South Ossetia (, less commonly ), officially the Republic of South Ossetia – the State of Alania, or the Tskhinvali Region, is a ''de facto'' state in the South Caucasus. It has an officially stated population of just over 53,000 people, who ...
,
Tajikistan ) , image_map = Tajikistan (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , capital = Dushanbe Dushanbe ( tg, Душанбе, ; ; russian: Душанбе) is the Capital city, capital and largest ...

Tajikistan
and
Transnistria Transnistria, officially the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR), is an unrecognised breakaway state located in the narrow strip of land between the river Dniester The Dniester ( ) is a river in Eastern Europe Eastern Europe is ...

Transnistria
. While in many places the withdrawal and division took place without any problems, the Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet remained in the
Crimea Crimea; crh, Къырым, translit=Kirim/Qırım; grc, Κιμμερία/Ταυρική, translit=Kimmería/Taurikḗ is a peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from ' "almost" and ' "island") is a landform surrounded by water on mos ...

Crimea
, Ukraine, with the fleet division and a Russian leasehold for fleet facilities in Crimea finally achieved in 1997. The
Baltic states The Baltic states ( et, Balti riigid, Baltimaad; lv, Baltijas valstis; lt, Baltijos valstybės), also known as the Baltic countries, Baltic republics, Baltic nations, or simply the Baltics, is a geopolitical term, typically used to group the ...

Baltic states
(
Estonia Estonia ( et, Eesti ), officially the Republic of Estonia ( et, Eesti Vabariik, links=no), is a country in northern Europe. It is bordered to the north by the Gulf of Finland across from Finland, to the west by the Baltic Sea across from Sweden ...

Estonia
,
Latvia Latvia ( or ; lv, Latvija ; ltg, Latveja; liv, Leţmō), officially known as the Republic of Latvia ( lv, Latvijas Republika, links=no, ltg, Latvejas Republika, links=no, liv, Leţmō Vabāmō, links=no), is a country in the Baltic re ...

Latvia
and
Lithuania Lithuania (; lt, Lietuva ), officially the Republic of Lithuania ( lt, Lietuvos Respublika, links=no), is a country in the Baltic region The terms Baltic Sea Region, Baltic Rim countries (or simply Baltic Rim), and the Baltic Sea countr ...
) became successful members of
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance A military alliance is a formal agreement betwe ...
since 2004. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Moldova Moldova (, ; ), officially the Republic of Moldova ( ro, Republica Moldova), is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to ...

Moldova
and
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraïna, ) is a country in . It is the in Europe after , which it borders to the east and north-east. Ukraine also shares borders with to the north; , , and to the west; and to the south; and has a coastli ...

Ukraine
maintain cooperation with NATO as well.


Structure and leadership

The Soviet Armed Forces were controlled by the
Ministry of DefenceMinistry of Defence or Ministry of Defense may refer to: * Ministry of defence, a type of government department responsible for matters of defence Current ministries * Ministry of Defense (Afghanistan) * Ministry of Defence (Albania) * Ministry ...
. At its head was the
Minister of Defence A defence minister or minister of defence is a cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent ...
, generally a full member of the
Politburo A politburo () or political bureau is the executive committee for communist party, communist parties. It is present in most former and existing communist states. Names The term "politburo" in English comes from the Russian language, Russian ''Polit ...
(the Politburo, in turn, was chaired by the
General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union The General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the party leader, leader of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) that by the late 1920s had evolved into the most powerful of the Central Com ...
, generally the ''
de facto ''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, even though they are not officially recognized by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with ''de jure'' ("by law"), which refers to th ...
''
leader of the Soviet Union During its sixty-nine-year history, the Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a Federalism, federal socialist state in Northern Eurasia that existed from 1922 to 1991. Nominally a Po ...
) and from 1934 onwards, a
Marshal of the Soviet Union Marshal of the Soviet Union (russian: Маршал Советского Союза, ) was the highest military rank of the Soviet Union. The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was created in 1935 and abolished in 1991. Forty-one people held thi ...

Marshal of the Soviet Union
. Both civilians and career military professionals served as Minister of Defence. Between 1934 and 1946, 1950 and 1953, a separate Ministry of the Navy existed and the Ministry of Defence was responsible only for land and air forces. In practice, the Navy Minister was a far more junior official and the Defence Ministry continued to dominate policymaking. Beneath the Minister of Defence were two First Deputy Ministers of Defence; the
Chief of the General StaffThe Chief of the General Staff (CGS) is a post in many armed forces (Military, militaries), the head of the Staff (military), military staff. List * Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (United States) * Chief of the General Staff (Abkhazia) * C ...
, who was responsible for operations and planning, and the First Deputy Minister of Defence for General Affairs, who was responsible for administration. From 1955 the Supreme Commander of the Warsaw Pact also held the title of First Deputy Minister of Defence. By the 1980s there was another eleven Deputy Minister of Defence; including the commanders-in-chief of the five service branches.


Personnel


Ranks and titles

The early Red Army never adopted the idea of a professional
officer corps An officer is a person who holds a position of authority as a member of an armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an in ...
. It was seen as a "heritage of tsarism.". In particular, the Bolsheviks condemned the use of the word "officer" and used the word "
commander Commander is a common naval A navy, naval force, or maritime force is the branch of a nation's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfa ...

commander
" instead. The Red Army never adopted
epaulette Epaulette (; also spelled epaulet) is a type of ornamental shoulder piece or decoration used as insignia of rank Rank is the relative position, value, worth, complexity, power, importance, authority, level, etc. of a person or object within a r ...

epaulette
s and
rank Rank is the relative position, value, worth, complexity, power, importance, authority, level, etc. of a person or object within a ranking A ranking is a relationship between a set of items such that, for any two items, the first is either "rank ...
s, using purely functional titles such as "Division Commander", "Corps Commander", and similar titles. 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 A lieutenant ( or abbreviated Lt., Lt, LT, Lieut and similar) is a commissioned officer An officer is a person who holds a position of authority as a member of an armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, i ...

Lieutenant
" and "
Komdiv (russian: комдив) is the abbreviation to Commanding officer of the Division (russian: командир дивизии, komandir divizii; ), and was a military rank Military ranks are a system of hierarchical A hierarchy (from the G ...
" (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. The year before (1934), the revival of personal ranks began with the
Marshal of the Soviet Union Marshal of the Soviet Union (russian: Маршал Советского Союза, ) was the highest military rank of the Soviet Union. The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was created in 1935 and abolished in 1991. Forty-one people held thi ...

Marshal of the Soviet Union
rank bestowed upon 5 Army Commanders. There were further modifications to the system. 1937 saw the Junior Lieutenant and Junior Military Technician ranks being added. On May 7, 1940, the ranks of "
General A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a military force trained to operate on Littoral Zone, littoral zone in suppo ...

General
" or "
Admiral Admiral is one of the highest ranks in some navy, navies, and in many navies is the highest rank. In the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth nations and the United States, a "full" admiral is equivalent to a "full" general officer, general in ...

Admiral
" replaced the senior functional ranks of
Kombrig ''Kombrig'' (abbreviation to ''Commanding officer of the brigade,'' russian: комбриг / ; literal: Commander of the brigade / Brigade commander), was a Military ranks of the Soviet Union, military rank in the Soviet Armed Forces of the USSR ...
,
Komdiv (russian: комдив) is the abbreviation to Commanding officer of the Division (russian: командир дивизии, komandir divizii; ), and was a military rank Military ranks are a system of hierarchical A hierarchy (from the G ...
,
Komkor ''Komkor'' is the abbreviation for ''Corps Commander'' (russian: комкор / командир корпуса; literal: Commander of the corps / Corps commander), and was a Military ranks of the Soviet Union, military rank in the Soviet Armed ...
, 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
non-commissioned officer A non-commissioned officer (NCO) is a military officer who has not pursued a commission Commission or commissioning may refer to: Business and contracting * Commission (remuneration), a form of payment to an agent for services rendered ** Commi ...
s (NCOs) and the introduction of the Podpolkovnik (
Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant colonel ( or ) is a rank of commissioned officer An officer is a person who holds a position of authority as a member of an armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly orga ...

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. The functional ranks remained only in medical, veterinary and legislative corps. By then the Naval rank of Midshipman was revived in the
Soviet Navy The Soviet Navy () was the naval warfare Military, uniform service branch of the Soviet Armed Forces. Often referred to as the Red Fleet (), the Soviet Navy made up a large part of the Soviet Union's strategic planning in the event of a conflict ...
as an NCO rank, a role lasting until the 1970s. 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
epaulette Epaulette (; also spelled epaulet) is a type of ornamental shoulder piece or decoration used as insignia of rank Rank is the relative position, value, worth, complexity, power, importance, authority, level, etc. of a person or object within a r ...

epaulette
s 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 The Russian Ground Forces (russian: Сухопутные войска В Sukhoputnyye voyska ''Overland Troops'') are the Army, land forces of the Russian Armed Forces. Mission The primary responsibilities of the Russian Ground Forces ...

Russian Army
uses largely the same system. The old functional ranks of Kombat (Battalion or Battery Commander),
Kombrig ''Kombrig'' (abbreviation to ''Commanding officer of the brigade,'' russian: комбриг / ; literal: Commander of the brigade / Brigade commander), was a Military ranks of the Soviet Union, military rank in the Soviet Armed Forces of the USSR ...
(Brigade Commander) and
Komdiv (russian: комдив) is the abbreviation to Commanding officer of the Division (russian: командир дивизии, komandir divizii; ), and was a military rank Military ranks are a system of hierarchical A hierarchy (from the G ...
(Division Commander) continue in informal use. By the end of the Second World War, the
Admiral of the Fleet An admiral of the fleet or fleet admiral (equivalent rank to admiral of the navy Admiral of the Navy was the highest possible rank in the United States Navy ), (unofficial)."''Non sibi sed patriae''" ( en, "Not for self but for country") ...
rank (which, from 1945 was already equivalent to Marshal) was later renamed
Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union An Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union (russian: Адмирал Флота Cоветского Cоюза, translit=Admiral Flota Sovietskogo Soyuza) was the highest navy, naval rank of the Soviet Union. It was comparable to NATO five-star ran ...
in 1955. In the 1960s however, it became a rank of its own when new regulations revived the Fleet Admiral rank in the Soviet Navy, thus becoming the naval equivalent to General of the Army. By 1972, the final transformation of military ranks began as the rank of Praporshchik (
Warrant officer Warrant officer (WO) is a rank Rank is the relative position, value, worth, complexity, power, importance, authority, level, etc. of a person or object within a ranking A ranking is a relationship between a set of items such that, for any two ...

Warrant officer
) ranks being added in the Army and Air Force for contract NCOs since the rank of Starshina (Sergeant Major) was from now on for conscripts. But in the Soviet Navy, it meant that the Naval rank of Midshipman became a rank for Naval warrant officers since the Navy created the new rank of Ship Chief Sergeant Major for its NCOs in naval service. The year of 1974 saw the rank insignia changed for Army Generals and Navy Fleet Admirals in their parade dress and working and combat dress uniforms.


General Staff

On September 22, 1935, the authorities renamed the RKKA Staff as the
General Staff A military staff (often referred to as general staff, army staff, navy staff, or air staff within the individual services) is a group of officers, enlisted and civilian personnel that are responsible for the administrative, operational and ...
, which essentially reincarnated the General Staff of the
Russian Empire The Russian Empire, . commonly referred to as Imperial Russia, was a historical empire that extended across Eurasia and North America from 1721, succeeding the Tsardom of Russia following the Treaty of Nystad that ended the Great Northern War. ...
. 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 A civil war, also known as an intrastate war in polemology, is a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine publis ...
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 A military academy or service academy is an educational institution which prepares candidates for service in the officer corps. It normally provides education in a military environment, the exact definition depending on the country concerned. ...

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. On April 2, 1936, the General Staff Academy was re-instated; it became a principal school for the senior and supreme commanders of the Red Army and a centre for advanced military studies. One should note that Red Army (and later
Soviet Army The Soviet Ground Forces (russian: Советские сухопутные войска, Sovetskiye sukhoputnye voyska, SSV) was the main of the from 1946 to 1992. Until 25 February 1946, it was known as the , established by decree on 15 (28) ...
) educational facilities called "academies" do not correspond to the
military academies A military academy or service academy (United States service academies, in the United States) is an educational institution which prepares candidates for service in the officer corps. It normally provides education in a military environment, t ...
in Western countries. Those Soviet Academies were the
post-graduate Postgraduate education (graduate education in North America North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere. It can also be described as the northern subcontinent of th ...
schools, mandatory for officers applying for senior ranks (e.g., the rank of
Colonel Colonel (; abbreviated as Col., Col or COL) is a senior military officer An officer is a person who has a position of authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social rel ...

Colonel
since the 1950s). While a basic
officer An officer is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth ...
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 The United States Military Academy (USMA), also known as West Point or simply Army is a four-year United States service academy in West Point, New York West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in the United Stat ...
or Sandhurst.


Manpower and enlisted men

The Soviet Armed Forces were manned through conscription, which had been reduced in 1967 from three to two years (with remaining 3 years service in naval forces). 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, 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. The new conscripts were then picked up by an officer 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 ''Dedovshchina'' ( rus, дедовщи́на, p=dʲɪdɐˈfɕːinə; lit. ''reign of grandfathers'') is the informal practice of initiation (hazing Hazing (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called ...
, literally "rule by the grandfathers." There were only a very small number of professional
non-commissioned officers A non-commissioned officer (NCO) is a military officer who has not pursued a Commission (document), commission. Non-commissioned officers usually earn their position of authority by promotion through the enlisted ranks. (Non-officers, which incl ...
(NCOs), as most NCOs were conscripts sent on short courses to prepare them for section commanders' and platoon sergeants' positions. These conscript NCOs were supplemented by ''
praporshchik ''Praporshchik'' ( rus, пра́порщик, 3=ˈprapərɕːɪk) is a rank in the Russian military, also used in other uniformed services of the Russian government such as the police The police are a Law enforcement organization, constituted ...
'' warrant officers, positions created in the 1960s to support the increased variety of skills required for modern weapons. According to a 1980 ''Time'' magazine article citing an analyst from the
RAND Corporation The RAND Corporation ("research and development") is an American nonprofit A nonprofit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity, not-for-profit organization, or nonprofit institution, is a legal entity organized and ope ...
, Soviet non-Slavs were generally barred from joining elite or strategic positions (like the
Strategic Rocket Forces The Strategic Rocket Forces of the Russian Federation or the Strategic Missile Forces of the Russian Federation (RVSN RF; russian: Ракетные войска стратегического назначения Российской Фед ...
,
Soviet Air Force The Soviet Air Forces ( rus, Военно-воздушные силы, r=Voyenno-Vozdushnyye Sily (VVS), literally "Military Air Forces") were one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces. The Air Forces ...
and the Soviet Navy) of the late-Cold War military because of suspicions of loyalty of ethnic minorities to the Kremlin.


Purge

The late 1930s saw the "Purges of the Red Army cadres", occurring against the historical background of the
Great Purge The Great Purge or the Great Terror (russian: Большой террор), also known as the Year of '37 (russian: 37-ой год, translit=Tridtsat sedmoi god, label=none) and the Yezhovshchina ('period of Nikolay Yezhov, Yezhov'), was Gene ...
. 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 A witch-hunt, or a witch purge, is a search for people who have been labeled witches or a search for evidence of witchcraft. The classical period of witch-hunts in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America The colonial history of the Uni ...
. 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, 13 of 15 generals of the army, 8 of 9 admirals, 50 of 57 army corps generals, 154 out of 186 division generals, 16 of 16 army commissars, and 25 of 28 army corps commissars.


Party control of the Armed Forces

The
Communist Party A communist party is a political party A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a particular country's elections. It is common for the members of a party to hold similar ideas about politics, and part ...
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, 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. A political commander (''zampolit'') 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 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 , colorcode = red , logo = , founded = , dissolved = , headquarters = , succeeded by = Russian Communist Youth League , ideology = , mother party = Communist Party of the Soviet ...
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,
stripper clip A stripper clip (also known as a charger or charger clip, especially in British and in Commonwealth military vocabulary) is a speedloader A speedloader is a tool, device used to reduce the time and effort needed to reload a firearm. Speedloader ...
-fed,
bolt-action Bolt action is a type of manual firearm action of a typical double-barreled shotgun, with the action open and the extractor visible. The opening lever and the safety catch can also be clearly seen. In firearms A firearm is any type of gu ...
Mosin–Nagant The 3-line rifle M1891, colloquially (but mistakenly; see Nagant's legal dispute) known in the West 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West or Occident is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass The po ...
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 The SKS (russian: Самозарядный карабин системы Симонова, Samozaryadny Karabin sistemy Simonova, 1945, Self-loading Carbine of (the) Simonov system, 1945) is a semi-automatic carbine A carbine ( or ) is a long g ...

SKS
semiautomatic rifle A semi-automatic rifle is a rifle A rifle is a long-barrelled firearm A firearm is any type of gun designed to be readily carried and used by an individual. The term is legally defined further in different countries (see Legal definit ...
.Terence W. Lapin, ''The Mosin-Nagant Rifle'' (3rd Ed., North Cape 2003) The Red Army suffered from a shortage of adequate
machine gun A machine gun is an auto-firing, rifling, rifled long gun, long-barrel action (firearms)#Autoloading operation, autoloading firearm designed for sustained direct fire with fully powered cartridges. Other automatic firearms such as assault ri ...

machine gun
s and semiautomatic firearms throughout World War II. The semiautomatic Tokarev SVT Model 38 and Model 40 were chambered for the same
7.62×54mmR The 7.62×54mmR is a rimmed rifle A rifle is a long-barrelled firearm A firearm is any type of gun A gun is a ranged weapon designed to use a shooting tube ( gun barrel) to launch typically solid projectiles, but can also proj ...
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. Soviet experimentation with small-arms began during the Second World War. In 1945 the Red Army adopted the Simonov
SKS The SKS (russian: Самозарядный карабин системы Симонова, Samozaryadny Karabin sistemy Simonova, 1945, Self-loading Carbine of (the) Simonov system, 1945) is a semi-automatic carbine A carbine ( or ) is a long g ...

SKS
, a semi-automatic
7.62×39mm The 7.62×39mm (aka 7.62 Soviet or formerly .30 Russian Short) round is a rimless A rim is an external flange that is machined, cast, molded, stamped, or pressed around the bottom of a firearms cartridge (firearms), cartridge. Thus, rimmed cartri ...
carbine. In 1949 production of the 7.62×39mm Kalashnikov
AK-47 The AK-47, officially known as the Avtomat Kalashnikova (; also known as the Kalashnikov or just AK), is a gas-operated Gas-operation is a system of operation used to provide energy to operate locked breech, autoloading firearm A fi ...

AK-47
assault rifle began: planners envisaged troops using it in conjunction with the SKS, but it soon replaced the SKS completely. In 1959 the
AKM The AKM () is a 7.62×39mm assault rifle designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is a common modernised variant of the AK-47 rifle developed in the 1940s. Introduced into service with the Soviet Army in 1959, the AKM is the prevalent variant of the ...

AKM
came out as a modernised version of the AK-47, this was created to ease manufacture and improve aspects of the AK-47. In 1978 the
5.45×39mm The 5.45×39mm Cartridge (firearms), cartridge is a Rim (firearms), rimless bottlenecked intermediate cartridge. It was introduced into service in 1974 by the Soviet Union for use with the new AK-74. The 5.45×39mm gradually supplemented, then la ...
AK-74 The AK-74 (Russian Russian refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (русские, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (россияне ...
assault rifle replaced the AKM: it utilized no less than 51% of the AKM's parts. Designers put together the new weapon as a counterpart to the American 5.56×45mm cartridge used in the M-16 assault rifle, and the Russian army to use it today.


See also

* Comparative military ranks of World War II *
List of military aircraft of the Soviet Union and the CIS This list of the military aircraft of the Soviet Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS; russian: Содружество Независимых Государств, СНГ, translit=Sodruz ...
*
Marshal of the Soviet Union Marshal of the Soviet Union (russian: Маршал Советского Союза, ) was the highest military rank of the Soviet Union. The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was created in 1935 and abolished in 1991. Forty-one people held thi ...

Marshal of the Soviet Union
*
Mikhail Tukhachevsky Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky ( rus, Михаил Николаевич Тухачевский, Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevskiy, p=tʊxɐˈtɕefskʲɪj;  – 12 June 1937) nicknamed the Red Napoleon by foreign newspapers, was prominent ...

Mikhail Tukhachevsky


Notes


References


Further reading

* Lehrke, Jesse Paul. "The Transition to National Armies in the Former Soviet Republics, 1988–2005." Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge (2013). See especially Chapters 1-4 (see
The Transition to National Armies in the Former Soviet Republics, 1988-2005
*Lester W. Grau and Ali Ajmad Jalali, "The Campaign for the Caves: The Battles for Ahawar in the Soviet-Afghan War" Foreign Military Studies Office, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, reprinted from ''Journal of Slavic Military Studies'', Vol. 14, September 2001, Number 3. *Lewis, William J., ''The Warsaw Pact: Arms, Doctrine and Strategy'', Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis; 1982. . This book presents an overview of all the Warsaw Pact armed forces as well as a section on Soviet strategy, a model land campaign which the Soviet Union could have conducted against
NATO The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO, ; french: Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique nord, ), also called the North Atlantic Alliance, is an intergovernmental military alliance A military alliance is a formal agreement betwe ...
, a section on vehicles, weapons and aircraft, and a full-color section on the uniforms, nations badges and rank-insignia of all the nations of the Warsaw Pact. * Michael MccGwire, 1987.
Military Objectives in Soviet Foreign Policy
'. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.


External links




Losses Suffered by USSR Armed Forces in Wars, Combat Operations, and Military ConflictsSoviet Nuclear Weapons in Hungary 1961-1991
{{Warsaw Pact militaries 1918 establishments in Russia 1991 disestablishments in the Soviet Union Articles containing video clips fr:Armée Rouge