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- This article discusses the Red Army of the Soviet Union. For other communist armies known as the Red Army see Red Army (disambiguation).
The short forms Red Army and RKKA' refer to the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, (in Russian: Рабоче-Крестьянская Красная Армия - Raboche-Krest'yanskaya Krasnaya Armiya), the armed forces first organized by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War in 1918. This organization became the army of the Soviet Union after the establishment of the USSR in 1922, and eventually grew to form the largest army in the world from the 1940s until the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991. This article focuses upon the land force element of the Red Army, later called the Ground Forces. See Military of the Soviet Union for the Armed Forces as a whole.
"Red" refers to the blood shed by the working class in its struggle against capitalism. Although the Red Army officially became the Soviet Army from 1946, people in the West commonly use the term Red Army to refer also to the Soviet military after that date, i.e., during the Cold War.
The Council of People's Commissars set up the Red Army by decree on January 15 1918 (Old Style) (January 28, 1918), basing it on the already-existing Red Guard. The official Red Army Day of February 23, 1918 marked the day of the first mass draft of the Red Army in Petrograd and Moscow, and of the first combat action against the occupying imperial German army. February 23 became an important national holiday in the Soviet Union, later celebrated as "Soviet Army Day", and it continues as a day of celebration in present-day Russia as Defenders of the Motherland Day. Credit as the founder of the Red Army generally goes to Leon Trotsky, the People's Commissar for War from 1918 to 1924.
After General Aleksei Brusilov offered the Bolsheviks his services in 1920, they decided to permit conscription of former officers of the army of Imperial Russia. The Bolshevik authorities set up a special commission under the chair of Lev Glezarov (Лев Маркович Глезаров), and by August 1920 had drafted about 315,000 ex-officers. Most often they held the position of military advisor (voyenspets: "военспец" for "военный специалист", i.e., "military specialist"). A number of prominent Soviet Army commanders had previously served as Imperial Russian generals. In fact, a number of former Imperial military men, notably a member of the Supreme Military Council, Mikhail Bonch-Bruevich, had joined the Bolsheviks earlier.
 From the Civil War to the 1930s
The Polish-Soviet War represented the first foreign campaign of the Red Army. The Soviet counter-offensive following the 1920 Polish invasion of Ukraine at first met with success, but Polish forces halted it at the disastrous (for the Soviets) Battle of Warsaw (1920).
Later in the 1920s and during the 1930s, Soviet military theorists introduced the concept of deep battle.<ref>Mary Habeck, Storm of Steel: The Development of Armor Doctrine in Germany and the Soviet Union, 1919-1939, Cornell University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-8014-4074-2.</ref> It was a direct consequence from the experience with wide, sweeping movements of cavalry formations during the Civil War and the Polish-Soviet War. Deep Operations encompassed multiple maneuver by multiple Corps or Army sized formations simultaneously. It was not meant to deliver a victory in a single operation, but rather multiple operations conducted in parallel or successively were meant to guarantee victory. In this, Deep operations differed from the usual interpretation of the Blitzkrieg doctrine. The objective of Deep Operations was to attack the enemy simultaneously throughout the depth of his ground force to induce a catastrophic failure in his defensive system. Soviet deep-battle theory was driven by technological advances and the hope that maneuver warfare offered opportunities for quick, efficient, and decisive victory. The concurrent development of aviation and armor provided a physical impetus for this doctrinal evolution within the Red Army. Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky stated that airpower should be "employed against targets beyond the range of infantry, artillery, and other arms. For maximum tactical effect aircraft should be employed in mass, concentrated in time and space, against targets of the highest tactical importance."
Deep Operations were first formally expressed as a concept in the Red Army's 'Field Regulations' of 1929, but was only finally codified by the army in 1936 in the 'Provisional Field Regulations' of 1936. However the Great Purge of 1937–1939 removed many of the leading officers of the Red Army, including Tukhachevsky, and the concept was abandoned, until opportunities to use evolved later during World War II.
 Far East
In 1934, Mongolia and the USSR, recognising the threat from the mounting Japanese military presence in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, agreed to co-operate in the field of defence. On March 12, 1936, the co-operation increased with the ten-year Mongolian-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, which included a mutual defence protocol.
In May 1939, a Mongolian cavalry unit clashed with Manchukuoan cavalry in the disputed territory east of the Halha River (also know in Russian as Халхин-Гол, Halhin Gol). There followed a clash with a Japanese detachment, which drove the Mongolians over the river. The Soviet troops quartered there in accordance with the mutual defence protocol intervened and obliterated the detachment. Escalation of the conflict appeared imminent, and both sides spent June amassing forces. On July 1 the Japanese force numbered 38,000 troops. The combined Soviet-Mongol force had 12,500 troops. The Japanese crossed the river, but after a three-day battle their opponents threw them back over the river. The Japanese kept probing the Soviet defences throughout July, without success.
On August 20 Georgy Zhukov opened a major offensive with heavy air attack and three hours of artillery bombardment, after which three infantry divisions and five armoured brigades, supported by a fighter regiment and masses of artillery (57 thousand troops in total), stormed the 75,000 Japanese force deeply entrenched in the area. On August 23 the entire Japanese force found itself encircled, and on August 31 largely destroyed. Artillery and air attacks wiped out those Japanese who refused to surrender. Japan requested a cease-fire, and the conflict concluded with an agreement between the USSR, Mongolia and Japan signed on September 15 in Moscow.
In the conflict, the Red Army losses were 9,703 KIA and MIA and 15,952 wounded. The Japanese lost 25 thousand KIA; the grand total was 61 thousand killed, missing, wounded and taken prisoner.
Shortly after the cease-fire, the Japanese negotiated access to the battlefields to collect their dead. Finding thousands upon thousands of dead bodies came as a further shock to the already shaken morale of the Japanese soldiers. The scale of the defeat probably became a major factor in discouraging a Japanese attack on the USSR during World War II, which allowed the Red Army to switch a large number of its Far Eastern troops into the European Theatre in the desperate autumn of 1941.
 World War II
 The Polish Campaign
On September 17, 1939 the Red Army marched its troops into the western Belarusian and Ukrainian territories controlled by Poland in the Interwar period, using the official pretext of coming to the aid of the Ukrainians and the Belarusians threatened by Germany,<ref>Telegram from the German Ambassador in the Soviet Union, (Schulenburg) to the German Foreign Office, 10 September 1939, at Yale Law School's Avalon Project: Nazi-Soviet Relations 1939-1941.</ref> which had attacked Poland on September 1, 1939. The Soviet invasion opened a second front for the Poles and forced them to abandon plans for defense in the Romanian bridgehead area, thus hastening the Polish defeat. The Soviet and German advance halted roughly at the Curzon Line.
The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which had included a secret protocol delimiting the “spheres of interest” of each party, set the scene for the remarkably smooth partition of Poland between Germany and the USSR. The defined Soviet sphere of interest matched the territory subsequently captured in the campaign. The territory became part of the Ukrainian and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republics.
Even though water barriers separated most of the spheres of interest, the Soviet and German troops met each other on a number of occasions. The most remarkable event of this kind happened in Brest-Litovsk on 22 September, 1939. The German 19th panzer corps under the command of Heinz Guderian had occupied Brest-Litovsk, which lay within the Soviet sphere of interest. When the Soviet 29th Tank Brigade under the command of S. M. Krivoshein approached Brest-Litovsk, the commanders negotiated that the German troops would withdraw and the Soviet troops enter the city saluting each other.<ref> Кривошеин С.М. Междубурье. Воспоминания. Воронеж, 1964. (Krivoshein S. M. Between the Storms. Memoirs. Voronezh, 1964. in Russian); Guderian H. Erinnerungen eines Soldaten Heidelberg, 1951 (in German — Memoirs of a Soldier in English)</ref> Just three days earlier, however, the parties had a more damaging encounter near 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 sources, the Red Army force in Poland numbered 466,516.<ref>Colonel-General Krivosheev, Soviet casualties and combat losses in the twentieth century, ISBN 1-85367-280-7.</ref> The Red Army troops faced little resistance, mainly due to the entanglement of the majority of the Polish forces in fighting Germans along the Western border, but partly due to an official order by the Polish Supreme Command not to engage in combat with the Soviet troops, and also partly because many Polish citizens in the Kresy region - Ukrainians and Belarusians - viewed the advancing troops as liberators, welcoming them with flowers and "bread and salt".<ref name="Piotr_p199>Piotrowski, Tadeusz (1988). “Ukrainian Collaborators”, Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947. McFarland, 177-259. ISBN 0786403713. “How are we ... to explain the phenomenom of Ukrainians rejoicing and collaborating with the Soviets? Who were these Ukrainians? That they were Ukrainians is certain, but were they communists, Nationalists, unattached peasents? The answer is "yes" - they were all three.”</ref> Nonetheless the Red Army sustained losses of 1,475 killed and missing and 2,383 wounded.<ref>Ibid.</ref> The losses of the opposing Polish troops remain unknown, though the Red Army reported that it had "disarmed" 452,536 men <ref>Ibid., but this figure probably included a large number not enrolled as regular Polish Army servicemen</ref>, and the Polish PWN encyclopaedia estimates that approximately 240,000 prisoners were taken by the Red Army.
 The Great Patriotic War, 1941 - 1945
- Main article: Great Patriotic War
By the autumn of 1940 a new world order had emerged. The Third Reich and its allies dominated most of the European continent. Only the United Kingdom (in the West) and the Soviet Union (in the East) could challenge fascist hegemony. The Third Reich and Britain had no common land border, but a state of war existed between them; the Germans had an extensive land border with the Soviet Union, but the latter remained neutral, bound by a non-aggression pact and by numerous trade agreements.
For Hitler, no dilemma ever existed in this situation. Drang nach Osten (German for "Drive towards the East") remained the order of the day. This culminated, on December 18, in the issuing of ‘Directive No. 21 – Case Barbarossa’, which opened by saying “the German Armed Forces must be prepared to crush Soviet Russia in a quick campaign before the end of the war against England”. Even before the issuing of the directive, the German General Staff had developed detailed plans for an anti-Soviet campaign. On February 3, 1941, the final plan of Operation Barbarossa gained approval, and the attack was scheduled for the middle of May, 1941. However, the events in Greece and Yugoslavia necessitated a delay — to the second half of June.
At the time of the Nazi assault on the USSR in June 1941, the Red Army's ground forces had 303 divisions and 22 brigades (4.8 million troops), including 166 divisions and 9 brigades (2.9 million troops) stationed in the western military districts. Their Axis opponents deployed on the Eastern Front 181 divisions and 18 brigades (5.5 million troops). Three Fronts, the North-Western Front, the Western, and the South-Western, controlled the forces defending the western border. However the first weeks of the war saw major Soviet defeats as German forces trapped hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers in vast pockets and the loss of major equipment, tanks, and artillery. Stalin and the Soviet leadership responded by stepping up the mobilisation that was already under way, and by 1 August 1941, despite the loss of 46 divisions in combat, the Red Army's strength stood at 401 divisions. <ref>David Glantz, Stumbling Colossus, University Press of Kansas, 1998, p.15</ref>
Soviet forces suffered heavy damage in the field as a result of poor levels of preparedness, which was primarily caused by a reluctant, half-hearted and ultimately belated decision by the Soviet Government and High Command to mobilize the army. Equally important was a general tactical superiority of the German army, which was conducting the kind of warfare that it had been combat-testing and fine-tuning for two years. The hasty pre-war growth and over-promotion of the Red Army cadres as well as the removal of experienced officers caused by the Purges offset the balance even more favourably for the Germans. Finally, the sheer numeric superiority of the Axis cannot be underestimated, though the combat strength of the two opposing forces appears to have been roughly equal in numbers of divisions.<ref>David Glantz in Stumbling Colossus discusses the correlation of forces in Appendix D (pages 292-295), and concludes that the Axis forces had a superiority of 1:1.7 in personnel, though the Red Army had 174 divisions to the Axis' 164, a 1.1:1 ratio.</ref>
A generation of Soviet commanders (most notably Zhukov) learned from the defeats, and Soviet victories in the Battle of Moscow, at Stalingrad, Kursk and later in Operation Bagration proved decisive in what became known to the Soviets as the Great Patriotic War.
The Soviet government adopted a number of measures to improve the state and morale of the retreating Red Army in 1941. Soviet propaganda turned away from political notions of class struggle, and instead invoked the deeper-rooted patriotic feelings of the population, embracing pre-revolutionary Russian history. Propagandists proclaimed the War against the German aggressors as the "Great Patriotic War", in allusion to the Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon. References to ancient Russian military heroes such as Alexander Nevski and Mikhail Kutuzov appeared. Repressions against the Russian Orthodox Church stopped, and priests revived the tradition of blessing arms before battle. The Communist Party abolished the institution of political commissars — although it soon restored them. The Red Army re-introduced military ranks and adopted many additional individual distinctions such as medals and orders. The concept of a Guard re-appeared: units which had shown exceptional heroism in combat gained the names of "Guards Regiment", "Guards Army", etc.
During the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army drafted a staggering 29,574,900 in addition to the 4,826,907 in service at the beginning of the war. Of these it lost 6,329,600 KIA, 555,400 deaths by disease and 4,559,000 MIA (most captured). Of these 11,444,100, however, 939,700 re-joined the ranks in the subsequently-liberated Soviet territory, and a further 1,836,000 returned from German captivity. Thus the grand total of losses amounted to 8,668,400. The majority of the losses comprised ethnic Russians (5,756,000), followed by ethnic Ukrainians (1,377,400).<ref>See Г. Ф. Кривошеев, Россия и СССР в войнах XX века: потери вооруженных сил. Статистическое исследование (G. F. Krivosheev, Russia and the USSR in the wars of the 20th century: losses of the Armed Forces. A Statistical Study, in Russian)</ref>
The German losses on the Eastern Front comprised an estimated 3,604,800 KIA/MIA (most killed) and 3,576,300 captured (total 7,181,100); the losses of the German satellites on the Eastern Front approximated 668,163 KIA/MIA and 799,982 captured (total 1,468,145). Of these 8,649,300, the Soviets released 3,572,600 from captivity after the war, thus the grand total of the Axis losses came to an estimated 5,076,700.
A comparison of the losses demonstrates the cruel treatment of the Soviet POWs by the Nazis. Most of the Axis POWs were released from captivity after the war, but the fate of the Soviet POWs differed markedly. Nazi troops who captured Red Army soldiers frequently shot them in the field or shipped them to concentration camps and executed them as a part of the Holocaust. Hitler's notorious Commissar Order implicated all the German armed forces in the policy of war crimes.
When the Red Army entered German territory it exacted often brutal revenge for German atrocities, including engaging in plunder, rape, and murder of civilians. While the laws of the Red Army officially prohibited such activities, the leadership nonetheless tolerated them. Note however that some historians say they refuted allegations that Soviet officials actively encouraged such behaviour, despite the fact, that evidence exists that Soviet propagandists serving the Red Army, such as Ilja Ehrenburg, actively called on Soviet troops to rape and murder once they had reached ethnic German territory in East Prussia.<ref>Soviet Authors: Ilja Ehrenburg Biography.</ref>
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 maneuver and supply it; as a result the Wehrmacht (which rated it highly) captured much of it. Red Army T-34 tanks outclassed any other tanks in the world, yet most of the Soviet armoured units were less advanced models; likewise, the same supply problem handicapped even the formations equipped with the most modern tanks. The Soviet Air Force initially performed poorly against the Germans. The quick advance of the Germans into the Soviet territory made re-inforcement difficult, if not impossible, since much of the Soviet Union's military industry lay in the west of the country. Until the Soviet authorities re-established the industry in the East, the Red Army had to rely on improvised weapons and partly on British and American supplies (see Lend-lease for details).
 The Manchurian Campaign
As a postscript to the war in Europe, the Red Army attacked Japan and Manchukuo, Japan's puppet state in Manchuria, on 9 August 1945 (Operation August Storm) and in combination with Mongolian and Chinese Communist forces rapidly overwhelmed the outnumbered Kwantung Army. Soviet forces also attacked in Sakhalin, in the Kuril Islands and in northern Korea. Japan surrendered unconditionally on 2 September 1945.
After World War II the Soviet Army had the most powerful land army in history. It had more tanks or artillery than all other countries taken together. The British Chiefs of Staff Committee rejected as militarily unfeasible a proposed British plan (Operation Unthinkable) to destroy Stalin's government and drive the Red Army out of Europe.
 The Cold War
To mark the final step in the transformation from a revolutionary militia to a regular army of a sovereign state, the Red Army gained the official name of the "Soviet Army" in 1946. Georgi Zhukov took over as chief of the Soviet Ground Forces in March 1946, but was quickly succeeded by Ivan Konev in July. Konev held the appointment until 1950, when the position was abolished for five years. Scott and Scott speculate that the gap 'probably was associated in some manner with the Korean War'. <ref>Scott and Scott, The Armed Forces of the Soviet Union, Eastview Press, Boulder, Co., 1979, p.142</ref>
Men within the Soviet Army dropped from around 13 million to approximately 5 million after the war. In order to control this demobilisation process, the number of military districts was temporarily increased to thirty-three, dropping to twenty-one in 1946. <ref>Scott and Scott, The Armed Forces of the Soviet Union, Westview Press, Boulder, CO., 1979, p.176</ref> The size of the Army throughout the Cold War remained between 3 million and 5 million, according to Western estimates. Soviet law required all able-bodied males of age to serve a minimum of three years until 1967, when the Ground Forces draft obligation was reduced to two years.<ref>Scott and Scott, 1979, p.305</ref> As a result, the Soviet Army remained the largest active army in the world from 1945 to 1991. Soviet Army units which had liberated the countries of Eastern Europe from German rule remained in some of them to secure the régimes in what became satellite states of the Soviet Union and to deter NATO forces. The greatest Soviet military presence based itself in East Germany, in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. In the Soviet Union itself, forces were divided by the 1950s among fifteen military districts, including the Moscow, Leningrad, and Baltic Military Districts. As a result of the Sino-Soviet border conflict, a sixteenth military district was created in 1969, the Central Asian Military District, with headquarters at Alma-Ata. <ref> Scott and Scott, 1979, p.176</ref>
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 broke up 1950s anti-Soviet uprisings in the German Democratic Republic (1953), and Hungary in 1956. Soon afterward, Nikita Khrushchev started reducing the Ground Forces, placing more emphasis on the the Armed Forces' nuclear capability, and building up the Strategic Rocket Forces. In doing so he ousted Zhukov, who had opposed the reductions, from the Politburo in 1957. The Soviet Ground Forces again crushed an anti-Soviet revolt in Czechoslovakia in 1968, bringing the Prague Spring to an untimely end.
The Soviet Union reorganised the Ground Forces for war involving nuclear weapons, though Soviet forces did not possess sufficient theatre nuclear weapons to meet war planning requirements until the mid 1980s <ref>William E. Odom, The Collapse of the Soviet Military, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1998, p.69</ref>. The General Staff maintained plans to invade Western Europe whose massive scale was only discovered after German researchers gained access to National People's Army files following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
 The limited contingent in Afghanistan
In 1979, however, the Soviet Army intervened in a civil war raging in Afghanistan. The Soviet Army came to back a Soviet-friendly secular government threatened by Muslim fundamentalist guerillas equipped and financed by the United States. Technically superior, the Soviets did not have enough troops to establish control over the countryside and to secure the border. This resulted from hesitancy in the Politburo, which allowed only a "limited contingent", averaging between 80,000 and 100,000 troops. Consequently, local insurgents could effectively employ hit-and-run tactics, using easy escape-routes and good supply-channels. This made the Soviet situation hopeless from the military point of view (short of using "scorched earth" tactics, which the Soviets did not practise except in World War II in their own territory). The understanding of this made the war highly unpopular within the Army. With the coming of glasnost, Soviet media started to report heavy losses, which made the war very unpopular in the USSR in general, even though actual losses remained modest, averaging 1670 per year. The war also became a sensitive issue internationally, which finally led Gorbachev to withdraw the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. The "Afghan Syndrome" suffered by the Army parallels the American Vietnam Syndrome trauma over their own lost war in Vietnam.
Eventually, the enormous cost of maintaining a 5-million-man peacetime army, as well as of waging a 9-year war in Afghanistan, would prove a major factor contributing to the decay of the Soviet economy and the Soviet Union as a whole.
 The end of the Soviet Union
From around 1985 to 1990, the new leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to reduce the strain the Army placed on economic demands. His government slowly reduced the size of the army. By 1989 Soviet troops had completely left their Warsaw Pact neighbors to fend for themselves. That same year Soviet forces left Afghanistan. By the end of 1990, the entire Eastern Bloc had collapsed in the wake of democratic revolutions. As a result, Soviet citizens quickly began to turn against the Communist government as well. In March 1990, nationalism in Lithuania caused that republic to declare its independence. A series of out-lying republics would also declare their independence that year. Gorbachev reacted in limited fashion, declining to turn the Army against the citizenry, and a crisis developed. By mid-1991, the Soviet union had reached a state of emergency.
According to the official commission (the Academy of Soviet Scientists) appointed by the Supreme Soviet (the higher chamber of the Russian parliament) immediately after the events of August 1991, the Army did not play a significant role in what some describe as coup d'état of old-guard communists. Commanders sent tanks into the streets of Moscow, but (according to all the commanders and soldiers) only with orders to ensure the safety of the people. It remains unclear why exactly the military forces entered the city, but they clearly did not have the goal of overthrowing Gorbachev (absent on the Black Sea coast at the time) or the government. The coup failed primarily because the participants didn't take any decisive action, 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. Gorbachev finally resigned on December 25, 1991, and the following day the Supreme Soviet, the highest governmental body, dissolved itself, officially ending the Soviet Union's existence. For the next year and a half various attempts to keep its unity and transform it into the military of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) failed. Steadily, the units stationed in Ukraine and other breakaway republics swore loyalty to their new national governments.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Army dissolved and the USSR's successor states divided its assets among themselves. The divide mostly occurred along a regional basis, with Soviet soldiers from Russia becoming part of the new Russian Army, while Soviet soldiers originating from Kazakhstan became part of the new Kazakh Army. As a result, the bulk of the Soviet Ground Forces, including most of the Scud and Scaleboard Surface-to-surface missile (SSM) forces, became incorporated in the Russian Ground Forces. (1992 estimates showed five SSM brigades with 96 missile vehicles in Belarus and twelve SSM brigades with 204 missile vehicles in Ukraine, compared to 24 SSM brigades with over 900 missile vehicles under Russian Ground Forces' control, some in other former Soviet republics). <ref>IISS, The Military Balance 1992-93, Brassey's, London, 1992, p.72,86,96</ref> By the end of 1992, most remnants of the Soviet Army in former Soviet Republics had disbanded. Military forces garrisoned in Eastern Europe (including the Baltic states) gradually returned home between 1991 and 1994. This list of Soviet Army divisions sketches some of the fates of the individual parts of the Ground Forces.
In mid-March 1992, Yeltsin appointed himself as the new Russian minister of defence, marking a crucial step in the creation of the new Russian armed forces, comprising the bulk of what was still left of the military. The last vestiges of the old Soviet command structure were finally dissolved in June 1993.
In the next few years, the former Soviet Ground Forces withdrew from central and Eastern Europe (including the Baltic states), as well as from the newly independent post-Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan. Now-Russian Ground Forces remained in Tajikistan, Abkhazia, Georgia, where the Russian military presence was deeply resented, and Transnistria.
|Armies of Russia|
Image:Spas KievanRus.jpg Kievan Rus'
Image:Romanov Flag.svg Imperial Russia
Image:Flag of Russia.svg White Movement
Image:Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union
Image:Flag of Russia.svg Russian Federation
At the beginning of its existence, the Red Army functioned as a voluntary formation, without ranks or insignia. Democratic elections selected the officers. However, a decree of May 29, 1918 imposed obligatory military service for men of ages 18 to 40. To service the massive draft, the Bolsheviks formed regional military commissariats (военный комиссариат, военкомат (voenkomat)), which as of 2005 still exist in Russia in this function and under this name. (Note: do not confuse military commissariats with the institution of military political commissars.)
In the mid 1920s the territorial principal of manning the Red Army was introduced. In each region able-bodied men were called up for a limited period of active duty in territorial unit, which comprised about half the Army's strength, each year, for five years.<ref>Scott and Scott, 1979, p.12</ref> The first call-up period was for three months, with one month a year thereafter. A regular cadre provided a stable nucleus. By 1925 this system provided 46 of the 77 infantry divisions and one of the eleven cavalry divisions. The remainder consisted of regular officers and enlisted personnel serving two-year stints. It seems that the territorial system may not have been finally abolished until the years immediately before World War II.<ref>David Glantz, Stumbling Colossus, University Press of Kansas, 1998</ref>
Slowly developing their mechanised forces, in 1930 the Army formed its first mechanized unit, the 1st Mechanized Brigade, which consisted of a tank regiment, a motorized infantry regiment, and reconnaissance and artillery battalions.<ref>Charles Sharp, Soviet Order of Battle World War II Volume I: "The Deadly Beginning," Soviet Tank, Mechanized, Motorized Divisions and Tank Brigades of 1940-1942 (Privately Published, G.F. Nafziger, 1995), 2-3, cited at http://www.redarmystudies.net/0411030.htm</ref> From this humble beginning, the Soviets would go on to create the first operational-level armored formations in history, the 11th and 45th Mechanized Corps, in 1932. These were tank-heavy formations with combat support forces included so they could survive while operating in enemy rear areas without support from a parent Front.
Impressed by the German campaign of 1940 against France, the Soviet NKO ordered the creation of nine mechanized corps on July 6, 1940. Between February and March 1941 another twenty would be ordered, and all larger than those of Tukhachevsky. Although, on paper, by 1941 the Red Army's 29 mechanized corps had no less than 29,899 tanks they proved to be a paper tiger.<ref>House, p. 96</ref> There were actually only 17,000 tanks available at the time, meaning several of the new mechanized corps were under-strength, and the sheer majority of these were obsolete designs. By June 22, 1941 there were only 1,475 T-34s and KV series tanks available to the Red Army, and these were too dispersed along the front to provide enough mass for even local success.<ref>House, Jonathan M. (1984). Toward Combined Arms Warfare: A Survey of 20th-Century Tactics, Doctrine, and Organization. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-6900: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, p. 96</ref> To put this into perspective, the 3rd Mechanized Corps in Lithuania was formed up of a total of 460 tanks, 109 of these were newer KV-1s and T-34s. This division would prove to be one of the lucky few with a substantial number of newer tanks. However, the 4th Army was composed of 520 tanks, all of which were the obsolete T-26, as opposed to the authorized strength of 1,031 newer medium tanks.<ref>Glantz, pg.35</ref> This problem was universal throughout the Red Army's available armour. This fact would play a crucial role in the initial defeats of the Red Army in 1941 at the hands of the German Armed Forces.<ref>Glantz, Stumbling Colossus, p. 117</ref>
War experience prompted changes to the way front-line forces were organised. After six months of combat against the Germans, STAVKA abolished the Rifle Corps intermediate level between Army and Division because while useful in theory, in the inexperienced state of the Red Army, they proved ineffective in practice. <ref>Glantz, Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War 1941-43, University Press of Kansas, 2005, p.179</ref> Following victory in the Battle of Moscow in summer of 1942, the High Command began to reintroduce Rifle Corps into its most experienced formations. The total number of Rifle Corps started at 62 on 22 June 1941, dropped to six by 1 January 1942, but then increased to 34 by February 1943, and 161 by New Years' Day 1944. Actual strengths of front-line divisions, authorised to contain 11,000 men in July 1941, were mostly no more than 50% of established strengths during 1941,<ref>David Glantz, 2005, p.189</ref> and divisions were often worn down on continuous operations to hundreds of men or even less.
On the outbreak of war the Red Army deployed mechanised corps and tank divisions whose development has been described above. The German attack battered many severely, and in the course of 1941 all were disbanded.<ref>Glantz, 2005, p.217-230</ref> It was much easier to coordinate smaller forces, and separate tank brigades and battalions were substituted. It was late 1942 and early 1943 before larger tank formations of corps size were fielded in order to employ armour en masse again. By mid 1942 these corps were being grouped together into Tank Armies whose strength by the end of the war could be up to 700 tanks and 50,000 men.
The Bolshevik authorities assigned to every unit of the Red Army a political commissar, or politruk, who had the authority to override unit commanders' decisions if they ran counter to the principles of the Communist Party. Although this sometimes resulted in inefficient command, the Party leadership considered political control over the military necessary, as the Army relied more and more on experienced officers from the pre-revolutionary Tsarist period. This system was abolished in 1925, as there were by that time enough trained Communist officers that counter-signing of all orders was no longer necessary.<ref>Scott and Scott, The Armed Forces of the USSR, Eastview Press, 1979, p.13</ref>
 Ranks and Titles
The early Red Army abandoned the institution of a professional officer corps as a "heritage of tsarism" in the course of the Revolution. In particular, the Bolsheviks condemned the use of the word "officer" and used the word "commander" instead. The Red Army abandoned epaulettes and ranks, 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" and "Comdiv" (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.
|Armies of Ukraine|
On May 7, 1940 further modifications to the system took place. The ranks of "General" or "Admiral" replaced the senior functional ranks of Combrig, Comdiv, Comcor, Comandarm; the other senior functional ranks ("Division Commissar", "Division Engineer", etc) remained unaffected. On November 2, 1940, the system underwent further modification with the abolition of functional ranks for NCOs and the introduction of the Podpolkovnik (sub-colonel) rank.
In early 1942 all the functional ranks in technical and administrative corps became regularised ranks (e.g., "Engineer Major", "Engineer Colonel", "Captain 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.
In early 1943 a unification of the system saw the abolition of all the remaining functional ranks. The word "officer" became officially endorsed, together with the epaulettes that superseded the previous rank insignia. The ranks and insignia of 1943 did not change much until the last days of the USSR; the contemporary Russian Army uses largely the same system. The old functional ranks of Combat (Battalion or Battery Commander), Combrig (Brigade Commander) and Comdiv (Division Commander) continue in informal use.
 General Staff
On September 22, 1935, the authorities renamed the RKKA Staff as the General Staff, which essentially reincarnated the General Staff of the Russian Empire. Many of the former RKKA Staff officers had served as General Staff officers in the Russian Empire and became General Staff officers in the USSR. General Staff officers typically had extensive combat experience and solid academic training.
 Military Education
During the Civil War the commander cadres received training at the General Staff Academy of the RKKA (Академия Генерального штаба РККА), an alias of the Nicholas General Staff Academy (Николаевская академия Генерального штаба) of the Russian Empire. On August 5, 1921 the Academy became the Military Academy of the RKKA (Военная академия РККА), and in 1925 the Frunze (М.В. Фрунзе) Military Academy of the RKKA. The senior and supreme commanders received training at the Higher Military Academic Courses (Высшие военно-академические курсы), renamed in 1925 as the Advanced Courses for Supreme Command (Курсы усовершенствования высшего начальствующего состава); in 1931, the establishment of an Operations Faculty at the Frunze Military Academy supplemented these courses. April 2, 1936 saw the re-instatement of the General Staff Academy; it would become a principal school for the senior and supreme commanders of the Red Army, as well as a centre for advanced military studies.
One should note that Red Army (and later Soviet Army) educational facilities called "academies" do not correspond to the military academies in Western countries. Those Soviet Academies were the post-graduate schools, mandatory for officers applying for senior ranks (e.g., the rank of Colonel since 1950s). While a basic officer education in the Red Army was provided by the facilities named военная школа or военное училище - which may be generally translated as "School" and compared to Western "academies" like West Point or Sandhurst.
The late 1930s saw the so-called "Purges of the Red Army cadres", occurring against the historical background of the Great Purge. The Purges had the objective of cleansing the Red Army of the "politically unreliable element", mainly among the higher-ranking officers. This inevitably provided a convenient pretext for settling personal vendettas and eventually resulted in a witch hunt. Some observers believe that the Purges weakened the Red Army considerably, but this remains a hotly debated subject. Many commentators overlook the fact that the Red Army grew significantly in numbers during the peak of the Purges. 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. In another important consideration, by the end of the Purges the pendulum swung back, restoring and promoting many of the purged officers.
Recently declassified data indicate that in 1937, during the culmination of the Purges, the Red Army had 114,300 officers, of whom 11,034 suffered repression and did not gain rehabilitation until 1940. Yet, in 1938, the Red Army had 179,000 officers (56% more compared to 1937), of whom a further 6,742 suffered repression and did not gain rehabilitation until 1940.
In the highest echelons of the Red Army the Purges removed 3 of 5 marshals, 13 of 15 army generals, 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.<ref>http://www.redarmystudies.net/0411030.htm, citing Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), 489.</ref>
 Manpower and Enlisted Men
The Ground Forces were manned through conscription, which as noted above was reduced in 1967 from three to two years. This system was administered through the thousands of military commissariats (военный комиссариат, военкомат (voyenkomat)) located throughout the Soviet Union. Between January and May of every year, 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.<ref>Carey Schofield, Inside the Soviet Army, Headline, London, 1991, p.67-70</ref> 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 senior rule, known as dedovshchina, literally "rule by the grandfathers." There were only a very small number of professional non-commissioned officers (NCOs), as most NCOs were conscripts sent on short courses<ref>Viktor Suvorov, Inside the Soviet Army, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1982, gives the figure of six months with a training division</ref> to prepare them for section commanders' and platoon sergeants' positions. These conscript NCOs were supplemented by praporshchik warrant officers, positions created in the 1960s to support the increased variety of skills required for modern weapons.<ref>William E Odom, The Collapse of the Soviet Military, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1998, p.43</ref>
 Weapons and Equipment
The Soviet Union established an indigenous arms industry as part of Stalin's industrialization program in the 1920s and 1930s.
The five round, magazine fed, bolt action Mosin-Nagant rifle remained the primary shoulder firearm of the Red Army through WWII. 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, the rifle designed to replace the M91/30. Full production began in 1944, and remained in production until 1948, when it was replaced by the SKS semiautomatic rifle.<ref>Terence W. Lapin, The Mosin-Nagnat Rifle (3rd Ed., North Cape 2003)</ref>
The Red Army suffered from a shortage of adequate machine guns and semiautomatic firearms throughout WWII. The semiautomatic Tokarev SVT Model 38 and Model 40, chambered for the same 7.62x54R cartridge used by the Mosin-Nagants. The rifle, though of sound design, was never manufactured in the same numbers as the Mosin-Nagants and did not replace them.
Soviet experimentation with small-arms began during the Second World War. In 1945 the Red Army adopted the Siminov SKS, a semi-automatic 7.62x39mm carbine. In 1949 production of the 7.62x39mm Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle began: planners envisaged troops using it in conjunction with the SKS, but it soon replaced the SKS completely. In 1978 the 5.45x39mm AK-74 assault rifle replaced the AK-47: it utilized no less than 51% of the AK-47's parts. Designers put together the new weapon as a counterpart to the American 5.56x45mm cartridge used in the M-16 assault rifle, and the Russian army continues to use it today.
 Military Doctrine
The Soviet meaning of military doctrine was much different from U.S. military usage of the term. Soviet Minister of Defence Marshal Grechko defined it in 1975 as 'a system of views on the nature of war and methods of waging it, and on the preparation of the country and army for war, officially adopted in a given state and its armed forces.' Soviet theorists emphasised both the political and 'military-technical' sides of military doctrine, while from the Soviet point of view, Westerners ignored the political side. However the political side of Soviet military doctrine, Western commentators Harriet F Scott and William Scott said, 'best explained Soviet moves in the international arena'.<ref>Scott and Scott, 1979, p.37,59</ref>
 See also
- Great Patriotic War
- List of equipment of the Russian Ground Forces
- Army (Soviet Army)
- Front (Soviet Army)
- The Warsaw Pact: Arms, Doctrine and Strategy, Lewis, William J.; Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis; 1982. ISBN 0-07-031746-1. 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, 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.
- Soviet Airbornear:جيش أحمر
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