Soviet Army

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Soviet Army
Советская Армия
Sovetskaya Armiya
Communist star with golden border and red rims.svg
Emblem of the Soviet Army
Founded25 February 1946
Disbanded25 December 1991
CountryFlag of the Soviet Union.svg  Soviet Union
Allegiance Communist Party of the Soviet Union
Type Army
Role Land warfare
Size3,668,075 active (1991)
4,129,506 reserve (1991)
Nickname(s)"Red Army"
ColorsRed and yellow
Equipment55,000 tanks [1]
70,000 armored personnel carriers [2]
24,000 infantry fighting vehicles
33,000 towed artillery pieces
9,000 self-propelled howitzers
12,000 anti-aircraft guns
4,300 helicopters
Engagements
Commanders
Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Ground Forces See list
Notable
commanders
Georgi Zhukov

The Soviet Army (SA; Russian : Советская Армия [СА], Sovetskaya Armiya [SA]) (RA; Ukrainian : Радянська Армія [РА], radyansʹka Armiya [РА]) is the name given to the main land-based branch of the Soviet Armed Forces between February 1946 and December 1991, when it was replaced with the Russian Ground Forces, although it was not fully abolished until 25 December 1993. Until 25 February 1946, it was known as the Red Army, established by decree on 15 (28) January 1918 "to protect the population, territorial integrity and civil liberties in the territory of the Soviet state." The Strategic Missile Troops, Air Defense Forces and Air Forces (ranking first, third and fourth within Soviet Armed Forces; Ground Forces holding second place) were part of the Soviet Army in addition to the Ground Forces.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Ukrainian language language member of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages

Ukrainian is an East Slavic language. It is the official state language of Ukraine, one of the three official languages in the unrecognized state of Transnistria, the other two being Romanian and Russian. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic script.

An army or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on land. In the broadest sense, it is the land-based military branch, service branch or armed service of a nation or state. It may also include aviation assets by possessing an army aviation component. In certain states, the term army refers to the entire armed forces. Within a national military force, the word army may also mean a field army.

Contents

After World War II

At the end of World War II the Red Army had over 500 rifle divisions and about a tenth that number of tank formations. [3] Their experience of war gave the Soviets such faith in tank forces that the infantry force was cut by two-thirds. The Tank Corps of the late war period were converted to tank divisions, and from 1957 the rifle divisions were converted to motor rifle divisions (MRDs). MRDs had three motorized rifle regiments and a tank regiment, for a total of ten motor rifle battalions and six tank battalions; tank divisions had the proportions reversed.

The Aftermath of World War II was the beginning of a new era, defined by the decline of all European colonial empires and simultaneous rise of two superpowers: the Soviet Union (USSR) and the United States (US). Allies during World War II, the US and the USSR became competitors on the world stage and engaged in the Cold War, so called because it never resulted in overt, declared hot war between the two powers but was instead characterized by espionage, political subversion and proxy wars. Western Europe and Japan were rebuilt through the American Marshall Plan whereas Central and Eastern Europe fell under the Soviet sphere of influence and eventually behind an "Iron Curtain". Europe was divided into a US-led Western Bloc and a Soviet-led Eastern Bloc. Internationally, alliances with the two blocs gradually shifted, with some nations trying to stay out of the Cold War through the Non-Aligned Movement. The War also saw a nuclear arms race between the two superpowers; part of the reason that the Cold War never became a "hot" war was that the Soviet Union and the United States had nuclear deterrents against each other, leading to a mutually assured destruction standoff.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Division (military) large military unit or formation

A division is a large military unit or formation, usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. Infantry divisions during the World Wars ranged between 8,000 and 30,000 in nominal strength.

The Land Forces Chief Command was created for the first time in March 1946. Four years later it was disbanded, only to be formed again in 1955. In March 1964 the Chief Command was again disbanded but recreated in November 1967. [4]

Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgi Zhukov became Chief of the Soviet Ground Forces in March 1946, but was quickly succeeded by Ivan Konev in July, who remained as such until 1950, when the position of Chief of the Soviet Ground Forces was abolished for five years, an organisational gap that "probably was associated in some manner with the Korean War". [5] From 1945 to 1948, the Soviet Armed Forces were reduced from about 11.3 million to about 2.8 million men, [6] a demobilisation controlled first, by increasing the number of military districts to 33, then reduced to 21 in 1946. [7] The personnel strength of the Ground Forces was reduced from 9.8 million to 2.4 million. [4]

Marshal of the Soviet Union military rank

Marshal of the Soviet Union was the highest military rank of the Soviet Union.

Ivan Konev Soviet military commander

Ivan Stepanovich Konev was a Soviet military commander who led Red Army forces on the Eastern Front during World War II, retook much of Eastern Europe from occupation by the Axis Powers, and helped in the capture of Germany's capital, Berlin.

Korean War 1950–1953 war between North Korea and South Korea

The Korean War was a war between North Korea and South Korea. The war began on 25 June 1950 when North Korea invaded South Korea following a series of clashes along the border.

To establish and secure the USSR's eastern European geopolitical interests, Red Army troops who liberated eastern Europe from Nazi rule, in 1945 remained in place to secure pro-Soviet régimes in Eastern Europe and to protect against attack from Europe. Elsewhere, they may have assisted the NKVD in suppressing anti-Soviet resistance in Western Ukraine (1941–55) and the Baltic states. [8] Soviet troops, including the 39th Army, remained at Port Arthur and Dalian on the northeast Chinese coast until 1955. Control was then handed over to the new Chinese communist government.

Eastern Europe eastern part of the European continent

Eastern Europe is the eastern part of the European continent. There is no consensus on the precise area it covers, partly because the term has a wide range of geopolitical, geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic connotations. There are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region". A related United Nations paper adds that "every assessment of spatial identities is essentially a social and cultural construct".

The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, abbreviated NKVD, was the interior ministry of the Soviet Union.

Ukrainian Insurgent Army paramilitary wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Bandera movement)

The Ukrainian Insurgent Army was a Ukrainian nationalist paramilitary and later partisan formation. During World War II, it was engaged in guerrilla warfare against Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the Polish Underground State and Communist Poland. Its ultimate purpose was an independent and unified Ukrainian state. The insurgent army arose out of separate militant formations of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists—Bandera faction, other militant national-patriotic formations, some former defectors of the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police, mobilization of local population and other. The political leadership of the army belonged to the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists—Bandera. It was the primary perpetrator of the ethnic cleansing of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia.

Soviet Army forces on USSR territory were apportioned among military districts. There were 32 of them in 1945. Sixteen districts remained from the mid-1970s to the end of the USSR (see table at right). Yet, the greatest Soviet Army concentration was in the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, which suppressed the anti-Soviet Uprising of 1953 in East Germany. East European Groups of Forces were the Northern Group of Forces in Poland, and the Southern Group of Forces in Hungary, which put down the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In 1958, Soviet troops were withdrawn from Romania. The Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia was established after Warsaw Pact intervention against the Prague Spring of 1968. In 1969, at the east end of the Soviet Union, the Sino-Soviet border conflict (1969), prompted establishment of a 16th military district, the Central Asian Military District, at Alma-Ata, Kazakhstan. [9] In 1979, the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan, to support its Communist government, provoking a 10-year Afghan mujahideen guerrilla resistance.

Cold War

A U.S. assessment of the seven most important items of Soviet combat equipment in 1981 Soviet big 7.jpg
A U.S. assessment of the seven most important items of Soviet combat equipment in 1981

Throughout the Cold War (1945–91), Western intelligence estimates calculated that the Soviet strength remained ca. 2.8 million to ca. 5.3 million men. [11] To maintain said strength range, Soviet law minimally required a three-year military service obligation from every able man of military age, until 1967, when the Ground Forces reduced it to a two-year draft obligation. [12]

By the middle of the 1980s, the Ground Forces contained about 210 divisions. About three-quarters were motor rifle divisions and the remainder tank divisions. [13] There were also a large number of artillery divisions, separate artillery brigades, engineer formations, and other combat support formations. However, only relatively few formations were fully war ready. Three readiness categories, A, B, and V, after the first three letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, were in force. The Category A divisions were certified combat-ready and were fully equipped. B and V divisions were lower-readiness, 50–75% (requiring at least 72 hours of preparation) and 10–33% (requiring two months) respectively. [14] The internal military districts usually contained only one or two A divisions, with the remainder B and V series formations.

Soviet planning for most of the Cold War period would have seen Armies of four to five divisions operating in Fronts made up of around four armies (and roughly equivalent to Western Army Groups). In February 1979, the first of the new High Commands in the Strategic Directions were created at Ulan-Ude. [15] These new headquarters controlled multiple Fronts, and usually a Soviet Navy Fleet. In September 1984, three more were established to control multi-Front operations in Europe (the Western and South-Western Strategic Directions) and at Baku to handle southern operations.

In 1955, the Soviet Union signed the Warsaw Pact with its East European socialist allies, establishing military coordination between Soviet forces and their socialist counterparts. The Soviet Army created and directed the Eastern European armies in its image for the remainder of the Cold War, shaping them for a potential confrontation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). After 1956, Premier Nikita Khrushchev reduced the Ground Forces to build up the Strategic Rocket Forces — emphasizing the armed forces' nuclear capabilities. He removed Marshal Georgy Zhukov from the Politburo in 1957, for opposing these reductions in the Ground Forces. [16] Nonetheless, Soviet forces possessed too few theater-level nuclear weapons to fulfil war-plan requirements until the mid-1980s. [17] The General Staff maintained plans to invade Western Europe whose massive scale was only made publicly available after German researchers gained access to National People's Army files following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. [18]

Dissolution of the Soviet Union

A Soviet soldier of the 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division wearing the winter Afghanka uniform, Moscow, January 1992 Soviet soldier DN-SC-92-04942.jpg
A Soviet soldier of the 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division wearing the winter Afghanka uniform, Moscow, January 1992

From 1985 to 1991, Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to reduce the Soviet Army’s financial straining of the USSR’s economy; he slowly reduced its size, and withdrew it from Afghanistan in 1989.

After the 19–21 August 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt to depose President Gorbachev, the Academy of Soviet Scientists reported that the armed forces did not much participate in the coup launched by the neo-Stalinists in the CPSU. Commanders despatched tanks into Moscow, yet the coup failed. [19]

On 8 December 1991, the presidents of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine formally dissolved the USSR, and then constituted the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Soviet President Gorbachev resigned on 25 December 1991; the next day, the Supreme Soviet dissolved itself, officially dissolving the USSR on 26 December 1991. During the next 18 months, inter-republican political efforts to transform the Army of the Soviet Union into the CIS military failed; eventually, the forces stationed in the republics formally became the militaries of the respective republican governments.

After the dissolution 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 forces, became incorporated in the Russian Ground Forces. [20] 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 1992 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, Russian President Boris 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, when the paper Commonwealth of Independent States Military Headquarters was reorganized as a staff for facilitating CIS military cooperation. [21]

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, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. Now-Russian Ground Forces remained in Tajikistan, Georgia and Transnistria.

Commanders-in-Chief of the Soviet Ground Forces

Equipment

Soviet Army T-72A tanks during the 1983 October Revolution celebration in Moscow October Revolution celebration 1983.png
Soviet Army T-72A tanks during the 1983 October Revolution celebration in Moscow
Soviet Army conscript's military service book.#1, Place of birth,#2 Nationality (i.e. ethnicity), #3 Party affiliation (i.e the year of joining the CPSU), #4 Year of entering the Komsomol, #5 Education, #6 Main specialty, #7 Marital status. (Document number and the name are removed) Voennyi Bilet SSSR.jpg
Soviet Army conscript's military service book.#1, Place of birth,#2 Nationality (i.e. ethnicity), #3 Party affiliation (i.e the year of joining the CPSU), #4 Year of entering the Komsomol, #5 Education, #6 Main specialty, #7 Marital status. (Document number and the name are removed)

In 1990, the Soviet Army possessed: [22]

Post-dissolution influence

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, a considerable number of weapons were transferred to the national forces of emerging states on the periphery of the former Soviet Union, such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan. [23] Similarly, weapons and other military equipment were also left behind in the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989. [23] Some of these items were sold on the black market or through weapons merchants, whereof, in turn, some ended up in terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda. [23] A report in 1999 claimed that the greatest opportunity for terrorist organizations to procure weapons is in the former Soviet Union. [23] [note 1]

In 2007, the World Bank estimated that out of the 500 million total firearms available worldwide, 100 million were of the Kalashnikov family, and 75 million were AKMs. [24] However, only about 5 million of these were manufactured in the former USSR. [25]

See also

Notes

  1. The Hamm reference cites, in turn, the 1999 report as:
    • Lee, Rensselaer (1999) Smuggling Armageddon: The Nuclear Black Market in the Former Soviet Union and Europe. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

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Turkestan Military District

The Turkestan Military District was a military district of both the Imperial Russian Army and the Soviet Armed Forces, with its headquarters at Tashkent. The District was first created during the 1874 Russian military reform when by order of Minister Dmitry Milyutin the territory of Russia was divided into fourteen military districts. Its first commander was Konstantin Petrovich von Kaufman, who was also Governor-General of Russian Turkestan at the time.

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The 213th Motor Rifle Division was a motorized infantry division of the Soviet Army. The division was based in Totskoye and existed from 1968 to 1991. In 1991, the division merged with the 27th Guards Motor Rifle Division.

The 62nd Motor Rifle Division was a motorized infantry division of the Soviet Army. It was originally formed as a mobilization division in 1972 but became a regular division months later. It became a storage base in 1989 and was disbanded in 1994.

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The 4th Guards Motor Rifle Division was a motorized infantry division of the Soviet Army during the Cold War.

The 47th Guards Tank Division was a tank division of the Soviet Army during the Cold War that became part of the Russian Ground Forces after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

References

  1. Russian Land Combat Equipment. globalsecurity.org
  2. Russian Land Combat Equipment. globalsecurity.org
  3. Urban, Mark L. (1985). Soviet land power. London: Ian Allan. ISBN   978-0-7110-1442-8.
  4. 1 2 Armed Forces of the Russian Federation – Land Forces, Agency Voeninform of the Defence Ministry of the RF (2007) p. 14
  5. Scott, Harriet Fast; Scott, William Fontaine (1979). The armed forces of the USSR. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. p. 142. ISBN   978-0-89158-276-2.
  6. William E. Odom, The Collapse of the Soviet Military, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1998, p. 39
  7. Scott and Scott, The Armed Forces of the Soviet Union, Westview Press, Boulder, CO. (1979) p. 176
  8. Feskov et al 2013, p. 99
  9. Scott and Scott (1979) p. 176
  10. Schofield, Carey (1991). Inside the Soviet Army. London: Headline Book Publishing PLC. pp. 236–237. ISBN   0-7472-0418-7.
  11. Odom (1998) p. 39
  12. Scott and Scott (1979) p. 305
  13. M J Orr, The Russian Ground Forces and Reform 1992–2002, January 2003, Conflict Studies Research Centre, UK Defence Academy, Sandhurst, p. 1
  14. M J Orr, 2003, p. 1 and David C Isby, Weapons and Tactics of the Soviet Army, Jane's Publishing Company, 1988, p. 30
  15. Viktor Suvorov, Inside the Soviet Army, Hamish Hamilton, 1982, gives this title, Odom (1998) also discusses this development. Specific details on the Strategic Directions can be seen at Michael Holm, High Commands.
  16. see Viktor Suvorov, Inside the Soviet Army
  17. William E. Odom, The Collapse of the Soviet Military, Yale University Press, New Haven and London (1998) p. 69
  18. Odom, William E. The Collapse of the Soviet Military, Yale, 1998, pp. 72–80, also Parallel History Project, and the documentation on the associated Polish exercise, Seven Days to the River Rhine, 1979. See also Heuser, Beatrice, 'Warsaw Pact Military Doctrines in the 1970s and 1980s: Findings in the East German Archives,' Comparative Strategy, October–December 1993, pp. 437–457
  19. Remnick, David (1994). Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. Vintage Books. ISBN   978-0-679-75125-0.
  20. 1992 estimates showed five SSM brigades with 96 missile vehicles in Belarus and 12 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). IISS, The Military Balance 1992–93, Brassey's, London, 1992, pp. 72, 86, 96
  21. Matlock, Jack F. (1995). Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador's Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union. Random House. ISBN   978-0-679-41376-9.
  22. Russian Land Combat Equipment. globalsecurity.org
  23. 1 2 3 4 Hamm, Mark S. (2011). Crimes Committed by Terrorist Groups: Theory, Research, and Prevention (PDF). DIANE Publishing. p. 8. ISBN   978-1-4379-2959-1 . Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  24. Killicoat, Phillip (April 2007). "Post-Conflict Transitions Working Paper No. 10.: Weaponomics: The Global Market for Assault Rifles" (PDF). World Bank. Oxford University. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 July 2016. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
  25. Valerii N. Shilin; Charlie Cutshaw (2000-03-01). Legends and reality of the AK: a behind-the-scenes look at the history, design, and impact of the Kalashnikov family of weapons. Paladin Press. ISBN   978-1-58160-069-8

Further reading