Red Army

Red Army

Overview
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.

The "Red Army" name refers to the traditional colour of the workers' movement. On 25 February 1946 (when Soviet national symbols replaced revolutionary symbols), the Red Army was renamed the Soviet Army
Soviet Army
The Soviet Army is the name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992. Previously, it had been known as the Red Army. Informally, Армия referred to all the MOD armed forces, except, in some cases, the Soviet Navy.This article covers the Soviet Ground...

 (Советская Армия, Sovetskaya Armiya).

The Red Army is widely credited with being the decisive force in the Allied victory in the European Theatre of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, having engaged and defeated about 80% of the German armed forces, the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

  and much of the Waffen SS on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

.


In September 1917 V.
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Timeline

1918   First victory of Red Army over the Kaiser's German troops near Narva and Pskov. In honor of this victory, the date is celebrated from 1923 onward as "Red Army Day"; it is renamed Defender of the Fatherland Day after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and is colloquially known as "Men's Day".

1920   Kiev Offensive: Polish troops led by Józef Piłsudski and Edward Rydz-Śmigły and assisted by a symbolic Ukrainian force capture Kiev only to be driven out by the Red Army counter-offensive a month later.

1920   Polish-Soviet War: the Battle of Warsaw begins and will last till August 25. The Red Army is defeated.

1920   Polish-Soviet War: Battle of Warsaw, which began on August 13, ends. The Red Army is defeated.

1921   The Red Army captures Mongolia from the White Army and establishes the Mongolian People's Republic.

1939   Joint victory parade of Wehrmacht and Red Army in Brest-Litovsk at the end of the Invasion of Poland.

1941   World War II: Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov takes command of Red Army operations to prevent the further advance into Russia of German forces and to prevent the Wehrmacht from capturing Moscow.

1942   World War II: Second Battle of Kharkov: in eastern Ukraine, Red Army forces under Marshal Semyon Timoshenko launch a major offensive from the Izium bridgehead, only to be encircled and destroyed by the troops of Army Group South two weeks later.

1943   World War II: The Battle of Stalingrad comes to conclusion as Soviet troops accept the surrender of 91,000 remnants of the Axis forces.

1943   World War II: Red Army troops re-enter Kharkov.

 
Encyclopedia
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

 of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.

The "Red Army" name refers to the traditional colour of the workers' movement. On 25 February 1946 (when Soviet national symbols replaced revolutionary symbols), the Red Army was renamed the Soviet Army
Soviet Army
The Soviet Army is the name given to the main part of the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union between 1946 and 1992. Previously, it had been known as the Red Army. Informally, Армия referred to all the MOD armed forces, except, in some cases, the Soviet Navy.This article covers the Soviet Ground...

 (Советская Армия, Sovetskaya Armiya).

The Red Army is widely credited with being the decisive force in the Allied victory in the European Theatre of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, having engaged and defeated about 80% of the German armed forces, the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

  and much of the Waffen SS on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

.

Origins



In September 1917 V. I. Lenin wrote "There is only one way to prevent the restoration of the police, and that is to create a people's militia and to fuse it with the army (the standing army to be replaced by the arming of the entire people)."

At this time the Imperial Russian Army
Imperial Russian Army
The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of around 938,731 regular soldiers and 245,850 irregulars . Until the time of military reform of Dmitry Milyutin in...

 was in a state of collapse. 23% of the male population of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 had been mobilized, numbering about 19 million. However most of these were not equipped with any weapons and had support roles maintaining the lines of communication
Lines of Communication
"Lines of Communication" is an episode from the fourth season of the science-fiction television series Babylon 5.-Synopsis:Franklin and Marcus attempt to persuade the Mars resistance to assist Sheridan in opposing President Clark...

 and the base areas. The Tsarist general, Nikolay Dukhonin
Nikolay Dukhonin
Nikolay Nikolayevich Dukhonin was a Russian general, the last commander-in-chief of the Russian Imperial Army.-Biography:...

, estimated that there were 2 million deserters, 1.8 million dead, 5 million wounded and 2 million prisoners. He estimated the remaining troops as numbering 10 million.

The Council of People's Commissars decided to form the Red Army on 28 January 1918. Their conception was that it should be "formed from the class-conscious and best elements of the working classes". All citizens of the Russian republic
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic , commonly referred to as Soviet Russia, Bolshevik Russia, or simply Russia, was the largest, most populous and economically developed republic in the former Soviet Union....

 over the age of 18 were eligible. Its specific role was the defense "of the achievements of the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

, the Soviet Power
Soviet (council)
Soviet was a name used for several Russian political organizations. Examples include the Czar's Council of Ministers, which was called the “Soviet of Ministers”; a workers' local council in late Imperial Russia; and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union....

 and Socialism. Enlistment was conditional upon "guarantees being given by a military or civil committee functioning within the territory of the Soviet Power" or by Party or Trade Union committees or, in extreme cases, by two persons belonging to one of the above organizations." In the event of an entire unit wanting to join the Red Army, a "collective guarantee and the affirmative vote of all its members" would be necessary.

The Council of People's Commissars appointed itself the supreme head of the Red Army, delegating immediate command and administration of the Army to the Commissariat for Military Affairs and the Special All-Russian College within this commissariat. Nikolai Krylenko
Nikolai Krylenko
Nikolai Vasilyevich Krylenko was a Russian Bolshevik revolutionary and a Soviet politician. Krylenko served in a variety of posts in the Soviet legal system, rising to become People's Commissar for Justice and Prosecutor General of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.Krylenko was an...

 was the Supreme Commander in Chief, with Aleksandr Myasnikyan
Aleksandr Myasnikyan
Aleksandr Teodorosi Myasnikyan a.k.a. Aleksandr Fyodorovich Myasnikov was a prominent Bolshevik of Armenian descent....

 as deputy. Pavel Dybenko
Pavel Dybenko
Pavel Efimovich Dybenko was a Russian revolutionary and a leading Soviet officer.- Until the military service :...

 and Nikolai Podvoisky
Nikolai Podvoisky
Nikolai Ilyich Podvoisky was a Russian revolutionary. He played a large role in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and wrote many articles for the Soviet newspaper Krasnaya Gazeta...

 were the Commissars for War and the Fleet. Proshyan, Samoisky, Steinberg were also specified as People's Commissars with Vladimir Bonch-Bruyevich from the Bureau of Commissars.

At a joint meeting of Bolsheviks and Left Socialist-Revolutionaries
Left Socialist-Revolutionaries
In 1917, Russia the Socialist-Revolutionary Party split between those who supported the Provisional Government, established after the February Revolution, and those who supported the Bolsheviks who favoured a communist insurrection....

 held on 22 February 1918, Krylenko remarked: "We have no army. The demoralized soldiers are flying panic-stricken as soon as they see a German helmet
Pickelhaube
The Pickelhaube , also "Pickelhelm," was a spiked helmet worn in the 19th and 20th centuries by German military, firefighters, and police...

 appear on the horizon, abandoning their artillery, convoys and all war material to the triumphantly advancing enemy. The Red Guards
Red Guards (Russia)
In the context of the history of Russia and Soviet Union, Red Guards were paramilitary formations consisting of workers and partially of soldiers and sailors formed in the time frame of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 units are brushed aside like flies. We have no power to stay the enemy; only an immediate signing of the peace treaty will save us from destruction.".

Russian Civil War



The Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 (1917–23) occurred in two periods. The first period: October 1917–November 1918, from the Bolshevik Revolution to the First World War (1914–18) Armistice
Armistice
An armistice is a situation in a war where the warring parties agree to stop fighting. It is not necessarily the end of a war, but may be just a cessation of hostilities while an attempt is made to negotiate a lasting peace...

, developed from the Bolshevik government's November 1917 nationalization
Nationalization
Nationalisation, also spelled nationalization, is the process of taking an industry or assets into government ownership by a national government or state. Nationalization usually refers to private assets, but may also mean assets owned by lower levels of government, such as municipalities, being...

 of traditional Cossack
Cossack
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who originally were members of democratic, semi-military communities in what is today Ukraine and Southern Russia inhabiting sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper and Don basins and who played an important role in the...

 lands. This provoked the insurrection of General Alexey Maximovich Kaledin's Volunteer Army
Volunteer Army
The Volunteer Army was an anti-Bolshevik army in South Russia during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1920....

 in the River Don region. Also aggravating Russian internal politics was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

 (March 1918). This allowed direct Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War
Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War
The Allied intervention was a multi-national military expedition launched in 1918 during World War I which continued into the Russian Civil War. Its operations included forces from 14 nations and were conducted over a vast territory...

, in which twelve foreign countries armed anti-Bolshevik militias. Combat was a series of small-unit actions among the Czechoslovak Legion, the Polish 5th Rifle Division
Polish 5th Rifle Division
Polish 5th Siberian Rifle Division was a Polish military unit formed in 1919 in Russia during World War I. The division fought during the Polish-Bolshevik War, but as it was attached to the White Russian formations, it is considered to have fought more in the Russian Civil War...

, and the pro-Bolshevik Red Latvian Riflemen
Latvian Riflemen
This article is about Latvian military formations in World War I and Russian Civil War. For Red Army military formations in World War II see Latvian Riflemen Soviet Divisions....

 and others. The second period: January–November 1919, featured the White armies' successful advances, from the south, under Gen. Anton Denikin, from the east, under Gen. Aleksandr Vasilevich Kolchak, and from the northwest, under Gen. Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich
Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich
Nikolai Nikolaevich Yudenich , was a commander of the Russian Imperial Army during World War I. He was a leader of the anti-communist White movement in Northwestern Russia during the Civil War.-Early life:...

, that defeated the Red Army on each front. Trotsky reformed and counterattacked; the Red Army repulsed Gen. Kolchak's army in June, and the armies of Gen. Denikin and Gen. Yudenich in October. By mid-November, the White Armies almost simultaneously became exhausted, and, in January 1920, Budenny's First Cavalry Army entered Rostov-on-Don
Rostov-on-Don
-History:The mouth of the Don River has been of great commercial and cultural importance since the ancient times. It was the site of the Greek colony Tanais, of the Genoese fort Tana, and of the Turkish fortress Azak...

.

At war's start, the Red Army comprised 299 infantry regiments. Civil warfare intensified after Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

 dissolved the Russian Constituent Assembly
Russian Constituent Assembly
The All Russian Constituent Assembly was a constitutional body convened in Russia after the October Revolution of 1917. It is generally reckoned as the first democratically elected legislative body of any kind in Russian history. It met for 13 hours, from 4 p.m...

 (5–6 January 1918) and the Soviet government signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

 (3 March 1918) removing Russia from the Great War. Free from international war, the Red Army confronted an internecine war with a loose alliance of anti-Communist forces, comprising the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine
Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine
The Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine , popularly called Makhnovshchina, less correctly Makhnovchina, and also known as the Black Army, was an anarchist army formed largely of Ukrainian and Crimean peasants and workers under the command of the famous anarchist Nestor Makhno during the...

, the "Black Army" led by Nestor Makhno
Nestor Makhno
Nestor Ivanovych Makhno or simply Daddy Makhno was a Ukrainian anarcho-communist guerrilla leader turned army commander who led an independent anarchist army in Ukraine during the Russian Civil War....

, the anti-White and anti-Red Green armies, and others. The 23 February 1923 "Red Army Day" has a twofold, historical significance; the first day of drafting recruits (in Petrograd and Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

) and the first day of combat against the occupying Imperial German
German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...

 Army.

On 6 September 1918, the Bolshevik militias consolidated under the supreme command of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic
Revolutionary Military Council
Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic or Revvoyensoviet Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic or Revvoyensoviet Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic or Revvoyensoviet (Революционный Военный Совет, Revolyutsionny Voyenny Sovyet; Реввоенсовет, Revvoyensovyet; also...

 (Revvoyensoviet, Revolyutsionny Voyenny Sovyet), People's Commissar for War
Commissar
Commissar is the English transliteration of an official title used in Russia from the time of Peter the Great.The title was used during the Provisional Government for regional heads of administration, but it is mostly associated with a number of Cheka and military functions in Bolshevik and Soviet...

 (1918–24), Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

, Chairman, and Ioakhim Vatsetis
Jukums Vacietis
Jukums Vācietis was a Latvian Soviet military commander. He was a rare example of notable Soviet leaders who were not members of the Communist Party ....

, Commander-in-Chief
Commander-in-Chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

 of the Red Army. Soon afterward he established the GRU
GRU
GRU or Glavnoye Razvedyvatel'noye Upravleniye is the foreign military intelligence directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation...

 (military intelligence) to provide political and military intelligence to Red Army commanders. Trotsky founded the Red Army with an initial Red Guard
Red Guards (Russia)
In the context of the history of Russia and Soviet Union, Red Guards were paramilitary formations consisting of workers and partially of soldiers and sailors formed in the time frame of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 organization, and a core soldiery of Red Guard militiamen and Chekist
Cheka
Cheka was the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations. It was created by a decree issued on December 20, 1917, by Vladimir Lenin and subsequently led by aristocrat-turned-communist Felix Dzerzhinsky...

 secret policemen; conscription began in June 1918, and opposition to it was violently suppressed. To politically control the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Red Army soldiery, the Cheka
Cheka
Cheka was the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations. It was created by a decree issued on December 20, 1917, by Vladimir Lenin and subsequently led by aristocrat-turned-communist Felix Dzerzhinsky...

 operated Special Punitive Brigades which suppressed anti-communism
Anti-communism
Anti-communism is opposition to communism. Organized anti-communism developed in reaction to the rise of communism, especially after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and the beginning of the Cold War in 1947.-Objections to communist theory:...

, deserters, and enemies of the state. Wartime pragmatism allowed recruiting ex-Tsarist officers and sergeants (non-commissioned officers, NCOs) to the Red Army. Lev Glezarov's special commission screened and recruited; by mid-August 1920 the Red Army's former Tsarist troops comprised 48,000 officers, 10,300 administrators, and 214,000 NCOs. At the Civil War's start, ex-Tsarists comprised 75 per cent of the Red Army officer corps, who were employed as voenspetsy (military specialists), whose loyalty was occasionally ascertained with hostage families. At war's end in 1922, ex-Tsarists constituted 83 per cent of the Red Army's divisional and corps commanders.

The Red Army used special regiments for ethnic minorities, like the Dungan Cavalry Regiment commanded by the Dungan Magaza Masanchi
Magaza Masanchi
Magaza Masanchi or Magaza Masanchin was a Dungan Communist revolutionary commander and Statesman in the Soviet Union. He participated in the Russian Revolution on the Bolshevik side. Karakunuz in Kazakhstan was renamed Masanchi after him...

.

The slogan Exhortation, Organization, and Reprisals expressed the discipline and motivation ensuring the Red Army's tactical and strategic success. On campaign, the attached Cheka Special Punitive Brigades conducted summary field courts martial and executions of deserters and slackers. Under Commissar Jānis K. Bērziņš, the Special Punitive Brigades took hostages from the villages of deserters, to compel their surrender; one in ten was executed. The tactic also suppressed peasant rebellions in Red Army-controlled areas. The loyalty of the political, ethnic, and national varieties of men composing the Red Army was enforced by political commissar
Political commissar
The political commissar is the supervisory political officer responsible for the political education and organisation, and loyalty to the government of the military...

s attached at the brigade
Brigade
A brigade is a major tactical military formation that is typically composed of two to five battalions, plus supporting elements depending on the era and nationality of a given army and could be perceived as an enlarged/reinforced regiment...

 and regiment
Regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

 levels, and to spy on subordinate commanders, for political incorrectness
Political correctness
Political correctness is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, certain other religions, beliefs or ideologies, disability, and age-related contexts,...

. Despite such power, the political commissars whose Chekist detachments retreated or broke in the face of the enemy earned the death penalty. In August 1918, Trotsky authorized General Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky was a Marshal of the Soviet Union, commander in chief of the Red Army , and one of the most prominent victims of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge.-Early life:...

 to place blocking units
Barrier troops
Barrier troops, blocking units, or anti-retreat forces are formations of soldiers normally placed behind regular troops on a battle line to prevent panic or unauthorized withdrawal or retreat...

 behind politically-unreliable Red Army units, to shoot them if they retreated without permission. In 1942, during the Great Patriotic War (1941–45), Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 reintroduced the policy via penal battalions
Penal military unit
Penal battalions, penal companies, etc., are military formations consisting of convicted persons for which military service in such units was either the assigned punishment or an alternative to imprisonment or the death penalty.-Nazi Germany:...

.

Polish-Soviet War


In 1919-1921 the Red Army was also involved in the Polish-Soviet war
Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

, in which it reached central Poland in 1920, but then suffered a defeat
Battle of Warsaw (1920)
The Battle of Warsaw sometimes referred to as the Miracle at the Vistula, was the decisive battle of the Polish–Soviet War. That war began soon after the end of World War I in 1918 and lasted until the Treaty of Riga resulted in the end of the hostilities between Poland and Russia in 1921.The...

 there, which put an end to the war. During the Polish campaign the Red Army numbered some 6.5 million men, many of which the Army had difficulty supporting, around 581,000 in the two operational fronts, Western and Southwestern. Around 2.5 million men + woman were 'immobilized in the interior' as part of reserve armies.

Doctrinal development in the 1920s and 1930s


After four years of warfare, the Red Army's defeat of Wrangel
Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel
Baron Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel or Vrangel was an officer in the Imperial Russian army and later commanding general of the anti-Bolshevik White Army in Southern Russia in the later stages of the Russian Civil War.-Life:Wrangel was born in Mukuliai, Kovno Governorate in the Russian Empire...

 in the south allowed the foundation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1922. Historian John Erickson
John Erickson (historian)
John Erickson was a British historian who wrote extensively on the Second World War...

 dates 1 February 1924, when Mikhail Frunze
Mikhail Frunze
Mikhail Vasilyevich Frunze was a Bolshevik leader during and just prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917.-Life and Political Activity:Frunze was born in Bishkek, then a small Imperial Russian garrison town in the Kyrgyz part of Turkestan, to a Moldovan medical practitioner and his Russian wife...

 became head of the Red Army Staff, as the ascent of the General Staff
General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is the military staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. It is the central organ of the Armed Forces Administration and oversees operational management of the armed forces under the Russian Ministry of Defence.The staff is...

, which dominated Soviet military planning and operations. By 1 October 1924 the Red Army's strength diminished to 530,000. Divisions of the Soviet Union 1917-1945 details the formations of the Red Army in that time.

In the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s, Soviet military theoreticians led by Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky was a Marshal of the Soviet Union, commander in chief of the Red Army , and one of the most prominent victims of Joseph Stalin's Great Purge.-Early life:...

 developed the Deep operations
Deep operations
Deep battle was a military theory developed by the Soviet Union for its armed forces during the 1920s and 1930s. It was developed by a number of influential military writers, such as Vladimir Triandafillov and Mikhail Tukhachevsky who endeavoured to create a military strategy with its own...

 doctrine, a direct consequence of their Polish-Soviet War
Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

 and Russian Civil War experience. To achieve victory, deep operations comprehend simultaneous Corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

- and Army
Army
An army An army An army (from Latin arma "arms, weapons" via Old French armée, "armed" (feminine), in the broadest sense, is the land-based military of a nation or state. It may also include other branches of the military such as the air force via means of aviation corps...

-size unit maneuvers of simultaneous parallel attacks throughout the depth of the enemy's ground forces, inducing catastrophic defensive failure. The deep battle doctrine relies upon aviation and armor advances in the hope that maneuver warfare
Maneuver warfare
Maneuver warfare, or manoeuvre warfare , is the term used by military theorists for a concept of warfare that advocates attempting to defeat an adversary by incapacitating their decision-making through shock and disruption brought about by movement...

 offers quick, efficient, and decisive victory. Marshal Tukhachevsky said that aerial warfare
Aerial warfare
Aerial warfare is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare, including military airlift of cargo to further the national interests as was demonstrated in the Berlin Airlift...

 must be "employed against targets beyond the range of infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

, artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

, and other arms. For maximum tactical effect aircraft should be employed en masse, concentrated in time and space, against targets of the highest tactical importance."
Red Army Deep Operations were first formally expressed in the 1929 Field Regulations, and codified in the 1936 Provisional Field Regulations (PU-36). The Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 of 1937-1939 and Purge of 1940-1942
Purge of the Red Army in 1941
Between October 1940 and February 1942, the impending start of the German invasion in June 1941 notwithstanding, the Red Army, in particular the Soviet Air Force, as well as Soviet military-related industries were decapitated by repressions once again...

 removed many leading officers from the Red Army, including Tukhachevsky and many of his followers, and the doctrine was abandoned. Thus at the Battle of Lake Khasan
Battle of Lake Khasan
The Battle of Lake Khasan and also known as the Changkufeng Incident in China and Japan, was an attempted military incursion of Manchukuo into the territory claimed by the Soviet Union...

, in 1938, and the Battle of Khalkhin Gol
Battle of Khalkhin Gol
The Battles of Khalkhyn Gol was the decisive engagement of the undeclared Soviet–Japanese Border Wars fought among the Soviet Union, Mongolia and the Empire of Japan in 1939. The conflict was named after the river Khalkhyn Gol, which passes through the battlefield...

, in 1939, major border clashes with the Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Army
-Foundation:During the Meiji Restoration, the military forces loyal to the Emperor were samurai drawn primarily from the loyalist feudal domains of Satsuma and Chōshū...

, the doctrine was not used. It was not until the Second World War that deep operations were to be reused.

Chinese Soviet War


The Republic of China
Republic of China
The Republic of China , commonly known as Taiwan , is a unitary sovereign state located in East Asia. Originally based in mainland China, the Republic of China currently governs the island of Taiwan , which forms over 99% of its current territory, as well as Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu and other minor...

 waged war against invading Soviet and White Russian forces during the Sino-Soviet conflict (1929)
Sino-Soviet conflict (1929)
The Sino–Soviet conflict of 1929 was a minor armed conflict between the Soviet Union and Chinese warlord Zhang Xueliang of the Republic of China over the Manchurian Chinese Eastern Railway....

, the Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang
Soviet Invasion of Xinjiang
The Soviet invasion of Xinjiang was a military campaign in the Chinese northwestern region of Xinjiang in 1934. White Russian forces assisted the Soviet Red Army.- Background :...

 and the Xinjiang War (1937)
Xinjiang War (1937)
In 1937, an Islamic rebellion broke out in southern Xinjiang. The rebels were 1,500 Uighurs and Tungans led by Kichik Akhund, against the pro-Soviet provincial forces of Sheng Shicai.- Start of rebellion :...

. The Red Army achieved its objectives; it maintained effective control over the Manchurian Chinese Eastern Railway, and successfully installed a pro-Soviet regime in Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

.

The Winter War with Finland


The Winter War was a war between the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939—three months after the start of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and the Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland can refer to:* the second phase of the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 when Soviet armies marched on Warsaw, Poland* Soviet invasion of Poland of 1939 when Soviet Union allied with Nazi Germany attacked Second Polish Republic...

—and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty. The League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 deemed the attack illegal and expelled the Soviet Union on 14 December 1939.

The Soviet forces had three times as many soldiers as the Finns, thirty times as many aircraft, and a hundred times as many tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s. The Red Army, however, had been crippled by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

's Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 of 1937, reducing the army's morale and efficiency shortly before the outbreak of the fighting. With over 30,000 of its army officers
Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

 executed or imprisoned, including most of those of the highest ranks, the Red Army in 1939 had many inexperienced senior officers. Because of these factors, and high commitment and morale in the Finnish forces, Finland was able to resist the Soviet invasion for far longer than the Soviets expected; Finnish forces inflicted stunning losses on the Red Army for the first 3 to 4 months while suffering very few losses of their own.

Hostilities ceased in March 1940 with the signing of the Moscow Peace Treaty. Finland ceded 11% of its pre-war territory and 30% of its economic assets to the Soviet Union. Soviet losses on the front were heavy, and the country's international reputation suffered. The Soviet forces did not accomplish their objective of the total conquest of Finland but conquered sufficient territory along Lake Ladoga
Lake Ladoga
Lake Ladoga is a freshwater lake located in the Republic of Karelia and Leningrad Oblast in northwestern Russia, not far from Saint Petersburg. It is the largest lake in Europe, and the 14th largest lake by area in the world.-Geography:...

, Petsamo
Petsamo
Petsamo may refer to:*A former area of Finland, which is now Pechengsky District and part of Kolsky District of Russia*Finnish name for the urban-type settlement of Pechenga, Russia...

 and Salla
Salla
Salla is a municipality of Finland, located in Lapland. The municipality has a population of and covers an area of ofwhich is water. The population density is....

. The Finns, however, retained their sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 and improved their international reputation (and increased the moral in the Continuation War
Continuation War
The Continuation War was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.At the time of the war, the Finnish side used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War...

).

The Great Patriotic War



In accordance with the Soviet-Nazi Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August 1939, the Red Army invaded Poland
Soviet invasion of Poland (1939)
The 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland was a Soviet military operation that started without a formal declaration of war on 17 September 1939, during the early stages of World War II. Sixteen days after Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west, the Soviet Union did so from the east...

 on 17 September 1939, after the Nazi invasion
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

 on 1 September 1939. On 30 November, the Red Army also attacked Finland, in the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 of 1939–40. By autumn 1940, after conquering its portion of Poland, the Third Reich shared an extensive border with USSR, with whom it remained neutrally-bound by their non-aggression pact
Non-aggression pact
A non-aggression pact is an international treaty between two or more states/countries agreeing to avoid war or armed conflict between them and resolve their disputes through peaceful negotiations...

 and trade agreements. Another consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, carried out by the Southern Front in June–July 1940. This conquest also added to the border the Soviet Union shared with Nazi-controlled areas. For Hitler, the circumstance was no dilemma, because the Drang nach Osten
Drang nach Osten
Drang nach Osten was a term coined in the 19th century to designate German expansion into Slavic lands. The term became a motto of the German nationalist movement in the late nineteenth century...

("Drive towards the East") policy secretly remained in force, culminating on 18 December 1940 with Directive No. 21, Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, approved on 3 February 1941, and slated for mid-May 1941.


When Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 invaded the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 in June 1941, in Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, the Red Army's ground forces had 303 divisions and 22 separate brigades (4.8 million soldiers), including 166 divisions and 9 brigades (2.9 million soldiers) garrisoned in the western military districts. The Axis deployed on the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 181 divisions and 18 brigades (5.5 million soldiers). Three Fronts, the Northwestern, Western, and Southwestern conducted the defense of the western borders of the USSR. In the first weeks of the Great Patriotic War the Wehrmacht
Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 defeated many Red Army units. The Red Army lost millions of men as prisoners and lost much of its pre-war matériel. Stalin increased mobilization, and by 1 August 1941, despite 46 divisions lost in combat, the Red Army's strength was 401 divisions.

The unprepared Soviet forces suffered much damage in the field because of mediocre officers, partial mobilization, an incomplete reorganization and mainly because they were arranged to attack Central Europe, and not to defend Soviet territory. The hasty pre-war forces expansion and the over-promotion of inexperienced officers (owing to the purging
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 of experienced officers) favored the Wehrmacht in combat. The Axis's numeric superiority rendered the combatants' divisional strength approximately equal. A generation of Soviet commanders (notably Georgy Zhukov
Georgy Zhukov
Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov , was a Russian career officer in the Red Army who, in the course of World War II, played a pivotal role in leading the Red Army through much of Eastern Europe to liberate the Soviet Union and other nations from the Axis Powers' occupation...

) learned from the defeats, and Soviet victories in the Battle of Moscow
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, capital of...

, at Stalingrad
Battle of Stalingrad
The Battle of Stalingrad was a major battle of World War II in which Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in southwestern Russia. The battle took place between 23 August 1942 and 2 February 1943...

, Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

 and later in Operation Bagration proved decisive.
In 1941, the Soviet government raised the bloodied Red Army's esprit de corps with propaganda eschewing class struggle
Class struggle
Class struggle is the active expression of a class conflict looked at from any kind of socialist perspective. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote "The [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle"....

 for the defense of Motherland and nation, employing historic examplars of Russian courage and bravery against foreign aggressors. The anti-Nazi Great Patriotic War, was conflated with the Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

, and historical Russian military heroes, such as Alexander Nevski and Mikhail Kutuzov, appeared; repression of the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...

 (temporarily) ceased, and priests revived the tradition of blessing arms before battle.

To encourage the initiative of Red Army commanders, the CPSU temporarily abolished political commissar
Political commissar
The political commissar is the supervisory political officer responsible for the political education and organisation, and loyalty to the government of the military...

s, reintroduced formal military ranks and decorations, and the Guards-unit concept. Exceptionally heroic or high-performing units earned the Guards
Guards unit
Guards units are elite units and formations in the armed forces of the former Soviet Union, Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. These units were awarded Guards status after distinguishing themselves in service, and are considered to have elite status. The Guards designation originated during the...

 title (e.g. 1st Guards Special Rifle Corps
1st Guards Special Rifle Corps
The 1st Guards Special Rifle Corps was a hastily formed Red Army blocking formation active briefly in 1941, during the German advance on Moscow....

, 6th Guards Tank Army
6th Guards Tank Army
The 6th Guards Order of Red Banner Tank Army was a tank army of the Soviet Union's Red Army, first formed during World War II and disbanded in Ukraine in the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union....

),, an élite designation denoting superior training, matériel, and pay. Punishment also was used; slackers and malingerers avoiding combat with self-inflicted wounds cowards, thieves, and deserters were disciplined with beatings, demotions, undesirable/dangerous duties, and summary execution by NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

 punitive detachments.


In that time, the osobist (NKVD military counter-intelligence officer) became a key Red Army figure with the power to condemn to death and to spare the life of any soldier and (most any) officer of the unit to which he was attached. In 1942, Stalin established the penal battalions
Penal military unit
Penal battalions, penal companies, etc., are military formations consisting of convicted persons for which military service in such units was either the assigned punishment or an alternative to imprisonment or the death penalty.-Nazi Germany:...

 composed of gulag
Gulag
The Gulag was the government agency that administered the main Soviet forced labor camp systems. While the camps housed a wide range of convicts, from petty criminals to political prisoners, large numbers were convicted by simplified procedures, such as NKVD troikas and other instruments of...

inmates, Soviet PoWs, disgraced soldiers, and deserters, for hazardous front-line duty as tramplers clearing Nazi minefields, et cetera. Given the dangers, the maximum sentence was three months. Likewise, the Soviet treatment of Red Army personnel captured by the Wehrmacht was especially harsh. A 1941 Stalin directive ordered the suicide of every Red Army officer and soldier rather than surrender; Soviet law regarded all captured Red Army soldiers as traitors. Soviet PoWs whom the Red Army liberated from enemy captivity usually were sentenced to penal battalions.

During the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army conscripted
Conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 29,574,900 men in addition to the 4,826,907 in service at the beginning of the war. Of this total of 34,401,807 it lost 6,329,600 KIA
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

, 555,400 deaths by disease and 4,559,000 MIA
Missing in action
Missing in action is a casualty Category assigned under the Status of Missing to armed services personnel who are reported missing during active service. They may have been killed, wounded, become a prisoner of war, or deserted. If deceased, neither their remains nor grave can be positively...

 (most captured). Of these 11,444,000, however, 939,700 rejoined 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. This is the official total dead, but other estimates give the number of total dead up to almost 11 million men, including 7.7 million killed or missing in action and 2.6 million POW dead (out of 5.2 million total POWs), plus 400,000 paramilitary and Soviet partisan losses. The majority of the losses, excluding POWs, being ethnic Russians
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 (5,756,000), followed by ethnic Ukrainians
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

 (1,377,400). However, as many as 8 million of the 34 million mobilized were non-Slavic minority soldiers, and around 45 divisions formed from national minorities served from 1941 to 1943.

The German losses on the Eastern Front comprised an estimated 3,604,800 KIA within the 1937 borders plus 900,000 ethnic Germans and Austrians outside the 1937 border (included in these numbers are men listed as missing in action or unaccounted for after the war) and 3,576,300 men reported captured (total 8,081,100); 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 9,549,245, the Soviets released 3,572,600 from captivity after the war, thus the grand total of the Axis losses came to an estimated 5,976,645. As regards prisoners of war, both sides captured large numbers and had many die in captivity - one recent British figure says 3.6 of 6 million Soviet POWs died in German camps, while 300,000 of 3 million German POWs died in Soviet hands.

Shortcomings


Early in the Great Patriotic War, the Red Army fielded some excellent weapon
Weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

ry, especially artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 and tanks. The Red Army's heavy KV-1 and medium T-34
T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

 tanks outclassed most Wehrmacht armor, but in 1941, most Soviet tank units used older models. The Soviet Air Force
Soviet Air Force
The Soviet Air Force, officially known in Russian as Военно-воздушные силы or Voenno-Vozdushnye Sily and often abbreviated VVS was the official designation of one of the air forces of the Soviet Union. The other was the Soviet Air Defence Forces...

, though equipped with relatively modern aircraft
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

, initially performed poorly against the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

. The rapid progress of the initial German air and land attacks into the Soviet Union made Red Army logistical support difficult, because many depots, and most of the USSR's industrial manufacturing base lay in the country's invaded western half, obliging their reestablishment east of the Ural Mountains. Until then, the Red Army was often required to improvise or go without weapons, vehicles, and other equipment.

Organization



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 (voyennyy komissariat, abbr. voyenkomat), which as of 2006 still exist in Russia in this function and under this name. Military commissariats however should not be confused with the institution of military political commissar
Political commissar
The political commissar is the supervisory political officer responsible for the political education and organisation, and loyalty to the government of the military...

s.

In the mid-1920s the territorial principle 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 units, which comprised about half the Army's strength, each year, for five years. 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 terms. The territorial system was finally abolished, with all remaining formations converted to the other cadre divisions, in 1937–38.


Under Stalin's campaign for mechanization
Mechanization
Mechanization or mechanisation is providing human operators with machinery that assists them with the muscular requirements of work or displaces muscular work. In some fields, mechanization includes the use of hand tools...

, the army formed its first mechanized unit in 1930. The 1st Mechanized Brigade, consisting of a tank regiment, a motorized infantry regiment, and reconnaissance and artillery battalions. 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
Front (Soviet Army)
A front was a major military organization in the Soviet Army during many wars. It was roughly equivalent to an army group in the militaries of most other countries except Germany...

.

Impressed by the German campaign of 1940 against France, the Soviet People's Commissariat of Defence (Defence Ministry, Russian abbreviation 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. Even though the Red Army's 29 mechanized corps had no less than 29,899 tanks on paper by 1941, they proved to be a paper tiger. There were actually only 17,000 tanks available at the time, meaning several of the new mechanized corps were under strength. The pressure placed on factories and military planners to show production numbers also led to a situation where the majority of armored vehicles were obsolescent models, critically lacking in spare parts and support equipment, and nearly three quarters were overdue for major maintenance. 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. To put this into perspective, the 3rd Mechanized Corps
3rd Mechanised Corps (Soviet Union)
The 20th Motor Rifle Division is a formation of the Russian Ground Forces, originally formed within the Soviet Red Army as the 3rd Mechanised Corps....

 in Lithuania was formed up of a total of 460 tanks; 109 of these were newer KV-1s and T-34s. This corps 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. This problem was universal throughout the Red Army. 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.

Wartime



War experience prompted changes to the way frontline forces were organized. After six months of combat against the Germans, STAVKA
Stavka
Stavka was the term used to refer to a command element of the armed forces from the time of the Kievan Rus′, more formally during the history of Imperial Russia as administrative staff and General Headquarters during late 19th Century Imperial Russian armed forces and those of the Soviet Union...

 abolished the Rifle Corps intermediate level between the Army
Army (Soviet Army)
An army, besides the generalized meanings of ‘a country's armed forces’ or its ‘land forces’, is a type of formation in militaries of various countries, including the Soviet Union. This article serves a central point of reference for Soviet armies without individual articles, and explains some of...

 and Division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 level because, while useful in theory, in the state of the Red Army in 1941, they proved ineffective in practice. Following the decisive victory in the Battle of Moscow
Battle of Moscow
The Battle of Moscow is the name given by Soviet historians to two periods of strategically significant fighting on a sector of the Eastern Front during World War II. It took place between October 1941 and January 1942. The Soviet defensive effort frustrated Hitler's attack on Moscow, capital of...

 in January 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 Year's Day 1944. Actual strengths of front-line rifle divisions, authorized to contain 11,000 men in July 1941, were mostly no more than 50% of established strengths during 1941, 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 mechanized corps and tank divisions whose development has been described above. The German attack caused many , and in the course of 1941 virtually all (barring two in the Transbaikal Military District
Transbaikal Military District
The Transbaikal Military District was a military district of first the Military of the Soviet Union and then the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, formed on May 17, 1935 and included the Buryat Republic, Chita Oblast, and Yakutia. Chita was the headquarters of the district...

) were disbanded. 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
Tank Corps (Soviet)
-Pre-War Development of Soviet Mechanised Forces:In Soviet Russia, the so called armored forces preceded the Tank Corps. They consisted of the motorised armored units made of armored vehicles and armored trains...

 were fielded to employ armor in mass 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.

Personnel


The Bolshevik authorities assigned to every unit of the Red Army a political commissar
Political commissar
The political commissar is the supervisory political officer responsible for the political education and organisation, and loyalty to the government of the military...

, or politruk, who had the authority to override unit commanders' decisions if they ran counter to the principles of the Communist Party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

. Although this sometimes resulted in inefficient command according to some American historians, the Party leadership considered political control over the military absolutely necessary, as the Army relied more and more on officers from the pre-revolutionary Imperial period and understandably feared a military coup. 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.

Ranks and titles


The early Red Army abandoned the institution of a professional officer corps
Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

 as a "heritage of tsarism" in the course of the Revolution. In particular, the Bolsheviks condemned the use of the word "officer
Officer (armed forces)
An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

" and used the word "commander
Commander
Commander is a naval rank which is also sometimes used as a military title depending on the individual customs of a given military service. Commander is also used as a rank or title in some organizations outside of the armed forces, particularly in police and law enforcement.-Commander as a naval...

" instead. The Red Army abandoned epaulette
Epaulette
Epaulette is a type of ornamental shoulder piece or decoration used as insignia of rank by armed forces and other organizations.Epaulettes are fastened to the shoulder by a shoulder strap or "passant", a small strap parallel to the shoulder seam, and the button near the collar, or by laces on the...

s and rank
Military rank
Military rank is a system of hierarchical relationships in armed forces or civil institutions organized along military lines. Usually, uniforms denote the bearer's rank by particular insignia affixed to the uniforms...

s, using purely functional title
Title
A title is a prefix or suffix added to someone's name to signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may even be inserted between a first and last name...

s such as "Division Commander", "Corps Commander", and similar titles.

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
Lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

" and "Comdiv
Comdiv
Comdiv or Komdiv , abbreviated from команди́р диви́зии was a military rank in the Red Army until the end of the 1930s....

" (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 Marshal of the Soviet Union
Marshal of the Soviet Union
Marshal of the Soviet Union was the de facto highest military rank of the Soviet Union. ....

 (Маршал Советского Союза) rank was introduced on the September 22, 1935. On May 7, 1940 further modifications to rationalise the ranks system were made on the proposal by Marshal Voroshilov
Kliment Voroshilov
Kliment Yefremovich Voroshilov , popularly known as Klim Voroshilov was a Soviet military officer, politician, and statesman...

: the ranks of "General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

" and "Admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

" replaced the senior functional ranks of Combrig
Combrig
Combrig was a military rank used in the Red Army for commanders of brigades between 1935 and 1940 . Kombrigs were senior to polkovniks and junior to comdivs...

, Comdiv
Comdiv
Comdiv or Komdiv , abbreviated from команди́р диви́зии was a military rank in the Red Army until the end of the 1930s....

, Comcor
Comcor
Comcor was a military rank in the Red Army until the end of the 1930s....

, Comandarm
Comandarm
Comandarm was a military rank in the Red Army until the end of the 1930s....

 in the RKKA and Flagman 1st rank etc. in the Red Navy; the other senior functional ranks ("Division Commissar", "Division Engineer", etc.) remained unaffected. The Arm or Service distinctions remained (e.g. General of Cavalry, Marshal of Armoured Troops). For the most part the new system restored that used by the Imperial Russian Army
Imperial Russian Army
The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of around 938,731 regular soldiers and 245,850 irregulars . Until the time of military reform of Dmitry Milyutin in...

 at the conclusion of its participation in World War I.

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
Epaulette is a type of ornamental shoulder piece or decoration used as insignia of rank by armed forces and other organizations.Epaulettes are fastened to the shoulder by a shoulder strap or "passant", a small strap parallel to the shoulder seam, and the button near the collar, or by laces on the...

s that superseded the previous rank insignia
Insignia
Insignia or insigne pl -nia or -nias : a symbol or token of personal power, status or office, or of an official body of government or jurisdiction...

. The ranks and insignia of 1943 did not change much until the last days of the USSR; the contemporary Russian Army
Russian Ground Forces
The Russian Ground Forces are the land forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, formed from parts of the collapsing Soviet Army in 1992. The formation of these forces posed economic challenges after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and required reforms to professionalize the force...

 uses largely the same system.

Military education



During the Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 the commander cadres were trained at the Nicholas General Staff Academy of the Russian Empire, which became the Frunze Military Academy in the 1920s. Senior and supreme commanders were trained at the Higher Military Academic Courses, renamed the Advanced Courses for Supreme Command in 1925; the 1931 establishment of an Operations Faculty at the Frunze Military Academy supplemented these courses. The General Staff Academy was reinstated on 2 April 1936, and became the principal military school for the senior and supreme commanders of the Red Army.

Purges



The late 1930s saw the so-called Purges of the Red Army Cadres, which occurred concurrently with Stalin's Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

 of Soviet society. In 1936 and 1937, at the orders of Stalin, thousands of Red Army officers were dismissed from their commands. The purges had the objective of cleansing the Red Army of the "politically unreliable elements", mainly among higher-ranking officers. This inevitably provided a convenient pretext for the settling of personal vendettas or to eliminate competition by officers seeking the same command. Many army, corps, and divisional commanders were sacked, most were imprisoned or sent to labor camps; others were executed. Among the victims was the Red Army's primary military theorist, Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, perceived by Stalin as a potential political rival. Officers who remained soon found all of their decisions being closely examined by political officers, even in mundane matters such as record-keeping and field training exercises. An atmosphere of fear and unwillingness to take the initiative soon pervaded the Red Army; suicide rates among junior officers rose to record levels. Most historians believe that the purges significantly impaired the combat capabilities of the Red Army. However, the extent of the consequential damage attributable to them is still debated.


Recently declassified data indicate that in 1937, at the height of the Purges, the Red Army had 114,300 officers, of whom 11,034 were dismissed. In 1938, the Red Army had 179,000 officers, 56% more than in 1937, of whom a further 6,742 were sacked. 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.

The result was that the Red Army officer corps in 1941 had many inexperienced senior officers. While 60% of regimental commanders had two years or more of command experience in June 1941, and almost 80% of rifle division commanders, only 20% of corps commanders, and 5% or fewer army and military district commanders, had the same level of experience.

The significant growth of the Red Army during the high point of the purges may have worsened matters. In 1937, the Red Army numbered around 1.3 million, increasing to almost three times that number by June 1941. The rapid growth of the army necessitated in turn the rapid promotion of officers regardless of experience or training. Junior officers were appointed to fill the ranks of the senior leadership, many of whom lacked broad experience. This action in turn resulted in many openings at the lower level of the officer corps, which were filled by new graduates from the service academies. In 1937, the entire junior class of one academy was graduated a year early to fill vacancies in the Red Army. Hamstrung by inexperience and fear of reprisals, many of these new officers failed to impress the large numbers of incoming draftees to the ranks; complaints of insubordination rose to the top of offenses punished in 1941, and may have exacerbated instances of Red Army soldiers deserting their units during the initial phases of the German offensive of that year.

By 1940, Stalin began to relent, restoring approximately one-third of previously dismissed officers to duty. However, the effect of the purges would soon manifest itself in the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 of 1940, where Red Army forces generally performed poorly against the much smaller Finnish Army.

Weapons and equipment


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