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the most important armed organization of a state. The purpose of the armed forces and the principles of their development and of the training and indoctrination of the personnel are determined by the social and political system and by the policy of the state. The armed forces of the imperialist states are an instrument of class domination by the bourgeoisie inside the country, a means for defense against foreign enemies and for the conquest and enslavement of other states and colonial peoples, and the main support for carrying out foreign policy. The armed forces of the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries are designed to be a reliable defense for the revolutionary achievements and for the security of their own country and of the whole socialist commonwealth; they are the stronghold of peace on earth.
Modern armed forces are composed of different armed services, higher bodies of military administration, service agencies, and certain military organizations of the state (for instance in the USSR, internal security and border troops and in the USA, the national guard). The armed services include the ground forces (army), strategic rocket forces, the national air defense forces (in the USA the strategic rocket forces and the air defense forces form part of the air force), the air force, and the navy (in some states called the naval forces). The armed services consist of combat arms and special forces, which are organizationally grouped into units of various sizes and in wartime (sometimes in peacetime as well) into commands. The armed forces of any particular country have a unified system of organization and personnel procurement, a centralized administration, unified principles for the training and indoctrination of personnel and for the training of command cadres, and service routines for privates, sergeants, and officers. The armed forces of the developed states are characterized by their large size, the high military technological level of the means of warfare (including nuclear weapons in some countries), the high level of combat readiness and of combat capabilities, and, for the largest countries, the stationing of the armed forces not only within the borders of the national territory but also beyond them.
The creation of armed forces is related to the division of society into classes and to the emergence of the state. Their development is closely linked with the social and economic development of the country. ’’Nothing is more dependent on economic prerequisites,” F. Engels wrote, “than precisely the army and navy. Armament, composition, organization, tactics, and strategy depend above all on the stage reached at the time in production and on communications. It is not the ’free creations of the mind’ of generals of genius that have had a revolutionizing effect here, but the inventory of better weapons and the change in the human material, the soldiers; at the very most, the part played by generals of genius is limited to adopting methods of fighting to the new weapons and combatants” (Anti-Dähring, 1966, p. 167).
The armies of the slaveholding states were composed of groups of military leaders and kings and militias of freemen; slaves were not admitted into the army. Subsequently the army isolated itself more and more from the broad strata of the people and even acquired the character of a caste in certain countries, such as Egypt and India. As the slaveholding system developed, the upper stratum became richer, and a large part of the free population became landless and impoverished; armies introduced a system of recruitment of impoverished peasants, freedmen, and even slaves (Greece and Rome). In some states, for instance in the Persian Achaemenid dynasty, Carthage, and the Roman Empire, foreign mercenaries were also enlisted in the army. Standing professional armies gradually arose that were hired and had a complex organization and administration (especially in the Roman Empire). Already in antiquity the armed forces were divided into an army and a navy, which was composed of rowing ships. The main combat arms of the ground forces were the infantry and the cavalry, which played a subsidiary role. The troops were divided into units (legions in Rome) and subunits (cohorts and centuries in Rome). The size of the armed forces of the slaveholding states rarely exceeded 100,000 men (up to 250,000-350,000 in the Roman Empire) and between 200 and 300 warships. The major types of armament were silent and throwing weapons (swords, spears, bows, and slings); the armies of the more developed slaveholding states had throwing and battering machines.
In the period of early and developed feudalism in Western Europe the subsistence farming prevalent at that time and the weakness of the state apparatus made it impossible to maintain a standing army. The development of feudal relations was accompanied by a transition from popular militias of the early feudal states to the militias of vassals and subvassals. Every feudal lord was a professional soldier and had his armed detachments. Infantry declined and the heavy cavalry of the knights became the chief combat arm. The navy was used only to transport troops. The size of the armed forces, even during large campaigns, did not exceed 50,000-60,000 men.
In Kievan Rus’ (ninth to 11th century) the armed forces were made up of the princes’ bodyguards and popular militias; sometimes mercenaries were employed (Varangians, Turkic tribes); a rowing fleet was in existence. During the period of feudal fragmentation (12th-14th century) the bulk of the troops of the princes consisted of detachments of their vassals (boyars). During large campaigns the grand prince’s host was augmented by detachments of appanage princes, boyars, votchinniki (owners of patrimonial estates), and a peasant militia. Unlike the countries of Western Europe, in Russia the infantry remained rather important.
In the feudal East (the Arab, Turkish, and Mongol-Tatar states) the armed forces consisted mainly of heavy and light cavalry with a clear-cut military organization (division into tens, hundreds, and thousands); these armed forces reached a considerable size (up to several hundred thousand) and had battering and throwing machines and a rowing fleet.
The development of commodity and money relations, the growth of cities, the formation of centralized states, and the invention of firearms (14th century) led in Western Europe to a decline of knightly cavalry and to the emergence of professional armies of mercenaries along with the feudal militia. In the 15th-16th century mercenary armies and fleets created only during wartime from among professional adventurers (Italian condottieri, Swiss and Scottish mercenaries, German lansquenets) became in several Western European countries the dominant type of armed forces. The infantry was armed with firearms and pikes and became the chief combat arm. In the navy sailing ships gradually replaced rowing ships. The growth of productive forces and world commerce and the definite victory of absolutism created the conditions for the transition in the 17th-18th century to standing national armed forces totally dependent on centralized government power. A system of centralized military administration was created and general staffs and staff duty began to emerge. Artillery developed greatly, and engineer troops appeared in the 17th century. The first standing national armies in Europe were formed in the 17th century in France, Austria, Sweden, and Prussia. At the same time standing navies were set up in England, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Sweden. Soldiers were recruited for lengthy periods for wages from among volunteers from the local population; if there was a shortage of volunteers, recruitment often became compulsory; at the same time mercenaries and even prisoners were used. The command staff (as a rule from the dvorianstvo, the nobility or gentry) was appointed by the monarch. In the 17th-18th century the organization of the armed forces was streamlined (brigades, regiments, battalions, companies, and squadrons), and their size reached 150,000-250,000 men in some countries. In Russia there was no period when mercenary armies were employed. In the 16th century the strel’tsy (semiprofessional musketeers), a standing force, were organized (up to 40,000 men) along with the feudal militia. In the 17th and early 18th centuries a regular army and navy were created in Russia. The recruitment levy made its appearance in the late 17th century and was finally introduced in the early 18th century. The tax-paying estates, mainly the peasants, were subject to compulsory recruitment. In the standing armies severe “discipline of the cane” and strict drill predominated (especially in Prussia).
During the Great French Revolution (1789-94) a mass army was created, at first recruited through voluntary enlistment and then after 1793 through compulsory mass levies. In 1798 universal (for all estates) military obligation was introduced in France. The revolutionary ideals, special methods of indoctrination and training, and the soldiers’ opportunities for promotions to command positions created an esprit de corps and a strong combat spirit in the French revolutionary armies, qualities that were retained in the Napoleonic army. The size of the armies greatly increased and reached by the early 19th century from several hundred thousand to 1 mil-lion men in the large states.
In the 19th century the rapid growth of productive forces, the victory of capitalism in most European countries, the invention of new combat materiel (rifled firearms and armored steam-powered fleets), and the development of rail-road transportation created the conditions for the appearance of mass armed forces organized on principles of a regular army and a regular navy; this caused the shift to universal military obligation in most states (Prussia, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Russia, Japan, and Turkey). The term of service in peacetime was gradually reduced (as a rule to three to five years), which made it possible to accumulate trained reserves and to deploy armies of millions of men in wartime.“The days when wars were fought by mercenaries or by representatives of a caste half-isolated from the people are gone forever. Wars today are fought by peoples.” This was pointed out by V. I. Lenin as early as the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 9, p. 154). In the 19th century the division and corps organization of troops solidified, and armies as operational commands were created.
The transition of capitalism to the imperialism stage was marked by an intensification of contradictions and by fierce struggles between imperialist powers for markets, sources of raw materials, and the redivision of a world that was already divided. This gave rise to an arms race and to the rapid development of the armed forces in the major states of the world. By the early 20th century the newest technological discoveries and inventions gave rise to new branches of industry and to further growth in the production of war materiel. The progress in war materiel was especially affected by the appearance and development of such branches of industry as electrical engineering, oil, high-grade steel, chemical, and the automobile, cellulose, aircraft, and machine-building; also important in this regard was the development of machine-tool industries, as well as the development of railroad transportation and modern communications technology (telegraph, telephone, and radio). This made it possible to provide mass armed forces with new types of armament, to build up numerous naval fleets, and to begin the production of combat aircraft and later of tanks. The term of service was reduced (two to three years in regular armies and up to five years in the navy). The largest countries worked out mobilization plans for deploying in wartime armed forces of many millions of men. Before World War I (1914-18) the size of the armed forces was 1,385,000 men in Russia, 947,000 men in France, and 801,000 men in Germany. In World War I the belligerent states mobilized about 74 million men.
During World War I the supply of combat materiel to armed forces that had millions of men demanded a great expansion of the war industry and the conversion of almost the whole economy of the belligerent states to work for war needs. A new concept appeared—the “mobilization” of industry, transportation, and other branches of the economy to satisfy war needs. In addition to the considerable development of the infantry, artillery, and communications troops and the reorganization of the cavalry, new combat arms appeared, including aviation, armored and chemical troops, air defense forces, and motor transportation and road construction and maintenance units. Great changes also took place in the navies. The role of the light naval forces and of sub-marines greatly increased, and naval aviation appeared. During the war machine guns, artillery, mortars, torpedo-launching submarines, and chemical weapons were used on a wide scale; the radio was also used. Toward the end of the war tanks and aviation played an ever increasing role. The new combat materiel and the further growth of mass armies caused changes in the organization of troops and in the character of warfare. The highest operational command became the front (army group in Western Europe).
The victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia led to the creation of fundamentally new armed forces built on the principle of socialist consciousness, patriotism, and proletarian internationalism. The original foundation was Red Guard detachments and revolutionary units and subunits of the old army. V. I. Lenin directly participated in working out the principles for developing the armed forces. On Jan. 15 (28), 1918, Lenin signed the decree of the Sovnarkom (Council of People’s Commissars) on the organization of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army and on January 29 (February 11), the decree on the organization of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Navy. The Soviet armed forces originally relied on voluntary enlistment; in the summer of 1918 the principle of universal military obligation of the working people was accepted.
After World War I (1914-18) there was further development of the armed forces of the large states. The deepening of the general crisis of capitalism caused a growth of contradictions between the imperialist powers and an arms race, which became especially intense in the fascist countries—Germany, Italy, and Japan. Among the characteristic features of the growth of the armed forces were their numerical increase in peacetime, the modernization and improvement of all types of weapons, the adoption on a mass scale of essentially new types of tanks and aircraft, the development of the air force into a separate branch of the armed service in several countries, and the appearance of airborne forces and radar. The navies acquired aircraft carriers, more modern surface ships and submarines, carrier-based and shore-based aviation, and so on. The proportion of the cavalry significantly declined.
In 1939 fascist Germany unleashed World War II, during which the belligerents mobilized 110 million men. This war caused an immense growth in the number of men in the armed forces of all states. The armed forces of Germany amounted to 4.6 million men at the beginning of the war, 8.5 million in 1941, and 10.3 million in 1943; of Japan, 2.4 million men in 1941 and 5.5 million in 1945; and of the USA, 1.7 million men in 1941 and 13 million men in early 1944. In January 1941 the size of the USSR armed forces, in view of the threat of fascist aggression, reached 4.2 million men, and by May 1945 they amounted to 11.3 million men.
During World War II a qualitative growth of the armed forces took place. Mechanization and motorization greatly increased, the artillery grew in size, rocket-launching artillery and the first models of ballistic and winged missiles made their appearance, the proportion of tank and mechanized troops increased significantly and became of great importance in combat action, the role of the air force grew in size, airborne troops were further developed, the air defense of troops became stronger, and radar began to be employed. The navy was also further developed, mainly by in-creasing the number of aircraft carriers and submarines. The highest operational commands were the front (army group) in the ground forces and the fleet in the navy. In addition to combined-arms (field) armies the armed forces now had tank armies, air armies, and air defense armies. In 1945 the USA acquired atomic weapons, followed in 1949 by the USSR and later by Great Britain, France, and China.
After World War II the imperialist states formed several aggressive military blocs, such as NATO, SEATO, and CENTO. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has combined armed forces in which the leading role is played by the USA, as well as Great Britain and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). In the imperialist countries there is an ever growing intensification of the militarization of politics, ideology, the economy, and science, and the arms race is on the increase. War preparations are conducted so that reserves of weapons, ammunition, and war materiel are built up to ensure the quick resolution of a nuclear war. At the same time preparations are made for mobilizational reorganization of the whole economy in case of a protracted war. In the 1969-70 fiscal year the US planned military expenditures amounted to $78.5 billion, which is more than 40 percent of all government expenditures. In the other capitalist countries the relationship of the 1969-70 military budgets to total government expenditures are as follows: in the FRG, about 25 percent: in Great Britain, 20.7 percent; and among the other NATO members, between 15 and 20 percent.
The size of the armed forces of the most developed states (according to foreign data) for 1970 was: the USA, about 3,200,000; the FRG, 471,000; Great Britain, 426,000; France, 506,000; and Italy, 420,000. In the majority of the capitalist countries the armed forces are recruited on the basis of universal military obligation (except in Great Britain and the USA, where the armed forces are recruited through the hiring of volunteers). In some countries (such as the FRG and France) part of the personnel in the armed forces are hired to serve.
When the imperialist powers are intensifying the arms race, the USSR is compelled to maintain its armed forces in constant combat readiness. With defense aims in view it signed the Warsaw Treaty of 1955 of the European socialist countries, which have created a combined armed forces. In technical equipment, combat and operational training, and armament the armed forces of the USSR and the other socialist countries are on the level of the latest achievements of science and technology.
REFERENCESEngels, F. “Rol’ nasiliia v istorii.” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nded., vol. 21.
Engels, F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva.” Ibid.
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V. I. Lenin i Sovetskie Vooruzhennye Sily. Moscow, 1967.
Frunze, M. V. Izbr. proizv., vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1957.
50 let Vooruzhennykh Sil SSSR. Moscow, 1968.
Voennaia strategiia, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Marksizm-leninizm o voine i armii. Moscow, 1968.
Organizatsiia i vooruzhenie armii i flotov kapitalisticheskikh gosudarstv, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Iadernyi vek i voina. Moscow, 1964.
Problemy revoliutsii v voennom dele. Moscow, 1965.
Strokov, A. A. Istoriia voennovo iskusstva, vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1955-67.
Vtoraia mirovaia voina 1939-45. Moscow, 1958.
Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR 1917-1922, vols. 1-5. Moscow, 1938-60.
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M. I. CHEREDNICHENKO
The armed forces of the USSR serve as the military arm of the Soviet state. Their function is to defend the socialist achievements of the Soviet people and the freedom and independence of the Soviet Union. Together with the armed forces of the other socialist countries, they protect the entire socialist community against the encroachment of aggressors.
The USSR’s armed forces differ fundamentally from the armed forces of the exploiter countries. In capitalist states the armed forces are used to oppress the working people, to implement the aggressive policies of imperialist circles, and to conquer and enslave other countries. The armed forces of the USSR are organized on the principles of socialist consciousness, patriotism, and friendship of peoples. They constitute a bulwark of universal peace and progress and are popular in their composition, their function, and their place in the political organization of society. Marxism-Leninism serves as the ideological foundation for the training of their personnel. Taken together, these features constitute the chief characteristics of the USSR’s armed forces, the meaning and significance of their activities, and the source of their strength and power.
L. I. Brezhnev has written: “Our army is a special army in the sense that it is a school of internationalism, a school for promoting brotherhood, solidarity, and mutual respect among all nations and nationalities of the Soviet Union. Our armed forces are a unified, harmonious family, the living embodiment of socialist internationalism” (Leninskim kursom, vol. 4, 1974, p. 61). The internationalism of the Soviet armed forces is manifested in the increasing strength of their fraternal ties and their military cooperation with the armies of other socialist countries.
The USSR’s armed forces include the following branches: the strategic rocket force, the ground troops, the national air defense forces, the air force, and the navy; also belonging to the armed forces are the rear services of the armed forces and civil defense command staffs and personnel. The branches of the armed forces are divided into combat arms and special forces. Special forces consist of subunits and units only, whereas combat arms are made up of subunits, units, and large units (soedineniia). Frontier troops and internal security troops are also considered part of the armed forces of the USSR, which have a single system of organization and staffing, a centralized administration, unified principles for the education and training of personnel and for the training of command cadres, and common service routines for lower-ranking enlisted men, sergeants, and officers.
Direction of the country’s defense and of the armed forces is exercised, at the highest level, by the Central Committee of the CPSU and by the highest organ of state authority, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet appoints and replaces higher military command elements and declares general and partial mobilizations, martial law, and states of war. The CPSU’s direction of the armed forces is the basis of all the principles of military organization, and the main tenets of Soviet military doctrine derive from the policies of the CPSU and of the Soviet government.
The Ministry of Defense of the USSR exercises direct control of the armed forces, with all the branches, the rear services, and the civil defense command staffs and personnel being subordinate to it. Each branch of the armed forces has its own commander in chief, who serves as a deputy minister of defense. The frontier troops and the internal security troops are under the jurisdiction of the Committee for State Security of the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR, respectively.
The Ministry of Defense includes the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR and the directorates headed by the commanders in chief of the individual branches. It also includes the Directorate of Rear Services of the Armed Forces, main directorates and central administrations (for example, the Main Directorate of Personnel, the Central Financial Administration, and the Administrative Board) and military administrative bodies and civil defense agencies. The Ministry of Defense is charged with the development of plans for organizing and expanding the armed forces in wartime and in peacetime, the improvement of troop organization, weapons, and matériel, the supply of weapons and matériel to the armed forces, and the direction of the operational and combat training of personnel. The ministry also carries out other functions as dictated by the defense requirements of the state.
The Central Committee of the CPSU directs party and political work in the armed forces through the Main Political Directorate of the Soviet Army and Navy, which has the status of a department of the Central Committee. The directorate guides political organs and army and navy party and Komsomol organizations and assures the party’s influence in all aspects of the lives of military personnel. It directs the activities of political organs and party organizations toward improving the combat readiness of troops and toward strengthening military discipline and the political consciousness and morale of personnel.
Matériel supply of the armed forces is carried out by the directorates and services of the rear, which are under the chief of the rear services of the armed forces, who is also a deputy minister of defense.
The USSR is divided into military districts. A military district may encompass several krais, republics, or oblasts. Groups of Soviet forces are temporarily stationed in the German Democratic Republic, in Poland, in Hungary, and in Czechoslovakia to fulfill the USSR’s obligations to its allies in the joint provision of security to the socialist countries.
Military councils have been established in the branches of the armed forces, in military districts, in groups of forces, in air defense districts, and in naval fleets. Such councils have the right to review and decide questions affecting the lives and activities of the military personnel within their jurisdiction. The councils are fully accountable to the Central Committee of the CPSU, to the government, and to the minister of defense of the USSR regarding the implementation in the armed forces of party and government decrees and of orders issued by the minister of defense.
Staffing the armed forces with lower-ranking enlisted men, sergeants, and petty officers is carried out by conscripting Soviet citizens for active military service, which, in accordance with the Constitution of the USSR and the Law on Universal Military Obligation of 1967, is an honorable duty for a citizen of the USSR. By order of the minister of defense, conscription is conducted throughout the country twice a year, in May and June and in November and December. Male citizens who are 18 years of age are drafted into active military service for periods ranging from 1.5 to 3 years, depending on their education and on the branch of service into which they are called. Servicemen and reservists who volunteer for warrant officer positions or who reenlist make up another source of personnel.
The officer corps is staffed on a voluntary basis. Officers are trained in the higher and secondary military schools of their respective branches of service or combat arms. Officers who perform political work are trained in higher military political schools. The Suvorov and Nakhimov schools prepare young people for entry into higher military educational institutions. Officers improve their skills through higher courses for the advanced training of officers and through the system of combat and political training. Upper-level command, political, engineering, and other officers are trained in military, air force, naval, or special academies.
Historical survey. The history of the Soviet Army and Navy began with the formation of the world’s first socialist state. After the victory of the October Revolution of 1917, the Soviet people were faced with the tasks of building a new society and defending it with arms in hand against domestic counterrevolution and the repeated attacks of international imperialism. The armed forces of the USSR, created by the Communist Party under the guidance of V. I. Lenin, were formed on the basis of the principles of the Marxist-Leninist doctrine on war and the army. In a decree dated Oct. 26 (Nov. 8), 1917, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, as it was forming the Soviet government, established the Committee on Military and Naval Affairs, which consisted of V. A. Antonov-Ovseenko, N. V. Krylenko, and P. E. Dybenko. It was renamed the Council of People’s Commissars for Military and Naval Affairs on the following day and the Collegium of Military Commissars in December. The collegium was divided into two people’s commissariats in February 1918—one for military affairs and one for naval affairs.
The principal armed force in the overthrow of the rule of the bourgeoisie and the pomeshchiki (landowners) and in the conquest of power by the working people consisted of the Red Guard, the revolutionary sailors of the Baltic Fleet, and the soldiers of garrisons, such as the Petrograd garrison. Supported by the working class and the poor peasants, this force played a paramount role in the victory of the October Revolution of 1917, in the defense of the young Soviet republic, and in the rout in late 1917 and early 1918 of the Kerensky-Krasnov Rebellion at Petrograd, the Kaledin Revolt in the Don region, and the Dutov Revolt in the Southern Urals. It played a similarly important role in the triumphant march of Soviet power throughout Russia. “The Red Guards fought in the noble and supreme historical cause of liberating the working and exploited people from the yoke of the exploiters” (Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 36, p. 177).
It became apparent in early 1918 that the Red Guard and the detachments of revolutionary soldiers and sailors were not adequate for a reliable defense of the Soviet state. In an attempt to stifle the Revolution, the imperialist states—above all, Germany—had intervened against the young Soviet republic. The intervention merged with domestic counterrevolution, which manifested itself in White Guard rebellions and in conspiracies by the Socialist Revolutionaries, the Mensheviks, and the remnants of various bourgeois parties. There was a need for regular armed forces capable of defending the Soviet state from its numerous enemies.
On Jan. 15 (28), 1918, the Council of People’s Commissars approved a decree creating the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (RKKA), and on January 29 (February 11), it approved a decree that established the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Navy (RKKF). Both organizations were to be staffed with volunteers. Immediate control of the formation of the Red Army was assumed by the All-Russian Collegium, which had been established under the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs on January 15 by the Council of People’s Commissars. On February 22, with Germany having violated the armistice and having shifted its troops to the offensive, the Soviet government made an appeal to the people in the decree, signed by Lenin, The Socialist Fatherland Is in Danger! Large numbers of citizens joined the Red Army in response to the decree, which marked the beginning of the formation of many of the army’s units. February 23—Soviet Army and Navy Day—is celebrated annually in the USSR as a national holiday commemorating both the general mobilization of revolutionary forces in defense of the socialist fatherland and the courageous resistance showed by the Red Army to the aggressors.
The organization of the RKKA and the RKKF during the Civil War of 1918–20 took place under extraordinarily difficult conditions. The country’s economy had been undermined, railroad transport was in disarray, rations could not always be provided for the army, and weapons and uniforms were in short supply. The army did not have enough command personnel, since a substantial number of the officers of the old army were fighting on the side of the counterrevolution. The peasants—the primary source of recruitment for lower-ranking enlisted personnel and for junior commanders—had borne a particularly heavy lot during World War I and were reluctant to enter the army voluntarily. All these difficulties were compounded by the sabotage conducted by the officials remaining from the old regime, by the bourgeois intelligentsia, and by the kulaks.
Between January and May 1918 the RKKA and the RKKF were volunteer organizations whose command personnel (up to the rank of regimental commander) were elected. The strength of the volunteer units was woefully inadequate, and as of Apr. 20, 1918, the Red Army numbered only 196,000 men. A volunteer army with elected officers could not replace the large regular army that was required by the international situation and the expanding scale of the Civil War. On Mar. 4, 1918, the Supreme Military Council was formed to direct military operations and to oversee the organization of the army. On April 8 the Council of People’s Commissars approved a decree establishing volost, district, provincial, and okrug commissariats for military affairs. On May 8 the All-Russian Collegium on the Formation of the Red Army was replaced by the All-Russian Main Staff (Vseroglavshtab), which was the highest executive body in charge of the mobilization, organization, deployment, and instruction of personnel.
In a decree dated Apr. 22, 1918, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee instituted universal military training (vsevobuch) for the working people and empowered organs of the military administration to appoint command personnel. As a result of the shortage of qualified commanders, the army and navy enlisted the services of former officers and generals. In addition, an institute of military commissars was formed.
On July 10,1918, the Fifth All-Russian Congress of Soviets approved the decree On the Organization of the Red Army, which introduced universal military duty for working people between the ages of 18 and 40. The adoption of compulsory military service made it possible to increase the size of the Red Army sharply. By early September 1918 the Red Army was more than 550,000 strong. On Sept. 6, 1918, martial law was declared in the country, and the Supreme Military Council was replaced by the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic (RVSR), whose functions included the operational and administrative direction of personnel. The functions and personnel of the People’s Commissariat for Military Affairs were transferred to the RVSR that same month, and in December the People’s Commissariat for Naval Affairs became the Naval Department of the RVSR.
The RVSR directed the army in the field through the commander in chief of the republic’s armed forces, who was also a member of the council. (I. I. Vatsetis was named commander in chief in September 1918, and S. S. Kamenev in July 1919.) The Field Staff of the RVSR was established on Sept. 6, 1918 (it later, on Feb. 10, 1921, merged with the All-Russian Main Staff to form the Staff of the RKKA). Subordinate to the commander in chief, the Field Staff was responsible for the training of personnel and the direction of military operations.
Party political work in the army and navy was carried out by the Central Committee of the RCP(B) through the All-Russian Bureau of Military Commissars, which was established on Apr. 8, 1918. On Apr. 18, 1919, in accordance with a decision of the Eighth Party Congress, the bureau was replaced by a department of the RVSR. The department, which was renamed the Political Directorate of the RVSR on May 26, 1919, was also a department of the Central Committee of the RCP(B). Party political work among the troops was conducted by political sections and party organizations (cells).
In 1919, on the basis of decisions of the Eighth Party Congress, the transition was completed to a large regular army that had a strong proletarian and politically conscious cadre, a single system of recruitment, a stable personnel organization, a centralized administration, and an active party political apparatus. The formation of the armed forces of the USSR proceeded amid an intense struggle with the Military Opposition, which argued against the creation of a regular army, defended the vestiges of partisan methods in troop command and control and in the conduct of war, and minimized the role of military specialists who had served under the old regime.
The strength of the Red Army reached 3 million by the end of 1919 and 5.5 million by the fall of 1920. Workers made up 15 percent of the army, and peasants 77 percent. Between 1918 and 1920, 88 rifle divisions and 29 cavalry divisions were formed, as were 67 air detachments (with a total of 300–400 aircraft) and a number of artillery and armored units and subunits. There were two reserve armies—the Army of the Republic and the Army of the Southeastern Front—and a number of vsevobuch units, in which some 800,000 men were trained. During the Civil War the six military academies and the more than 150 courses and schools that existed in October 1920 produced 40,000 commanders from the ranks of workers and peasants. As of Aug. 1, 1920, there were approximately 300,000 Communists in the Red Army and in the navy. They made up approximately half of the total party membership and served as a cohesive nucleus in both the army and the navy. Approximately 50,000 of them died valiant deaths during the Civil War.
In the summer and fall of 1918 the forces in the field were organized into armies and fronts headed by revolutionary military councils of two to four members. By autumn 1919 there were seven fronts, each consisting of two to five armies. In all, the fronts encompassed 16–18 combined-arms armies, the First Horse Cavalry Army, and several separate horse cavalry corps. The Second Horse Cavalry Army was formed in 1920.
The weapons used in the struggle against the interventionists and the White Guards were primarily those of the old army. The unexampled heroism of the working class, however, and the emergency measures adopted by the party made it possible systematically to supply the Red Army with Soviet-made weapons, ammunition, and uniforms. In 1920 the average monthly output of rifles was more than 56,000, and the figure for cartridges was 58 million. In 1919 aviation enterprises built 258 aircraft and repaired 50.
The formation of the Red Army paralleled the birth and development of Soviet military science. Soviet military science is based on the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of war and the army, on experience gained in the revolutionary struggle of the masses, and on the creative application of the achievements of past military theory to new circumstances.
The first regulations of the Red Army—the Regulations of the Interior Service, the Regulations of Garrison Duty, and the Field Service Regulations—were published in 1918, and the Disciplinary Code was published in 1919. A large contribution was made to Soviet military science by Lenin’s principles regarding the essence and nature of war and the role of the popular masses, the social structure, and the economy in achieving victory. Even at that time, the characteristic features of Soviet military art had manifested themselves clearly. Such features included revolutionary creative activity, an avoidance of cliché, the ability to determine the direction of a main attack, the intelligent combination of offensive and defensive operations, and unrelenting pursuit that ends only when the enemy is completely annihilated.
After the Civil War and the decisive defeat of the combined forces of the interventionists and the White Guards, the Red Army was placed on a peacetime footing. By the end of 1924 it had been reduced to a tenth of its former size. The armed forces were strengthened, however, as they were demobilized. In 1923 the People’s Commissariat for Military and Naval Affairs was reestablished.
A military reform was carried out in 1924 and 1925. The central military apparatus was scaled down and reorganized, new tables of organization and equipment were established for units, and the social makeup of the command cadres was improved. In addition, new regulations, manuals, and handbooks were developed and introduced. The most important aspect of the military reform was the adoption of a mixed system of staffing. The new system made it possible to have, in combination with territorial-militia units in the interior districts, a small peacetime regular army that required minimal expenditures for its maintenance. Most of the units in the border districts remained regular, that is, unmixed, as did the majority of those of the technical and special forces and of the navy.
On Jan. 26, 1925, M. V. Frunze replaced L. D. Trotsky as chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR and as people’s commissar for military and naval affairs. Trotsky, who had been named people’s commissar and chairman of the RVSR in 1918, had been attempting to sever the Red Army and the navy from the party leadership. K. E. Voroshilov became people’s commissar upon Frunze’s death.
The USSR’s first law on compulsory military service was adopted on Sept. 18, 1925, by the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR. It consolidated the measures implemented in the military reform and established the organizational structure of the armed forces. In addition to the ground troops (infantry, cavalry, artillery, and armored, engineer, and communications troops), the armed forces included the air and naval forces, the troops of the Unified State Political Directorate (OGPU), and the Convoy Guard of the USSR. In 1927 the total strength of the armed forces was 586,000.
The changes made in the armed forces in the 1930’s were based on achievements in the building of socialism. The territorial-regular army system no longer satisfied the defense needs of the state and was converted between 1935 and 1938 to a simple regular-army system. Personnel in the army and navy numbered 1.5 million in 1937 and approximately 5 million in June 1941.
On June 20, 1934, the Central Executive Committee of the USSR abolished the Revolutionary Military Council of the USSR; the People’s Commissariat for Military and Naval Affairs was renamed the People’s Commissariat of Defense of the USSR. The Military Council of the People’s Commissariat of Defense was created in November 1934, and military councils were established in the military districts in 1937. In 1935 the Staff of the RKKA became the General Staff. In 1937 the All-Union People’s Commissariat of the Navy was established, the Political Directorate of the Red Army was renamed the Main Directorate for Political Propaganda, and the political directorates of the military districts and the political sections of large units became directorates and sections of political propaganda. The position of military commissar was established in a decree issued on May 10, 1937, by the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars. Military commissars shared with commanders the responsibility for the political consciousness and the morale of the troops, for operational and mobilization readiness, and for the condition of weapons and matériel. The main military councils of the Red Army and Navy were established in 1938.
The Law On Universal Military Obligation, adopted on Sept. 1, 1939, removed the restrictions that had previously existed for the call-up into the army and navy of certain categories of the population and proclaimed military service an honorable duty of all citizens of the USSR, regardless of the class to which they belonged. The social composition of the army improved, with between 40 and 50 percent of the soldiers and junior commanders coming from the working class. In 1939 there were 14 military academies, 63 military schools for the ground troops, 14 schools for naval personnel, and 32 flight and flight-engineering schools. A system of military ranks was introduced on Sept. 22,1935, and the ranks of general and admiral were established on May 7, 1940.
During the prewar five-year plans (1929–40), the Soviet armed forces came to be as well equipped as the armies of the leading capitalist countries. Between 1930 and 1939 the inventory of artillery used by the ground troops grew sevenfold, and the amount of antitank and tank artillery increased by a factor of 70. Between 1934 and 1939 the number of tanks rose by a factor of 2.5.
The quantitative growth of weapons and matériel was accompanied by an improvement in their quality. A marked increase was achieved in the maximum rate of fire of small arms. The level of mechanization and motorization increased throughout the armed forces, and air defense, engineer, communications, and chemical defense troops were reequipped. The air force benefited from advances made in aircraft and engine construction. The total number of aircraft increased by a factor of 6.5 between 1930 and 1939. In the navy, construction was expanded for surface vessels of various classes, for submarines, for torpedo boats, and for naval aircraft. Military production in 1940 was greater by one-third than in 1939.
The Yak-1, MiG-3, and LaGG-3 fighter aircraft, the Pe-2 dive bomber, and the 11–2 attack plane were developed through the efforts of the design offices of A. I. Mikoyan, M. I. Gurevich, A. S. Iakovlev, S. A. Lavochkin, S. V. Ilyushin, and V. M. Petliakov and the efforts of the workers of the aviation industry. The design groups headed by Zh. la. Kotin, M. I. Koshkin, A. A. Morozov, and I. A. Kucherenko put into lot production the best heavy and medium tanks in the world—the KV-1 and the T-34. The design offices of, for example, V. G. Grabin, I. I. Ivanov, and F. I. Petrov were responsible for the development of new types of artillery pieces and mortars, many of which were placed into large-lot production.
Between May 1940 and the beginning of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, the country’s weapons inventory grew by a factor of more than 1.2. The designers Iu. A. Pobedonostsev, I. I. Gvai, V. A. Artem’ev, and F. I. Poida were among those responsible for the development of a salvo-firing rocket launcher used in zone fire. A large group of designers and scientists—including A. N. Krylov, P. N. Papkovich, V. L. Pozdiunin, V. I. Kostenko, A. N. Maslov, B. M. Malinin, and V. F. Popov—developed several new types of combat vessels that were put into lot production. In 1940 and 1941 great advances were made in the production of small arms, ammunition, fuels, and lubricants.
With the armed forces better equipped, their organizational structure underwent substantial improvement by the eve of the war. Tanks, heavy division artillery, and antitank and antiaircraft artillery were incorporated into rifle divisions, whose firepower was thereby raised considerably. The organization of the artillery of the reserve of the High Command was expanded. Tank and mechanized divisions began replacing the smaller separate tank and armored brigades, which had been the basic large units of the armored forces since 1939. Airborne troops were formed into airborne corps. A reorganization of the air force into divisions began in 1940. Large units and groupings intended for joint operations with ground troops, as well as for independent operations, were organized in the navy.
Military strategy, operational art, and tactics were further developed. The mid-1930’s saw the formulation of the theory of the deep combat and the deep operation. New in concept, the theory reflected qualitative changes in the equipment used by the armed forces. It involved the conduct of operations with large, highly mobile, well-equipped armies. Theoretical tenets were reexamined in maneuvers and in training exercises, as well as during the combat operations conducted by the Red Army in the Lake Khasan region, at the Khalkin-Gol, and in the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939–40. Many regulations and manuals were reworked. Part 1 of the Infantry Combat Regulations was issued in 1940, along with a draft of the Field Service Regulations, a draft of Part 2 of the Infantry Combat Regulations, the Tank Troops Combat Regulations, the Drill Manual, and the Regulations on Guard Duty. S. K. Timoshenko was named people’s commissar of defense on May 7, 1940.
Despite the measures that were taken, the armed forces were not totally prepared to repulse the imminent aggression of the fascist Germans. The reorganization and reequipping of the armed forces had not been completed by the time the war started. Most of the large units that had been converted to new tables of organization and equipment did not have a full complement of weapons, matériel, or vehicles. Many mid-level and senior officers lacked experience in modern warfare.
The Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 was the gravest test the Soviet people and the armed forces of the USSR have undergone. In the first months of the war, the fascist German troops were able to penetrate hundreds of kilometers into Soviet territory, in spite of their losses. Their success was due to the suddenness of their attack, their lengthy preparations for war, their two-year experience with military operations in Europe, their numerical superiority in terms of weapons and troops, and other temporary advantages.
The CPSU and the Soviet government did all that was necessary to eradicate the mortal danger facing the country. When the war began, the armed forces were expanded systematically within a short time. By July 1, 1941, some 5.3 million men had been called up from the reserves. The entire country was placed on a wartime footing. The main branches of the economy shifted to the production of military goods. Between July and November 1941, 1,360 large enterprises—primarily, defense-related plants—were evacuated from the frontline regions.
On June 30, 1941, an emergency body—the State Defense Committee (GKO)—was formed under the chairmanship of J. V. Stalin. Stalin was appointed people’s commissar of defense on July 19 and supreme commander in chief of the armed forces on August 8. The GKO directed all aspects of life in the country. It coordinated the people’s efforts at the rear and the front and the activities of all state bodies and of party and public organizations in order to bring about the complete defeat of the enemy. Key questions involving the leadership of the state and the conduct of the war were resolved by the Central Committee of the Party, that is, by the Politburo, the Orgburo (Organizational Bureau), and the Secretariat. The decisions made were implemented through the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR, the GKO, and the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command, which had been established on August 8. Strategic direction of the armed forces was carried out by the General Headquarters through its working body, the General Staff. Major questions associated with the conduct of the war were discussed at joint meetings of the Politburo of the Central Committee, the GKO, and the General Headquarters.
At the beginning of the war, a number of measures were taken to expand the officer corps: the number of students at military academies and military schools was increased, training periods were shortened, and numerous accelerated courses were introduced to produce junior officers from, primarily, soldiers and sergeants. Beginning in September 1941, the designation of Guards was appended to the names of large units that had distinguished themselves in combat.
By the end of 1941 the enemy had been stopped at the approaches to Moscow, Leningrad, and other vitally important centers of the country. This achievement was due to the extraordinary measures taken by the CPSU and the Soviet government and to the mass heroism and unprecedented self-sacrifice of the Soviet people and the fighting men of the army and navy. The first major defeat dealt to the enemy in all of World War II was in the battle of Moscow (1941–42). The battle dispelled the myth of the invincibility of the fascist Germany army, thwarted the German plans for a blitzkrieg, and marked the beginning of a decisive turn in the war in favor of the USSR.
In the summer of 1942 the center of military operations shifted to the southern flank of the Soviet-German front. The enemy was moving rapidly toward the Volga, the oil fields of the Caucasus, and the grain-growing regions of the Don and the Kuban’. The party and the Soviet government spared no efforts in halting the enemy’s advance and continued to build up the armed forces. By the spring of 1942 the army in the field alone was 5.5 million strong. In mid-1942 industry began increasing its output of military equipment in order to supply the needs of the front more fully. The number of aircraft produced grew from 15,735 in 1941 to 25,436 in 1942; tank production increased to 24,446 from 6,590, and the output of ammunition nearly doubled. Some 575,000 officers were commissioned by the army in 1942. In the battle of Stalingrad (1942–43), Soviet troops defeated the enemy and seized the strategic initiative. The victory signaled a fundamental turning point not only in the Great Patriotic War but also in World War II as a whole.
Military production expanded at a rapid rate in 1943. Aircraft output was 137.1 percent greater than in 1942; warship output, 123 percent; submachine gun output, 134.3 percent; artillery shell output, 116.9 percent; and aerial bomb output, 173.3 percent. Overall, military production increased by 17 percent, as compared with 12 percent in fascist Germany.
The Soviet defense industry was able to surpass the enemy not only in quantity of weapons produced but also in quality. The mass production of artillery pieces made it possible to strengthen division artillery and to create corps and army artillery, as well as a powerful artillery reserve for the Supreme Command. It also made possible the creation of new rocket-launching, antitank, and antiaircraft artillery units and subunits. A considerable number of tank and mechanized corps were organized, many of which were subsequently merged to form tank armies. Armored and mechanized troops became the basic striking force of the Soviet ground troops, which by late 1943 included five tank armies, 24 tank corps, and 13 mechanized corps. The air divisions, air corps, and air armies were also strengthened.
As a result of the marked increase in their strength and in the leadership skills of their commanders, the Soviet armed forces were able to inflict a major defeat on the fascist troops in the battle of Kursk (1943), thereby confronting fascist Germany with military catastrophe.
The armed forces of the USSR scored decisive victories in 1944 and 1945. They had by this time accrued a vast amount of combat experience and had developed into a tremendously powerful fighting machine. Their strength reached 11,365,000 men by early 1945. The advantages of the socialist economic system and the viability of the economic policies of the CPSU and the Soviet government became clear. Between 1943 and 1945 annual production of artillery pieces and mortars averaged 220,000; in addition, 450,000 machine guns were produced each year, as well as 40,000 aircraft and 30,000 tanks, self-propelled guns, and armored cars. Also manufactured on a large scale were such new types of aircraft as the La-7, Yak 9, Il–10, and Tu-2; the IS-2 heavy tank; the ISU-122, ISU-152, and SU-100 self-propelled guns; the BM-31–12 rocket launcher; and 160-mm mortars.
The armed forces purged the Soviet land of invaders in strategic offensive operations at Leningrad and Novgorod and in the Crimea, the Left-bank Ukraine, Byelorussia, Moldavia, the Baltic region, and the arctic. Developing a swift offensive, Soviet troops in 1945 carried out several operations, notably the East Prussian and Vistula-Oder operations. In the Berlin Operation, they completed the defeat of fascist Germany. The armed forces performed a great mission of liberation, helping the peoples of Eastern and Southeastern Europe rid themselves of fascist occupation.
Fulfilling its obligations to its allies, the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan in August 1945. In the Manchurian Operation, fighting beside the armed forces of the Mongolian People’s Republic, the armed forces of the USSR routed the Japanese Kwantung Army, thus playing a decisive role in the conclusion of World War II.
The guiding force of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War was the Communist Party, which, in the course of the war, sent more than 1.6 million Communists to the front. During the war, approximately 6 million people joined the party.
The party and the Soviet government gave full recognition to the heroic deeds of the fighting men at the fronts. More than 7 million persons were awarded orders and medals, and more than 11,600 of them—representing 100 nations and nationalities—were granted the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Approximately half of all those receiving orders or medals were Communists or Komsomol members.
The armed forces of the USSR acquired a vast amount of combat experience in the war. Soviet military science underwent substantial development, particularly with regard to the art of war and its components—strategy, operational art, and tactics. Aspects of frontline and strategic offensive operations of groups of fronts were thoroughly analyzed. Problems associated with breaking through enemy defenses were resolved, as were questions involving the continuous development of an offensive by throwing mobile forces—tank and mechanized large units and groupings—into the breach. Also resolved were questions associated with precise coordination of forces and equipment, with the conduct of surprise attacks, and with the provision of all types of operations support. In addition, problems pertaining to strategic defense and counteroffensives were solved.
The armed forces of the USSR emerged from the war organizationally strengthened and well equipped with the latest military technology. By routing the armies of fascist Germany and imperialist Japan, they had fulfilled their duty to the Soviet people and to all of humanity. The discharge of personnel began on a large scale. On Sept. 4,1945, the GKO was abolished, and the General Headquarters of the Supreme Command ended its work. The unified People’s Commissariat of the Armed Forces of the USSR was created on Feb. 25,1946, to replace the people’s commissariats of defense and of the navy; it was renamed the Ministry of the Armed Forces of the USSR in March 1946. In February 1950, it was divided into the Ministry of War of the USSR and the Ministry of the Navy of the USSR, which were combined in March 1953 to form the Ministry of Defense of the USSR.
In the postwar period the position of minister of defense (or its equivalent) has been held by Generalissimo of the Soviet Union J. V. Stalin (until March 1947) and Marshals of the Soviet Union N. A. Bulganin (March 1947-March 1949; March 1953-January 1955), A. M. Vasilevskii (April 1949-March 1953), G. K. Zhukov (February 1955-October 1957), R. la. Malinovskii (October 1957-March 1967), and A. A. Grechko (April 1967-April 1976). General of the Army D. F. Ustinov, who became a marshal of the Soviet Union on July 30,1976, was named minister of defense in April 1976.
After the war, the reactionary imperialist circles began the cold war, creating in 1949 the aggressive military bloc known as NATO. Faced with such conditions, the USSR was compelled to increase its defense capabilities and to strengthen the armed forces and raise their combat readiness. To meet the threat posed by the imperialist intrigues and to counterbalance the creation of NATO, the socialist countries signed the defensive Warsaw Pact in 1955.
The increased resources of the Soviet economy and the achievements of science and technology made it possible to expand the scientific and technical foundation of the combat capability of the armed forces. During the first seven or eight years after the war, the armed forces were provided with new, up-to-date equipment, including automatic weapons, tanks, artillery, and radar; they were completely motorized and mechanized, and the air force acquired jet aircraft. In a relatively short period of time, the USSR gained a historic victory in the competition, begun by the imperialists, to develop new military technology: it ended the USA’s monopoly of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. Striving at the same time to relax tensions and to establish a stable peace, the USSR reduced the size of its armed forces in 1955 by 640,000 men; a further reduction of 1,200,000 men was effected by June 1956.
In the mid-1950’s the armed forces entered a new stage of development marked by fundamental qualitative transformations resulting from the massive introduction of rockets, nuclear weaponry, and the latest combat equipment. The qualitative modernization of weaponry and combat equipment gave rise to substantive changes in the forms and techniques of personnel instruction and training, in the mobilization system, in the organizational structure of troops and fleet forces, and in concepts of the forms and methods of conducting military operations. The creation in 1960 of a new branch of the armed forces, the strategic rocket force, was an important event in the development of the armed forces of the USSR; it enhanced the defense capability of the USSR and of the entire socialist camp.
Great changes have taken place in each branch of the armed forces, and the interrelationship among the branches has undergone alteration.
Branches and services. The strategic rocket force is designated to perform strategic missions in nuclear war. It operates automated missile complexes that fire intercontinental and intermediate-range missiles of enormous destructive power.
The ground troops are the largest and most varied branch of the armed forces. They possess great firepower and striking power and a high degree of maneuverability and combat independence. They are capable of operating independently or in coordination with other branches to destroy the enemy in land theaters of military operations, with or without the use of nuclear weapons. Ground troops are also used to secure and hold occupied territory. The combat arms of the ground troops are the tank troops, airborne troops, motorized rifle troops, rocket force, artillery, and air defense troops. The primary combat arms of the ground troops are the tank troops and the motorized rifle troops, both of which are highly mobile and maneuverable and have great firepower. Armored equipment—tanks, armored carriers, and infantry combat vehicles—forms the basis of their combat capability. The tank and motorized rifle troops can conduct swift offensives, defeat enemy groupings, capture regions of vital importance to the enemy, offer tenacious resistance and repulse enemy strikes, and hold occupied lines.
The airborne troops are a combat arm equipped with self-propelled artillery, rocket-launching, antitank, and antiaircraft weapons, armored carriers, and other weapons and matériel that can be transported by air. The function of the airborne troops is to conduct combat operations behind enemy lines or on the enemy’s coastal flank. Airborne troops are also used to block the approach of enemy reserves, to destroy control centers and nuclear-attack facilities, and to capture communication centers, airfields, bases, and water crossings.
Providing the bulk of the ground troops’ firepower, the rocket force has weapons that include operational and tactical missiles with ranges of tens to hundreds of kilometers. Such missiles are capable of delivering nuclear warheads to any target with great precision and reliability and of destroying entire enemy units and subunits as well as important installations behind enemy lines. Rocket-launching and conventional artillery, mortars, and antitank guided missiles also provide substantial firepower.
The air defense troops are equipped with mobile antiaircraft missile complexes, self-propelled multibarrel antiaircraft artillery, radar for detecting enemy aircraft, and automated control systems. Either from a stationary position or while on the move, they are capable of providing ground troops reliable protection against air attack under any conditions and in any terrain, day or night.
The national air defense forces are used to defend the population, political and administrative centers, industrial centers, troop groupings, and other important targets against enemy air attack. Their primary mission is to repulse any air attack made by an aggressor. The combat capability of the national air defense forces is provided chiefly by two new combat arms—the antiaircraft rocket force and the air defense air force, which is equipped with all-weather supersonic missile-carrying fighter-interceptors. Radio troops, which also constitute a combat arm, perform the task of detecting enemy aircraft and assigning targets to the antiaircraft rocket force and to fighter planes.
The Soviet Air Force functions independently or in coordination with other branches of the armed forces in continental theaters of military operations and in theaters of naval operations. It is used to destroy enemy nuclear facilities, to rout or weaken enemy air groupings, to provide air support for the ground troops and the navy, and to airlift troops. Its other uses include aerial reconnaissance, airborne landings, and the provision of signal communications.
The air force has great striking power. It can conduct broad maneuvers rapidly and can strike small, moving targets with a high degree of accuracy. The air force consists of long-range, frontline, and transport aviation, and its combat arms include bomber, fighter-bomber (attack), fighter, reconnaissance, transport, and special purpose forces.
The navy has a substantial operational and strategic capability for conducting simultaneous and long-term combat operations in theaters of naval operations on oceans and seas. Using nuclear and conventional weaponry, it can damage and destroy enemy land installations and maritime targets and can disrupt enemy maritime transport. The navy secures its own lines of communication and supports ground troops carrying out coastal operations.
The principal combat arms of the navy are the submarine fleet, whose vessels are armed with various kinds of missiles and with homing torpedoes, and naval aviation. Other combat arms of the navy are the surface fleet, shore-based rocket-launched artillery troops, and the naval infantry (marines).
Special forces, such as engineer and communications troops, exist in each branch of the armed forces. Using a wide range of equipment, engineer troops provide technical support to personnel who are conducting combat operations or who must force water obstacles quickly; they provide and maintain means for carrying combat matériel across water. The engineer troops have equipment for laying antitank, antipersonnel, and antivehicle minefields quickly. Communications troops have radio and radio-relay gear as well as other equipment that makes possible reliable control of troop movements under any conditions and in any terrain.
The functions of the rear services of the armed forces include supplying troops and naval forces with weapons, equipment, ammunition, fuel, provisions, and clothing; preparing, servicing, and rebuilding lines of communication and means of transportation; repairing weapons and equipment; and providing medical supplies. The rear services comprise bases and supply storehouses; special forces including motor vehicle, road, and railroad troops; and repair, medical and other units and agencies. The rear services are fully motorized and are highly mobile in strategic operations.
Civil defense is an integral part of the country’s defense capability. Its primary mission includes protecting the population and the national economy from the effects of weapons of mass destruction and other offensive weapons, teaching the population how to protect iself, carrying out rescue work and emergency repairs, and aiding civilian victims at attack sites.
Conclusion. The strength of the armed forces of the USSR derives primarily from its personnel. The Soviet fighting man has a broad political outlook, a high level of discipline, thorough and specialized knowledge and skills in the use of weapons and matériel, and the ability to conduct combat operations under difficult conditions. Soviet soldiers and sailors, sergeants and petty officers, warrant officers, and middle-level officers, and generals and admirals—all united around the CPSU and wholeheartedly devoted to the socialist motherland and to the great cause of communism—serve as models for the fighting men of a socialist army.
The officer corps makes up the foundation and backbone of the armed forces of the USSR. Some 90 percent of the officers are Communists or Komsomol members. Nearly 100 percent of the command positions from brigade commander up are filled by officers with a higher education. In addition, more than 90 percent of the regimental-commanders, and all first- and second-rank ship commanders, have a higher education. Approximately half of all officers have a higher military or special education; in the prewar period, by contrast, the proportion was less than one-twelfth.
Soviet military science is, increasingly, a driving force in the resolution of fundamental problems associated with military development, the refinement of weapons and matériel, and the improvement of organizational structure, troop leadership and guidance methods, and forms and techniques used in troop training and instruction. The primary efforts of military science are directed toward finding ways to increase the combat readiness of the armed forces.
The armed forces of the USSR meet present-day requirements with regard to military and technical capabilities, ideological and political maturity, morale, fighting ability, and training. Their high level of readiness is due to the CPSU’s and Soviet government’s unceasing concern for the country’s defense, to the growing capacity of the socialist economy, to the achievements of the country’s science and technology, and to the selfless labor of the Soviet people. The Soviet armed forces stand united with the armies of the other socialist member countries of the Warsaw Pact. Born in the fire of the battles against German fascism, the close ties between these fraternal armies are constantly developing and improving.
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