Frontier Troops

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Frontier Troops


in some states called border troops or border guard; troops designated for the armed protection of the political, military, and economic interests of the state on its land and sea boundaries.

In the USSR, the frontier troops are a constituent part of the armed forces, subordinate to the Committee for State Security of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. The chief of the frontier troops exercises direct leadership through his staff, directorates, and independent departments.

Organizationally, the frontier troops consist of frontier districts, which include detachments, frontier posts, checkpoints, naval and aviation units, and engineer, signal, and other special-purpose units and subunits. The frontier troops guarantee the inviolability of Soviet borders. They arrest violators of the state border and repulse armed invasions of USSR territory by military groups and criminal bands. They do not permit crossing of the border by foot, vehicle, or air in unauthorized places or by illegal methods. They check persons traveling across the border at authorized points and permit them to pass. They see that border signs and the line of the USSR state border are properly maintained. Together with customs agencies, they intercept the illegal export or import of objects and foreign exchange and currency. Together with organs of the militia, they monitor observance of the regulations established for border areas. They assist supervisory fishing agencies in protecting the resources of the seas and rivers. They monitor observance by all vessels of the rules of navigation in the territorial and internal waters of the USSR as announced in the Navigation Notices. The frontier troops perform their missions independently with the active participation and constant support of the local population of the border regions of the country. For the successful performance of their combat missions, the frontier troops are armed with modern types of small arms, combat matériel, ships, aircraft, and special technical equipment. Officers for the frontier troops are trained in higher schools for frontier troops.

Frontier troops originated in Russia in the second half of the 14th century. In view of frequent raids by the Tatars on Russian territory along the southern and southeastern frontiers of the Grand Principality of Moscow in the 1360’s, outpost detachments and stanitsy (cossack detachments) were established. They sent out scouts on horseback. Later, abatis lines and fortified frontier lines were built. In 1571 the Code of Stanitsa Service appeared. It regulated the rights and duties of guards and established procedures for protecting the frontiers. In 1574 one commander was appointed to direct both the outpost and stanitsa service. With the growth of foreign trade, border customs stations were set up in 1754. The border was guarded by dragoon regiments, which were deployed at advanced posts, and by patrolling civilian customs officials. In 1811 the cossack frontier guard was instituted for greater protection of the border. In 1832 the customs frontier guard was renamed the frontier guard. In 1893 it was removed from the department of customs collection and made a separate frontier corps subordinate to the minister of finances, and frontier districts were established in the border areas. The frontier corps was made up of brigades, which were divided into departments, detachments, and posts (cordons). The corps had a special fleet to guard the sea frontier.

The Soviet Frontier Troops were formed and developed in conjunction with the Soviet armed forces. The decree of the Council of People’s Commisars that established the frontier guard for the RSFSR border was signed by V. I. Lenin on May 28, 1918. The Main Directorate of the Frontier Guard was established at the same time. The first chief was S. G. Shamshev. It was assigned the direct organization of the frontier troops and protection of the border.

During the Civil War and military intervention of 1918–20, the frontier regiments helped in the fight against White Guard units and in the suppression of counterrevolutionary uprisings. Young, inadequately trained, and poorly armed at the time, the units of the frontier troops fought heroically against domestic and foreign enemies and gave their all to defend the interests of their homeland. After the war, certain heroic regiments of Red Army divisions that had gained fame at the fronts, including the Sivash, Perekop, Boguchar, Iron, Petrograd Soviet, and Shchors divisions, were singled out to protect the frontier of the USSR.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s the frontier troops waged a struggle against various criminal bands, enemy agents, smugglers, regular troops and border guards of neighboring capitalist countries, the Chinese militarists and Russian White Guards on the Far Eastern border (1929), and the Japanese aggressors in the Lake Kha-san (1938) and Khalkhin Gol River (1939) regions. From 1921 to 1941 the frontier forces in the western districts alone arrested about 2,500 spies, saboteurs, and terrorists and confiscated a large amount of contraband. During those years, frontier soldiers, such as Andrei Korobitsyn, Petr Saikin, Timofei Liukshin, Ivan Latysh, David Iaroshevskii, Ivan Poskrebko, and Gavriil Samokhvalov, set examples of courageous performance of military duty. These names have been permanently entered in the personnel rolls, and frontier stations have been named after them. Eighteen soldiers of the frontier guards were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, and 2,095 received other orders and medals for combat actions in the prewar years

At the start of the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45, the fighting men of the frontier stations were the first to engage fascist German forces in battle, and they offered heroic resistance, especially the frontier troops who defended the Brest fortress and soldiers at frontier stations commanded by Aleksei Lopatin, Andrei Kizhevatov, Viktor Usov, Fedor Morin, and many others. For combat actions during the war, 150 frontier troops were awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, some 13,000 received other orders and medals, 50 frontier units were awarded orders of the Soviet Union, and 32 units were given honorary names. The chiefs of the frontier troops have been Lieutenant General N. P. Stakhonov from February 1942 to August 1951, Colonel General P. I. Zyrianov from July 1952 to December 1972, and Colonel General V. A. Matrosov since December 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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