in the armed forces of the USSR, a form of unitary one-man control over subordinate troops and institutions on the basis of rights given by law, controlling regulations, and the orders of superiors. The commander is a one-man commander and bears personal responsibility to the Communist Party and the Soviet government for constant combat and mobilization readiness, combat and political training, the morale and the political condition of personnel, and all other aspects of the life and activity of the subunit, unit (ship), or formation subordinate to him. In his work he relies on party and Komsomol organizations and ensures active participation by personnel in the life and activity of the troops.
During the Civil War (1918–20) and after its end military commissars stood at the head of units, ships, formations, and institutions of the Soviet armed forces beside the commanders. The main functions of the commissars were the political leadership of the troops and the implementation of party policy in the army; in those places where units were headed by former officers and generals of the old army, the military commissars also performed another, secondary, function of party control over the activity of the commanders.
One-man command was first instituted in the Red Army on the basis of the decision on Mar. 2, 1925, of the Central Committee of the ACP (Bolshevik). At first it was implemented in two forms: Communist commanders who had experience in party political leadership were fully responsible for all aspects of troop activity, fulfilling the functions of commissar and having an assistant for political affairs; in the other case the position of commissar was kept, and he directed party political work and, together with the commander, was responsible for the unit’s combat capability. On May 10, 1937, the institution of military commissars was reintroduced in all military units from the regiment up, at head-quarters, directorates, and institutions. On Aug. 12, 1940, the position of military commissars in the army and navy was abolished and full one-man command was introduced; at the same time the institution of deputy commander (chief) for political affairs was established. Under the harsh conditions of the beginning of the Great Patriotic War of the USSR against the fascist German aggressors the institution of military commissars was reintroduced on July 16, 1941, and continued in existence until Oct. 9, 1942. Since that time full one-man command has been implemented in the armed forces of the USSR.
V. N. ALEKSEEV