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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a part (sector or region) of an area with all its natural components, including relief, soil, water, and vegetation, as well as lines of communication, populated centers, and industrial, agricultural, and sociocultural sites; one of the most important elements of the situation in which military actions are waged.

The different characteristics of the terrain facilitate military actions or make them more difficult, thus exercising a major influence on the organization and waging of a battle or operation. Terrain may be divided into basic types according to relief-level, hilly, or mountainous; according to conditions of passage —slightly rugged (passable), moderately rugged, or extremely rugged (difficult to pass); according to conditions of observation and camouflage—open, semiclosed, and closed; and according to natural features—desert (desert-steppe), forest (forest-swamp), or northern (arctic or polar and level or mountainous tundra). Major water obstacles and mountainous areas are especially important from an operational point of view. The characteristics of the terrain that influence combat action (conditions for passage of troops and combat equipment, defense, observation, orientation, waging of fire, water supply, and the like) are called its operational-tactical characteristics.

Terrain conditions are taken into account when planning a battle or operation and organizing troop coordination, the system of fire, and camouflage; the terrain has an important effect on control, communications, observation, and the work of the rear. The tactical characteristics of the terrain change depending on the season of the year and the weather. Commanders and staffs of all combat arms organize the study and evaluation of the terrain with regard to the missions they are to fulfill. The terrain is studied and evaluated by personal observation, results of reconnaissance, and topographical and special maps. Conclusions drawn from the evaluation of the terrain are taken into account when deciding whether to initiate a battle or operation and in determining the nature of troop actions.


Govorukhin, A. M., and M. V. Gamezo. Spravochnik ofitsera po voennoi topografii, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Ivan’kov, P. A., and G. V. Zakharov. Mestnost* i ee vliianie na boevye deistviia voisk. Moscow, 1969.
Kratkii topografo-geodezicheskii slovar’-spravochnik, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1973.


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