War, Art of

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

War, Art of


the theory and practice of preparing for and carrying out military operations on land and sea and in the air; an important branch of military science.

The component parts of the Soviet art of war are military strategy, operational art, and tactics, which are closely connected and interrelated. They supplement each other and thus promote more complete accomplishment of the missions encountered in the art of war. Strategy is the highest field of the art of war. It is closely linked with and directly dependent on politics. At the same time, strategy has a decisive influence on the development of operational art and tactics. Tactics, the lowest level of the art of war, works with problems of combat by subunits, units, and large units. Operational art occupies an intermediate position between strategy and tactics and encompasses the questions of preparing for and carrying on operations. Operational art and tactics en-sure achievement of the goals and missions assigned by strategy. The art of war may also be divided into types according to the armed services: the art of war of the ground forces, missile forces, the country’s antiaircraft defense forces, the air force, and the navy. Furthermore, each type of art of war includes the art of war of combat arms, forces, and special purpose troops included in the particular armed ser-vice. Thus, the related art of war of several combat arms and special purpose troops that are included in several armed services may be united by a common concept, for example, military engineering art. Such a division of the art of war into parts, types, and branches is very tentative and can only be applied to concrete cases.

In bourgeois military theory, strategy and tactics are included in the art of war. The term“operational art” is not used. However, in bourgeois theory the concepts of ’’large-scale tactics” or“small-scale strategy” are frequently used. They mean essentially the same as operational art; that is, they consider the preparation and carrying on of operations.

The development of the art of war depends on the level of production, the economy, and the character of the social order. The art of war also depends on the characteristics of the country’s historical development, on its national characteristics and traditions, geographical conditions, and other factors.

The art of war in slaveholding societies was based on the slaveholding economy, which permitted the establishment of an army of only a few tens of thousands of soldiers armed with cold weapons. In a majority of the countries, the infantry was the main branch of the army. In the states of the ancient East, in addition to infantry and cavalry, detachments of soldiers in battle chariots and on elephants and camels were used. The composition of the armed forces and their equipment determined strategy and tactics. In the states of the ancient East and in India and China strategy was initially limited to carrying out short-term campaigns over comparatively small distances. With the change in troop supply and the use of resources of conquered states, which was typical for ancient Greece and Rome, the duration of campaigns began to increase. Strategic art in slaveholding societies was practiced primarily in preparations for war, selecting the place and time of battle, determining the main point of attack, and directing the troops. The development of tactics progressed from the simplest forms of battle formations and frontal conflict to more complex battle formations and maneuvering with troops on the field of battle.

The ancient Greek city-states, which were often united into military-political alliances, had better-armed and better-trained armies than the countries of the ancient East. Their main military force was heavy infantry (hoplites) armed with swords and spears and wearing protective metallic armor. For battle the hoplites formed a phalanx—a dense, deep formation (eight to 12 or more ranks). A typical example of the use of this battle formation is the battle of Marathon (490 B.C.). Combat began at the throwing distance of the weapons. A thrust from the front was supplemented by a thrust from the flank by light infantry and cavalry, and it ended with pursuit. In the battle of Leuctra (371 B.C.), Boeotian military commander Epaminondas was the first to discover the very important tactical principle of uneven distribution of troops along the front in order to concentrate forces for a main attack in the decisive sector. In the fourth century B.C. the art of war attained a high level of development in the ancient Macedonian army led by Alexander the Great, who turned the cavalry into a means of attack to rout the enemy. In the battle with the Colhidians (400 B.C.) the Greek military commander Xenophon was the first to divide the phalanxes into separate detachments (lokhy), as a result of which several tactical units capable of independent action were formed.

The dispersed battle formation was further developed in ancient Rome. The organizational form of the Roman Army (fourth through the second century B.C.) was the legion, which was divided into maniples made up often ranks of 12 men each. Every three maniples made up a cohort. The cohorts formed one line, and later three. Light infantry and cavalry were placed on the flanks of the legion; this increased the maneuverability of the Roman Army and made it possible to build up the striking force with the second lines of the maniples. Hannibal, the outstanding military commander of the slaveholding state of Carthage, used a simultaneous at-tack on both flanks in the battle of Cannae (216 B.C.); with inferior forces he completely encircled and destroyed a large Roman army. In the first century B.C. the Roman military commander Julius Caesar created the staff, used troop maneuvers on the field of battle more skillfully, and began to use the third line of cohorts for decisive maneuvers against the enemy flank and front, marking the beginning of the establishment of a reserve. The ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Chinese, and other peoples were masters of the art of erecting strong fortifications and building roads and bridges. In the wars of some countries of the ancient world a significant role was played by the navy, which gave assistance to the ground army and sometimes operated independently.

Military theory was conceived gradually in the ancient Eastern states and ancient Greece and Rome. Thus, in his Treatise on the Art of War, the Chinese military commander and thinker Sun-tzu (late sixth through the early fifth century B.C.) considered the dependence of military strength on the stability of the state, the influence of the time factor and geographic conditions on the waging of military actions, the role of the military commander, and the importance of careful preparation for war and studying the enemy’s strong and weak points. The ancient Greek historians Thucydides, Xenophon, and others described the course of wars in their works and tried to analyze them. For example, in the works Cyropaedia and Anabasis Xenophon considered the problems of preparing the army, the significance of surprise and the construction of battle formations, Snd the necessity of taking account of the features of the terrain and other elements of the situation. In the fourth century B.C. there appeared the first Greek works specially devoted to the art of war—for example, the Tactics by Aeneas (c. 357 B.C.). In ancient Rome, Julius Caesar presented his views on methods of waging war and battle in his Commentaries on the Gallic War and The Civil War. In the work Stratagems the Roman military theoretician Frontinus (first century A.D.) disclosed methods of military cunning in fighting during a siege or in defense of fortresses. The fullest generalization of the art of war of slaveholding Rome is found in Vegetius’ Military Institutions of the Romans (early fifth century).

After the downfall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century, early feudal states were formed in Europe, Byzantium, and many countries of Asia and Africa. The main force of their armies was composed of a popular militia whose nucleus was the feudal bodyguard. In the eighth and ninth centuries heavily armed (knightly) cavalry became the basic military force in Western Europe (the Prankish state), and the infantry was converted into auxiliary combat arms. The armies of the Arabian Caliphate and the Middle Asian states (eighth century) consisted primarily of heavy and light cavalry. Their tactics amounted to continuous attacks by light cavalry followed by the actions of the main force, which was deployed along the front and in depth. In the ancient Russian (Kievan) state in the ninth through the eleventh century the popular foot militia, which formed for battle in a “wall” covered on the flanks by cavalry, was a decisive force, in addition to the mounted druzhiny (princely retinues).

In the countries of Western Europe in the 11th through the 15th century the art of war developed very slowly. Military operations were carried out by comparatively small numbers of troops without a clear aim or definite battle formation. Only the feudal lords, united in spiritual-knightly orders, fought in a more organized fashion, using the“wedge,” “paling,” and other battle formations. At this time fortress-castles and fortified cities and monasteries acquired great military significance. The Tatar-Mongol Army (13th-14th centuries) consisted of light and heavy cavalry capable of carrying out long campaigns and operating on the field of battle in large masses that were divided into the forward detachment, left and right wings, and the reserve. In Rus’ (llth-15th centuries) the infantry and feudal cavalry developed. Cooperation between the Russian infantry and cavalry and skillful maneuvering led to the rout of the Teutonic Knights in the 44battle on the ice” in 1242 and to the destruction of the enormous Tatar-Mongol Army in the battle of Kulikovo in 1380. In the 14th century the infantry began to be revived in the Western European countries as a result of the development of cities and handicraft industry.

Like all military science, the art of war underwent a pro-found stagnation in the age of feudalism. Only in Byzantium was there a famous work, the Strategikon of Pseudo-Maurikios (sixth century A.D.), which presents views on methods of training troops and waging war and battle. In Western Europe information on wars and the art of war was presented primarily in chronicles, folk epics, and individual literary works.

The formation of large centralized states and the development of handicrafts and small workshops led to fundamental changes in the organization and armament of the armies, which were built up by recruitment and hiring, generally for the period of the war. In the second half of the 16th century the feudal absolutist states began to form standing mercenary armies. In the Russian state there was a pomest’e (fief) system for building up the army. In addition, the standing strelets (semiprofessional musketeer) army was formed about 1550. The regiment, usually consisting of ten companies, became the basic organizational unit in all armies. By the mid-17th century the revolution in military affairs caused by the invention of gunpowder had come to an end. The equipping of armies with firearms, including artillery, brought about a new method of waging battle—linear tactics, according to which forces were disposed evenly along the front and waged battle in long lines. The number of ranks in the lines was determined by the maximum rate of fire of the guns. The outcome of the battle was decided by the power of infantry fire. This method of forming troops for battle was first used by the Russian Army during its struggle with the Polish interventionists (battle of Dobrynichi, 1605). In the West, linear tactics finally took shape during the period of the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-48, first in the Swedish Army under Gustavus II Adolphus, and later in all European armies. The characteristics of the strategy of 17th-century armies were conditioned by the limited goals of the wars that were waged by feudal absolutist states. The strategic efforts of the warring sides amounted to avoiding battle as much as possible and winning the war by skillful maneuver on enemy lines of communication and by blockading and capturing enemy fortresses.

In the early 18th century the Russian military commander Peter I the Great introduced a deep formation of troops that contributed to his victory over Charles XII at Poltava (1709). Peter’s ideas were developed by P. S. Saltykov, who inflicted destruction on the 44 oblique battle formation” of the Prussian troops of Frederick II at Kunersdorf (1759). At the end of the 18th century the French and Russian armies switched to new shock tactics based on a skillful combination of maneuver and fire as means to prepare for the attack, as well as on a decisive thrust by infantry and cavalry with cold weapons. The battle formation of the troops consisted of columns combined with a linear and extended formation. Peter I the Great made a decisive contribution to the development of the Russian navy, as did the Russian naval commander F. F. Ushakov, who rejected the linear fleet formation in battle, which was prevalent at that time, and switched to new tactics. He operated successfully with concentrated forces, combining maneuver and fire and using reserves skillfully.

The principles of the art of war in the armies of the feudal absolutist states (“maneuvering strategy” and linear tactics) were set forth in regulations and works by military commanders and theoreticians of that time (H. Turenne in France, R. Montecuccoli and Eugene of Savoy in Austria, Frederick II in Prussia, G. Lloyd in England, and others). The French military engineer S. Vauban (second half of the 17th through the early 18th century) developed a system for building, defending, and besieging fortresses. The works of Peter I the Great and his companions in arms (Organization for Battle, Rules of Battle, Military Regulations, and others) were a significant contribution to the development of the art of war in Russia. They generalized the combat experience of the Russian Army and proposed ideas on methods of training troops and on their organizational structure. P. A. Rumiantsev’s works (The Ritual of Service, 1770; Thoughts, 1777 and others) presented views on the dependence of strategy on politics, criticized the principles of cordon strategy (even distribution of forces along the front), and outlined ways to overcome stereotyped linear tactics. The works of A. V. Suvorov— Regimental Organization, (1764-65), The Science of Victory, (1795-96), and others—were an outstanding achievement of 18th-century military theory. Firmly rejecting the principles of cordon strategy and linear tactics that were prevalent in the West, Suvorov laid the foundations of a new system of carrying out military operations, in which strategic goals were achieved by determined attack, concentration offerees in decisive operational axes, bold maneuver, and acting with initiative. The Russian forces under Suvorov’s command won a series of brilliant victories over the Turkish and French armies (Rymnik, 1789; Izmail, 1790; and Trebbia and Novi, 1799).

Profound changes in methods of carrying out military operations occurred as a result of the Great French Revolution and the wars of national liberation in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In the 19th century in a majority of Western European countries armies began to be built up on the basis of compulsory military service, which made it possible to create mass armies. The organizational structure of the armies was significantly improved: standing troop units were formed—divisions and corps capable of accomplishing complex combat missions independently—and staffs appeared as special agencies of troop control. The total size of armed forces increased several times. Views on the nature and methods of waging war also changed; the primary task of military operations became the defeat of the enemy’s army, not the capture of his territory, lines of communication, and fortresses. Strategic goals were achieved by active offensive operations, which were reflected in the concentration of main forces in the decisive operational axis and defeating the enemy in general battle. Victory over the enemy’s main forces offered an opportunity to conclude a peace treaty on conditions most advantageous to the victorious side. The activity of strategic defense also increased. Its purpose became to hold territory and create conditions for defeating the enemy. Fundamental changes occurred in tactics, based on determination, creating superiority of forces in the operational axis chosen for the attack, bold and deep maneuvering, and the allotment of of strong reserves. Battalion columns with infantry (jaeger) units operating in front of them in extended order assumed decisive significance in battle formation. The infantry attack was supported by artillery fire and cavalry. The French military commander Napoleon I and the Russian general M. I. Kutuzov played an important role in improving the new methods of carrying on military operations in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Napoleon I introduced the massive use of artillery and cavalry and employed reserves skillfully to achieve a turning point in the battle. Kutuzov achieved victories by carrying on a series of successively small and large battles.

In the 19th century the construction of railroads, the invention of the electric telegraph, smokeless powder, rifled artillery, and the rifled firearm and the extensive use of these means in military affairs in the second half of the 19th century led to important changes in strategy and tactics. The existence of railroads made it possible to concentrate and deploy armies more rapidly and made supplying them easier. The telegraph ensured troop control in different operational axes. The role of strategic planning and troop control increased. The appearance of the rifled weapon led to a sharp increase in the maximum rate, range, and accuracy of fire. This made it necessary to abandon troop action in columns because of the great losses suffered and to begin using infantry in“chains.” However, until World War I (1914-18) the chain remained very dense, which led to heavy losses.

The principles of the art of war of the mass bourgeois armies of Western Europe (late 18th through the early 19th century) were generalized in the works of Napoleon I, K. Clausewitz, A. Jomini, and others. In the work On War (1832-34), Clause witz made the first attempt to develop a general theory of war not limited to special questions of strategy and tactics. He defined war as a continuation of politics by violent means; however, he did not understand the class nature of war and reduced it to foreign policy. He considered the outstanding military commanders the creators of the art of war. The military historian and theoretician Jo-mini, who lived and worked in Russia for more than 40 years, generalized the experience of the Napoleonic wars in the works Essay on the Art of War (vols. 1-2, 1837-56), A Critical and Military History of the Campaigns of the Revolution (vols. 1-15, 1819-24), and others. Jomini made the metaphysical proposition that the fundamental rules of war are invariable and independent of time and place. H. von Moltke (Germany), P. Colomb (Great Britain), and M. I. Dragomirov, G. A. Leer, and N. I. Mikhnevich (Russia) were the major military theoreticians of the second half of the 19th century.

Scientific materialist teaching on war and the army originated in the mid-19th century. Its founders, Marx and En-gels, having discovered the laws of development of society, scientifically revealed the causes of wars and their social essence and posed the question of the significance of the masses and military commanders in war in a new way. Engels played a special role in the development of military theoretical thought. He revealed the dependence of methods of waging war on the economy and the development of production and showed the class nature of the army, the conditions that ensure its combat capability, and the basic rules of the development of the art of war. Engels and Marx developed the theory of armed uprising by the proletariat.

At the turn of the 20th century capitalism entered its final stage—imperialism. Concerning the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, the first major war of the imperialist age, Lenin wrote:“The days when wars were waged by mercenaries or representatives of a caste half-divorced from the people are gone forever. Wars are now waged by the people” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 9, p. 154). During World War I (1914-18) the highly developed countries were able to allocate up to 15 percent of their population for waging, the war. Armies a million strong appeared, and there were new combat arms and special forces: aviation, armored, chemical, motor transportation, and other troops. For the first time in human history, there was a world war waged on land and water, under the water, and in the air. The millions making up the belligerent armies and the need to supply them with complex materiel over an extended time gave an important role to economics and demanded direct and indirect participation by the entire people in the war, leading to a sharp increase in the significance of morale.

In the early 20th century, when the size of armies in-creased sharply and it became possible to equip them with a large quantity of rapid-fire artillery, machine guns, and magazine rifles, when communications equipment began to be used for troop control, and when railroads were developed and opportunities for maneuver expanded, the conditions had objectively taken shape for increasing the spatial scope and intensity of military actions, and individual battles and troop maneuvers were more closely interrelated. Thus, a new form of combat action began to take shape—the operation, the aggregate of small and large battles of one or several armies united by the uniform concept of the command. In the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, the battle of Mukden was essentially an operation conducted on a 150-kilometer front for three weeks. The increase in the strength of the armed forces, massive use of new means of combat, and the complexity of the nature, conditions, and methods of carrying out combat operations and waging war as a whole led to the development of operational art. The concept of the military operation took shape practically and theoretically during World War I. However, during the war operational art as an independent part of the art of war, concerned with studying the questions of preparing for and conducting operations, was not yet recognized in any army.

The wars of the age of imperialism have raised new problems in using a country’s entire economic and manpower resources. The establishment and correct use of strategic re-serves and stockpiles have acquired exceptional significance. Agencies of strategic leadership have also been faced with the need to organize control over armed forces operating simultaneously in different theaters and strategic axes.

During the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) and especially during World War I (1914-18) new methods for carrying on combat operations appeared. In these wars the old method of attempting to defeat the enemy with a direct thrust by one’s armies proved unsuccessful. Capable of replacing losses rapidly with accumulated reserves, the armed forces became more able to survive. The armies, a million strong equipped with automatic weapons, mortars, and rapid-fire artillery, created a new method of defense on a continuous front supported by a system of engineered structures and obstacles. On fronts of enormous length the war assumed a static character. In its turn this brought about a new method of attack—breaking through the static defense. Various forms of breakthrough were employed: the breakthrough in one narrow axis (action of the German forces in the Verdun Operation in 1916, the English forces at Cambrai in 1917, and so forth); the breakthrough on a broad, continuous front (operations of the English and French forces on the Somme River in 1916 and so forth); and simultaneous breakthrough on a number of operational axes of the front (offensive of the Rus-sian Southwestern Front in the summer of 1916). To break through a static defense, massive thrusts were used with the forces of the infantry (Champagne, 1915; Artois, 1915; and other battles); artillery (Verdun, 1916, and other battles); and tanks (Cambrai, 1917; Amiens, 1918, and other battles). The experience of the successful attack by Russian forces of the Southwestern Front in 1916 as well as other offensive operations demonstrated that the best results were achieved where the defense was broken through simultaneously on several axes, making it difficult for the enemy to determine the direction of the main thrust and move up reserves quickly to cover the breaches made in the defense. However, in World War I the problem of breaking through a static defense was not completely resolved. At the beginning of the war new strategic formations—fronts—appeared, and front operations developed. As a result of the rapid development of artillery and the appearance of aviation, tanks, and toxic agents there were also significant changes in the field of tactics. By the end of the war there was combined-arms combat, since tactical missions were accomplished by the combined efforts of infantry, artillery, tanks, and engineer troops. The increased strength of the defense demanded prolonged (at first many days, and later many hours) artillery preparation for the at-tack and fire support for the advance, as well as a switch to deeper troop battle formations. The dense skirmish line was replaced by a new combat formation—“waves of chains.” With the appearance of tanks and the increase in the number of accompanying guns, mortars, and machine guns, the group battle formation took shape. By the end of World War I a system of static defense appropriate to that time was finally shaped. The focal defense without depth was replaced by a deeply echeloned defense consisting of several zones and positions in each zone. Defense acquired new features associated with the appearance of new means of fighting, and by the end of the war antitank, antiartillery, antichemical, and antiaircraft defense were more established.

The art of war of the imperialist states between the world wars developed during further aggravation of the general crisis of capitalism, the class struggle, and the contradictions among the imperialist powers. After World War I as a result of the revaluation of the role of new types of combat materiel (aviation and tanks) by capitalist military theoreticians, there appeared theories on the possibility of gaining victory by means of“small mechanized armies” or massive application of a particular type of combat materiel (the theory of air war of G. Douhet in Italy, the theories of tank warfare of J. Fuller in Great Britain and H. Guderian in Germany, and so forth).

The Soviet art of war began to take shape during the Civil War and the military intervention of 1918-20 and the following years on the basis of using the experience of World War I and generalizing the combat operations of the Red Army. Its theoretical foundation is historical materialism and the teachings of Marxism-Leninism on war and the army; its political foundation is the policy of the CPSU, and its economic and material-technological basis is the socialist economic system. The Soviet art of war serves the purposes of defending the state interests of the USSR and the entire socialist camp. Its basic methodological principles were developed by the Communist Party and its leader Lenin, who made an enormous contribution to the development of the Soviet art of war and military science. Lenin elucidated the most important characteristics of the wars of the imperialist age, developed the Marxist theory of armed uprising, and worked out methods of waging revolutionary wars and wars to defend the socialist fatherland. During the Civil War Lenin showed great skill in defining the types of strategic actions (offensive and defensive), combining them profoundly in different operational axes, implementing the principle of massing forces in the most important axis, determining the main danger and selecting the operational axis of the main thrust, and preparing and correctly using strategic reserves. All this formed the foundation for developing the principles of controlling the Soviet armed forces.

During its initial development the Soviet art of war was greatly influenced by the experience of the Civil War and its just, revolutionary character. Some of its fundamental principles were defined during this period, including the determi-nation of strategic goals stemming from the implacable class nature of war, working out strategic plans and methods of waging combat operations depending on the political goals and military capabilities of the state, correctly selecting the operational axis of the main attack and establishing superiority in forces and means in the decisive operational axes, and so on. Significant experience was gained in preparing for and conducting offensive operations with the forces of operational command—fronts and armies. Generalization of this experience was the primary basis for subsequent development of the theory of operational art, which was also enriched by experience in organizing and conducting defensive operations.

The operations of the Soviet armed forces during the Civil War were primarily maneuvers. The most important achievements of the Soviet art of war during this period were precise determination of the role and place of front and army operations; a switch from even distribution of forces along the front to actions by main attack groupings; and organization and successful use of mobile command—-horse cavalry armies, whose combat experience was used to develop the theory of the deep operation. Valuable experience was gained in breaking through the enemy defense (Perekop, 1920), forcing rivers, capturing and defending beachheads on large water barriers (Kakhovka, 1920), and defending large cities (Tsaritsyn, 1918; Petrograd, 1919; and others).

The tactics of Soviet forces under the conditions of the Civil War were also influenced by the magnitude of the areas over which combat operations were waged and the inadequate supply of combat materiel to troops. Tactics were based on attacks against the weakest points, the flanks, and the enemy rear and on outflanking and enveloping his groupings. To a great extent such operations were the result of the nature of the enemy’s defense, which was not built on a continuous front but on separate sectors of a front. Tactical missions were accomplished primarily by the efforts of infantry and cavalry. Artillery was ordinarily used in a decentralized manner. Armored trains were used extensively in operations along railroads. The few aircraft were used primarily for reconnaissance, with incidental bombing and shelling of enemy troops.

M. V. Frunze played an outstanding role in the development of the Soviet art of war during the Civil War and subsequent period and in generalizing the experience of past wars and developing the principles of military theory. Significant contributions to the development of the art of war were made by A. I. Egorov, S. S. Kamenev, M. N. Tukhachevskii, B. M. Shaposhnikov, I. P. Uborevich, N. E. Varfolomeev, V. K. Triandafillov, E. A. Shilovskii, V. D. Grendal’, K. I. Velichko, D. M. Karbyshev, A. N. Lapchinskii, and other military commanders and theoreticians.

During the first five-year plans (1929-41) radical technical modernization of the armed forces was carried out on the basis of the rapid development of socialist industry, and armored and airborne forces were formed. The Soviet art of war developed methods of waging war, operations, and battles that were appropriate to new conditions and capabilities. The complex problem of determining the general structure of the armed forces was resolved in the theory of the art of war and the practice of military building. The leading role of ground forces was considered, as well as the development of all the armed services and combat arms. The strategic offensive carried out by a number of simultaneous or sequential thrusts encompassing a wide front and counting on great depth was considered the main type of military action. The strategic offensive undertaken to rout consecutively an enemy coalition may consist of one or several offensive campaigns. Defense was not rejected; however, it was given a subordinate role. The theory of defensive operations was developed primarily on the scale of the army. The possibility of independent operations by particular armed services was also considered.

In the mid-1920’s, Soviet military scholars headed by M. V. Frunze distinguished operational art as part of the art of war, as well as strategy and tactics, and defined it as the theory and practice of organizing and waging army and front operations. A major achievement of the Soviet art of war before World War II was the development of the theory of the deep operation. Its essence was the simultaneous neutralization of the entire depth of the enemy’s defense with artillery fire and air strikes and the establishment in it of a breach, through which mobile troops would be rushed in order to prevent the enemy from bringing up reserves and in order to develop the offensive to its full operational depth. The theory of the deep operation provided for several stages in its implementation: a breakthrough in the tactical defense by joint efforts; development of the tactical success into an operational one by bringing masses of tanks, motorized infantry, and mechanized cavalry into the breach and by landing airborne forces; development of the operational success to achieve complete defeat of the enemy grouping selected as the objective of the operation; and capture of an advantageous initial position for the new operation. The theory of the deep operation defined methods of using troops equipped with new combat materiel and was basically suited to the objective conditions of waging war. New methods of carrying out operations were established in accordance with this theory. It was considered expedient to break through the defense simultaneously or sequentially in several operational axes, and it was assumed that the primary unit of command for accomplishing missions in an offensive operation would be the front, consisting of two to three shock armies operating in the primary operational axis and one to two armies in subsidiary axes. A powerful echelon of mobile troops (mechanized and cavalry corps) was envisioned for developing the offensive in depth. A component part of the theory of the deep operation was the theory of the deep battle, which defined methods of troop action when breaking through the enemy defense. Battle was considered a combined-arms matter, with the decisive role belonging to infantry and tanks.

The theory of the Soviet art of war that was developed in the prewar years corresponded to objective conditions and considered that the Soviet Union would have to wage war against a coalition of imperialist states, that a simultaneous attack from several directions was possible, and that the enemy would have large, well-trained forces.

The Great Patriotic War was one of the most important stages in the development of the Soviet art of war. In the first period of the war (June 1941 to November 1942) it became necessary for the art of war to solve the complex problems of strategic deployment of armed forces and carrying on the strategic defense in the extremely unfavorable situation that took shape. Strategic defense was carried out simultaneously on an entire front and, in a number of the most important operational axes, it was also carried out in the form of defensive operations by several fronts or by separate fronts in close cooperation with aviation and antiaircraft defense troops and with the navy in coastal axes. The most important principles developed by the Soviet art of war in the field of strategic defense on the basis of the experience of the first months of the war were skillful determination of the directions of the enemy’s main thrusts; correct choice of methods of carrying on the defense; deep formation of groupings of forces and means; and determined maneuver with forces and means from the depth and along the front for the purpose of restoring a breakthrough on the strategic front and building up forces in a main operational axis. The primary method of waging strategic defense consisted of wearing out the enemy by stubborn resistance on prepared lines occupied in sequence and of conducting counterattacks and counterthrusts for the purpose of weakening or routing the main forces of the enemy, thwarting his intentions, and creating conditions for going over to the counteroffensive.

The Soviet Army’s switch to strategic defense at the beginning of the war made it necessary to develop the forms and methods of waging defensive operations and battles that were most appropriate to the conditions that had taken shape. Even distribution of forces and means along the front, which was necessitated by the endeavor to cover reliably all axes with limited forces, began to be replaced by concentration of forces and means in regions and zones, on whose holding the stability of the entire defense depended. Operational defense developed along the lines of increased depth, increased density of forces and means—especially antitank weapons—in the main operational axes, and further improvement of the organization of defensive zones by engineer work.

A major contribution to the theory and practice of preparing for and waging an offensive was the generalization of the experience of the combat operations of Soviet forces during the winter counteroffensive of 1941 to 1942 (near Rostov and Tikhvin, and especially near Moscow). On the basis of the combat experience gained in the battle of Moscow of 1941-42 a new form of strategic offensive—the operation by a group of fronts—was used. Experience in operations helped in the development of methods of forming shock groupings, increasing tactical densities in the operational axes of main thrusts, and in developing expedient forms for organizing battle formations and using tanks, artillery, and aviation. All this was directed at achieving a breakthrough in the enemy’s defense and a continuous increase in thrusts during the operation. The theoretical principles and practical recommendations that were worked out were used throughout the war.

The restructuring of the economy of the USSR in a military way made it possible to supply the armed forces with im-proved combat materiel in ever-increasing amounts. In its turn, this led to a change in organizational structure. Already by the spring of 1942 large-scale tank, mechanized, artillery, and aviation units, which played an important part in the subsequent course of the war, began to be formed.

In the second period of the war (November 1942 to December 1943) the further development of the Soviet art of war was most brilliantly manifested in the Battle of Stalingrad of 1942-43, in which, with an overall equality offerees, a large grouping of enemy troops was surrounded and destroyed. The success of the operation was promoted by correct choice of the operational axes of the main thrusts and the moment of going over to the counteroffensive; precise determination of weak points in the enemy defense; skillful concentration of superior forces in the decisive operational axes; skillful keeping of reserves until the most favorable moment for delivering a thrust; achieving a surprise thrust; swiftness and precise coordination of troop action; and energetic development of the operational breakthrough for the purpose of completing the encirclement of the main grouping of enemy troops. The fascist German troops’ switch to deeply echeloned defense at the beginning of the summer of 1943 demanded an increase in deeply organized battle formations on the offensive and concentration offerees and means necessary to deliver a powerful initial thrust against the enemy.

In the battle of Kursk in 1943 the Soviet art of war was enriched by experience in deliberately going over to the defense in order to wear out the enemy and create favorable conditions for an offensive; experience in deliberate organization in advance of a counteroffensive as a counterthrust to an attacking enemy; and methods of breaking through a well-prepared static defense. The defensive operations were characterized by great activity, which was manifested in carrying on powerful counterpreparations, inflicting concentrated thrusts by artillery, aviation, and tank units on the attacking enemy, and using extensive maneuvers with second echelons and reserves from the depth and along the front.

In the third period of the war (1944-45) the Soviet art of war developed under the favorable conditions that had taken shape as a result of the country’s greater military-economic potential and earlier victories by the Soviet Army. The main type of military action was the strategic offensive, which was carried on in three offensive campaigns. During this period of the war the Soviet Army carried on large-scale, complex operations to encircle and destroy enemy groupings. The problem of breaking through the enemy’s defense to great depth at high speed was successfully solved. The breakthrough was achieved by inflicting a powerful fire attack on the enemy defense with artillery, aviation, and first-echelon attack troops. As a result, breaches were formed in the enemy defense and were used to bring tank and mechanized troops into the breakthrough. These troops exploited the success to a great depth, which caused a breakthrough in the enemy’s strategic front in an enormous sector. Especially typical of the third period of the Great Patriotic War were the Byelorus-sian (July to August 1944), lassy-Kishinev (August to September 1944), Vistula-Oder (January to February 1945), and Berlin (April to May 1945) operations.

Very important experience was gained in organizing and carrying out artillery and aviation attacks as an effective form of ensuring deep attacks by troops in an offensive operation, massive use of large-scale tank, mechanized, and aviation commands to rout the enemy in the decisive operational axes, forcing water barriers on the run, storming large cities and fortified regions, advancing under special conditions—in mountainous terrain and polar, forested swamp, steppe, and desert regions—and attacking at night with large-scale forces. The art of controlling enormous masses of troops and war materiel was improved. In a tactical sense, a higher level of development was achieved in the art of guerrilla actions. Guerrilla units of various sizes became capable of carrying on important operations in the enemy rear, drawing significant fascist German forces onto themselves. Many large-scale operations carried out by Soviet troops during the war with fascist Germany were without precedent in the history of wars for their scale and their classic execution. The utter defeat of fascist Germany and militarist Japan was a brilliant confirmation of the high level of the Soviet art of war, which was attained in the course of operations in different theaters of military action.

Military commanders who did enormous organizational and creative work in preparing for operations and directing active fronts and fleets include A. I. Antonov, I. Kh. Bagramian, S. S. Biriuzov, I. D. Cherniakhovskii, A. I. Eremenko, F. I. Golikov, A. G. Golovko, S. G. Gorshkov, L. A. Govorov, I. S. Isakov, I. S. lumashev, I. S. Konev, V. V. Kurasov, ,N. G. Kuznetsov, M. S. Malinin, R. la. Malinovskii, K. A. Meretskov, F. S. Oktiabr’skii, I. E. Petrov, A. P. Pokrovskii, M. M. Popov, K. K. Rokossovskii, L. M. Sandalov, B. M. Shaposhnikov, V. D. Sokolovskii, S. K. Timoshenko, F. I. Tolbukhin, V. F. Tributs, A. M. Vasilevskii, N. F. Vatutin, K. A. Vershinin, N. N. Voronov, M. V. Zakharov, and G. K. Zhukov.

The most important conditions for the successful development of the art of war were the great patriotic enthusiasm of the Soviet people; the heroism of Soviet soldiers; the increased skill of Soviet military commanders, generals, officers, political workers, army Party and Komsomol organizations, and service agencies; and major achievements in the development of Soviet military science and technology. The guiding and directing force in the development of the Soviet armed forces and their art of war was the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The art of war of the imperialist states also underwent substantial changes during World War II (1939-45). Many theories that had prevailed in the bourgeois armies in the prewar period were refuted. The adventuristic theory of the blitzkrieg, which had been accepted as doctrine by the German General Staff, failed completely in the conflict with the forces of the Soviet Army.

The art of war of fascist Germany reflected the aggressive aspirations of German imperialists, which led to determined military actions by the armed forces without a sober consideration of enemy forces. This inevitably led to adventurism in strategy. At the beginning of World War II (1939-40) the fascist German Army was the strongest army among the armed forces of the imperialist states, and it was able successfully to carry out operations to defeat the armed forces of Poland and France. But Germany’s victory over them was above all the result of the Polish and French bourgeoisie’s betrayal of the national interests of their states. By the beginning of the attack on the USSR the fascist German command had sufficient practical experience in waging war, and their art of war was at a high level and relied on great forces and means. At the beginning of the war the fascist German armed forces made extensive use of tank and mechanized troops (in the form of“tank wedges’) with massive support by aviation, and coordination and control of troops was organized. All this brought the fascist German Army a series of major successes. However, already during the first period of the Great Patriotic War, the myth of the invincibility of German arms had been dispelled, and at Moscow the fascist German Army suffered its first major defeat of World War II.

In the second period of the war, when Soviet troops had gained experience in waging war and the Soviet command had received the necessary quantity offerees and means, the Soviet command was far superior to the command of the fascist German forces in the art of war, especially in carrying out strategic missions. Later in the course of the war the Soviet art of war attained a high level of perfection. At the same time, beginning with the counteroffensive of Soviet troops at Stalingrad, stereotyped actions began to appear more and more frequently in the art of war of the fascist German command, leading ultimately to the degradation of the art of war of the fascist German Army.

In World War II the policy of the USA and Great Britain was to wait while the USSR and fascist Germany exhausted and bled each other white, and then, taking advantage of this, to establish their own world supremacy. This policy gave rise to a strategy of waiting and indirect operations, exhausting the enemy by taking advantage of the superiority in economic and military resources of friendly forces.

During World War II British and American forces acquired significant experience in solving particular problems of the art of war. However, the value of this experience was diminished by the fact that the combat operations of American and British armed forces in Western Europe were waged with an overwhelming superiority of forces against the limited forces of fascist Germany. The British-American command carried out operations in ground theaters with the forces of field armies or groups of armies coordinated with large air forces. The use of new combat materiel fostered an increase in the shock force and mobility of the armies. During 1944—45 the British-American command carried out a number of major airborne operations against Germany and Japan; how-ever, these operations did not have a decisive effect on the course of the war. Significantly greater experience was gained in carrying out large-scale amphibious operations in Europe and the Pacific Ocean. These operations involved the participation of ground forces, the navy, aviation, and air-borne forces. The largest landing operation was the Normandy Landing Operation of 1944. The art of war of the US and British armed forces was enriched during World War II by experience in organizing coalition-based strategic management of troops and the ability of the command to plan and support operations thoroughly and respond quickly to a changing situation. Extensive preparations were made for offensive actions, which were undertaken only when there was an absolute, overall superiority over the enemy in man-power and combat materiel. Despite their endeavor to inflict converging thrusts in order to surround the enemy, British and American forces did not succeed in surrounding and liquidating any large-scale enemy grouping except the Ruhr grouping, which was already unfit for combat before it was surrounded.

In the postwar period economic development and progress in science and technology have brought profound changes in the means of combat. Since 1953 nuclear weapons and missiles have been introduced extensively into all armed ser-vices in a number of countries, and electronic and other equipment has been adopted. The combat capabilities of ground forces have increased. Airborne forces have been further developed. The armament and organization of anti-aircraft defense forces has changed sharply. In the air force piston-engine airplanes have been replaced by jets.

The development of new means of combat—particularly nuclear weapons—brought fundamental changes in the art of war and touched all areas of it: strategy, operational art, and tactics. The role of strategy was sharply increased because with the establishment of the strategic nuclear forces, strategy had the opportunity to influence directly the course of the war and use nuclear weapons to achieve decisive results in gaining victory. The possibility of using nuclear weapons led to a reconsideration of views on the nature of war.

The Soviet art of war is developing in the direction of continuing to work out methods and forms of using armed forces under the new conditions of warfare. The experience of the Soviet art of war is studied in the armed forces of the other socialist countries, which are making their own valuable contribution to the development of a progressive art of war, called on to ensure the freedom and independence of the peoples of all the countries in the socialist camp.

Since World War II the art of war of the armed forces in the USA, Great Britain, France, the Federal Republic of Ger-many, and the other capitalist countries has paid major attention to developing methods of combat action under conditions where nuclear weapons are used. The current doctrines of the USA and the other members of NATO are directed against the socialist countries and the people’s revolutions and national liberation movement in the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. These doctrines envision training armed forces to wage nuclear war using all available weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and bacteriological weapons, and to wage limited and local wars with or without nuclear weapons. They recognize the surprise attack to gain the strategic initiative as the most favorable method of unleashing a war. Bourgeois military theoreticians devote their attention primarily to investigating the principles of waging modern war and operations. In addition to operations of the ground forces, they are developing air force, naval, airborne, and amphibious operations. They also envision operations by“special forces,” which are carried out by specially trained and equipped troops in close coordination with forms of economic and psychological warfare that are being conducted, as well as with the actions of so-called underground resistance groups in the enemy rear. A distinguishing characteristic of the military theory of the main capitalist countries is its orientation to the use of destructive means of combat, to barbaric methods of using means of combat, and to ignoring generally accepted international norms and rules for waging war. The actions of the armed forces of the USA during the aggression in Vietnam, which began in 1964, provide particularly striking evidence of this.

The Soviet people and its armed forces show constant, intense vigilance and are ready to offer determined resistance to any aggressive actions by imperialism, no matter where they may originate.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Over the years he has covered the Trojan War, Art of the Western World and most recently The Great British History: A People's History for the BBC.