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The Russian Red Army

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The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (Russian: Рабоче-крестьянская Красная армия; РККА or Raboche-krest'yanskaya Krasnaya armiya; RKKA) started out as the Soviet Russia's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918–1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s, the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.
The "Red Army" refers to the traditional colour of the communist movement. On 25 February 1946, the Red Army was renamed the Soviet Army (Советская Армия, Sovetskaya Armiya).
The Red Army is widely credited with being the decisive land and air force in the Allied victory in the European Theatre of World War II. During operations on the Eastern Front, it engaged and defeated about 75%-80% of the total German armed forces (Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS) deployed in the war.[1]
The Russian Civil War (1917–23) occurred in two periods:
At war's start, the Red Army comprised 299 infantry regiments.[10] Civil warfare intensified after Lenin dissolved the Russian Constituent Assembly (5–6 January 1918) and the Soviet government signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (3 March 1918) removing Russia from the Great War. Free from international war, the Red Army confronted an internecine war with a loose alliance of anti-Communist forces, comprising the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine, the "Black Army" led by Nestor Makhno, the anti-White and anti-Red Green armies, and others. The 23 February 1923 "Red Army Day" has a twofold, historical significance; the first day of drafting recruits (in Petrograd and Moscow) and the first day of combat against the occupying Imperial German Army.[11]
On 6 September 1918, the Bolshevik militias consolidated under the supreme command of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic (Revvoyensoviet, Revolyutsionny Voyenny Sovyet), People's Commissar for War (1918–24), Leon Trotsky, Chairman, and Jukums Vācietis, Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army. Soon afterward he established the GRU (military intelligence) to provide political and military intelligence to Red Army commanders.[12] Trotsky founded the Red Army with an initial Red Guard organization, and a core soldiery of Red Guard militiamen and Chekist secret policemen;[13] conscription began in June 1918,[14] and opposition to it was violently suppressed.[15] To politically control the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Red Army soldiery, the Cheka operated Special Punitive Brigades which suppressed anti-communism, deserters, and enemies of the state.[12][16] Wartime pragmatism allowed recruiting ex-Tsarist officers and sergeants (non-commissioned officers, NCOs) to the Red Army.[17] Lev Glezarov's special commission screened and recruited; by mid-August 1920 the Red Army's former Tsarist troops comprised 48,000 officers, 10,300 administrators, and 214,000 NCOs.[18] At the Civil War's start, ex-Tsarists comprised 75 per cent of the Red Army officer corps,[19] who were employed as voenspetsy (military specialists, ru:Военный советник),[20] whose loyalty was occasionally ascertained with hostage families.[19] At war's end in 1922, ex-Tsarists constituted 83 per cent of the Red Army's divisional and corps commanders.[21]
Doctrinal development in the 1920s and 1930s
After four years of warfare, the Red Army's defeat of Wrangel in the south[29] allowed the foundation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1922. Historian John Erickson dates 1 February 1924, when Mikhail Frunze became head of the Red Army Staff, as the ascent of the General Staff, which dominated Soviet military planning and operations. By 1 October 1924 the Red Army's strength diminished to 530,000.[30] Divisions of the Soviet Union 1917-1945 details the formations of the Red Army in that time.
In the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s, Soviet military theoreticians led by Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky developed the Deep operations doctrine,[31] a direct consequence of their Polish-Soviet War and Russian Civil War experience. To achieve victory, deep operations comprehend simultaneous Corps- and Army-size unit maneuvers of simultaneous parallel attacks throughout the depth of the enemy's ground forces, inducing catastrophic defensive failure. The deep battle doctrine relies upon aviation and armor advances in the hope that maneuver warfare offers quick, efficient, and decisive victory. Marshal Tukhachevsky said that aerial warfare must be "employed against targets beyond the range of infantry, artillery, and other arms. For maximum tactical effect aircraft should be employed en masse, concentrated in time and space, against targets of the highest tactical importance."[citation needed]
Red Army Deep Operations were first formally expressed in the 1929 Field Regulations, and codified in the 1936 Provisional Field Regulations (PU-36). The Great Purge of 1937–1939 and Purge of 1940–1942 removed many leading officers from the Red Army, including Tukhachevsky and many of his followers, and the doctrine was abandoned. Thus at the Battle of Lake Khasan, in 1938, and the Battle of Khalkhin Gol, in 1939, major border clashes with the Imperial Japanese Army, the doctrine was not used. It was not until the Second World War that deep operations were to be reused.
In accordance with the Soviet-Nazi Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August 1939, the Red Army invaded Poland on 17 September 1939, after the Nazi invasion on 1 September 1939. On 30 November, the Red Army also attacked Finland, in the Winter War of 1939–40. By autumn 1940, after conquering its portion of Poland, the Third Reich shared an extensive border with USSR, with whom it remained neutrally bound by their non-aggression pact and trade agreements. Another consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was the Soviet occupation of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina, carried out by the Southern Front in June–July 1940. This conquest also added to the border the Soviet Union shared with Nazi-controlled areas. For Adolf Hitler, the circumstance was no dilemma, because[39] the Drang nach Osten ("Drive towards the East") policy secretly remained in force, culminating on 18 December 1940 with Directive No. 21, Operation Barbarossa, approved on 3 February 1941, and scheduled for mid-May 1941.
When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, in Operation Barbarossa, the Red Army's ground forces had 303 divisions and 22 separate brigades (4.8 million soldiers), including 166 divisions and 9 brigades (2.9 million soldiers) garrisoned in the western military districts. The Axis deployed on the Eastern Front 181 divisions and 18 brigades (5.5 million soldiers). Three Fronts, the Northwestern, Western, and Southwestern conducted the defense of the western borders of the USSR. In the first weeks of the Great Patriotic War the Wehrmacht defeated many Red Army units. The Red Army lost millions of men as prisoners and lost much of its pre-war matériel. Stalin increased mobilization, and by 1 August 1941, despite 46 divisions lost in combat, the Red Army's strength was 401 divisions.[40]
The unprepared Soviet forces suffered much damage in the field because of mediocre officers, partial mobilization, an incomplete reorganization and mainly because they were arranged to attack Central Europe, and not to defend Soviet territory.[41] The hasty pre-war forces expansion and the over-promotion of inexperienced officers (owing to the purging of experienced officers) favored the Wehrmacht in combat.[41] The Axis's numeric superiority rendered the combatants' divisional strength approximately equal.[42] A generation of Soviet commanders (notably Georgy Zhukov) learned from the defeats,[43] and Soviet victories in the Battle of Moscow, at Stalingrad, Kursk and later in Operation Bagration proved decisive.
In 1941, the Soviet government raised the bloodied Red Army's esprit de corps with propaganda ignoring class struggle and stressing the defense of Motherland and nation, employing historic examplars of Russian courage and bravery against foreign aggressors. The anti-Nazi Great Patriotic War, was conflated with the Patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon, and historical Russian military heroes, such as Alexander Nevski and Mikhail Kutuzov, appeared; repression of the Russian Orthodox Church (temporarily) ceased, and priests revived the tradition of blessing arms before battle.
To encourage the initiative of Red Army commanders, the CPSU temporarily abolished political commissars, reintroduced formal military ranks and decorations, and the Guards unit concept. Exceptionally heroic or high-performing units earned the Guards title (for example 1st Guards Special Rifle Corps, 6th Guards Tank Army),[44] an élite designation denoting superior training, matériel, and pay. Punishment also was used; slackers and malingerers avoiding combat with self-inflicted wounds[45] cowards, thieves, and deserters were disciplined with beatings, demotions, undesirable/dangerous duties, and summary execution by NKVD punitive detachments.
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