Commander in Chief
de jure :
|Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet|
|Commander in chief de facto :||General Secretary of the CPSU|
|Defense Minister:||Georgi Zhukov People's Commissar / Minister of Defense|
|Military leadership:||General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR|
|Active soldiers:||20,000,000 (1939-1945)|
|Conscription:||yes, for men|
|Eligibility for military service:||18 years of age|
|Founding:||January 15th jul. / January 28, 1918 greg.|
|Resolution:||1946 renamed the Soviet Army|
The Red Workers' and Peasants Army ( Russian Рабоче-крестьянская Красная армия (РККА) / Raboche-krestjanskaja Krasnaya armija (RKKA), short Russian Красная армия (КА) : Red Army (RA) ) was the name given to the army and the air force of Soviet Russia or from 1922 the Soviet Union . It came from the immediate time after the October Revolution , when the Bolsheviks constituted an army that faced the military associations of their opponents (especially the groups grouped under the umbrella term White Army ) in the Russian Civil War . Since February 1946, the Red Army, which together with the Soviet Navy embodied the main component of the armed forces of the Soviet Union, had the official name of the Soviet Army ( Russian Советская армия (СА) / Sowjetskaja armija ).
Although the Red Army - or from 1946 the Soviet Army - exclusively comprised the armed forces of land, air , air defense (from 1948) and strategic missile forces (from 1960), both terms were often perceived as referring to the entire Soviet armed forces.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia took over most of the remaining personnel and material equipment for the Soviet Army and the remaining Soviet armed forces to form the Russian armed forces .
Foundation and development
The Red Army was founded by a decision of the Council of People's Commissars on January 15 . / January 28, 1918 greg. founded on the basis of the Red Guard . The implementation took place with the significant participation of the People's Commissar for Military Affairs, Leon Trotsky , who resorted to the help of military specialists from the former tsarist army .
When it was founded, the Red Army was a volunteer army without ranks, without rank insignia or special emphasis on individual functionaries. This was to emphasize the ideal of equality for all people. Commanders were democratically elected, and the officers' orders could be discussed and rejected by the subordinates. This was due firstly to the organization of the Red Guards, of which the Red Army was partly composed, and secondly to the Bolshevik peace propaganda before the October Revolution , which called on the soldiers of the Tsarist Army to resist their officers.
In order to increase military efficiency, this system was abolished shortly after the establishment of the Red Army by War Commissioner Trotsky with the support of the Politburo . The commanders were now again appointed from above and no longer elected. There was then the designation of posts from which ranks developed (see ranks of the Soviet armed forces 1918-1935 ). On May 29, 1918, in the middle of the civil war, general conscription was introduced for men between 18 and 40 years of age in order to take up the fight against the White Guards / armies of the anti-Bolshevik movements.
Due to the lack of officers, especially in higher command functions, generals and officers of the tsarist army were initially recruited on a voluntary basis . Some generals, such as Alexei Brusilov , Michail Bontsch-Brujewitsch , Dmitri Parski , Wladislaw Klembowski , Alexei Gutor and the first commander-in-chief of the newly founded Red Army, General Jukums Vācietis , had commanded fronts and armies under the tsar or had served in high staff positions. The General Staff was initially composed almost exclusively of such officers, later newly trained officers such as the future Commander-in-Chief Sergei Kamenev were added.
A political commissar ( Politruk , политический руководитель ) was assigned to every unit of the Red Army up to the battalion level . He had the authority to revoke orders from commanders that violated the principles of the CPSU . Although this reduced military efficiency, it ensured the army's political reliability vis-à-vis the party.
With the introduction of conscription , more generals and officers were called up, including those who had already briefly served in the White Army . At the end of the civil war, around 75,000 former Tsarist generals and officers were serving in the Red Army, of which around 15,000 were from the White Army. Boris Shaposhnikov , Alexander Wassilewski and Leonid Goworow are among the tsarist officers who served in the Second World War and later in the Soviet Army .
A military reform took place under the direction of the People's Commissar for the Army and the Fleet, Michail W. Frunze - who shortly before his death became the "Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council " and still Commander in Chief of the Army. The Red Army was organized as a mixed cadre / militia army . In the Caucasus and Central Asia, territorial units were also formed from local population groups. In 1925 the first compulsory military service law valid for the entire Soviet Union was passed. The call-up took place at the age of 21 with service periods of two to four years in the standing army or less than one year in the militia units. Only "workers and peasants" were called in to serve in arms; People of other social origins such as large farmers , Cossacks or citizens served in rear units and work troops or had to pay a military tax.
After the conclusion of the Treaty of Rapallo there was a German-Soviet cooperation in the military field between the world wars . This mainly affected the air force, tank troops and chemical weapons , the possession of which the German Reich was forbidden. For this purpose, the Secret Aviation School and testing facility of the Reichswehr was founded in Lipetsk in 1925 .
Soviet youth received paramilitary training in the mass organization OSSOAWIACHIM , founded in 1927 .
Reform and armament of the Red Army in the 1930s
The professional officers, originally abolished as a legacy of tsarism , were reintroduced in 1935. The general staff was mostly made up of officers with experience from the civil war.
The peacetime strength of the Soviet armed forces was around 700,000 men at the end of the 1920s and had grown to more than a million by 1933.
During this time, among others, WK Triandafillow , MN Tukhachevsky , JP Uborewitsch , IE Jakir , AI Sedjakin, GS Isserson, JI Alksnis developed modern military theories , taking the concept of deep operation for future wars of general motorization and mechanization of the army, with an emphasis on the Panzer weapon, which played a decisive role. The development of the armaments industry with a focus on tank production was therefore given a central position in the first and second five-year plans of Soviet industry. Between 10,000 and 15,000 mainly light and medium tanks were built by 1936 . By the time the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, this number had increased to 24,000. The Red Army thus possessed the strongest armored weapon in the world in terms of number and weight. For comparison: In 1939 Germany had around 2500 mainly light and medium tanks, France around 4000 tanks of all weight classes.
The armored force was initially divided into mechanized corps ( tanks with motorized infantry and artillery ) and armored troops for infantry support. The former should be used for deep penetrations into the enemy lines and for the subsequent encircling and rolling up of the enemy. The mechanized corps thus resembled the German armored divisions in terms of function and equipment .
The Soviet Union was also a leader in building airborne troops . In 1934/1935 the first Soviet radar systems RUS-1 and RUS-2 were tested, which were used for the first time in the winter war against Finland.
Taking into account the Soviet experience in the Spanish Civil War , the Soviet army was restructured again: The Soviet military made the experience that tank attacks without direct infantry and artillery support could easily be repulsed due to the relatively good equipping of the Franquists with anti-tank cannons. Based on similar considerations, the Germans came to the conclusion early on that the supporting infantry and artillery should be mechanized and deployed in the immediate vicinity of the attack, while the Soviet Union disbanded the mechanized corps and integrated its tanks and motorized troops into the existing infantry divisions . This measure cost the Red Army a large part of its previously existing mobility, as the advancing tanks were now forced to adapt their speed to the slow infantry.
Another lesson from the Spanish Civil War, however, should be extremely beneficial for the Red Army. Since the existing T-26 , BT-5 and BT-7 tanks were found to be too lightly armored for assault attacks, the development of heavier, better armored models was initiated. The result of this development were the T-34 , KW-1 and KW-2 main battle tanks , which were to prove extremely useful in the course of the later war and far superior to the German models of the early phase. The mass production of these models was initiated as quickly as possible and from 1939 the first of these tanks were delivered to the troops. However, the number of tanks delivered remained small compared to the existing light tanks until 1941.
The 1936 Constitution of the USSR, known as the Stalin Constitution , declared conscription to be the “holy duty” of all Soviet citizens in the light of continued massive armament. As a result, the Compulsory Military Service Act of 1939 was passed. It stipulated the transition to a fully organized army according to the cadre principle and lowered the age of drafting to 19 years.
In the course of the thirties, the propaganda was no longer primarily aimed at the political dimension of the class struggle , but turned more to the patriotic feelings of the population with "Soviet patriotism" and referred positively to pre-revolutionary Russian history. The war against the German attackers was known as the “Great Patriotic War”, a reference to the “ Patriotic War ” against Napoléon Bonaparte in 1812. Traditional Russian heroes such as Alexander Nevsky and Mikhail Kutuzov became an important part of the propaganda. During the war, repression against the Russian Orthodox Church ceased ; the traditional practice of churchly blessing weapons before the battle was reintroduced. The military single line ( Russian "единоначалие" ) was introduced in 1943. The political commissars became deputies for political work of the respective commanders. Badges of rank, orders and medals based on the pre-revolutionary pattern were reintroduced. During that time, many “revolutionary achievements” within the armed forces were abolished. A strict greeting and strict formal discipline were only now enforced; the gap between leaders and crews widened. A feature of this was the issue of representative uniforms for senior officers and the reintroduction of general ranks. The previously common sober rank designations such as "Brigade Commander" (Комбриг Kombrig ) or "Divisionskommandeur" (Комдив Komdiw) disappeared.
After the experiences of the Soviet-Finnish winter war and the Japanese-Soviet border conflict , the Soviet tank weapon was restructured again. The previously disbanded mechanized corps were to be reorganized and enlarged. At the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War, however, this reorganization process was still in its early stages.
On July 27, 1940, it was decided to build a fleet of 15 battleships of the Soviet-Soyuz class .
During the great Stalinist purges , especially in the years 1937 to 1939, many senior officers were deported or murdered by the NKVD in Gulags . Three out of five marshals of the Soviet Union , 13 of 15 army commanders , 57 of 85 corps commanders , almost all commanders of divisions and brigades , about half of all regimental commanders and 75 of 80 members of the Supreme Military Council were arrested . This widespread destruction of the officer corps was to take bitter revenge , first in the Winter War against Finland and then in the Great Patriotic War .
Even after the purges, the Red Army was hardly independent, with which the CPSU primarily wanted to avert any political competition. However, this also paralyzed their military ability to act. For example, officer training took place in party-run academies. In addition, promotion was possible if the officer in question was a party member, and any military order also required the countersignature of a political officer . Furthermore, members of the Central Committee of Political Enlightenment (Glawpolitproswet) formed the backbone of the military hierarchy. The rocket troops routinely had no power of disposal over warheads, just as the airborne troops had no means of transport or the armored troops over ammunition.
From early 1937 to early May 1940, 34,301 officers were removed from office. About 70% of them had to go to the gulag. The shootings mainly affected the top management level, combined with a weakening of the Red Army's leadership tasks.
For Stalin and the Soviet leadership, the artillery was the "god of war". It was often called "the main weapon of attack". Lieutenant General IS Protschko wrote in 1946:
"The artillery was and remains the most powerful weapon of the Red Army."
Ivan S. Konew said: "A well-prepared artillery attack embodied the strength of the army for us". Thus the Red Army had the greatest number of artillery weapons of all warring parties. The relative proportion was also highest in the Red Army. The proportion of artillery units in the army increased from 15% at the beginning of the war to 50% at the end of the war. Even at the beginning of the war, the Soviet artillery could be described as good and modern in terms of gun material, organization, training, etc. During the construction of a pioneer bridge over the Memel in June 1941, Alexander Stahlberg observed how it was precisely destroyed by Soviet artillery and assessed this as an "artillery masterpiece that we would not have expected our opponent to do". Chief of Staff Franz Halder noted on August 5, 1941: "Troops are crying out to fight artillery". The Soviet artillery was completely motorized from the start. The two main types of artillery used by the Soviet divisional artillery were the 7.6 cm cannon and the 12.2 cm field howitzer. This remained below the 10.5 cm and 15 cm of the corresponding German guns, and thus exchanged firepower for greater mobility. General Gotthard Heinrici noted on September 12, 1941: “Unfortunately, the Russian artillery is very good. It hits and is undesirably mobile. ”Very strong use was also made of grenade launchers, which were combined into whole grenade launcher battalions, regiments and brigades, even in grenade launcher divisions. In 1941 a “Commissariat for Grenade Launcher Production” was even created.
The density of the artillery rose from 110 guns per kilometer at the start of the offensive at Stalingrad , 290 guns per kilometer in the Battle of Kursk to 610 guns per kilometer in the final battle for Berlin. As far as General Iwan S. Konew was aware , the highest concentration of 650 pipes per front kilometer was reached when the 3rd Guards Armored Army pushed through the Teltow Canal on April 24, 1945. Special artillery breakthrough divisions and artillery breakthrough corps were set up, which were placed under the command of the commander-in-chief of a front . This was only allowed to use them closed without splintering them. If they had done their job in one place, they were moved to other sections. They developed into a kind of "sledge hammer". While the German military viewed war as an art, the Red Army viewed war as a science. This is clearly expressed in the formulas for the necessary density of weapons, locks, etc. The Soviet artillery has standards for the amount of shells for the destruction of enemy groups, depending on the degree of destruction, the size of the target, etc. Great importance was attached to these standards and they had to be strictly adhered to.
According to Soviet sources, the Red Army fired 775 million shells of all calibres during World War II. Of these 42,105,000 in the battle of Kursk , of which 15,500,000 were deposited before the battle and 26,619,000 came as supplies. Soviet sources estimate that the Soviet artillery caused 70% of all personnel and material losses of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front.
|5th Panzer Army||1067||10||107|
|11th Guard Army||2516||14th||180|
|8th Guard Corps||734||3||245|
|11th Guards Division||381||1.5||254|
|33rd Guard Corps||1610||6th||268|
|37th Guards Division||470||2||235|
|6th Guard Corps||900||2.5||360|
|10th Guards Division||440||2||220|
|8th Guard Army||2438||7th||348|
|29th Guard Corps||1051||2.5||420|
|27th Guard Corps||517||1.8||287|
|5th Shock Army||2430||7th||347|
Characteristic of Soviet attacks was a half-hour to several hours of sudden drumfire with the greatest amount of ammunition according to a thoroughly worked out fire plan. In addition, several weeks of time were accepted for the assembly of the artillery masses. This was followed by the shooting of a roller of fire , which the attacking troops followed closely, sometimes accepting the risk of hitting their own people. Penal companies sometimes even used their own artillery fire. The German side reacted to the Soviet barrage by moving the troops to rear positions and then moving them to the front again after the artillery preparation was complete. The Soviet side responded with temporary cessation of fire or faked the attack of its own infantry with small shock troops, puppets and smoke units. Often 150 m wide fire alleys were left out, in which troops penetrated the enemy positions while the artillery was being prepared. The losses inflicted by artillery fire on their own troops were considered to be less than the losses that would occur without this tactic. 10 to 15 minutes before the attack by the tanks and infantry, all firepower was once again combined on the two front trenches, often closed off by a powerful volley of rocket guns. In later years of the war, when enough ammunition was available, the so-called "double fire roller" was shot. Grenade launchers were constantly firing at the main line of fire, while the infantry and tanks advanced behind intermediate lines of fire. It always ensured a safe breakthrough of the position. The Soviet general Vasily I. Chuikov reported that he knew of no case in which a position in a double fire cylinder could not have been broken.
On January 10, 1942, an order from Stalin introduced the concept of the artillery offensive. After this, not only was an artillery preparation carried out, but the attacking troops were offered permanent artillery support. A distinction was made between 3 phases:
- Artillery preparation
- Artillery support of the attack
- Artillery support in the depths of enemy defenses
In contrast to the Germans and the Western Allies, the Soviet leadership focused on a high number of tubes, but less ammunition was fired per tube. This had a number of advantages. You could shoot more ammunition in less time, which increased the force of fire. In addition, the artillery was used very often, at least a third, in "direct shot". This simplified the shooting procedure and improved the ammunition economy. The costly process of maneuvering with the trajectory was replaced by maneuvering with the guns. According to the Soviet representation, a Soviet bullet had a higher useful effect than a German one. Wasted ammunition like the American troops did not occur in the Red Army. The disadvantage was that the high number of tubes was often not used due to a lack of ammunition.
Artillery reconnaissance and control was poorly developed. Widespread use was made of surface shooting, in which large amounts of ammunition were used to fire at rooms in which the enemy was only suspected.
Tank attacks without artillery support were prohibited. In the summer of 1942 the first Soviet tank armies were set up. According to the German tank general Friedrich Wilhelm von Mellenthin , the first missions were complete failures. He writes:
“They curled around in dense masses in our HKL, they moved forward hesitantly without a plan. They literally stood in their own way, staggered in front of our anti-tank guns or, after breaking through the foremost bases, did nothing to take advantage of their success. They were immobile and sluggish. "
1943 was another year of training for the Soviet armored weapon. In 1944, on the other hand, it developed into a “highly mobile, sharp-edged tool in the hands of daring and capable Russian leaders”. This extraordinary development, Mellenthin judges, must have required organization and planning of the highest order. Russian troops had been massed, immobile and slow troops since the time of the tsars, and the rise of the Soviet tank weapon had fundamentally changed this. In the event of a Third World War , the Soviet air fleets and armored armies would have thrown themselves at the enemy "with a speed and determination unparalleled" that far exceeded any memories of the Blitzkrieg .
Soviet tank production was large enough to equip the infantry with tanks as well. At the beginning of 1945, of the approximately 30,000 available tanks, around 10,000 were distributed among the 70 tank corps and independent tank units and 20,000 among the 400 rifle divisions and tank brigades.
According to Middeldorf, the use of tanks as mobile artillery was "particularly unpleasant". With this tactic, Soviet tanks fought one weapon nest after another from a safe distance, with direct fire, skillfully exploiting the terrain cover, quickly emerging and disappearing.
The problem of providing infantry support to the tanks was not solved by the Red Army with armored personnel carriers, but with the "tank landing", the mounting of mostly around 10 infantry men on tanks. For this purpose, handles were attached to the tanks.
The field service order of 1936 stipulated that the "connection between infantry and artillery" must "under no circumstances break for a single moment". The infantry avoided open large-scale combat and made “combat under special conditions”, ie “at night, fog, in the forest, in steppe canyons, in the mud, in the swamp, in deep snow and in villages” a normal infantry fight. The main method of the Soviet infantry attack was raiding at close range. To do this, one usually stalked silently into the starting positions at night, often accompanied by a long freeze. The infantry often dug up to the German positions.
Human Wave Tactics
In the case of freely visible terrain, however, a sudden attack took place in 3 to 5 or even more waves, a tactic that was already used with the Carpathian tactics in the First World War . During the attack, man next to man, shooting from all hand weapons, rushed to shout "Urräh" to get into close combat, in which the Red Army felt superior. Close combat and bayonet fencing were a separate training system in her. If a wave was shot together, the next wave stormed over it regardless of loss. If an attack failed, a second, third, fourth, and fifth attack would certainly follow with the same ruthlessness and determination. According to Mellenthin, the attacks took place with a momentum "that could not possibly be stopped"; "In no time the area in front of our bases was teeming with Russians", "Large gaps torn by fire were closed almost automatically". In order to ward off such attacks, in addition to sufficient weapons and ammunition, well-trained, experienced soldiers led by determined commanders were required, who above all overcame fear and kept their nerves. According to Mellenthin, these fighting methods represented "the most inhuman and at the same time the most expensive way of fighting".
A directive to all commanders and commissioners of the divisions and brigades of the Western Front dated March 30, 1942, signed by General Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov , stated that in numerous letters from soldiers, commanders and political workers and in discussions complaints about the criminal behavior of commanders of all Degrees came in that senselessly sacrificed human lives in badly prepared attacks against intact defensive positions, intact machine guns and unsuppressed nests of fire. The directive stipulated that every attack with unusually high losses should be investigated within 24 hours and the result reported to headquarters, each commander should submit a careful plan to his superior commander before each attack to suppress enemy defensive fire, and that in the event of unusual losses one should A personal statement would have to be made as to who would be responsible and what would be done in the future to counteract such losses.
Almost every Soviet attack was initiated by infiltration of small units and lone fighters through the enemy positions. According to Mellenthin, the Russians were “unsurpassed” in this type of battle. Suddenly the Russians were sitting in their own position and “nobody had seen them coming, nor did anyone know where they had come from.” The rear services were constantly attacked by units infiltrated through the HKL . They attacked camps, hospitals, battery stations, airfields and columns on taxiways and forced the rear services to constantly “hedgehog”, “drive in escort” and permanent security service.
Even at the outbreak of boilers the Sickertaktik was applied. According to the German General Erhard Raus , this “evasive tactic in which the Russians were masters” meant that there were mostly “just a few prisoners” in the cauldrons. Out wrote:
“Scattered and overtaken by the rapid advance to the east, the Russian infantry seeped into the forests and grain fields and disappeared as if they had been devoured by the ground. During the night, however, it seeped through the wide-meshed German fuses and on the following day stood closed and firmly in the hands of its leaders in the next section of the defense. "
The Soviet doctrine of air warfare particularly emphasized the principle of combined arms combat . Two thirds of the Soviet air strength was intended, either directly or indirectly, for fighting the enemy land forces. Therefore, the Soviet Union was the only country to have a heavily armored attack aircraft , the Ilyushin Il-2 , which is still one of the most heavily built aircraft in the world. The air forces were seen as “artillery with a wide range”. The attack aircraft were usually deployed in groups of 6 to 8 machines, protected by escort fighters , with 12 escort fighters on 4 to 6 machines and 20 fighters on 16 to 24 machines. Attack pilots flew a quarter of all combat missions during the war, and between 50 and 60 percent of all combat missions were hunting rifles. For the tactical reconnaissance mainly hunters were used. According to Soviet sources, the requested air force support was on hand within 30 minutes if the cooperation and the communication link were well organized. British military mission chief Noel MacFarlane observed that air force support was usually on hand in less than an hour.
General Kurt Student , who led the establishment of the German parachute force , wrote the following about the Soviet parachute force: The idea of airborne units was born in the Soviet Union and the Soviet Union was the first country in the world to set up a parachute force. Parachuting became a popular sport through the mass organization OSSOAWIACHIM . The society had 1,000 large local groups that maintained diving platforms, tethered balloons and training aircraft across the country. Women also took part in large numbers. It is noteworthy that this surprise weapon was demonstrated to foreign military observers during a maneuver in the Kiev military district in 1935 .
At the beginning of the war, the Soviet parachute force, with 12 operational airborne brigades, was by far the head of the major military powers. The world's first airborne operation took place on November 30, 1939 near Petsamo during the Winter War . This and other landings during this war failed, however, because the ground forces did not reach the landing points quickly enough. In the German-Soviet War , puzzlingly, not a single major airborne operation was carried out despite its technical usefulness. There were only 3 deployments in brigade strength. The first was undertaken in February 1942 near Juchnow to reinforce Pawel Below's cavalry corps, which had been fighting 5 months behind enemy lines . In March 1942 a brigade jumped into the pocket near Demjansk at night and was supposed to dig the headquarters of General Walter von Brockdorff-Ahlefeldt . Although the brigade appeared in the cauldron as a complete surprise, the coup failed . Finally, in autumn 1943, an airborne brigade was used to form a bridgehead over the Dnepr , which was only partially successful.
The units of the Red Army had a much smaller administrative and supply apparatus than other armies. This led to the fact that Russian units with a lower total strength of the divisions, corps etc. had a similar head strength as the fighting troops. According to George C. Marshall , out of 100,000 men in the American army, only 23,000 are in combat, while there are 80,000 men in the Soviet army.
The Red Army supplied itself from the country and had far less baggage than other armies. The Red Army soldier didn't have much more than what he was wearing on his body. In addition, there were no supply stores. The supply came directly from the railroad and from the supply columns or was ensured by fully packed combat vehicles.
The subject of chemical weapons in the Red Army is still almost completely secret. The only sources are therefore the knowledge that German agencies were able to obtain through Operation Barbarossa , as well as German intelligence from the prewar period. Officially, the Soviet Union declared that it would never be the first to use chemical weapons. Up to the end of the Second World War , the chemical weapons arsenal of the Red Army consisted primarily of mustard gas and also of hydrogen cyanide and lewisite . All other warfare agents were far behind these three warfare agents. In 1943 the German military intelligence service identified 23 Soviet chemical weapons factories and estimated their capacity at 250,000 tons. This could mean that the Soviet Union could have had the largest chemical weapons production capacity by the late 1930s. It should be used primarily in defense operations, as chemical weapons were considered unsuitable for offensive operations due to their restrictive nature. Primarily, the use from the air should be done by bombs or sprayers, with sprayers having priority, and secondarily by artillery . To the astonishment of the Germans, Soviet researchers had developed a very effective spray device for hydrogen cyanide; it enabled surprise attacks that left no time to put on the gas masks. These devices would have given the Soviet side a not inconsiderable head start in the event of a chemical war. The Soviet Union also attached great importance to NBC protection .
The ASh-2 cluster bomb with incendiary liquid could also be filled with chemical warfare agents.
The Red Army had its first deployment in foreign territory in 1929 in the Soviet-Chinese border war . Later on, Stalin made no secret of the fact that the conflict was welcome because it enabled the Red Army's efficiency to be tested. However, the dispute did not provide any realistic information about their own combat strength, as the weak Chinese resistance was of no consequence. This conflict was followed by the Soviet invasion of Sinkiang in 1934 and the Japanese-Soviet border war in 1939 .
On September 17th, after the organized Polish defense was broken up by the Wehrmacht , the Polish state collapsed and the Polish government fled to Romania, the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland began in accordance with the secret additional protocol of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact . The Red Army occupied parts of eastern Poland, primarily western Ukraine, western Belarus and the area around Wilno, without encountering organized military resistance. This area up to the Curzon Line was conquered by Poland in the Polish-Soviet War in 1920 . The Red Army suffered 3,000 victims. This action did not result in the declaration of a state of war with the Soviet Union by the Polish government in exile until December 18, 1939 .
The Red Army saw the winter war as one of its strengths. The "Manual for Troop Deployment in Winter" of 1939 began with the statement that the Red Army was "in all respects superior to other states in terms of practice and ability to operate in the harsh conditions of winter". Starting with an air raid by 9 bombers on Helsinki , Stalin ordered the invasion of Finland in 1939 . Finland was classified as a threat because of its proximity to Leningrad . The Mainila incident was staged as the reason for the war . The numerically far outnumbered Finnish army was initially able to defend itself successfully in the so-called Winter War of 1939. The overwhelming superiority of the Soviet troops could not really work, as the forest terrain and the deep snow barely permitted operations away from the few roads and only one regiment in front could fight, while the others lined up behind it along the road, where they were exposed to sudden attacks . Only after a reorganization was the Red Army able to break through the Mannerheim Line on March 11, 1940 , which would have allowed an advance to Helsinki. The Finnish government under Risto Ryti then asked for peace negotiations. The auxiliary corps for Finland set up by Great Britain and France was no longer used and was deployed in the Narvik area after the German invasion of Norway . In the Continuation War there was another confrontation from 1941 to 1944, in the subsequent Lapland War both armies were formally allies.
In the run-up to the “Great Patriotic War”, the Soviet Union had a large and, in some cases, very modern army. It had by far the largest tank army in the world, a large number of guns and aircraft, and a very large and well-equipped infantry. For the German side it was quite a surprise that entire Soviet units were armed with the Simonov AWS-36 and Tokarev SWT-40 self-loading rifles . Large parts of the artillery, as well as a small part of the infantry, were motorized. The strength of the Red Army was roughly:
- 24,000 armored vehicles
- 17,000 aircraft
- 34,000 guns
- 5,700,000 soldiers
This force was divided (as of June 22, 1941) into 198 rifle divisions , 13 cavalry divisions , 61 armored and 31 motorized divisions, as well as five rifle brigades and one rifle regiment . These were supported by ten anti-tank brigades, one armored car brigade, 169 artillery regiments, 29 motorcycle regiments, two anti-aircraft regiments, 45 anti-aircraft divisions, twelve independent artillery divisions and one independent armored division. Four fronts , 27 army high commands, as well as 62 rifle, four cavalry and 29 mechanized corps were formed to lead these units . 57 fortified areas were created to defend the borders.
On June 22, 1941, when the invasion of the Soviet Union began , the Red Army comprised approximately 5.6 million soldiers, 2.9 million of whom were stationed in the western military districts . According to the mobilization plan, the total strength of the army should be 7.85 million people.
The attack carried out by well-equipped and experienced Germans, approx. Three million men, and their allies, approx. 600,000 men, hit the Soviet leadership and the poorly staggered Red Army completely by surprise. Even after hours and even days, Stalin believed only in a targeted provocation to involve the unprepared Soviet Union in a war with the highly armed Nazi state .
Adolf Hitler and the leading Nazis completely underestimated the readiness to fight and the armaments potential of the Red Army. They believed they could smash the Soviet Union within eight to ten weeks. The majority of the generals and officers, with the exception of individual warning voices, shared this assessment. But the American Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and his chief of staff also estimated that the Soviet Union would be defeated after one to three months. General Dill, the chief of the British General Staff, said the Soviet Army would be rounded up "like cattle". Alfred Rosenberg noted in his diary on September 1, 1941:
"The tough resistance d. Soviet Russians is talk of all of us. When the guide told me on 2.4. after d. Ordering asked what the Russians would do in a collision, I said: probably something completely different from what a European would think of as logical. We agreed that if there was resistance there would be panic. Now he's done something else. The Soviet Russians fight doggedly, tenaciously, insidiously and are unimaginably cruel towards prisoners and civil non-Bolsheviks. "
A memorandum from General Rudolf Schmidt to Hitler of September 17, 1941 stated that “the Bolshevik resistance far exceeds most expectations in terms of harshness and doggedness” and attributed this to the large number of convinced communists. For the tank general Hasso von Manteuffel , the "great Soviet achievements" can only be traced back to the fact that the Red Army was "very hard and determined to crush the 'Hitlerists' all together". General Heinz Guderian wrote after the war:
“Frederick the Great said of his Russian opponents that you had to shoot them to death twice and then knock them until they finally fell over. He had correctly recognized the nature of these soldiers. We had the same experience in 1941. "
After the start of the war, the State Defense Committee of the USSR was established on June 30, 1941 to defend the USSR against the German attack.
In the first few weeks of the war, the army lost almost every battle despite its sometimes desperate resistance. In the tank battle near Dubno-Lutsk-Rivne , the concept of offensive defense failed to carry the fight onto the territory of the enemy.
The German strategy was to encircle the Soviet troops with armored wedges . In the great cauldrons near Minsk , Smolensk , Kiev and Bryansk , prisoner losses soon ran into the millions. Large parts of the equipment were destroyed or captured by the invaders. On the other hand, the Soviet combat regulations saw containment as a natural form of combat, and the Red Army's poor logistics increased its insensitivity to encirclement. The vastness of the area and the decreasing number of crews prevented the cauldron from being locked tightly so that large parts of the encircled troops could break out. On November 6, 1944, Hitler stated at the Fuehrer's headquarters that “if such an enclosure was ever made”, “nothing was in it”, that was also the case in 1941 “except for a few very big blows”. The Red Army benefited from the fight against the German tank tongs by the inadequacy of the Soviet roads and paths. In the opinion of the Air Force High Command , this “passive means of defense in the Greater Russia area was deliberately retained”.
The energetic resistance of the Soviet units from the beginning led to considerable losses in the Wehrmacht as early as 1941. In December 1941, almost all of the Wehrmacht's tanks in service since June 1941, as well as the armored vehicles of the Red Army, were destroyed or otherwise failed. On the first day of the attack, the Soviet aviators used the ramming thrust against the superior German air force. When it became apparent at the end of July that the Blitzkrieg strategy against the Soviet Union had failed, the so-called August Crisis occurred in which Hitler and the OKH argued about the strategy to be followed.
To, according to Goebbels, "shake the hostile resistance", the German air force began air raids on Moscow on July 21 , but encountered well-prepared defenses and, with their bombs and incendiary bombs, were able to use 70% of the residential buildings made of wood City, do no major damage.
In October more and more modern T-34 tanks appeared on the advance to Moscow , which for the first time could clearly show their superiority in the tank battle near Mtsensk . While the Red Army was poorly trained at the beginning of the war in the summer of 1941, which was mainly due to the "purges" of Stalin, and equipped with outdated technology, this changed over the course of the next two years. By the autumn of 1943 it was transformed into a qualitatively and quantitatively clearly superior attack army, which was able to take the initiative on the battlefield, carry out complex offensive operations and successfully complete them. The surprise attack hit all units of the Red Army on the defensive, so that especially in the first months of the war devastating losses of people and material were recorded.
According to the front and field hospital reports, the Soviet armed forces (army, navy and air forces) lost 3,137,673 soldiers and officers as fallen, deceased, missing or prisoners and 1,336,147 as wounded and in the period from June 22 to December 31, 1941 Sick people (without taking into account the losses of the Landwehr and partisans), as well as 20,500 tanks and 21,200 aircraft of all types. The enemy, who advanced quickly and was well equipped with radio equipment, was able to communicate widely and quickly gained control of the air . Armored units broke through poorly defended positions and advanced quickly into the depths, so that the Red Army could not establish a continuous front. Many of the Red Army's outdated aircraft were destroyed on the ground in the first few days or shot down in brief aerial battles.
Defending and retreating units saw themselves exposed from the beginning to permanent air attacks, especially by the dive fighters (Stukas) equipped with psychologically effective sirens, but which were "soon accepted quite unimpressed".
Misdirected resistance and uncompromising stop orders led to catastrophic encirclements, which regularly led to the destruction of entire divisions and armies, but at least decisively delayed the advance of the Wehrmacht. The front only stabilized shortly before Moscow. NKVD blocking groups were set up behind the fighting troops and drastic measures, including the public shooting of alleged cowards, did the rest. Even before the war, captured Red Army soldiers were considered traitors. A pamphlet from 1940 had the headline “The Red Army Fighter Will Not Be Prisoner”. It happened before the prisoner-of-war camps were bombed and leaflets were dropped with texts such as "This is how it will go with all who betray the Lenin and Stalin cause."
In a few months, the Soviet Union was transformed into a huge army and labor camp with only one goal: to provide the Red Army with everything necessary for victory in the shortest possible time. Food, fuel, tanks, planes, guns, soldiers. Hitler and others who had assumed after the successes of Finland in 1939 against the Soviet Union and after the partial German victory against Russia in the First World War that the Soviet Union was a colossus on feet of clay, had not expected this tremendous willingness to make sacrifices . In the Yelnya offensive from August 30 to September 10, the German troops were repulsed for the first time and Soviet territory was liberated.
The increasing resistance at the front and in the hinterland, combined with the autumn mud and the cold winter of 1941, brought the attacking Wehrmacht to a halt shortly before Moscow . The German journalist Richard Sorge , who worked for the Soviet NKVD, informed Stalin from Tokyo that Japan, allied with Germany, was not planning an attack on the Soviet Union. As a result, Stalin was able to move the units stationed in the east to defend against Japan to Moscow. This initiated the first successful counterattack on December 5, 1941, which threw the Wehrmacht back up to 250 km on a front around 1000 km wide in the Battle of Moscow . At this point in time, the Red Army could not take the initiative in the war, but the German Wehrmacht had to limit itself to attacking in a strategic direction in 1942 as a result of the winter offensive, and did so in a southward direction.
The Red Army was now increasingly equipped with modern combat technology. While Stalin personally assigned the few tanks, planes and artillery produced to the fronts and armies in the early days, the armaments factories evacuated from the occupied parts of the country and newly or rebuilt in the hinterland ensured a steadily increasing number of modern equipment.
Mention may be made especially of the known average Tank here T-34 , the attack aircraft Il-2 and the fighter planes Jak-9 , Jak-3 and La-5 / 7 . Almost all military equipment was tailored for mass production in huge numbers with unskilled workers - including many women in the hinterland. On the battlefield, their increasing numbers and increasing mastery made for gradual change. Decisive Order No. 227 of the People's Commissar for Defense of July 28, 1942 makes clear the seriousness of the situation in which the Soviet Union was concerned with bare survival. The order stipulated the demand “Do not step back” and laid down decisive provisions for maintaining and enforcing discipline. Among other things, it contained the instruction to set up punitive battalions and special units, which are to be deployed “immediately behind unreliable divisions and whose task it is to shoot every fugitive and every coward and thus the honest fighter in the case of a disorderly retreat of the divisions in front of them To help defend his homeland. "
A first attempt to win the military initiative by means of a large-scale offensive failed in the Battle of Kharkov (May 12-28, 1942) due to weak forces, insufficiently equipped for large-scale offensive measures, insufficient reserves and the arrogance of the executives. The aim of the operation under Marshal Timoshenko , to enclose the German 6th Army under Paulus with strong armored forces , failed. The Soviet troops, which had advanced far - six armies with over 30 divisions and brigades - were now for their part enclosed in a pincer movement by German units and completely wiped out in a cauldron battle. Desperate attempts to break out failed, and several hundred thousand Soviet soldiers were killed or taken prisoner. The Red Army, on the other hand, was able to repel the little-known German tank offensive company Wirbelwind of August 11th, overshadowed by the Battle of Stalingrad , with high German losses. At this point in time, the strength advantage on the entire front was still on the side of the Wehrmacht. However, after the latter advanced with the Edelweiß company against the southern oil deposits near Baku and the Caucasus and at the same time with the Braunschweig company against Stalingrad , the Soviet armed forces won - also due to the relocation of part of the German air force to the Mediterranean area and the rising US Material support - further on the ground.
After the encirclement and annihilation of the German 6th Army in the Battle of Stalingrad and the subsequent Kharkov operation , the Red Army gained more and more initiative in 1943 and began extensive attack operations. Heroic acts were extensively celebrated by Soviet propaganda at the front and in the rear. Excellent soldiers and officers received material benefits, higher food allowances, or even leave from the front. Restructuring taking place in parallel and the increasing qualification of commanders and crews, who learned from mistakes and defeats, promoted awareness of one's own strength and motivation. Newly created tank and air armies, as well as increasing mobility through motorized units, allowed forces to be concentrated at crucial points on the battlefield, so that the Wehrmacht was increasingly put on the defensive.
The attack operation at Kursk ( Operation Citadel ) in July 1943, stopped by the Red Army , was the last military initiative of the Wehrmacht in Russia. The failure of the Silberstreif campaign , in which Red Army soldiers were called to overflow with a billion leaflets, proved "the high morale of the Soviet units" that were deployed at Kursk.
Due to Hitler's strategy ("hold at all costs") forced to permanent defense in trench warfare, the Wehrmacht was able to inflict heavy losses on the attacking units of the Red Army. However, a victory against the increasingly powerful opponent was no longer possible without the later opening of the Western Front . As early as December 1941, according to the minutes of the meeting, Hitler had stated that the war against the Soviet Union could no longer be won. From September 1943, Hitler relocated about a third of the divisions stationed in the Soviet Union to France in order to prepare for an expected attack by the Western Allies, which resulted in a further thinning of the German troops.
In 1944 the Red Army carried out 10 major offensives, which were called “ The Ten Stalinist Strikes ” in the propaganda . Concentrated formations with high tank density pierced the enemy lines after hours of artillery preparation with thousands of artillery pieces and pushed forward widely. Subsequent units surrounded overrun units of the Wehrmacht, as well as towns and villages. On June 22, 1944, the Red Army began an offensive under the code name Operation Bagration in what is now Belarus, with the aim of conquering the city of Minsk . By encircling three armies of Army Group Center , it was almost completely wiped out. The Red Army units gained 500 km of land to the west and thus reached the Carpathian Mountains, the Vistula River and the eastern border of East Prussia . The Baltic Sea coast was reached north of East Prussia in what is now Lithuania . As a result of this advance, Army Group North was cut off and completely enclosed in Courland until the end of the war in May 1945. The organized resistance of the severely battered and personally and materially inferior Wehrmacht, which at the same time had to operate on the western front against superior forces, was so decisively broken with a safe hinterland and continuous supplies of the Red Army. As a result of an offensive called Operation Jassy-Kishinew in the southern section of the Eastern Front, the Red Army succeeded in liberating the Balkans almost completely from German occupation by the end of 1944 and advancing as far as Budapest.
In August 1944 the Slovak National Uprising against Nazi Germany, coordinated by the Slovak army and partisan groups with the Soviet Union, began . The aim was to take the Duklapass and open it to the Red Army already in southern Poland. Until the end of the war, partisans operated with material support from the Soviet Union and coordinated their operations with the Red Army.
The occupation of Bulgaria by the Red Army began on September 8th and 9th, 1944. During the two days the northeast and east of the country were taken by troops of the 3rd Ukrainian Front and the Black Sea Fleet and over 21,000 Bulgarian soldiers and officers were taken prisoner. Important garrison and port cities such as Shumen , Rousse , Varna and Burgas fell into Soviet hands . On September 9, the advance stopped at 9:00 p.m. Bulgarian time. With the help of the Red Army soldiers, a communist coup d'état was staged on September 9th and the Red Army marched into the Bulgarian capital Sofia on September 15th . The days in between went down as the days of red terror in Bulgarian history.
In the spring of 1945 the Red Army stood in front of Berlin , in Hungary , Austria and what later became Czechoslovakia . In the last major offensive, the Berlin operation , beginning with the battle for the Seelow Heights , which was fought with great losses, to the last street fighting in Berlin, the Red Army lost more than 300,000 men before Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 8 .
About Hungary, the Red Army to the war in Austria invaded and took after the Vienna Offensive in April 1945 Vienna one. They occupied Lower Austria and the northern parts of Upper Austria . Even Styria was first occupied by the Red Army. It was taken over by the British after a short time. After the conclusion of the State Treaty , the Soviet Army withdrew from these areas by October 1955.
In 1945, the Red Army occupied as part of the so-called today Soviet invasion of Manchuria , the Manchuria , the Kuriles , South Sakhalin and limited in Dalian and Lüshunkou (formerly Port Arthur). Most of the Soviet withdrawal from Manchuria took place in 1946, Sinkiang came under Chinese control again in 1949, and Lüshunkou evacuated the Red Army in 1954.
The historical assessment of the Red Army during the Second World War is different: On the one hand, the Soviet Union was the strongest force in the anti-Hitler coalition in the fight against German National Socialism and liberated many concentration camps , including the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp . In the final phase of the war and after the German surrender, Soviet troops provided assistance to the German population, for example through public field kitchens and by repairing the destroyed Oder dams, which prevented the flooding of agricultural land. On the other hand, they are accused of excesses of violence, which some see as revenge for the crimes of the German occupiers. Lev Kopelew , who criticized the excesses of violence as an officer in the Red Army, was sentenced to ten years in camp for this reason. Alexander Solzhenitsyn had a similar experience .
During the Second World War, the Red Army drafted 34 million men, of whom, according to official surveys by the Soviet Union, 8,668,400 had died, gone missing or died in captivity. Military historians estimate that up to 13 million Red Army soldiers perished. Another 939,700 soldiers were reported missing or captured during the war, but were later found "alive" and drafted back into the army. In addition, around 1.8 million Soviet prisoners of war returned home after the end of the war. Of the approximately 5.5 million Soviet soldiers who fell into German captivity, around three million perished or were murdered as a result of starvation and disease.
After the victory over Germany and the capture of Berlin under Marshal Zhukov in 1945 , the prestige and political influence of the Red Army in the Soviet Union increased immensely. The generalissimo Stalin as commander in chief of the army tried, however, until his death in 1953, to keep Zhukov and other well-known commanders away from crucial positions of power.
Contemporary accounts report rape in considerable numbers by soldiers of the Red Army. Estimates of the number vary; Heinz Nawratil assumes at least two million rape victims for Germany within the borders of 1937 . The Red Army leadership tried to contain the problem since June 1945, with sentences ranging from arrest to execution. It was only through the establishment of the occupation government in Berlin that the problem could be defused there. Since mid-1947, the soldiers of the Red Army have been physically separated from the resident population. In March 1949, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet finally issued a decree that standardized and increased the sentence. Rape was subject to a mandatory sentence of 10 to 15 years in the labor camp, severe cases sentences of up to 20 years.
The topic has been politically exploited in the West, both the legitimacy of anti-communism and to relativize and to the actions of the Nazis in comparison to trivialize. From 1944, an alleged appeal by the Soviet writer Ilja Ehrenburg to “desecrate German women” played an important role in Nazi propaganda . Dealing with this issue was problematic in the GDR, as it diminished the image of the Soviet soldier as a liberator.
Honor and commemoration
The public holiday on February 23, later established as Red Army Day in the Soviet Union , was set on the day on which large numbers of soldiers were recruited in Petrograd and Moscow for the first time in 1918 and on which there were victories in battles between the Red Army and came to the troops of the German Empire at Pskow and Narwa . In 1949, the holiday was renamed Soviet Army and Naval Forces Day . It was one of the most important holidays until the end of the Soviet Union and is still a public holiday today as Defenders of the Fatherland Day.
Examples of emblems, etc. a. for the tank weapon:
- List of military operations by the Red Army
- Council of Ministers of the USSR , List of People's Commissars and Minister of Defense from 1946
- Marshal of the Soviet Union , List of Marshals of the Soviet Union
- Soviet Army
- Soviet Navy
- Strategic missile forces of the Soviet Union
- Soviet Union Air Force
- Soviet Air Defense Forces
- Border troops of the USSR
- Soviet General Staff Map
- Crimes of the Red Army in World War II
- Soviet general ranks
- Military academies of the USSR
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