The official Red Army Day of February 23, marked the day of the first mass draft of the Red Army in Petrograd and Moscow, and of the first combat action against the rapidly advancing Imperial German Army. February 23 became an important national holiday in the Soviet Union, later celebrated as "Soviet Army Day", and it continues as a day of celebration in present-day [update] Russia as Defenders of the Motherland Day.
At the beginning of its existence, the Red Army functioned as a voluntary formation, without ranks or insignia.
Democratic elections selected the officers. However, a decree of May 29, imposed obligatory military service for men of ages 18 to Note: do not confuse military commissariats with the institution of military political commissars. Democratic election of officers was also abolished by decree, while separate quarters for officers, special forms of address, saluting, and higher pay were all reinstated. After General Aleksei Brusilov offered the Bolsheviks his professional services in , they decided to permit the conscription of former officers of the Imperial Russian Army.
A number of prominent Soviet Army commanders had previously served as Imperial Russian generals. In fact, a number of former Imperial military men, notably a member of the Supreme Military Council , Mikhail Bonch-Bruevich , had joined the Bolsheviks earlier. The Bolshevik authorities assigned to every unit of the Red Army a political commissar , or politruk , who had the authority to override unit commanders' decisions if they ran counter to the principles of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Although this sometimes resulted in inefficient command, the Party leadership considered political control over the military necessary, as the Army relied more and more on experienced officers from the pre-revolutionary Tsarist period.
The Soviet counter-offensive following the Polish invasion of Ukraine at first met with success, but Polish forces halted it at the disastrous for the Soviets Battle of Warsaw In , Mongolia and the USSR, recognising the threat from the mounting Japanese military presence in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, agreed to co-operate in the field of defence. On March 12, , the co-operation increased with the ten-year Mongolian-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, which included a mutual defence protocol.
There followed a clash with a Japanese detachment , which drove the Mongolians over the river. The Soviet troops quartered there in accordance with the mutual defence protocol intervened and obliterated the detachment. Escalation of the conflict appeared imminent, and both sides spent June amassing forces. On July 1 the Japanese force numbered 38, troops. The combined Soviet-Mongol force had 12, troops. The Japanese crossed the river, but after a three-day battle their opponents threw them back over the river.
The Japanese kept probing the Soviet defences throughout July, without success. On August 20 Georgy Zhukov opened a major offensive with heavy air attack and three hours of artillery bombardment , after which three infantry divisions and five armoured brigades , supported by a fighter regiment and masses of artillery 57 thousand troops in total , stormed the 75, Japanese force deeply entrenched in the area.
On August 23 the entire Japanese force found itself encircled, and on August 31 largely destroyed.
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Artillery and air attacks wiped out those Japanese who refused to surrender. The Japanese lost 25, KIA; the grand total was 61, killed, missing, wounded and taken prisoner. Shortly after the cease-fire, the Japanese negotiated access to the battlefields to collect their dead.
Finding thousands upon thousands of dead bodies came as a further shock to the already shaken morale of the Japanese soldiers. On September 17, the Red Army marched its troops into the eastern territories of Poland now part of Belarus and Ukraine , using the official pretext of coming to the aid of the Ukrainians and the Belarusians threatened by Germany,  which had attacked Poland on September 1, The Soviet invasion opened a second front for the Poles and forced them to abandon plans for defence in the Romanian bridgehead area, thus hastening the Polish defeat.
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The Soviet and German advance halted roughly at the Curzon Line. The Molotov—Ribbentrop Pact , which had included a secret protocol delimiting the "spheres of interest" of each party, set the scene for the remarkably smooth partition of Poland between Germany and the USSR.
The defined Soviet sphere of interest matched the territory subsequently captured in the campaign.
Even though water barriers separated most of the spheres of interest, the Soviet and German troops met each other on a number of occasions. The most remarkable event of this kind happened in Brest-Litovsk on 22 September When the Soviet 29th Tank Brigade under the command of S.
Krivoshein approached Brest-Litovsk, the commanders negotiated that the German troops would withdraw and the Soviet troops enter the city saluting each other. Because the attack was judged as illegal, the Soviet Union was expelled from the League of Nations on 14 December. At the time Finns used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War of 30 November to 13 March , the first of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.
Finland was a co-belligerent with Germany against the Soviet Union rather than an ally for the duration of the Continuation War. A Soviet junior political officer Politruk urges Soviet troops forward against German positions 12 July By the autumn of a new world order had emerged.
Nazi Germany and its allies dominated most of the European continent. Only the United Kingdom in the West was actively challenging national socialist and fascist hegemony. Nazi Germany and Britain had no common land border, but a state of war existed between them; the Germans had an extensive land border with the Soviet Union, but the latter remained neutral, adhering to a non-aggression pact and by numerous trade agreements.
For Adolf Hitler , no dilemma ever existed in this situation.
Drang nach Osten German for "Drive towards the East" remained the order of the day. This culminated, on December 18, in the issuing of 'Directive No. Even before the issuing of the directive, the German General Staff had developed detailed plans for a Soviet campaign. On February 3, , the final plan of Operation Barbarossa gained approval, and the attack was scheduled for the middle of May, However, the events in Greece and Yugoslavia necessitated a delay — to the second half of June.
Their Axis opponents deployed on the Eastern Front divisions and 18 brigades 3. The first weeks of the war saw the annihilation of virtually the entire Soviet Air Force on the ground, the loss of major equipment, tanks, artillery, and major Soviet defeats as German forces trapped hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers in vast pockets. Soviet forces suffered heavy damage in the field as a result of poor levels of preparedness, which was primarily caused by a reluctant, half-hearted and ultimately belated decision by the Soviet Government and High Command to mobilize the army.
Equally important was a general tactical superiority of the German army, which was conducting the kind of warfare that it had been combat-testing and fine-tuning for two years. The hasty pre-war growth and over-promotion of the Red Army cadres as well as the removal of experienced officers caused by the offset the balance even more favourably for the Germans. Finally, the sheer numeric superiority of the Axis cannot be underestimated.
A generation of brilliant Soviet commanders most notably Georgy Zhukov learned from the defeats, and Soviet victories in the Battle of Moscow , at Stalingrad , Kursk and later in Operation Bagration proved decisive in what became known to the Soviets as the Great Patriotic War.
The Soviet government adopted a number of measures to improve the state and morale of the retreating Red Army in Soviet propaganda turned away from political notions of class struggle , and instead invoked the deeper-rooted patriotic feelings of the population, embracing Tsarist Russian history. Propagandists proclaimed the War against the German aggressors as the "Great Patriotic War", in allusion to the Patriotic War of against Napoleon. Repressions against the Russian Orthodox Church stopped, and priests revived the tradition of blessing arms before battle.
The Communist Party abolished the institution of political commissars —although it soon restored them.
The Red Army re-introduced military ranks and adopted many additional individual distinctions such as medals and orders. The concept of a Guard re-appeared: units which had shown exceptional heroism in combat gained the names of "Guards Regiment", "Guards Army", etc.
During the German—Soviet War , the Red Army drafted a staggering 29,, in addition to the 4,, in service at the beginning of the war. Of these 11,,, however, , re-joined the ranks in the subsequently re-took Soviet territory, and a further 1,, returned from German captivity.
Thus the grand total of losses amounted to 8,, The majority of the losses comprised ethnic Russians 5,, , followed by ethnic Ukrainians 1,, Of these 8,,, the Soviets released 3,, from captivity after the war, thus the grand total of the Axis losses came to an estimated 5,, Out of 5. In the first part of the war, the Red Army fielded weaponry of mixed quality. It had excellent artillery, but it did not have enough trucks to manoeuvre and supply it; as a result the Wehrmacht which rated it highly captured much of it.
Red Army T tanks outclassed any other tanks the Germans had when they appeared in , yet most of the Soviet armoured units were less advanced models; likewise, the same supply problem handicapped even the formations equipped with the most modern tanks.
The Soviet Air Force initially performed poorly against the Germans. The quick advance of the Germans into the Soviet territory made reinforcement difficult, if not impossible, since much of the Soviet Union's military industry lay in the west of the country. After the end of the war in Europe, the Red Army attacked Japan and Manchukuo Japan's puppet state in Manchuria on 9 August , and in combination with Mongolian and Chinese Communist forces rapidly overwhelmed the outnumbered Kwantung Army.
Soviet forces also attacked in Sakhalin , in the Kuril Islands and in northern Korea.
Soviet Armed Forces
Japan surrendered unconditionally on 2 September A fourth service, the Troops of National Air Defence , was formed in The Ministry was briefly divided into two again from to , but then was amalgamated again as the Ministry of Defence. Six years later the Strategic Rocket Forces were formed.
Men within the Soviet Army dropped from around 13 million to approximately 2.
In order to control this demobilisation process, the number of military districts was temporarily increased to thirty-three, dropping to twenty-one in Soviet law required all able-bodied males of age to serve a minimum of 2 years.
As a result, the Soviet Army remained the largest active army in the world from to In the Soviet Union itself, forces were divided by the s among fifteen military districts , including the Moscow , Leningrad , and Baltic Military Districts.
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The trauma of the devastating German invasion of influenced the Soviet Cold War military doctrine of fighting enemies on their own territory, or in a buffer zone under Soviet hegemony, but in any case preventing any war from reaching Soviet soil.
As a result of the Sino-Soviet border conflict , a sixteenth military district was created in , the Central Asian Military District, with headquarters at Alma-Ata. The Soviet Union invested heavily in the Army's nuclear capacity, especially in the production of ballistic missiles and of nuclear submarines to deliver them. The Soviet meaning of military doctrine was much different from U. Soviet Minister of Defence Marshal Grechko defined it in as 'a system of views on the nature of war and methods of waging it, and on the preparation of the country and army for war, officially adopted in a given state and its armed forces.
According to Harriet F Scott and William Scott, the political side of Soviet military doctrine, best explained the international moves that the Soviet Union undertook during the cold war. In , however, the Soviet Army intervened in a civil war raging in Afghanistan. The Soviet Army came to back a Soviet-friendly communist government threatened by a multinational, mainly afghan, insurgent groups called the mujahideen.
The insurgents received military training in neighboring Pakistan, China, and billions of dollars from the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. Technically superior, the Soviets did not have enough troops to establish control over the countryside and to secure the border.
This resulted from hesitancy in the Politburo, which allowed only a "limited contingent", averaging between 80, and , troops. Consequently, local insurgents could effectively employ hit-and-run tactics, using easy escape-routes and good supply-channels.