Russian imperial army and navy disintegrated after the outbreak
of the Revolution of 1917, so the Council of the People's Commissars
created the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army on a voluntary basis.
The first units, fighting with a revolutionary fervor, distinguished
themselves against the Germans on February 23. This day became the
"Day of the Soviet Army". On April 22 the Soviet government decreed
compulsory military training for workers and peasants who did not
employ hired labour. This was the beginning of the Red Army. Its
founder was Leon Trotsky, with the title People's Commissar, which
he lost in the power struggle against Stalin in 1924.
man the artillery.
Red Army faced the problem of creating a competent and reliable
officers' corps, leading Trotsky to mobilize former officers of
the imperial army. In the years of the Civil War, up to 50,000 such
officers served for the Soviet cause. While they mostly remained
loyal to the Soviets, political officers, called "advisors" were
attached to all units. They watched over the reliability of the
officers and provided propaganda.
the late twenties only a handful of imperial officers remained in
the corps, while the new military schools were educating young recruits.
Admission to these schools was restricted to those recommended by
the Communist Party, ensuring the army of politically loyal future
War II Looms...
1937 a drastic purge crippled the Red Army, reducing its morale
and efficiency just before the world war. In June, Marshall Tukhachevsky,
first deputy commissar of war, who, despite his rich family background
served the Soviet cause with much success from the beginning, and
seven other generals were found guilty of plotting to betray the
Soviet Union to Japan and Germany. All were shot. Many other high-ranking
officers accused of involvement were sent to labour camps. This
" betrayal" has since been found to have been entirely fabricated
by Stalin and not one officer was guilty.
initial setbacks in the war, the army was reorganized, aided by
the enormous number of recruits and the vastness of the territory.
Penal battalions were given suicidal tasks. By the end of the war
the Soviet Army numbered more than 11 million officers and men.
1946 the word "red" was removed from the name of the armed forces.
The already high social and moral position of officers only increased
during the Cold War. Officers were well paid, enjoyed special apartments,
and were given other privileges. The recruits were kept in severe
conditions, and subjected to ruthless discipline, combined with
political persuasion. New recruits were subject to the so-called
"dedovschina", an initiation rite of beatings and abuse administered
by older soldiers. ('Ded' - grandfather in Russian, a soldier in
his last year of service).
Military Commanders Kori, Voroshilov, Uborevich, Kamenev, & Gamarnik
during a parade, Moscow 1936
During the demise of the Soviet Union, the army played some role
in the changes more than once, for better or worse. During the 1991
attempted coup against President Gorbachev, left wing politicians
found allies in army officials who were unhappy with the changes.
Thousands of Soviet officers lost their privileged positions in
Eastern Europe due to GorbachevÕs withdrawal of troops stationed
there since WWII -- losing their high salaries, access to foreign
stores, and easy lifestyle. However, in 1993 the army stayed loyal
to President Yeltsin, defended the television, and attacked the
Parliament, when the left-dominated legislature wanted to oust the
soldiers approaching Budapest,
the army's position is still sometimes unclear. Officers' pay is relatively
low, wage arrears make things difficult time and time again, while
many units have been demobilized. The Russian army's numbers keep
going down but it is still a force the world has to reckon with.
the days of the Civil War, in 1918-20 Reds often apprehended their
Tsarist White enemies by examining their hands. Soft hands meant
'burzhui' and were shot on the spot at checkpoints. The burzhui
learned to soak their hands in alcohol to crack the skin and to
rub dirt into them. The bolsheviks also killed civil bourgeoisie
and intelligensia for wearing white collars. A revolutionary soldier
could easily shoot such a "white collar" person on the street without
any legal proceedings.
approach to the former imperial officers was to 'squeeze them like
lemons and then throw them away'. Every professional officer down
to company commander was shadowed by a commissar. No order was valid
unless it was signed by both. When they retreated in flight, first
the commissar, then the officer were shot.
was commanding during the Civil War from his armored train. He traveled
100,000 kilometers in it over three years. It had mounted machine-guns,
light artillery, a printing press, a radio for broadcast and a flatbed
for his Rolls Royce command car. He carried a large amount of tobacco
and a brass band on the train to heighten morale of the troops.