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Hunters of nuclear weapons: the birth of the Soviet special forces
Material posted: Publication date: 08-01-2020
October 24, 1950 by order of the military Minister of the USSR created the army's special forces units.

The word "spetsnaz" and today, almost 70 years after the appearance of these units, excites the imagination, and those who are serving in the army special forces, still remain the elite of the Russian armed forces. But it was not always: the first three decades of its existence, the Soviet units of special purpose, part of the army structure remained a mystery. And it was completely justified, because the presence of a special way trained and trained soldiers, capable in the event of a new war not just to act on the territory of the enemy, and literally plunge it into chaos followed as long as possible to conceal from a potential enemy.

We need a special intelligence

Speaking informally, the units, which in 1950 became known as the army special forces, existed in the structure of Russian army a long time. They were called the scouts, the scouts, the hunters, the scouts, but their essence was always the same: actions on enemy territory aimed at disrupting its control systems and communications. But as long as war does not become the world, and the theaters of war began to cover entire countries and continents, the need for a large number of such specially prepared soldiers and officers were missing, and those combatant whose fitness and skills allow them to perform tasks.

The commandos were trained to apply not only to domestic small arms, but also with the most popular foreign models. In the photo: fighters of the special forces of the Pacific fleet with American assault rifles, the 1980-ies


The situation changed dramatically after the First world war, when it became apparent the enormous role of well-functioning management system army and how heavy the consequences entail its violation. In most of the major countries at this time begin to create prototypes of special forces — as a rule, when different kinds of secret police, military intelligence and similar structures. Thus there was a process in the Soviet Union, where the main role in performing tasks of special purpose played division that existed in the structure of the NKVD. They specialized in sabotage and terrorist activities, including outside Soviet territory. However, attempts to create its own commando unit were made shortly before the war and the red Army. For example, during the Winter war of 1939-1940 operated Special ski detachment of the 9th army.

The last argument in favor of the creation of specialized military units trained and prepared to conduct covert operations in a particular theatre of war was the Great Patriotic war. The gigantic scale of the guerrilla war that was fought in the rear of the German troops, proved that for the successful military actions of the saboteurs should not simply go through a short course of special training — they should get it as a separate military profession. In addition, it has become clear that action in different conditions, including climatic and natural, such soldiers must be prepared differently. The same applies to the theatre of war on which they had to fight: universal saboteurs lost opportunities for those who were preparing to act in a particular country and even specific areas. As example, the same Special ski squad during the war with Finland: the success of his action was determined primarily by the fact that the backbone of the unit was made up of students-skiers of the Leningrad Institute of physical culture, which, unlike many conscripts, were able to take long ski forced marches.

The GRU special forces during a business trip in one of the African countries, 1980-ies


Forty-six first

All these reasons became the starting point for the preparation of a Memorandum which the chief of the General staff of the Armed forces of the USSR, General of the army Sergei Shtemenko and the head of the Main intelligence Directorate of the General staff, General of the army, Matvei Zakharov filed in the name of the Minister of war of the Soviet Union, Marshal Alexander Vasilevsky. The contents of this document are still classified, but we can assume that it was suggested by the authors. And, apparently, the direction of their reasoning coincided with the opinion of Marshal Vasilevsky, since the 24th of October 1950, there was a Directive for the military Ministry of the USSR №Org/2/395832 required to create intelligence units of special purpose, directly subordinated to the chief of the GRU of the General staff.

The extent to which the commanders of the Soviet Army undertook the creation of its own special forces, was huge. From the very beginning has created a mouth 46 of the special forces! 27 of them were created at the combined-arms, mechanized and shock armies and the airborne corps, two in the Central and Northern groups of forces, the others by a separate military districts, including the Arkhangelsk, Moscow, Kiev, Volga, Ural, South Ural, Turkestan, East-Siberian, Western-Siberian, North Caucasus, the don, the Tauride, the Gorky and Voronezh. The number of each such company was standard 120 people, and it means that by the beginning of 1951 in the Soviet army special forces were at least 5520 soldiers and officers.

Every spetsnaz company was directly subordinate to the army commander or airborne corps, and where they created military districts under their command. And for the General management was formed the direction for the management of individual companies of a special purpose (the so-called 5-th direction) at the 2nd Department of the 3rd control 2nd Main Directorate of the General staff, as it was then called military intelligence. The head of the section was appointed Colonel Pavel Stepanov. Began service in the red Army in 1927, he in 1937 graduated from the artillery Academy, served as an assistant military representative in a munitions factory, and two years later became a member of the Department of technical intelligence of the red army Intelligence. Having passed all the Great Patriotic war in the ranks of army intelligence, after the victory of Pavel Stepanov went abroad on a business trip, but shortly after returning from her and was appointed the first commander of the Soviet forces.

The soldiers of the 22nd brigade of the GRU spetsnaz in Afghanistan, disguised as dushmans


 Creators of chaos

That was a separate company of special purpose of military intelligence of the early 1950-ies? It was a four reconnaissance, among whom was one academic and one platoon of radiospares. Out of this company as appropriate formed units, which are intended to perform specific tasks. It could be a group, that is, the separation of forces, to which was attached one or two radio operator from radioused, or detachment, which amounted to a platoon of special forces and with it two to four specialist. Units were created to perform a particularly difficult task, and in normal conditions the main combat unit of special forces was a group — and that the actions taught men the special forces.

Branch of company headquarters of the 3rd guards spetsnaz brigade of the group of Soviet forces in Germany — winners of the competition groups for special purposes, the beginning of the 1980-ies


The commanders of individual companies reconnaissance special purpose became experienced officers-intelligence officers with front-experience, usually at the rank of captain, the platoon commanders — senior Lieutenant. As for the privates and sergeants, to go to serve in the special forces could only those who served in the army for at least two years (recall that at that time life in the army was three years), and in addition, passed a strict medical and psychological selection: special forces was initially conceived as an elite army.

The main task that was put in front of riot police when it was created (and note, there is a main to this day), was the fulfillment of special tasks on the territory of a potential or actual enemy. Then, in the early 1950-ies, the greatest danger to the Soviet Union was a nuclear weapon that had the United States and which was located on the territory of Western Europe, and it became the main target of the commandos. In the event of war group and the special forces had to go in their assigned operational areas — those characteristics, features and topography which the commandos thoroughly studied during the preparation to deploy subversive activities. First of all they were to strike the nuclear arsenals of the enemy and the means to deliver weapons of mass destruction, to destroy his headquarters and communications system, to wreak havoc and literally paralyze life there, where there is a riot.

The soldiers of the 173-th separate brigade of GRU of prisoners by the spooks at the airport, the Afghanistan district of Kandahar, 1987


Very soon the tasks of the army special forces will be expanded, and it will take to complete specific tasks in all the hot spots, which was attended by the interests of the Soviet Union. Korea, Vietnam, Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Afghanistan — it is hard to find at least one armed conflict during the cold war, which somehow was not mentioned the Soviet special forces.

Gradually replaced by individual battalions of special forces came from the battalions, then brigades and regiments; their special forces appeared in the Navy. By the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union the system of reconnaissance and sabotage groups GRU consisted of 14 separate brigades, two separate shelf, 29 individual mouth and five Maritime reconnaissance points (in fact, the same individual mouth, but in the structure of the Soviet Navy) with a total population of about 22 thousand people. And each of them still knew the birthday of the army intelligence special purpose was and remains to date 24 Oct 1950, which in 2006 domestic forces officially celebrates as the Day of special forces.

Sergey Antonov


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