The Russian Special Forces: the origins

(To Tiziano Ciocchetti)

The Russian Special Forces, the Spetsnaz (spetsialnoye naznacheniya), officially emerge in 1950. However, in the previous era, Red Army elements plan and conduct deeper operations behind enemy lines.

The affirmation of this new doctrine is accomplished with the emergence of paratroopers. Father of the new specialty is Marshal Michail Nikolaevič Tuchačevskij, one of the greatest military innovators in the field of 20th century tactics, a great assertor of the concept of battle of depth, following the assumption that a modern war can be won not with a repeated confrontation on the front line, but through the breakthrough or jumble of that line, affecting the enemy's supply system as well as its command centers. To this end, he is engaged in the development of armored forces, paratroopers and special forces, developing his techniques to destabilize the opposing sides.

In 1930 (photo), the first field exercise is scheduled with a parachute entry of teams behind enemy lines. Given the positive outcome of the exercise, a parachutist company was initially formed, followed, two years later, by a fully airborne brigade. Significantly it is called 3 ° Aerial assault brigade with special tasks, since, among its ranks, there are units classified as special forces used to conduct operations behind the enemy device.

During the Second World War, Soviet air troops (VDV, Vozdushno-Desantnye Voiska) put in field 5 Airborne bodies of the size of a Division, each of which includes a special unit (Spetsnaz) at Battalion level, used for secret operations and / or deep reconnaissance.

During the German invasion of the Soviet Union (operation Barbarossa, 22 June 1941), following the rapid deepening of the Wermacht, numerous resistance nuclei are formed that can cause a few damage to the German refueling lines. However, the task of planning these sabotage is to NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) and GRU (Chief Information Officer), these two Soviet apparatus run their operations by deploying specially trained commanders, demolition experts, selected shooters who support the resistance groups behind enemy lines.

The Red Army could count on many specialists formed during the Spanish Civil War, intelligence officers who had traveled to the West, but were also chosen by regular troops, especially those who could boast special skills.

However, the real precursors of the Spetsnaz are the reconnaissance forces (photos), often known as Razvedchiki (scouts). Sometimes they work in partnership with the partisans, they often work independently. They are administratively dependent on GRU but are operatively subordinated to Front Commands. They support the partisans' groups also from detachments from the Independent Special Motorcycle Rifles NKVD (OMSBON) Brigades.

Noteworthy are the BAGs of Independent Guild Guards (OGBMs), which are used in every part of the forehead. They are made up of physically fit volunteers, hunters and sportsmen, not only trained in demolition operations but also in parachute infiltration.

Their operational use results in 1943 in July, during the German offensive in the Kursk salient. Nine teams of gourmets are parachuting behind the German lines where they can destroy about 300 km of railroad tracks. Likewise, when the Soviets attack the Japanese in Manchuria, in August of the 1945, assault detachments of the 20 ° Brigade of assault geniuses infiltrate the Japanese lines with the task of jumping the connections between the tunnels, while other units are airborne behind the lines in order to sabotage the communication system.

A major boost to the development of special operations is also manifested in Naval Infantry, giving a significant boost to the entire sector.

From the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War, special units are created within the North Fleet, whose operations area includes the waters of the Baltic and Scandinavia. In this region, in the 1930, limited reconnaissance actions are carried out in depth but, with the beginning of hostilities, the commander of the North Admiral's Fleet Arseny Golovka understands the need to acquire more ground incursion and reconnaissance skills.

This is how the 4 ° Special detachment of special volunteers, a unit with seventy veterans, athletes and enthusiastic volunteers working outside the naval base of Polyarni. Initially they carry out limited reconnaissance missions, at platoon level, by the sea but also on Finnish territory and subsequently move to Norway. However, more and more, the unit - which is called 4 ° Reconnaissance Detachment, under the central command of the North Fleet, subsequently 181 ° Special Reconnaissance Detachment - begins to plan and conduct sabotage and incursion operations in order to capture prisoners to interrogate them.

From the end of the 1943 the 181 ° is commanded by the lieutenant Viktor Leonov (photo), one of the most important figures of this new elite. After joining the Navy in the 1937, he attended the diving course, serving for a while on board submarines. At the beginning of the war he volunteered in the 4 ° Detachment, immediately demonstrating high skills and initiative, qualities that make him an effective commander.

In October, 1944 commands a mission to neutralize an installation of German coastal artillery positioned at the head Krestovy, whose pieces from 150 mm block the entrance of the strategic bay of Petsamo in the peninsula of Kola. The previous attempts, carried out by air and sea incursions, had failed, so Leonov drives a company in a landing on the coast, then undertake a forced two-day lead to the head Krestovy. They then capture a battery of 88 mm guns and use them both to repel a German counterattack or to hit the coastal battery positions, forcing Germans to destroy the cannons for fear that they may fall into Soviet hands.

After the surrender of Germany its unit is transferred to the Pacific Fleet to conduct operations against the Japanese. Its 140 ° Independent Reconnaissance Detachment is the first to enter a series of enemy cities abandoned by the Japanese army withdrawn from the Chinese and Korean territories.

With Japan's resignation (2 September 1945) officially ending the activities of the Russian Special Forces in World War II.

(photo: MoD Russian Fed / web)

Also read: "The Russian Special Forces: The New Millennium"