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Spetsnaz History

First Stage1950-1960companies and battalions
Second Sstage1961-1979teams and educational institutions
Third Stage1979-1989Afghanistan
Fourth Stage1989-1994collapse of the USSR
Fifth Stage1994-1998first Chechen campaign
Sixth Stage1998 - n / timeDagestan, second Chechen

The formation and development of the Army Special Forces Armed Forces of the USSR and then Russia can be divided into several stages. The first stage (1950-1960) - the creation of individual companies, individual battalions; the second stage (1961-1979) - the creation of teams and educational institutions; the third phase (1979-1989) - Afghanistan; fourth stage (1989-1994) - the collapse of the USSR; fifth phase (1994-1998) - the first Chechen campaign; Sixth stage (1998 - n / time) - Dagestan, the second Chechen campaign.

Concerned by American nuclear capabilities, in 1952 Stalin accepted the need to set up Army special purpose mobile reconnaissance and sabotage units (spetsnaz) capable of neutralising nuclear forces in the enemy rear. On 24 October 1952, in accordance with the directive 2/395832 of the Soviet Minister of Defence and the Chief of the General Staff, Independent Special Purpose Companies (otdelnyye roty spetsialnogo naznacheniya – ORSN) began forming in selected armies and in military districts. Very soon the Soviet Army had 46 such companies, all subordinated to the 5th Directorate of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) of the General Staff. Each company had 120 troops of various ranks serving in four platoons, of which three were combat and one a signal platoon. The signal platoons were capable of intercepting telephone and radio communication.

The general reduction of the Soviet armed forces of the early 1950s saw a reduction of the special forces units. By 1953, the Soviet Army had only 11 special purpose companies.

In early 1957, Defence Minister Marshal Zhukov, ordered the formation of five special forces battalions (otdelnyye batalyony spetsialnogo naznacheniya – OBSP). They were subordinate to the commanders of military districts and the Soviet groups of forces based outside the USSR. Zhukov also ordered a school for special forces to be set up in the city of Tambov – but this project languished as Zhukov was slowly pushed aside and retired.

In mid-1962, army spetsnaz was again reformed. The commanders of the military districts were instructed to form a total of 10 spetsnaz brigades. The skeleton brigades were manned by professional personnel but would be reinforced in war time by reservists, when they would be expected to have 1,700 troops. By January 1963 the USSR had several independent “spetsnaz” companies, 5 battalions and 10 brigades.6 In 1968, the Ryazan Airborne School set up the 9th company to train special forces personnel and in 1977 the M V Frunze Military Academy opened a faculty for special forces officers.

By 1979 the number of special forces brigades on Soviet territory had grown to 14. There were also 30 independent spetsnaz units based in individual armies and groups of forces outside the USSR. These units were to be supported in case of general war by Warsaw Pact allies with their own networks but whose targets were determined by the Warsaw Pact High Command, ie by Moscow.

Until 1979 the Army special forces units had essentially two principal tasks: reconnaissance operations and special tasks which included sabotage, assaults on vital military bases, power stations, military and civilian airfields and the elimination of foreign leaders and commanders. Some of the special forces units took part in the invasion of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968. However, the war in Afghanistan tested their skills to the limit, although officers of special forces units took part in military conflicts, usually as observers and consultants, in more than 20 countries around the world.

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Page last modified: 20-12-2015 19:25:32 ZULU