Russian Ground Forces

The Russian Ground Forces ( _ru. Сухопутные войска Российской Федерации, tr.: "Suhopútnyje vojská Rossíjskoj Federácii") are the land forces of the Russian Federation, formed from parts of the collapsing Soviet Army in 1992. While the Russian Ground Forces in their present form are only 15 years old, Russian officials trace their antecedents' history through the Imperial Russian era back to the time of Kievan Rus. Since 1992 the Ground Forces have had to withdraw many thousands of troops from former Soviet garrisons abroad, while being extensively committed to the Chechen wars, and peacekeeping and other operations in the Soviet successor states (what is known in Russia as the "near abroad").

The Ground Forces declined to a very low ebb during the 1990s, suffering significant problems, as did the rest of the Russian armed forces. Under Defence Minister Sergeyev the situation began to improve to some extent, and when Vladimir Putin took power more resources were allocated to the armed forces and more contract-service soldiers, as opposed to conscripts, recruited. However poor treatment of soldiers, especially as contract servicemen are forced into Soviet-style conscript patterns, and corruption remains a problem. A British Conflict Studies Research Centre (CSRC) report in May 2007, while noting the increase in funding, compares the speed of change in the Armed Forces to Royal Navy reforms in the early 19th century and predicts no new rise in combat readiness for years. [cite paper
first =Keir
last =Giles
title =Military Service in Russia: No New Model Army
publisher =Conflict Studies Research Centre
date = May 2007
url =
format = PDF
accessdate =2008-09-21
] On the other hand, the CSRC report notes that pay and conditions for Russian servicemen has significantly improved, especially for contract servicemen.


The primary responsibilities of the Ground Forces are the protection of the state border, combat on land, the security of occupied territories, and the defeat of enemy troops. The Ground Forces must be able to achieve these goals both in nuclear war and non-nuclear war, especially without the use of weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, they must be capable of protecting the national interests of Russia within the framework of its international obligations.

The Main Command of the Ground Forces is officially tasked with the following objectives: [cite web
title = Official website [Translated by Babelfish and amended for readability] .
work =
publisher = Russian Ministry of Defence
url =
accessdate = 2006-10-28
* The training of troops for combat, on the basis of tasks determined by the Armed Forces' General Staff.
* The improvement of troops' structure and composition, and the optimization of their numbers, including for special troops.
* The development of military theory and practice.
* The development and introduction of training field manuals, manuals, and methodology.
* The improvement of operational and combat training of the Ground Forces.


As the Soviet Union dissolved there were some efforts made to keep the Soviet Armed Forces together as a single military for the new Commonwealth of Independent States. The last Minister of Defence of Soviet Union, Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, was appointed supreme commander of the CIS Armed Forces in December 1991.cite book
last = International Institute for Strategic Studies
authorlink = International Institute for Strategic Studies
title = The Military Balance 1992–3
publisher = Brassey's
year = 1992
location = London
pages =p.89
] Among the numerous treaties signed by varying republics in order to direct the transition period was a temporary agreement on general purpose forces, signed in Minsk on 14 February 1992. However, once it became clear that Ukraine, and potentially the other republics, were determined to undermine the concept of joint general purpose forces, and to form their own armed forces, the new Russian government made its move.

Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on the formation of a Russian Ministry of Defence on 7 May 1992, bringing the Russian Ground Forces into existence along with the other parts of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. At that time the General Staff was in the process of withdrawing tens of thousands of personnel from the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, the Northern Group of Forces in Poland, the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia, the Southern Group of Forces in Hungary, and from Mongolia.

Thirty-seven divisions had to be withdrawn from the four groups of forces and the Baltic States, and four military districts totalling 57 divisions were handed over to Belarus and Ukraine. [cite book
last = International Institute for Strategic Studies
authorlink = International Institute for Strategic Studies
title = The Military Balance 1995–96
publisher = Brassey's
year = 1995
location = London
pages =p.102
] Some idea of the scale of the withdrawal can be gained from the division list here. For the dissolving Soviet Ground Forces, the withdrawal from the former Warsaw Pact states and the Baltic states was an extremely demanding, expensive, and debilitating process.cite book
last = Muraviev
first = Alexey D.
coauthors = Austin, Greg
title = The Armed Forces of Russia in Asia
publisher = Tauris
year = 2001
pages = p.257
isbn =
] As the military districts that remained in Russia after the collapse of the Union consisted mostly of the mobilisable cadre formations, the Russian Ground Forces were to a large extent created by relocating the formerly full-strength formations from Eastern Europe to those under-resourced districts. However, the facilities in those districts were quite inadequate to house the flood of personnel and equipment returning from abroad, and many units "were unloaded from the rail wagons into empty fields." [cite paper
first = Orr
last = M.J.
title = The Russian Armed Forces as a factor in Regional Stability
publisher = Conflict Studies Research Centre
date = June 1998
url =
pages = p.2
format = PDF
accessdate =
] The need for destruction and transfer of large amounts of weaponry under the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty also necessitated great adjustments.

Post-Soviet reform plans

A reform plan was published on 21 July 1992 in "Krasnaya Zvezda", [Otechestvennye zapiski, 2002, №8] the Ministry of Defence newspaper. Later one commentator said it was "hastily" put together by the General Staff "to satisfy the public demand for radical changes." [Pavel Baev, The Russian Army in a Time of Troubles, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, 1996, P.67] The General Staff, from that point, become a bastion of conservation, causing a buildup of troubles which later became critical. The reform plan advocated a change from an Army-Division-Regiment structure to a Corps-Brigade arrangement. The new structures were to be more able to cope with a frontless situation and be more capable of independent action at all levels. Cutting out a whole level of command, leaving two rather than three higher echelons between the theatre headquarters and the fighting battalions would produce economies, increase flexibility, and simplify command-and-control arrangements. [Charles Dick, Russian Views on Future War—Part 3, Jane's Intelligence Review, November 1993, p.488] The expected total changeover to this new structure actually proved to be rare, patchy, and sometimes reversed. More brigades appeared, but mostly as divisions that had eroded down to their new strengths, and new divisions, such as the new 3rd Motor Rifle Division in the Moscow Military District formed on the basis of disbanding tank formations, were formed rather than brigades.

Few of the reforms planned in the early 1990s eventuated, for three reasons. Firstly, there was an absence of firm civilian political guidance, with Boris Yeltsin more interested in ensuring the Armed Forces were controllable and loyal, rather than reformed. [Alexei Arbatov, Military Reform in Russia: Dilemmas, Obstacles, and Prospects, International Security, Vol. 22, No.4, Spring 1998, p.112, and Baev, 1996, p.67] Secondly, declining funding did not assist matters, and thirdly, there was no firm consensus within the military about what reforms should be implemented. General Pavel Grachev, first Russian Minister of Defence (1992–96), for all his talk of reform, wished to preserve the old Soviet-style Army, with large numbers of low-strength formations and continued mass conscription. The General Staff and the armed services tried to preserve Soviet era doctrines, deployments, weapons, and missions in the absence of solid new guidance. [Arbatov, 1998, p.113]

A British military expert, Michael Orr, makes a cogent case that the hierarchy had great difficulty fully understanding the changed situation because, as graduates of Soviet military academies, their education had given great operational and staff training, but in political terms had learned an ideology rather than a wide understanding of international affairs. Thus the generals could see only NATO expanding to the east, in contrast to Russian weakness, and could not reorient themselves, let alone the Armed Forces as a whole, to the new opportunities and challenges they faced. [Michael Orr, The Russian Ground Forces and Reform 1992–2002, CSRC Paper D67, January 2003, p.2–3]

Internal crisis of 1993

The Ground Forces reluctantly became involved in the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993 after then-President Yeltsin had issued an unconstitutional decree dissolving the Parliament following its resistance to his consolidation of power and neo-liberal reforms. A group of deputies, including Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, had barricaded themselves inside. While giving public support to the President, the Armed Forces, led by General Grachev, tried to remain neutral, following the wishes of the officer corps. [McNair Paper 34, The Russian Military's Role in Politics, January 1995,] Yeltsin had to plead for hours to get the military leadership, who were unsure of the rightness of his cause and the reliability of their forces, to commit to the attack on the Parliament.When the attack was finally mounted, the forces used came from five different divisions around Moscow, and the personnel involved were mostly officers and senior non-commissioned officers. There were also indications that some formations deployed into Moscow only under protest. [McNair Paper 34, 1995] However, once Parliament had been stormed, the parliamentary leaders arrested, and temporary censorship imposed, Yeltsin did succeed in retaining power.

Chechen Wars

The Chechen people had never willingly accepted Russian rule, and with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, had declared independence in November 1991 under a former Air Forces officer, General Dzhokar Dudayev. [Raymond C. Finch, Why the Russian Military Failed in Chechnya, Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS, ] With the continuation of Chechen "independence" seen as reducing Moscow's authority, a widespread perception of Chechnya becoming a haven for criminals, and the emergence of a hard-line group within the Kremlin advocating war, Yeltsin decided in November 1994 that action should be taken. At a Security Council meeting on 29 November, he ordered the Chechens to disarm or else Moscow would restore order. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev assured Yeltsin that he would "take Groznyy with one airborne assault regiment in two hours." [C. W. Blandy, “Chechnya: Two Federal Interventions. An Interim Comparison and Assessment” (Conflict Studies Research Centre, P29, January 2000), p.13, cited in Dale Herspring, Undermining Combat Readiness in the Russian Military, Armed Forces & Society, Vol 32, No.4, July 2006.] The operation began on 11 December 1994 and by 31 December Russian forces were entering Grozny, the Chechen capital. The 131st Motor Rifle Brigade was ordered to make a swift push for the centre of the city but was then virtually destroyed in Chechen ambushes. After finally seizing Grozny, amid fierce resistance, troops moved on to other Chechen strongholds. When Chechen militants took hostages in the Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis in Stavropol Kray in June 1995, peace looked possible for a time but fighting eventually went on. Dzhokar Dudayev was assassinated in April 1996, and that summer, a Chechen attack retook Groznyy. Alexander Lebed, then Secretary of the Security Council, began talks with the Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov in August 1996, signed an agreement on 22/23 August, and by the end of the month, fighting ended. [Scott and Scott, Russian Military Directory 2002, p.328] The formal ceasefire was signed in the Dagestani town of Khasavyurt on 31 August 1996, stipulating that a formal agreement on relations between the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Russian federal government need not be signed until late 2001.

The Russian Ground Forces' performance in the First Chechen War has been assessed as ' appallingly bad'. [Orr (2000), p.82] Writing six years later, Michael Orr said "one of the root causes of the Russian failure in 1994–96 was their inability to raise and deploy a properly-trained military force." [Orr (2000), p.87] In December 1996, Defence Minister Igor Rodionov even ordered the dismissal of the Commander of the Ground Forces, Vladimir Semyanov, for activities incompatible with his position, which were reportedly his wife's business activities. [Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, [ Chronology of events - Rodionov dismisses commander of ground forces and then cancels visit to United States] , 4 December 1996, accessed September 2008]

The Second Chechen War began in August 1999 after Chechen militias invaded neighboring Dagestan, followed quickly in early September by a series of four terrorist bombings across Russia, which prompted Russian military action against the alleged Chechen culprits. Initially the main Russian technique used was to lay waste an area with artillery and airstrikes before the land forces advances. Improvements were made in the Ground Forces between 1996 and 1999, and when the Second Chechen War started, instead of hastily-assembled "composite regiments" whose members had never seen service together, dispatched with little or no training, formations were brought up to strength with some replacements, put through preparatory training, and then dispatched. Combat performance improved accordingly, [Orr (2000), p.88–90] and large-scale opposition was crippled. Most of the more prominent past Chechen separatist leaders have died or have been killed, including former president Aslan Maskhadov and leading warlord and terrorist attack mastermind Shamil Basayev. However, small scale conflict has continued to drag on and is now spreading across other parts of the Russian Caucasus. [ Chechnya war] , Reuters AlertNet, 11-04-2007] It has been a divisive struggle, with at least one senior military officer dismissed for being unresponsive to government commands. General Colonel Gennady Troshev was dismissed in 2002 for refusing to move from command of the North Caucasus Military District to command of the less important Siberian Military District.

Reforms under Sergeyev

When Igor Sergeyev arrived as Minister of Defence in 1997, he started to initiate what were seen as real reforms under very difficult conditions. [Walter Parchomenko, The State of Russia's Armed Forces and Military Reform, Parameters (Journal of the US Army War College), Winter 1999–2000] The number of military educational establishments, virtually unchanged since 1991, was reduced, and the amalgamation of the Siberian and Trans-baikal Military Districts was ordered. A larger number of army divisions were given "constant readiness" status, which was supposed to bring them up to 80% manning and 100% equipment holdings. Sergeyev announced in August 1998 that there would be six divisions and four brigades on 24-hour alert by the end of that year. However, personnel quality—even in these favored units—continued to be a problem. Lack of fuel for training and a shortage of well-trained junior officers hamper combat effectiveness. [Krasnaya Zvezda 28 January and 9 February 1999, in Austin & Muraviev, 2000, p.268, and M.J. Orr, 1998, p.3] However, concentrating on the interests of his old service, the Strategic Rocket Forces, Sergeyev directed the disbanding of the Ground Forces headquarters itself in December 1997. [Alexey Muraviev and Greg Austin, 2001, p.259] The disbandment was a "military nonsense", in Orr's words, "justifiable only in terms of internal politics within the Ministry of Defence".Orr, 2003, p.6] The Ground Forces' prestige declined as a result, as the HQ disbandment implied in theory at least that the Ground Forces were no longer a branch or service ranking equally with the Air Force and Navy.

Reforms under Putin

Under President Vladimir Putin more funds have been committed, the Ground Forces Headquarters was reestablished, and some progress on professionalisation has occurred. Plans call for reduction in mandatory service to 18 months in 2007 and to one year by 2008, [CIA World Fact Book 2006] but a mixed Ground Force, of both contract soldiers and conscripts, will remain.

Funding increases began in 1999, when after some recovery in the Russian economy and associated income rise (especially from oil), "Russia's officially reported defence spending [rose] in nominal terms at least, for the first time since the formation of the Russian Federation." [IISS The Military Balance 2000–01, p.115] The budget rose from 141 billion roubles in 2000 to 219 billion rubles in 2001. [IISS Military Balance 2001–02, p.109] Much of this funding has been spent on personnel—there have been several pay rises, starting with a 20% rise authorised in 2001, and the current professionalisation programme, including the 26,000 extra sergeants noted below, is expected to cost at least 31 billion roubles ($1.1 billion USD). [IISS Military Balance, Russia section, recent editions] Increased funding has been spread across the whole budget, with personnel spending being matched by greater procurement and research and development funding.

However, Alexander Goltz in 2004 said that given the insistence of the hierarchy on trying to force contract soldiers into the old conscript pattern, [Alexander Goltz, "Military Reform in Russia and the Global War Against Terrorism", "Journal of Slavic Military Studies", Vol. 17, 2004, p.33–4] there is little hope of a fundamental strengthening of the Ground Forces. He further elaborated that they are expected to remain, to some extent, a military liability and "Russia's most urgent social problem" [Goltz, 2004, p.30] for some time to come. The Russian military journalist Alexander Golts, quoted in the introduction, summed up by saying: "All of this means that the Russian armed forces are not ready to defend the country and that, at the same time, they are also dangerous for Russia. Top military personnel demonstrate neither the will nor the ability to effect fundamental changes." [Alexander Goltz, Military Reform in Russia and the Global War Against Terrorism, "Journal of Slavic Military Studies", Vol 17, 2004, p.30–1]

More money is arriving both for personnel and equipment; Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in June 2008 that monetary allowances for servicemen in permanent-readiness units will be raised significantly. [ [ RIA Novosti - Russia - Russia's public sector wages to rise 30% from Dec. 1 - PM Putin] ] Enlisted pay will rise to 65,000 rubles ($US2,750) per month and the pay of officers on combat duty in rapid response units will rise to 100,000–150,000 rubles ($US4,230–$6,355) per month. However, the CSRC report referred to above also suggests that while the move to one year conscript service will disrupt dedovshchina, it is unlikely that bullying will disappear altogether without significant societal change. [Keir Giles, CSRC May 2007] Other assessments from the same source point out that the Russian Armed Forces face major disruption in 2008 as demographic change hinders plans to reduce the term of conscription from two years to one. [Keir Giles, Where Have All The Soldiers Gone? Russian Military Manpower Plans versus Demographic Reality, CSRC, October 2006] As a result of these factors and continuing corruption, the additional funding may not have led to a large improvement in the Russian Army's effectiveness. [cite news|url=|title=Advancing, blindly|date=2008-09-18|publisher=The Economist|accessdate=2008-09-21]


The Ground Forces included an estimated total 395,000 including est. 190,000 conscripts and 35,000 personnel of the Airborne Forces (VDV) in 2006. [IISS, Military Balance 2006, p.154] This can be compared to an estimated 670,000, with 210,000 conscripts, in 1995–96 (also an IISS estimate). These numbers should be treated with caution, however, due to the difficulty for those outside Russia to make accurate assessments, and confusion even within the General Staff on the numbers of conscripts within the force. [Anna Kachurovskaya, Kommersant-Vlast’, 3 April 2006, “Strana starosluzhashchikh”, quoted in Keir Giles, Where have all the soldiers gone?, Conflict Studies Research Centre, 06/47, October 2006]

The Ground Forces began their existence in 1992 inheriting practically unchanged the Soviet military manpower system, though it was in a state of rapid decay. The Soviet Ground Forces were traditionally manned through conscription, which had been reduced in 1967 from three to two years. This system was administered through the thousands of military commissariats (военный комиссариат, военкомат (voyenkomat)) located throughout the Soviet Union. Between January and May of every year, every young Soviet male citizen was required to report to the local voyenkomat for assessment for military service, following a summons based on lists from every school and employer in the area. The voyenkomat worked to quotas sent out by a department of the General Staff, listing how young men are required by each service and branch of the Armed Forces. [Carey Schofield, Inside the Soviet Army, Headline, London, 1991, p.67–70] However since the fall of the Soviet Union draft evasion has skyrocketed; officials regularly bemoan the ten or so percent that actually fall within the call-up's net. The new conscripts were then picked up by an officer from their future unit and usually sent by train across the country. On arrival, they would begin the Young Soldiers' course, and become part of the system of senior rule, known as dedovshchina, literally "rule by the grandfathers." There were only a very small number of professional non-commissioned officers (NCOs), as most NCOs were conscripts sent on short courses [Viktor Suvorov, Inside the Soviet Army, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1982, gives the figure of six months with a training division] to prepare them for section commanders' and platoon sergeants' positions. These conscript NCOs were supplemented by "praporshchik" warrant officers, positions created in the 1960s to support the increased variety of skills required for modern weapons. [Odom, p.43]

The Soviet Army's officer-to-soldier ratio was extremely top-heavy, partially in order to compensate for the relatively low education level of the military manpower base and the absence of professional NCOs. Following the Second World War and the great expansion of officer education, officers became the product of four-to-five year higher military colleges. [Odom, p.40–41] As in most armies, newly commissioned officers usually become platoon leaders, having to accept responsibility for the soldiers' welfare and training (with the exceptions noted above). Young officers in Soviet Army units were worked round the clock, normally receiving only three holidays a month. Annual vacations were under threat if deficiencies emerged within the unit, and the pressure created enormous stress. Toward the end of the Soviet Union, this led a decline in morale amongst young officers. [Odom, p.42] In the early 2000s junior officers did not wish to serve—in 2002 more than half the officers who left the forces did so early. [Golts.] Their morale is low, among other reasons, because their postings are entirely in the hands of their immediate superiors and the personnel department. "... Without having to account for their actions, they can choose to promote or not promote him, to send him to Moscow or to some godforsaken post on the Chinese border." [Golts, p.35]

There is little available information on the current status of women, who are not conscripted, in the Ground Forces. According to the BBC there were 90,000 women in the Russian Army in 2002, though estimates on numbers of women across the entire Russian armed forces in 2000 ranged from 115,000 to 160,000. [Alan Quartly, [ Miss Shooting Range crowned] , BBC News, 8 March 2003, and Jennifer G Matthews, Women in the Russian Armed Forces - a Marriage of Convenience?, Minerva, Fall-Winter 2000] It is quite possible that the BBC reporter became confused between the Army (Ground Forces) and the entire Armed Forces, given their usual title in Russian as "Armiya". Women serve in support roles, most commonly in the fields of nursing, communications, and engineering. Some officers' wives have become contract service personnel.


From small beginnings in the early 1990s, employment of contract soldiers has grown greatly within the Ground Forces, though many have been of poor quality (wives of officers with no other prospective employment, for example). [Orr (1998).] In December 2005, Sergei Ivanov proposed that in addition to the numerous enlisted contract soldiers, all sergeants should become professional, which would raise the number of professional soldiers and non-commissioned officers in the Armed Forces overall to approximately 140,000 in 2008. The current programme allows for an extra 26,000 posts for fully professional sergeants. [IISS, The Military Balance 2006, p.147]

The CIA said in their "World Fact Book" that thirty per cent of Russian army personnel were contract servicemen at the end of 2005, and that as of May 2006, 178,000 contract servicemen were serving in the Ground Forces and the Navy. Planning calls for volunteer servicemen to compose 70% of armed forces by 2010, with the remaining servicemen consisting of conscripts. At the end of 2005, the Ground Forces had 40 all-volunteer constant readiness units, with another 20 constant readiness units to be formed in 2006. [CIA World Fact Book 2006,] These CIA figures can be set against IISS data which reports that at the end of 2004, the number of contracts being signed in the Moscow Military District was only 17% of the target figure, in the North Caucasus 45%, and in the Volga-Ural MD 25%. [IISS Military Balance 2004–5, p.151]

Whatever the number of contract soldiers, commentators such as Alexander Golts are pessimistic that many more combat ready units will result, as senior officers "see no difference between professional NCOs, ... versus conscripts who have been drilled in training schools for less than six months. Such sergeants will have neither the knowledge nor the experience that can help them win authority [in] the barracks." [Golts, p.33–4] Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov underlined the awful in-barracks discipline situation, even after years of attempted professionalisation, when releasing the official injury figures for 2002. 531 men had died on duty as a result of accidents and crimes and 20,000 had been wounded (the numbers apparently not including suicides). According to Ivanov, "the accident rate is not falling". [Orr (2003), p.12] Two of every seven conscripts will become addicted to drugs and alcohol while serving their terms, and a further one in twenty will suffer homosexual rape, according to 2005 reports.Jane's World Armies, Issue 18, December 2005, p.564] Part of the reason is the feeling between contract servicemen, conscripts, and officers. Michael Orr: "There is no relationship of mutual respect between leaders and led and it is difficult to see how a professional army can be created without one. the moment [2002] officers often despise contract servicemen even more than conscripts. 'Kontraktniki' serving in Chechnya and other 'hot spots' are often called mercenaries and marauders by senior officers." [Orr (2003), p.10] Given this situation, it appears that any professional army of a Western type may be a long way off. Furthermore, the human cost of the current situation remains high, with the mistreatment of conscripts being labeled "one of Europe's worst human-rights scandals" by "The Economist" in 2005. [cite news
title = How are the mighty fallen
publisher = The Economist
date = 2005-06-30
url =
accessdate = 2008-09-21

Crime and corruption in the ground forces

The new Russian Ground Forces inherited an increasing crime problem from their Soviet predecessors. As draft resistance grew in the last years of the Soviet Union, the authorities tried to compensate by enlisting men with criminal records and who spoke little or no Russian. Crime rates soared, with the military procurator in Moscow in September 1990 reporting a 40% increase in crime over the previous six months, including a 41% rise in serious bodily injuries. Disappearances of weapons rose to rampant levels, especially in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.Odom (1998), p.302]

Generals directing the withdrawals from Eastern Europe diverted arms, equipment, and foreign monies intended to build housing in Russia for the withdrawn troops. Several years later, the former commander in Germany, General Matvei Burlakov, and the Defence Minister, Pavel Grachev, had their involvement exposed, and were also accused of directing the murder of reporter Dmitry Kholodov, who had been investigating the scandals. In December 1996, Defence Minister Igor Rodionov even ordered the dismissal of the Commander of the Ground Forces, General Vladimir Semyonov, for activities incompatible with his position - reportedly his wife's business activities. [NUPI,]

A 1995 study by the U.S. Foreign Military Studies Office [Graham H. Turbiville, Mafia in Uniform: The Criminalisation of the Russian Armed Forces,] went as far as to say that the Armed Forces were "an institution increasingly defined by the high levels of military criminality and corruption embedded within it at every level." The FMSO noted that crime levels had always grown with social turbulence such as the trauma Russia was passing through. He identified four major types among the raft of criminality prevalent within the forces—weapons trafficking and the arms trade; business and commercial ventures; military crime beyond Russia's borders; and contract murder. Disappearances of weapons began during the dissolution of the Union, as referred to above, and has continued. Within units "rations are sold while soldiers grow hungry ... [while] fuel, spare parts, and equipment can be bought."Orr (2003), p.10] Meanwhile voyemkomats take bribes to arrange avoidance of service, or a more comfortable posting. Beyond the Russian frontier, drugs were smuggled across the Tajik border, supposedly being patrolled by Russian guards, by military aircraft, and a Russian senior officer, a General Major Alexander Perelyakin, had been dismissed from his post with the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia-Hercegovina, UNPROFOR, following continued complaints of smuggling, profiteering, and corruption. In terms of contract killings, beyond the Kholodov case, there have been widespread rumours that GRU Spetsnaz personnel have been moonlighting as "mafiya" hitmen. [Galeotti, p.52]

Reports such as these continue. Some of the more egregious examples have included a constant-readiness motor rifle regiment's tanks running out of fuel on the firing ranges, due to the diversion, to local businesses, of their fuel supplies. On this subject the last word may best be Sergey Ivanov's: visiting 20th Army in April 2002, he said the volume of theft was "simply impermissible".

However some degree of change is under way.Giles, p. 3–4] Abuse of personnel, sending soldiers to work outside units—a long standing tradition which could see conscripts doing things ranging from being large scale manpower supply for commercial businesses to being officers' families' servants—is now banned by Sergei Ivanov's Order 428 of October 2005 and, what is more, the order is being enforced, with several prosecutions recorded. A halt has also been demanded by President Putin in November 2005 to dishonest use of military property—'We must completely eliminate the use of the Armed Forces' material base for any commercial objectives.' The spectrum of dishonest activity has included, in the past, exporting aircraft as scrap metal, but the point at which officers are prosecuted has shifted, and investigations over trading in travel warrants and junior officers' routine thieving of soldiers' meals are beginning to be reported. However, British military analysts comment that 'there should be little doubt that the overall impact of theft and fraud is much greater than that which is actually detected'. Chief Military Prosecuter Sergey Fridinskiy said in March 2007 that there was 'no systematic work in the Armed Forces to prevent embezzlement'.


The President of Russia is the Supreme Commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The Main Command (Glavkomat) of the Ground Forces, based in Moscow, directs activities. As noted above, this body was disbanded in 1997 but reformed by President Putin in 2001 by appointing Colonel General Nikolai Kormiltsev as the commander-in-chief of the ground forces and also as a deputy minister of defense. [Kormiltsev was a Colonel General when he became C-in-C Ground Forces, but after about two years in the position was promoted to Army General in 2003. Profil via FBIS, [ Kormiltsev Biography] , accessed September 2007] Kormiltsev handed over to Colonel General (later General of the Army) Alexey Maslov in 2004, and in a realignment of responsibilities, the Ground Forces C-in-C lost his position as a deputy minister of defence. Like Kormiltsev, Maslov has while serving as Ground Forces C-in-C been promoted to Army General. As August 2008, current Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Ground Forces is General of the Army Vladimir Boldyrev. [cite web|url= |title=The Russian Federation Ministry of Defence official homepage on the Internet | |date= |accessdate=2008-09-10]

The Main Command of the Ground Forces consists of the Main Staff of the Ground Troops, and departments for Peacekeeping Forces, Armaments of the Ground Troops, Rear Services of the Ground Troops, Cadres of the Ground Troops (personnel), Indoctrination Work, and Military Education. [Scott and Scott, Russian Military Directory 2004, p.118] There were also a number of directorates which used to be commanded by the Ground Forces C-in-C in his capacity as a deputy defence minister. They included Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Defence Troops of the Armed Forces, Engineer Troops of the Armed Forces, and Troop Air Defence, as well as several others. Their exact command status is now unknown.


The ground forces organizationally consist of the military districts (Moscow Military District, Leningrad, North Caucasus, Volga-Ural, Siberian and Far Eastern), eight army headquarters, [Change from nine to eight verified through Vad777, Russian language Siberian Military District page, accessed late July 2007.] one army corps headquarters (the 68th in the Far East), tank divisions, motorized rifle divisions, artillery divisions, fortified districts, individual military units, military establishments, enterprises and organizations. [Alexander Babakin, Approximate Composition and Structure of the Armed Forces After the Reforms, Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye [Independent Military Review] , No.31, August 20–26, 2004]

The branches of service include motorized rifles, tanks, artillery and rocket forces, troop air defense, special corps (reconnaissance, signals, radioelectronic warfare, engineering, radiation, chemical and biological protection, technical support, automobile and the protection of the rear), military units and logistical establishments. [Alexander Babakin, Approximate Composition and Structure of the Armed Forces After the Reforms, NVO, No.31, August 20–26, 2004]

The Motorised Rifle Troops are the most numerous branch of service, that constitutes the nucleus of Ground Forces' battle formations. They are equipped with powerful armament for destruction of ground-based and aerial targets, missile complexes, tanks, artillery and mortars, anti-tank guided missiles, antiaircraft missile systems and installations, and means of reconnaissance and control. It is estimated that there are currently 19 motor rifle divisions, and the Navy now has several motor rifle formations under its command in the Ground and Coastal Defence Forces of the Baltic Fleet and the Northeastern Group of Troops and Forces on the Kamchatka Peninsula and other areas of the extreme north-east. [IISS Military Balance, various issues] Also present are a large number of mobilisation divisions and brigades, known as 'Bases for Storage of Weapons and Equipment', that in peacetime only have enough personnel assigned to guard the site and maintain the weapons.

The Tank Troops are the main impact force of the Ground Forces and the powerful means of armed struggle, intended for the accomplishment of the most important combat tasks. There are currently three tank divisions in the force: 4th & 10th within the Moscow Military District and 5th Guards "Don" in the Siberian MD. [IISS Military Balance 2007] The 2nd Tank Division in the Siberian Military District and the 21st Tank Division in the Far Eastern MD have disbanded in the last three years.

The Artillery and Rocket Forces provide the Ground Forces' main firepower and the most important operational means for the solution of combat problems by the crushing defeat of groupings of the enemy. The Ground Forces currently include 5–6 static defence machine-gun/artillery divisions and seemingly now one division of field artillery—the 34th Guards in the Moscow MD. The previous 12th in the Siberian MD, and the 15th in the Far Eastern MD seem to have disbanded. [V.I. Feskov et al 2004 is the source for the designations, while Teplitskiy (vad777)'s website is the source for their disbandment.] The Air Defense Troops (PVO) are one of the basic weapons for the destruction of enemy air forces. They consist of surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft artillery and radio-technical units and subdivisions. [Butowsky, p. 81]

Army Aviation, while intended for the direct support of the Ground Forces, is now under the control of the Air Forces (VVS). [Butowsky, p. 83]


Sources are the IISS Military Balance, Robinson, and Stukalin & Lukin cited below. [Kommersant-Vlast, [ "Vys Rossiya Armia"] , 14 May 2002 and "The Russian Armed Forces Today: A Structural Status Examination" (Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Vol 18 No. 2 2005)] Note that the dispositions for the Far East Military District are unclear; information changes, and thus broad figures have been indicated only unless there is specific information available.

Each major formation is bolded, and directs the non-bolded units subordinate to it.The six districts report to Ground Forces Headquarters; the Ground Forces of the Baltic Fleet to the Baltic Fleet.


IISS estimates that 4,500 T-80s are in the Ground Forces' inventory.] The Ground Forces retain a very large quantity of vehicles and equipment (see table below). [IISS 2006, p. 155] There is also likely to be a great deal further, older, equipment in state military store, a practice continued from the Soviet Union.

However, following the collapse of the USSR, the newly independent republics became host to most of the formations with modern equipment, whereas Russia was left with lower-category units with usually older equipment. [Austin and Muraviev, 2001, p.277–278] As financial stringency began to bite harder, the amount of new equipment fell as well, and by 1998, only 10 tanks and about 30 BMP infantry fighting vehicles were being bought each year. [Nikolai Baranov, "Weapons must serve for a long while" Armeiskii sbornik, March 1998, no.3, p.66–71, cited in Austin and Muraviev, 2001, p.278. See also Mil Bal 95/96, p.110]

Funding for new equipment has greatly risen in recent years, and Russian defence industry continues to develop new weapons systems for the Ground Forces, including the long-rumoured T-95, now expected to enter service in 2010, [ [ Russia's new main battle tank to enter service 'after 2010'] - RIA Novosti, July 10, 2008] and new surface-to-air missiles such as the S-400 Triumf. [ [ "S-400 missile defense systems to start defending Moscow"] , RIA Novosti, 21 May 2007. Retrieved on 16 September 2008.]

However, for the Ground Forces, while overall "funding" has dramatically increased, this does not guarantee that large numbers of new systems will enter service. As regards the S-400 SAM, Yury Baluyevsky, Chief of the General Staff, was reported as saying to President Vladimir Putin in mid 2007 that "Over two dozen battalions are to be equipped with such systems by 2015. [" [ Russian News & Information Agency] ] In the case of vehicles, as the references show, examination of the "actual number of vehicles planned to be bought yearly" (about 200 MBTs and IFVs/APCs in the link attached) means that for a force of about thirty divisions, each with about 300–400 MBTs and IFVs, it might take around 30 years to reequip all formations. [cite web|url= |title=Russia's Military Budget 2004 - 2007 Russian Arms, Military Technology, Analysis of Russia's Military Forces | |date= |accessdate=2008-09-10]

Jane's World Armies notes that the Soviet/Russian military tradition has never placed much importance on the survivability of individual soldiers, and thus eschews protective equipment such as flak jackets and helmets as beung too heavy and uncomfortable, though promises to improve this state of affairs have been made.

Equipment summary

It should be clearly remembered that these figures are from two different sources. Main equipment numbers are from the IISS's Military Balance 2006, and these broadly agree with the latest 2008 edition of the Military Balance. Brackets figures marked operational are from

Ranks and insignia

The newly reemergent Russia retained most of the ranks of the Soviet Army with some minor changes. The principal difference from the usual Western style is some variation in generals' rank titles, in one case at least, Colonel General, derived from German usage. Most of the rank names were borrowed from existing German/Prussian, French, English, Dutch and Polish ranks upon the formation of Russian regular army in the late 1600s,Fact|date=August 2007 and have lasted with few changes of title through the Soviet period.



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