Red Army
New Unit

Red Army



  • Communism


  • Can see spies
  • Only buildable under government socialism


The Red Army is only available to nations with the appropriate government.


In September 1917, Vladimir Lenin wrote: “There is only one way to prevent the restoration of the police, and that is to create a people’s militia and to fuse it with the army (the standing army to be replaced by the arming of the entire people).” At the time, the Imperial Russian Army had started to collapse. Approximately 23% (about 19 million) of the male population of the Russian Empire were mobilized; however most of them were not equipped with any weapons and had support roles maintaining the lines of communication and the base areas. The Tsarist general Nikolay Dukhonin estimated that there were 2 million deserters, 1.8 million dead, 5 million wounded and 2 million prisoners. He estimated the remaining troops as numbering 10 million.

The Council of People’s Commissars decided to form the Red Army on 28 January 1918. They envisioned a body “formed from the class-conscious and best elements of the working classes.” All citizens of the Russian republic over the age of 18 were eligible. Its role being “the defense of the Soviet authority, the creation of a basis for the transformation of the standing army into a force deriving its strength from a nation in arms, and, furthermore, the creation of a basis for the support of the coming Socialist Revolution in Europe.” Enlistment was conditional upon “guarantees being given by a military or civil committee functioning within the territory of the Soviet Power, or by party or trade union committees or, in extreme cases, by two persons belonging to one of the above organizations.” In the event of an entire unit wanting to join the Red Army, a “collective guarantee and the affirmative vote of all its members would be necessary.”

At the beginning of its existence, the Red Army functioned as a voluntary formation, without ranks or insignia. Democratic elections selected the officers. However, a decree of 29 May 1918 imposed obligatory military service for men of ages 18 to 40. To service the massive draft, the Bolsheviks formed regional military commissariats (voyennyy komissariat, abbr. voyenkomat), which as of 2006 still exist in Russia in this function and under this name. Military commissariats however should not be confused with the institution of military political commissars.

In the mid-1920s the territorial principle of manning the Red Army was introduced. In each region able-bodied men were called up for a limited period of active duty in territorial units, which constituted about half the army’s strength, each year, for five years. The first call-up period was for three months, with one month a year thereafter. A regular cadre provided a stable nucleus. By 1925 this system provided 46 of the 77 infantry divisions and one of the eleven cavalry divisions. The remainder consisted of regular officers and enlisted personnel serving two-year terms. The territorial system was finally abolished, with all remaining formations converted to the other cadre divisions, in 1937–1938.

The Soviet military received ample funding and was innovative in its technology. An American journalist wrote in 1941: “Even in American terms the Soviet defense budget was large. In 1940 it was the equivalent of $11,000,000,000, and represented one-third of the national expenditure. Measure this against the fact that the infinitely richer United States will approximate the expenditure of that much yearly only in 1942 after two years of our greatest defense effort.”

Most of the money spent on the Red Army and Air Force went for machines of war. Twenty-three years ago when the Bolshevik revolution took place there were few machines in Russia. Marx said Communism must come in a highly industrialized society. The Bolsheviks identified their dreams of socialist happiness with machines which would multiply production and reduce hours of labor until everyone would have everything he needed and would work only as much as he wished. Somehow this has not come about, but the Russians still worship machines, and this helped make the Red Army the most highly mechanized in the world, except perhaps the German Army now.

Like Americans, the Russians admire size, bigness, large numbers. They took pride in building a vast army of tanks, some of them the largest in the world, armored cars, airplanes, motorized guns, and every variety of mechanical weapons.

Under Stalin’s campaign for mechanization, the army formed its first mechanized unit in 1930. The 1st Mechanized Brigade consisted of a tank regiment, a motorized infantry regiment, as well as reconnaissance and artillery battalions. From this humble beginning, the Soviets would go on to create the first operational-level armored formations in history, the 11th and 45th Mechanized Corps, in 1932. These were tank-heavy formations with combat support forces included so they could survive while operating in enemy rear areas without support from a parent front.

Impressed by the German campaign of 1940 against France, the Soviet People’s Commissariat of Defence (Defence Ministry, Russian abbreviation NKO) ordered the creation of nine mechanized corps on 6 July 1940. Between February and March 1941 another twenty would be ordered, and all larger than those of Tukhachevsky. Even though the Red Army’s 29 mechanized corps had no less than 29,899 tanks on paper by 1941, they proved to be a paper tiger. There were actually only 17,000 tanks available at the time, meaning several of the new mechanized corps were under strength. The pressure placed on factories and military planners to show production numbers also led to a situation where the majority of armored vehicles were obsolescent models, critically lacking in spare parts and support equipment, and nearly three quarters were overdue for major maintenance. By 22 June 1941 there were only 1,475 T-34s and KV series tanks available to the Red Army, and these were too dispersed along the front to provide enough mass for even local success. To put this into perspective, the 3rd Mechanized Corps in Lithuania was formed up of a total of 460 tanks; 109 of these were newer KV-1s and T-34s. This corps would prove to be one of the lucky few with a substantial number of newer tanks. However, the 4th Army was composed of 520 tanks, all of which were the obsolete T-26, as opposed to the authorized strength of 1,031 newer medium tanks. This problem was universal throughout the Red Army, and would play a crucial role in the initial defeats of the Red Army in 1941 at the hands of the German armed forces.

War experience prompted changes to the way frontline forces were organized. After six months of combat against the Germans, the stavka abolished the rifle corps intermediate level between the army and division level because, while useful in theory, in the state of the Red Army in 1941, they proved ineffective in practice. Following the decisive victory in the Battle of Moscow in January 1942, the high command began to reintroduce rifle corps into its most experienced formations. The total number of rifle corps started at 62 on 22 June 1941, dropped to six by 1 January 1942, but then increased to 34 by February 1943, and 161 by New Year’s Day 1944. Actual strengths of front-line rifle divisions, authorized to contain 11,000 men in July 1941, were mostly no more than 50% of established strengths during 1941, and divisions were often worn down on continuous operations to hundreds of men or even less.

On the outbreak of war the Red Army deployed mechanized corps and tank divisions whose development has been described above. The German attack caused many, and in the course of 1941 virtually all (barring two in the Transbaikal Military District) were disbanded. It was much easier to coordinate smaller forces, and separate tank brigades and battalions were substituted. It was late 1942 and early 1943 before larger tank formations of corps size were fielded to employ armor in mass again. By mid-1942 these corps were being grouped together into tank armies whose strength by the end of the war could be up to 700 tanks and 50,000 men.