The Russian Spetsnaz History

The Russian Spetsnaz History

1/ When was Spetsnaz formed?

A) The flying corps

The history of the Russian special forces comes from the “corvolant” units formed by Peter the Great. The word “corvolant” is derived from the French word combination “corps volant” (“flying corps”) and refers to the military unit of cavalry, infantry, transported on horseback, and light artillery. The corps volant was intended to intercept communications, act in the enemy’s rear, pursue the enemy and perform other specific military tasks. In Russia, the Corvolant was created by Peter the Great in 1701 and most successfully acted under his personal command in the battle near the village of Lesnaya on September 28, 1708 during the Northern War. Unfortunately, Russian generals, after Peter the Great’s death, failed to grasp the meaning of his new idea and evaluate its significance. In the Seven-year war of Russian armies, their action behind the enemy lines both are weak on the allocated forces and are small on the purposes and problems.


B) The army horse racing

In January 1788, on the initiative of General Field Marshal Peter Alexandrovich Rumyantsev in the lightweight regiments of the Russian army were formed horse-racing teams designed to conduct intelligence in the enemy’s rear. Later the horse-racing teams were transformed into horse-racing regiments (in russian “konoegerskyie polky”. For the first time, a horse-racing regiment as a type of special-purpose army element proved itself excellently during the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. In the Russian army, the first experimental battalion of special units was formed by Field Marshal Count Peter Rumyantsev in 1761. And at the beginning of 1763 the Russian army already had a regular light infantry, called “Egeramy”. During the Patriotic War of 1812 in the Russian army were formed several dozen units of military partisans. The most famous of them was Denis Davydov’s detachment. The word “Eger” comes from the German word “Jager”, which means a shooter, a hunter, a specialist in hunting, who serves amateur hunters and monitors compliance with hunting rules. The military meaning of the word “jager” refers to a light infantry or cavalry soldier in the armies of most European countries. In 1867, for the first time in Europe, the experience of the raid was conducted on maneuvers in the Warsaw Military District. Colonel Rubaszewski’s detachment of 600 cavalrymen, having broken through the guard posts and conventional enemy units, in 44 hours passed 160 versts and penetrated far into the rear of the troops covering the Vistula line and the Warsaw-Brest road. On the same maneuvers, several mounted detachments attacked the mobile units in the experimental order. The cavalry inspector general acknowledged the experience was a success.


2/ Special troops during the Russo-Japanese war

During the Russo-Japanese War, several raids on the enemy’s rear were organized. One of them went down in history as a “raid on Incow”. General Pavel Ivanovich Mishchenko’s detachment participated in it (75 squadrons and hundreds with 22 guns and four machine guns, only seven thousand people). The main purpose of the raid was to destroy the railway, including the railway bridges, on the section of Liaoyang – Tashichao – Dalni and thus make it difficult to move the siege 3rd Japanese army from under Port Arthur. Entering the path of frequent shootings and short skirmishes with the Japanese and Hunguzes, on December 30, 1904 the detachment freely approached the port city of Inkou. According to infiltrators, there “was concentrated reserves of two, or even 20 million rubles”.

For the attack, scheduled for the evening, allocated 15 squadrons and hundreds, the rest were in reserve. “An order was sent to the assault column to blow up what is possible and leave. Before the attack, Russian cavalry artillery fired on Incow and set fire to numerous army warehouses, which burned for several days. However, the flames of the fire illuminated the area, and the Japanese led the attacking Russian cavalry aiming fire and repulsed the attack. During the retreat in Shinyupuchenza village, the detachment was surrounded by Japanese troops. In the ensuing battle, the Japanese had to retreat. The detachment returned to the Russian army.

The results of the raid. In 8 days, the detachment traveled 270 kilometers. During the raid was defeated several Japanese military teams, destroyed up to 600 caravan arbors with military supplies, set fire to warehouses in the port city of Inkou, in a number of places violated the enemy’s telephone and telegraph communications, derailed two trains, 19 prisoners were taken. During the raid the detachment lost 408 killed and wounded people and 158 horses.


Fakumynsky raid which Mishchenko’s detachment made in June 1905 was much more successful. The future white general Anton Ivanovich Denikin was a communications officer at General Mishchenko’s headquarters at that time. This is what he remembers about the Fakumynsky raid: “The detachment performed with 45 hundred and six guns. We walked four days in the depths of the Japanese location at 170 km, reached the Liaohe River and surroundings of Shinmintin … Sotnik Chuprin died saving the wounded. The results of the raid were as follows: two transport roads with warehouses, stocks and telegraph lines were smashed, more than 800 wagons with valuable cargo were destroyed and more than 200 horses were taken away, 234 Japanese, 15 officers and at least 500 horses were taken prisoner. The raid cost us 187 people killed and wounded”. All Cossacks received medals for bravery, and many received George Crosses. In fact, during a five-day raid on the enemy’s rear, the detachment lost 37 people killed and 150 wounded[5].

3/ Russian special units during World War 1

The next milestone in the history of domestic special forces – World War I. There were also their heroes, but most of them after the October Revolution successfully fought with the Soviet power on the side of the White Movement. It’s enough to name two names: the chief of the Kuban special purpose unit Andrey G. Shkuro and the chief of the partisan detachment of the Siberian Cossack division Boris Vladimirovich Annenkov.


4/ Spetsnaz during the Russian civil war

The Civil War in Soviet Russia, a period of flourishing partisan movement. It acquired a mass character not only in the rear of the White Army and in the territory occupied by foreign invaders, but also where the Soviet power was established. Not only the White Guards actively fought with the Bolsheviks, but also numerous detachments of peasants, which are commonly called “green”.

If to speak about “red partisans”, in territory of Ekaterinoslavl, Kiev, Poltava and Chernigov provinces of Ukraine by summer 1918 about 300 thousand partisans operated. In Siberia, the whole partisan fronts (Shchitkinsky, Severo-Kansky) acted against Kolchak and the Bilochekhovs, who raised the rebellion; there were also partisan republics – Altai, Ussurian, Transbaikal. Over a hundred thousand rebels fought in the rear of the Denikin troops. The guerrillas were so strong and active that the enemy had to remove from the front and introduce the selected units of Generals Yakov Alexandrovich Slashchev and Andrey Grigorievich Shkuro to Donbass. Sometimes it is extremely difficult to divide “red partisans” into those who carried out instructions of command of the Red Army, and those who acted independently.


As an example, consider the situation with the organization of guerrilla movement in the Crimea during the Civil War. After the October Revolution, local Bolsheviks tried to seize power on the peninsula. They failed to do so. Local Communists went underground and began to form partisan detachments. When they realized that they could not cope with it alone, they sent emissaries to Moscow. They were sent to the aid of Alexei Vasilyevich Mokrousov, who led a special group of nine people landed in the Crimea. Within a month, he turned the disparate detachments into a strong guerrilla army.

During the Great Patriotic War, the partisan movement was activated under a similar scenario. The center sent a group of Chekists or military scouts, and those of the disparate groups of people’s avengers created guerrilla brigades and formations.

Often guerrilla groups were created on the initiative and under the control of the Soviet Republic. Thus, back on February 12, 1918 the Military Collegium of the People’s Commissariat of War decided “in the event of an offensive of the Germans to arm the entire population of the Republic to repulse and organize detachments”. Two weeks later, the Petrograd department of formation and training of the Red Army sent a circular telegram to all the councils of the front line with the proposal “to vigorously form strong partisan detachments of Soviet R. K. and S. deputies”. The formation of partisan detachments was quite successful. One of the proofs of this is the summary of the headquarters of the Moscow Military District in April 1918, according to which at that time in Sychevsk County alone there was an acute “need for 15 thousand rifles for partisan detachments”.


There are especially many such examples in the history of the Russian Civil War of 1918-1921. After the end of the Civil War, the concept of “active intelligence” appeared, and outside of the Soviet Russia, employees of the domestic military intelligence were engaged in “active activities”, or as it was also called, “special work”. April 4, 1921 by order of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic № 785/141 were introduced staff and the Regulations on the Intelligence Directorate of the Staff of the RKKA (for many decades of its existence, domestic military intelligence has changed many names), which “set the following objectives: the organization of strategic intelligence and the organization of active intelligence.

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