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A History Of Spetsnaz Page 3


The Inside Story Of The Soviet Special Forces

A History Of Spetsnaz Page 3

At the same time as preparations were being made for revolution in Germany preparations were also going ahead for revolutions in other countries. For example, in September 1923, groups of terrorists trained in the USSR (of both Bulgarian and Soviet nationality) started causing disturbances in Bulgaria which could very well have developed into a state of general chaos and bloodletting. But the 'revolution' was suppressed and its ringleaders escaped to the Soviet Union. Eighteen months later, in April 1925, the attempt was repeated.

This time unknown persons caused a tremendous explosion in the main cathedral in Sofia in the hope of killing the king and the whole government. Boris III had a miraculous escape, but attempts to destabilise Bulgaria by acts of terrorism continued until 1944, when the Red Army at last entered Bulgaria. Another miracle then seemed to take place, because from that moment on nobody has tried to shoot the Bulgarian rulers and no one has let off any bombs. The terror did continue, but it was aimed at the population of the country as a whole rather than the rulers. And then Bulgarian terrorism spread beyond the frontiers of the country and appeared on the streets of Western Europe.

The campaign of terrorism against Finland is closely linked with the name of the Finnish Communist Otto Kuusinen who was one of the leaders of the Communist revolt in Finland in 1918. After the defeat of the 'revolution' he escaped to Moscow and later returned to Finland for underground work. In 1921 he again fled to Moscow to save himself from arrest. From that moment Kuusinen's career was closely linked with Soviet military intelligence officers. Kuusinen had an official post and did the same work: preparing for the overthrow of democracy in Finland and other countries. In his secret career Kuusinen had some notable successes.

In the mid-1930s he rose to be deputy head of Razvedupr as the GRU was known then. Under Kuusinen's direction an effective espionage network was organised in the Scandinavian countries, and at the same time he directed the training of military units which were to carry out acts of terrorism in those countries. As early as the summer of 1918 an officer school was founded in Petrograd to train men for the 'Red Army of Finland'. This school later trained officers for other 'Red Armies' and became the International Military School -- an institute of higher education for terrorists.

After the Civil War was over Kuusinen insisted on carrying on underground warfare on Finnish territory and keeping the best units of Finnish Communists in existence. In 1939, after the Red Army invaded Finland, he proclaimed himself 'prime minister and minister of foreign affairs' of the 'Finnish Democratic Republic'. The 'government' included Mauri Rosenberg (from the GRU) as 'deputy prime minister', Axel Antila as 'minister of defence' and the NKVD interrogator Tuure Lekhen as 'minister of internal affairs'. But the Finnish people put up such resistance that the Kuusinen government's bid to turn Finland into a 'people's republic' was a failure.

(A curious fact of history must be mentioned here. When the Finnish Communists formed their government on Soviet territory and started a war against their own country, voluntary formations of Russians were formed in Finland which went into battle against both the Soviet and the Finnish Communists. A notable member of these genuinely voluntary units was Boris Bazhanov, formerly Stalin's personal secretary, who had fled to the West.)

Otto Kuusinen's unsuccessful attempt to become the ruler of Communist Finland did not bring his career to an end. He continued it with success, first in the GRU and later in the Department of Administrative Organs of the Central Committee of the CPSU -- the body that supervises all the espionage and terrorist institutions in the Soviet Union, as well as the prisons, concentration camps, courts and so forth. From 1957 until his death in 1964 Kuusinen was one of the most powerful leaders in the Soviet Union, serving simultaneously as a member of the Politburo and a Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party. In the Khodynki district of Moscow, where the GRU has its headquarters, one of the bigger streets is called Otto Kuusinen Street.

In the course of the Civil War and after it, Polish units, too, were formed and went into action on Soviet territory. One example was the 1st Revolutionary Regiment, 'Red Warsaw', which was used for putting down anti-Communist revolts in Moscow, Tambov and Yaroslav. For suppressing anti-Communist revolts by the Russian population the Communists used a Yugoslav regiment, a Czechoslovak regiment, and many other formations, including Hungarians, Rumanians, Austrians and others. After the Civil War all these formations provided a base for the recruitment of spies and for setting up subversive combat detachments for operating on the territory of capitalist states. For example, a group of Hungarian Communist terrorists led by Ferenc Kryug, fought against Russian peasants in the Civil War; in the Second World War Kryug led a special purpose group operating in Hungary.

Apart from the 'internationalist' fighters, i.e. people of foreign extraction, detachments were organised in the Soviet Union for operating abroad which were composed entirely, or very largely, of Soviet citizens. A bitter battle was fought between the army commanders and the secret police for control of these detachments.

On 2 August 1930 a small detachment of commando troops was dropped in the region of Voronezh and was supposed during the manoeuvres to carry out operations in the rear of the 'enemy'. Officially this is the date when Soviet airborne troops came into being. But it is also the date when spetsnaz was born. Airborne troops and spetsnaz troops subsequently went through a parallel development. At certain points in its history spetsnaz passed out of the control of military intelligence into the hands of the airborne forces, at others the airborne troops exercised administrative control while military intelligence had operational control. But in the end it was reckoned to be more expedient to hand spetsnaz over entirely to military intelligence. The progress of spetsnaz over the following thirty years cannot be studied in isolation from the development of the airborne forces.

1930 marked the beginning of a serious preoccupation with parachute troops in the USSR. In 1931 separate detachments of parachutists were made into battalions and a little later into regiments. In 1933 an osnaz brigade was formed in the Leningrad military district. It included a battalion of parachutists, a battalion of mechanised infantry, a battalion of artillery and three squadrons of aircraft. However, it turned out to be of little use to the Army, because it was not only too large and too awkward to manage, but also under the authority of the NKVD rather than the GRU. After a long dispute this brigade and several others created on the same pattern were reorganised into airborne brigades and handed over entirely to the Army.

To begin with, the airborne forces or VDV consisted of transport aircraft, airborne regiments and brigades, squadrons of heavy bombers and separate reconnaissance units. It is these reconnaissance units that are of interest to us. How many there were of them and how many men they included is not known. There is fragmentary information about their tactics and training. But it is known, for example, that one of the training schools was situated in Kiev. It was a secret school and operated under the disguise of a parachute club, while being completely under the control of the Razvedupr (GRU). It included a lot of women.

In the course of the numerous manoeuvres that were held, the reconnaissance units were dropped in the rear of the 'enemy' and made attacks on his command points, headquarters, centres and lines of communications.   continued next page...

[This is an excerpt from "The Inside Story Of The Soviet Special Forces" by By Viktor Suvorov]



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