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Internal Troops of Russia conscripts in 2012

The Internal Troops, full name Internal Troops of the Ministry for Internal Affairs (MVD) (Russian: Внутренние войска Министерства внутренних дел, Vnutrenniye Voiska Ministerstva Vnutrennikh Del; abbreviated ВВ, VV); alternatively translated as "Interior (Troops or Forces)" is a paramilitary gendarmerie-like force in the now-defunct Soviet Union and in some of its successor countries, including in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Internal Troops are subordinated to the interior ministries of the respective countries.

They were designed to be used to support and reinforce the Militsiya, deal with large-scale crowd control, internal armed conflicts, prison security (except in Russia) and safeguarding of highly-important facilities (like nuclear power plants). As such, the force was and is involved in all conflicts and violent disturbances in the history of the Soviet Union and modern Russia, including Stalin's mass deportations, imprisonments and executions and the First and Second Chechen War Chechen Wars. During wartime, the Internal Troops falls under armed forces military command and fulfill the missions of local defence and rear area security.

History of the Soviet Internal Troops[edit | edit source]

The Soviet Internal Troops were formed in 1919 under the Cheka (later NKVD, and were known as "NKVD Troops"), remained there with all the mergers and splittings of Soviet state security services and ended up under the control of the police-like MVD.

The most well-known of the Internal Troops divisions is OMSDON based near Moscow which traces its roots to the "OSNAZ" detachment of the VChK (formerly 1st Automobile Fighting Detachment of the VTsIK). It was later reorganized into the DON (Special-Purpose Division) of the OGPU and the NKVD.

World War II[edit | edit source]

Banner of the 175th Rifle Regiment, Internal Troops, NKVD

During World War II, most units of the NKVD Internal Troops were engaged alongside Red Army forces against Axis troops. They participated in the defense of Moscow, Leningrad, the Brest Fortress, Kiev, Odessa, Voronezh, Stalingrad, the North Caucasus and were heavily engaged during the battle of Kursk.

Typically, NKVD Internal Troops were defensive in nature, although they played a particularly instrumental role during the defence of Moscow, the Leningrad Blockade and Stalingrad where the 10th NKVD Rifle Division. suffered almost 90% casualties during the battle. Large VV units also stayed in the rear to maintain order, fight enemy infiltrators and to guard key installations such as the armament manufacturing complex at Tula defended by the 156th NKVD regiment in 1941.[1]

Altogether, more than 53 Internal Troops divisions and 20 Internal Troops brigades were on active duty during the war. 18 units were awarded battle honors (military decorations or honorary titles). A total of 977,000 servicemen were killed in action. More than 100,000 soldiers and officers received awards for gallantry in the face of the enemy, 295 servicemen were awarded the "Hero of the Soviet Union" title.

Post-war Soviet Union[edit | edit source]

After the war's end, Internal Troops played an important role in fighting local anti-Soviet guerrillas in the Baltic states (such as the Forest Brothers) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

In 1953, the Internal Troops suppressed the Vorkuta labor camp uprising with gunfire, which resulted in death of at least 100 political inmates.

With the beginning of the Krushchev era and de-Stalinisation, Internal Troops became significantly reduced in size, but retained their pre-war functions.

After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Internal Troops units were among liquidators, engaged in security and emergency management activities. Hundreds of servicemen were exposed to heavy radiation, and dozens died.

In the 1990s, Internal Troops became engaged in the ethnic conflicts that occurred during the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, experiencing significant[Clarification needed]

losses. Such engagements started with the 1989 violent incident in Tbilisi when VV servicemen used entrenching shovels to decimate a crowd of unarmed civilians. Dozens of protesters were killed and injured in the incident.

Prior to the 1990s, there were 180 regiments (of varying size) of interior troops, of which 90 were mainly guards of correctional institutions, important public facilities and public order.

After the fall of Soviet Union, local Internal Troops units were resubordinated to the respective new independent states, except for the three Baltic countries. Azerbaijan (Internal Troops of Azerbaijan), Kazakhstan (see Military of Kazakhstan#Ground Forces), the Russian Federation (Internal Troops (Russia)), and Ukraine, in the form of the Internal Troops (Ukraine) retained the name, organization and tasks of their Internal Troops. Up until December 2002, Armenia maintained a Ministry of Internal Affairs, but along with the Ministry of National Security, it was reorganised as a non-ministrial institution. The two organisations became the Police of the Republic of Armenia and the National Security Service.[2] In February 1999 the Deputy Minister of the Interior and Commander of the Internal Troops, Major General Artsrun Makarian, was found shot dead.

General organization[edit | edit source]

Despite being subordinated to a civilian police authority, Internal Troops are a military force with centralized system of ranks, command and service. The Chief Commander and Staff of the troops report only to Ministry of Internal Affairs, maintaining their separate chain of command. VV units in Soviet Union were predominantly formed up of conscripts drafted by the same system as for the Soviet Army. Modern Troops in Russia and Ukraine are experiencing a slow transition to the contract personnel system. VV officers are trained in both own special academies and Army's military academies.

The main kinds of Internal Troops are field units, prison security units, various facility-guarding units and special forces like Rus. Since the 1980s, the several special forces units that developed within the VV, were created to deal with terrorism and hostage crises.

Fields units are essentially light motorized infantry, similar to respective regular army units by their organization and weapons.

Soviet prison security units (Russian: конвойные войска, konvoinyie voyska; criminal slang: vertuhai) were originally consisting of the units that guard the perimeters of the prisons, and the prisoner transport teams (actually konvoi, literally "convoy"). In post-Soviet countries, some or all of the prison-related tasks were transferred to other agencies.

Internal Troops in popular culture[edit | edit source]

The Guard is a Soviet 1990 drama film, based on the real story of VV soldier who killed his entire prisoner transport unit as a result of Dedovschina.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/.

  1. http://www.serpukhov.su/dima/war/eng/etula.htm
  2. Taylor and Francis, Europa World Yearbook 2004, p.554
  • "Internal Troops of the MVD SSSR", by William C. Fuller, College Station Papers, Defence Studies, 1983.
  • "Soviet Union, a County Study", Library of Congress Country Studies.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • László Békési, György Török: KGB and Soviet Security Uniforms and Militaria 1917-1991 in Colour Photographs, Ramsbury (UK), 2002, ISBN 1-86126-511-5.

External links[edit | edit source]

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