21 April 2019

The Russian State’s Use of Irregular Forces and Private Military Groups: From Ivan the Terrible to the Soviet Period

by Sergey Sukhankin 


Russia’s growing employment of non-linear forms of warfare (including private military contractors) has long historical traditions. This paper seeks to discuss the main milestones of historical evolution of Russia’s use of mercenary and irregular forces from Tsarist Russia to the final days of the Soviet Union.

Specifically, this paper will explore:

Key ideas/motivations that guided the Russian state in employing these groups prior to 1917;

The evolution of the Soviet approach toward irregular forces and their use within the scope of (para)military operations;

Participation of Soviet “military advisors” in regional conflicts and zones of instability as part of the geopolitical power play against the West (primarily the United States);

The phenomenon of “special forces” (Spetsnaz) as a means to achieve specific tasks.

The research is built on a broad range of Russian sources and presents a combination of chronological and thematic approaches…

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