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Author Topic: Soviet ranks  (Read 1082 times)

Offline Mark Plant

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Soviet ranks
« on: April 01, 2023, 02:44:36 AM »
Cuprum, or any other Russians who might know, why did the Soviets start calling their Division commanders "KomDiv", комдив, then change to "NachDiv", Начдив, then only shortly afterwards change back again?

This one has been bugging me for years.

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2023, 01:52:23 AM »
Hi Mark. I don't know what caused these renames at that moment. Most likely it was in some changes in the structure of the army hierarchy.
"KomDiv" is an abbreviation for "division commander" (КОМандир ДИВизии).
"NachDiv" is an abbreviation for "division chief" (НАЧальник ДИВизии).
Here is an explanation of the difference between "commander" and "chief" in the Young Officer's Manual:

"What is the difference between a commander and a chief? For example, a company commander or a company chief?

The commander is the same chief, only performing his own combat mission. The chief is a more blurred commander. He performs the task only together with the commander. More precisely, the commander performs the task together with the chief.

For example, the regiment commander and the head of the military training unit. Whatever one may say, but the training military unit either transfers its specialists to the regiments, or uses specialists to assist the regiment - fighting saboteurs, organizing security, strengthening the access control.

There are many chiefs - this is both the chief of staff and the head of the engineering service. But they do not solve combat missions on their own.

Offline Mark Plant

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2023, 04:52:54 AM »
Thanks. It's weird how it is only Divisions that had that change though.

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2023, 05:12:41 AM »
No more strange than the huge infantry divisions in the Red Army, officer regiments in the White Army, and much more. It was a time of improvisations, active dilettantes and adventurers of all kinds ... And this left its mark everywhere.

Offline trev

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2023, 01:51:47 PM »
This is interesting.  What year was the change?  I'm wondering if this is an artefact of the need for 'specialists'.  A politically reliable commander would make the decision with the support of a more technically experienced, but politically unreliable, specialist.  Could that be the reason?  I have no evidence for this, I'm just guessing.

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #5 on: April 02, 2023, 09:26:00 PM »
I don't think there is a political component here. Political supervision and education was carried out by the institution of commissars (party representatives).
It must be borne in mind that initially all traditional officer ranks were officially abolished in the Red Army. But the need to clearly distinguish between the positions of the command staff remained, and it began to take shape again, at first unofficially. So all the commanders and chiefs were called exclusively by their positions, which they currently held.
Interestingly, all the heads of units and subdivisions of various ranks were called "commanders", except for the head of the division, who was called the "chief". I have never met, for example, "the chief of the brigade" - it is always the "brigade commander".

Offline Mark Plant

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2023, 05:48:37 AM »
This is interesting.  What year was the change? 

This article gives it as 1918-1924 for the NachDiv : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_ranks_of_the_Soviet_Union_(1918%E2%80%931935)

Offline trev

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2023, 06:57:56 PM »
The only other possibility I can think of, barring random whim, is that KomDiv was already used elsewhere.  A Commissar rank of some kind?  I think Commissars were renamed in 1924, maybe allowing the names to be brought into line.  Although, I couldn't find any alternative use of KomDiv after a short search.  It does seem oddly inconsistent. 

Offline Mark Plant

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2023, 12:02:41 AM »
I wondered if it might be that KomDiv was used for the commander of a divizion, which is a unit size about battalion for artillery, cavalry and armoured cars, but generally not infantry. (This is incidentally where some people/auto-translators go astray. If you wonder how an RCW unit can have a "division" of artillery or cars, it is almost certainly this mistake.)

But I have never seen any reference to KomDiv used at that level, and my Russian isn't up to tracking it down.

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2023, 03:04:04 AM »
A divizion (dywizjon) is indeed the equivalent of a battalion in some branches of service in many Slavic countries:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divizion

I do not know what abbreviation was used for the position of "division (battalion) commander". I have never seen one like it in documents or memoirs.
But here, when indicating the naval ranks of the Red Fleet for 1921-24, there is an abbreviation for the commander of the naval division (battalion). She sounds like:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_ranks_of_the_Soviet_Union_(19181935)

Commander of the division of ships (Komandir diviziona korabley - KomdivZkor). That is, an additional letter is added. I think the division (battalion) commander had a similar abbreviation.

You lose sight of the fact that in the Imperial Army the commander of a division also had the title "chief of a division." The Reds simply copied this name.

Military commissars did not have any official ranks during the Civil War. They are simply party inspectors sent to the army for supervision and education. They were named according to their position - the commissar of the regiment, the commissar of the division and even the commissar of the detachment (temporary military unit). This position was not regulated by any staffing table. By the way, sometimes the position of commissar and commander could be combined in one person. For example, the only woman - the commander of an armored train, Lyudmila Mokievskaya-Zubok, was sent to serve in the command of an armored train as a commissar, but then she headed it as a combat commander. Interestingly, she was not a Bolshevik, but belonged to the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Party.

Offline Mark Plant

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2023, 07:07:27 AM »
Quote
You lose sight of the fact that in the Imperial Army the commander of a division also had the title "chief of a division." The Reds simply copied this name.

That I did not know. Thank-you.

I haven't looked at any Russian sources for the period before 1917, so I would never have spotted that.

Offline trev

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2023, 01:43:49 PM »
By the way, sometimes the position of commissar and commander could be combined in one person. For example, the only woman - the commander of an armored train, Lyudmila Mokievskaya-Zubok, was sent to serve in the command of an armored train as a commissar, but then she headed it as a combat commander. Interestingly, she was not a Bolshevik, but belonged to the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Party.

Thanks, that's interesting.  I noticed the commissars featured heavily in some of the early battles in Siberia when I was reading about that.  Likewise on the White side.  Relatively junior, but politically active, officers like Kazagrandi grabbed the initiative and started rapid offensive action with minimal forces.  Semyonov is another example. 

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Re: Soviet ranks
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2023, 02:19:19 PM »
Not only officers. In the positions of commanders, sometimes people who did not have any military education or experience showed themselves well.

For example, Mikhail Frunze, a professional revolutionary, became a very good front commander, and later - the Minister of War of the Soviet government:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikhail_Frunze

Grigory Kotovsky is a former professional criminal. During the Civil War - the commander of a cavalry division, at the end of the war - the commander of a cavalry corps.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigory_Kotovsky

 

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