Aside from anti-communism, the ROVS did not have an official political orientation, somewhat adhering to the old Russian military dictum which said "The Army is outside of politics" (in Russian "Армия вне политики"), believing that the political orientation of Russia cannot be predetermined by émigrés living outside of its borders (the philosophy of "non-predetermination" or in Russian "непредрешенчество"). Many (but not all) of its members had monarchist sympathies of varying flavors: constitutional vs. autocratic, Romanov vs. non-Romanov oriented.
The ROVS, along with other similar Russian émigré organizations, became a prime target for the Soviet secret police, the OGPU. The OGPU set up a fake anti-communist monarchist organization, the Monarchist Union of Central Russia, which was successfully used to confuse and later demoralize the ROVS. They also successfully instituted a secret provocational organization within the ROVS known as the "Inner Line" (in Russian "Внутренная Линия"), controlled by the double-agent General Nikolai Skoblin, which masqueraded as a patriotic Russian intelligence organization. By the time the "Inner Line" was exposed by the Russian émigré organization National Alliance of Russian Solidarists (NTS), two of the ROVS's leaders, General Alexander Kutepov and General Evgenii Miller, were kidnapped and taken by force to the USSR in 1930 and 1937 respectively. By the time World War II started the ROVS lost most of its significance and influence. During the war the ROVS maintained a cautious position, not siding officially with Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, but waiting for the emergence of an independent Russian Liberation Army.
The ROVS continued to be active into the 1990s, having evolved into an organization that was principally concerned with the historical preservation of the pre-communist and anti-communist Russian military tradition. In the ROVS's possession are a significant number of Russian imperial and White Army battle flags and standards, which are meant to be returned to Russia when "a national Russian army" is once again in existence.
In the mid-1990s a split emerged within the ROVS on whether to continue the organization's existence. In 2000, Vladimir Vishnevsky, a U.S. resident and the ROVS chairman at that time, requested a vote on this question. The vast majority of members voted for the dissolution of the ROVS. Vishnevsky died of cancer in that same year, but ROVS members, following the overwhelming poll results dissolved the organization. Several members, however, rejected this turn of events. This faction, primarily based in Russia and currently headed by Igor Ivanov, claims that the ROVS was not dissolved and named Nikolai Feodorov (d. 2003), a U.S. resident and Russian Civil War veteran, an honorary chairman of their organization.
1924-1929 Grand Duke General Nikolai Nikolaevich Romanov (as the supreme commander of all Russian forces, in concurrence with General Wrangel)
1929-1930 General Alexander Pavlovich Kutepov
1930-1937 General Evgenii Karlovich Miller
1937-1938 General Feodor Feodorovich Abramov
1938-1957 General Alexei Petrovich Arkhangelsky
1957-1967 General Alexei Alexandrovich Von Lampe
1967-1979 General Vladimir Grigorievich Zharzhevsky
1979-1983 Captain Vladimir Petrovich Osipov
1983-1984 Starshina Vladimir Ivanovich Diakov
1984-1986 Lieutenant Peter Alekseevich Kalenichenko
1986-1988 Captain Boris Mihailovich Ivanov
1988-1988 Sotnik Nikita Ivanovich Iovich
1988-1989 Lieutenant Vladimir Vladimirovich Granitov
1989-2000 Captain Vladimir Nikolaevich Butkov
2000-2000 Lieutenant Vladimir Aleksandrovich Vishnevsky
2000- Igor Borisovich Ivanov (see explanation above)