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Military ranks of the Soviet Union

The military ranks of the Soviet Union were those introduced after the October Revolution of 1917. At that time the Imperial Russian Table of Ranks was abolished, as were the privileges of the pre-Soviet Russian nobility.

Immediately after the Revolution, personal military ranks were abandoned in favor of a system of positional ranks, which were acronyms of the full position names. For example, KomKor was an acronym of Corps Commander, KomDiv was an acronym of Division Commander, KomBrig stood for Brigade Commander, KomBat stood for Battalion Commander, and so forth. These acronyms have survived as informal position names to the present day.

Personal ranks were reintroduced in 1935, and general officer ranks were restored in May 1940. The ranks were based on those of the Russian Empire, although they underwent some modifications. Modified Imperial-style rank insignia were reintroduced in 1943.

The Soviet ranks ceased to be used after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, although the military ranks and insignia of the modern Russian Federation and Ukraine have been largely adopted from the Soviet system.

History

The early Red Army abandoned the institution of a professional officer corps as a "heritage of tsarism" in the course of the Revolution. In particular, the Bolsheviks condemned the use of the word "officer" and used the word "commander" instead. The Red Army abandoned epaulettes and ranks, using purely functional titles such as "Division Commander", "Corps Commander", and similar titles. In 1924 it supplemented this system with "service categories", from K-1 (lowest) to K-14 (highest). The service categories essentially operated as ranks in disguise: they indicated the experience and qualifications of a commander. The insignia now denoted the category, not the position of a commander. However, one still had to use functional titles to address commanders, which could become as awkward as "comrade deputy head-of-staff of corps". If one did not know a commander's position, one used one of the possible positions - for example: "Regiment Commander" for K-9.

On September 22 1935 the Red Army abandoned service categories and introduced personal ranks. These ranks, however, used a unique mix of functional titles and traditional ranks. For example, the ranks included "Lieutenant" and "Comdiv" (Комдив, Division Commander). Further complications ensued from the functional and categorical ranks for political officers (e.g., "Brigade Commissar", "Army Commissar 2nd Rank"), for technical corps (e.g., "Engineer 3rd Rank", "Division Engineer"), for administrative, medical and other non-combatant branches.

The Marshal of the Soviet Union (Маршал Советского Союза) rank was introduced on the March 17 1940 as part of the proposal by Kliment Voroshilov to rationalise ranks. On May 7 1940 further modifications to the system took place. The ranks of "General" or "Admiral" replaced the senior functional ranks of Combrig, Comdiv, Comcor, Comandarm; the other senior functional ranks ("Division Commissar", "Division Engineer", etc) remained unaffected. The Arm or Service distinctions remained (e.g. General of Cavalry, Marshal of Armoured Troops). On November 2 1940 the system underwent further modification with the abolition of functional ranks for NCOs and the reintroduction of the Podpolkovnik (sub-colonel) rank. For the most part the new system restored that used by the Imperial Russian Army at the conclusion of its participation in WWI.

In early 1942 all the functional ranks in technical and administrative corps became regularized ranks (e.g., "Engineer Major", "Engineer Colonel", "Captain Intendant Service", etc.). On October 9 1942 the authorities abolished the system of military commissars, together with the commissar ranks. The functional ranks remained only in medical, veterinary and legislative corps.

In early 1943 a unification of the system saw the abolition of all the remaining functional ranks. The word "officer" became officially endorsed, together with the epaulettes that superseded the previous rank insignia. The ranks and insignia of 1943 did not change much until the last days of the USSR; the contemporary Russian Army uses largely the same system. The old functional ranks of Combat (Battalion or Battery Commander), Combrig (Brigade Commander) and Comdiv (Division Commander) continue in informal use.

Rank Table

This table shows the rank structure in use shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union, circa 1982–1991.

Category Soviet All-forces ranks
(Army, Militsiya)
Soviet Air Force and other Soviet military branches ranks
(Space Troops, Artillery, Tank Forces, Engineer Forces and Signal Forces, Medical Service, Military Judicial Service, other Special and Technical Services)
Soviet Navy Ranks (Soviet Deck Ranks)
Supreme Commander
Generalissimo of the Soviet Union
(Генерали́ссимус Сове́тского Сою́за)
Supreme Officers
or
General Officers
Marshal of the Soviet Union
(Ма́ршал Совéтского Сою́за)

-
-

Chief Marshal of aviation of the Soviet Union
(Гла́вный Ма́ршал Авиа́ции Совéтского Сою́за)
Chief Marshal of branches
(Гла́вный Ма́ршал ро́да во́йск)
Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union
(Адмира́л Фло́та Совéтского Сою́за)

-
General of the Army
(Генера́л а́рмии)
Marshal of aviation
(Ма́ршал авиа́ции
)
Marshal or General of branches
(Ма́ршал или Генера́л ро́да во́йск)
Admiral of the Fleet
(адмира́л фло́та)
Colonel General or
Polkovnik General
(генера́л-полко́вник)
Colonel General or
Polkovnik General of aviation
(генера́л-полко́вник авиа́ции)
Colonel General or
Polkovnik General of branches
(генера́л-полко́вник ро́да во́йск)
Admiral
(адмира́л)
Lieutenant General
(генера́л-лейтена́нт)
Lieutenant General of aviation
(генера́л-лейтена́нт авиа́ции)
Lieutenant General of branches
(генера́л-лейтена́нт ро́да во́йск)
Vice Admiral
(ви́це-адмира́л)
Major General
(генера́л-майо́р)
Major General of aviation
(генера́л-майо́р авиа́ции)
Major General of branches
(генера́л-майо́р ро́да во́йск)
Counter Admiral
(ко́нтр-адмира́л)
Senior Officers
or
Field Grade Officers
Colonel or Polkovnik
(полко́вник)
Colonel or Polkovnik of aviation
(полко́вник авиа́ции)
Colonel or Polkovnik of branches
(полко́вник ро́да во́йск)
Captain, 1st rank
(капита́н 1-го ра́нга)
Lieutenant Colonel or
Podpolkovnik
(подполко́вник)
Lieutenant Colonel or
Podpolkovnik of aviation
(подполко́вник авиа́ции)
Lieutenant Colonel or
Podpolkovnik of branches
(подполко́вник ро́да во́йск)
Captain, 2nd rank
(капита́н 2-го р́анга)
Major
(майо́р)
Major of aviation
(майо́р авиа́ции)
Major of branches
(майо́р ро́да во́йск)
Captain, 3rd rank
(капита́н 3-го р́анга)
Junior Officers
or
Company Grade Officers
Captain
(капита́н)
Captain of aviation
(капита́н авиа́ции)
Captain of branches
(капита́н ро́да во́йск')
Captain Lieutenant
(капита́н-лейтена́нт)
Senior Lieutenant
(ста́рший лейтена́нт)
Senior Lieutenant of aviation
(ста́рший лейтена́нт авиа́ции)
Senior Lieutenant of branches
(ста́рший лейтена́нт ро́да во́йск)
Senior Lieutenant
(старший лейтенант)
Lieutenant
(лейтена́нт)
Lieutenant of aviation
(лейтена́нт авиа́ции)
Lieutenant of branches
(лейтена́нт ро́да во́йск)
Lieutenant
(лейтена́нт)
Junior Lieutenant
(мла́дший лейтена́нт)
Junior Lieutenant of aviation
(мла́дший лейтена́нт авиа́ции)
Junior Lieutenant of branches
(мла́дший лейтена́нт ро́да во́йск)
Junior Lieutenant
мла́дший лейтена́нт)
Under-Officers
or
Master non-commissioned officers
Senior Warrant Officer or Senior Praporshchik
(ста́рший пра́порщик)
Senior Warrant Officer or
Senior Praporshchik of aviation
(ста́рший пра́порщик авиа́ции)
Senior Warrant Officer or
Senior Praporshchik of branches
(ста́рший пра́порщик ро́да во́йск)
Senior Midshipman
(ста́рший ми́чман)
Warrant Officer or Praporshchik
(пра́порщик)
Warrant Officer or Praporshchik of aviation
(пра́порщик авиа́ции)
Warrant Officer or Praporshchik of branches
(пра́порщик ро́да во́йск)
Midshipman
(ми́чман)
Junior Warrant Officer or Podpraporshchik (подпра́порщик)
Junior Warrant Officer or Podpraporshchik of aviation
(подпра́порщик авиа́ции)
Junior Warrant Officer or Podpraporshchik of branches
(подпра́порщик ро́да во́йск)
Bootsmann
(бо́цман)
Sergeants
and
Petty Officers
Sergeant Major or Starshina
(старшина́)
Sergeant Major or Starshina of aviation
(старшина́ авиа́ции)
Sergeant Major or Starshina of branches
(старшина́ ро́да во́йск)
Chief Ship Starshina
(гла́вный корабе́льный старшина́)
Senior Sergeant
(ста́рший сержа́нт)
Senior Sergeant of aviation
(ста́рший сержа́нт авиа́ции)
Senior Sergeant of branches
(ста́рший сержа́нт ро́да во́йск)
Chief Starshina
(гла́вный старшина́)
Sergeant
(сержа́нт)
Sergeant of aviation
(сержа́нт авиа́ции)
Sergeant of branches
(сержа́нт ро́да во́йск)
Starshina, 1st class
(старшина́ 1-й статьи́)
Junior Sergeant
(мла́дший сержа́нт)
Junior Sergeant of aviation
(мла́дший сержа́нт авиа́ции)
Junior Sergeant of branches
(мла́дший сержа́нт ро́да во́йск)
Starshina, 2nd class
(старшина́ 2-й статьи́)
Soldiers,
seamen,
airmen
Gefreiter
(ефре́йтор)
Gefreiter of aviation
(ефре́йтор авиа́ции)
Gefreiter of branches
(ефре́йтор ро́да во́йск)
Senior Matrose
or Seaman, Sailor
(ста́рший матро́с) или (ста́рший моря́к)
Private or Soldier, Reiter
(рядово́й) или (солдáт)
Private of aviation
(рядово́й авиа́ции)
Private of branches
(рядово́й ро́да во́йск)
Matrose or Seaman, Sailor
(матро́с) или (моря́к)

Generalissimo of the Soviet Union

This rank was created for Joseph Stalin on June 27 1945, and he was the only person ever to hold it. It is sometimes regarded as an equivalent to the rank of General of the Armies of the United States or the North Korean Dae Wonsu.

Marshal of an arm

The ranks of Marshal of an arm and Chief Marshal of an arm were used in five Soviet military branches (the Air Force, Artillery, Tank Forces, Engineer Forces, and Signal Forces). These ranks were established in 1943. Marshal of an arm was equivalent to General of the Army.

See also Marshal of the Soviet Union and Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union

See also

External links

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