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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) is a paramilitary Gendarmerie-like force in the now-defunct Soviet Union and its successor countries, particularly, in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. Internal Troops are subordinated to Internal Affairs Ministries (police) of the respective countries. They are used to support and reinforce the Militsiya, deal with large-scale riots, internal armed conflicts, prison security (except in Russia) and safeguarding of highly-important facilities (like nuclear power plants). As such, the force is involved in all conflicts and violent disturbances in the history of Soviet Union and modern Russia, including Stalin's mass deportations, imprisonments and executions and First and Second Chechen Wars.

During wartime, the Internal Troops fall under Armed Forces military command and fulfill the missions of local defence and rear area security.


History of the Soviet Internal Troops

The history of the Internal Troops can be traced back to March 27, 1811, when Emperor Alexander I merged the regional military companies present in every Russian gubernia (administrative region) into battalions of Internal Guards.

The Internal Troops as such 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.

As an internal security and prisons guard force, Internal Troops played immediate roles in political repressions and war crimes through all the Soviet history. Particularly, they were responsible for maintaining the regime in the GULAG labor camps and for conducting the mass deportations of several ethnic groups.

The most well-known of Soviet 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 then NKVD of the USSR.


World War II

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 Troops played the role of barrier troops, preventing regular troops on the lines from disobedience and desertion. However, they engaged enemy in cases of urgent need and sometimes experienced heavy losses. Large VV units stayed in the rear to maintain order, fight enemy infiltrators and guard GULAG camps.

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

After the war's end, Internal Troops played important role in fighting local anti-Soviet guerrillas in the Baltic states and Ukraine.

With the end of Stalin's era and relative humanization of social life, Internal Troops became significantly reduced but retained their pre-war functions, the most important of which was prison security.

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 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. The evolution of the force in other former Soviet republics is unclear.

General organization

Despite being subordinated to a civilian militsiya 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, konvoynyie 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.

Further reading

  • László Békési, György Török: KGB and Soviet Security Uniforms and Militaria 1917-1991 in Colour Photographs, Ramsbury (UK), 2002, ISBN 1861265115.

See also


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