Spetsnaz (Voyska spetsialnogo naznacheniya) is an umbrella term for any special forces in Russian, literally “special purpose forces”. Historically, the term referred to the military special units controlled by the military intelligence service GRU, the Spetsnaz GRU.

In 1950, Georgy Zhukov advocated creation of 46 military spetsnaz companies (each company consisted of 120 servicemen). It was the first time after the World War II, when term “spetsnaz” appeared as an original name of the separate military branch. Later, these companies were expanded to battalions, and then, to brigades, respectively. However, certain separate companies (orSpN) and detachments (ooSpN) existed along with brigades until the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Military spetsnaz included 14 army and two naval brigades, together with numerous separate detachments and companies, which operated under the guidance of theMain Intelligence Directorate (GRU), and collectively are known as Spetsnaz GRU. These units and formations existed under the highest possible secrecy and were disguised as Soviet paratroopers, bearing their uniform and insignia (army spetsnaz), or as naval infantrymen (naval spetsnaz).

24 years after the origin of military Spetsnaz, first counter-terrorist unit was established by the head of KGB, Yuri Andropov. In the late 1970s and through 1980s various special purpose units were created within the KGB and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD).

The SovietEraMuseum present a few photos about Soviet Spetsnaz:

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