Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Putin Names Russian Army Units After UKRAINIAN Cities

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President Putin named several Russian divisions and regiments after Ukrainian cities such as Lvov and Zhitomir, as well as the Polish capital Warsaw. This move is sure to anger Ukrainian and Polish ultra-nationalists. Indeed, the names already trigger and anger Ukrainian nationalists. Putin assigned the names as honorifics, commemorating the participation of these units in liberating the city for which they received their name.

For this reason, Putin’s decree named the 6 Guards Tank Regiment the 6 Lvov Guards Tank Regiment in honour of the Western Ukrainian city of Lvov in Galicia. The 68 Tank Regiment will now be the Zhitomir-Berlin Guards. The name of the regiment (originally raised in 1944 and reformed in 2017) is in honour of Zhitomir in the northern Ukraine and the title “Berlin” comes from the capture of Berlin in 1945. The 381 Artillery Regiment received the title Varshava (Warsaw), after the capital of Poland (note that Warsaw wasn’t the capital during the Polish occupation of the Ukraine… the then-capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita was Krakow). Soviet soldiers fought to liberate Warsaw and Poland from the German fascists and the heroes of the Red Army liberated the Nazi concentration camps. We mustn’t disregard this, even if contemporary Polish political figures forget it.

The 933 Anti-Aircraft Missile Regiment received the title “Verkhnodneprovsk” (Upper Dnepr River) and the 102 Motor Rifle Regiment received the title “Slonim-Pomeransk”. The 90 Tank Division is now the 90 Guards Tank Division Vitebsk-Novgorod. Vitebsk is a Belarusian city located in the north near the Russian border. When people hear the name Novgorod they often think of the famous ancient city where Russian history began. Veliki Novgorod is close to Vitebsk and is the logical reason for the name, but we mustn’t forget the name simply means “New City”, and there’s the much larger and younger Nizhny Novgorod in Russia, as well as Novgorod in the Ukraine, which is located south of the original Veliki Novgorod. Additionally, the 400 Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment has the title Transylvania (in Romania), which means “Beyond the Forest”. In fact, that’s a common Slavic name, as there is one such place of the same name near Moscow, as well as one near Kiev.

Transylvania in Slavic languages uses a variant of its Austro-Hungarian name, Semigorod, meaning Seven Cities. The region is most famous for Voivode Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad the Impaler, who spawned the Dracula legends. The lurid accounts emphasising Vlad’s ferocity might’ve been slightly exaggerated slander by the Germans. Contemporary Russian and Slavic accounts provide a more fair and unbiased middle ground. They acknowledge his cruelty, but also note his successful diplomacy and campaigns against the Ottoman Empire. They did criticise him for what they felt was a betrayal of Orthodoxy and believed this is what caused his death, in contrast to the life of his cousin, St Stephan the Great, but this is beyond the scope of this article. The focus is the units and the names Putin assigned them, but it’s worth understanding a little something about the regions from which they take their names.

The last three units mentioned were the 856 Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment (Guards of Kobryn), the 150 Motor Rifle Division (Idritsko-Berlin), and the 144 Motor Rifle Division (Elnya Guards). In Russian military tradition, a Guards Regiment or the title “Guards” refers to an élite or particularly distinguished unit. This isn’t the same as Special Operations (Spetsnaz) forces, but a Spetsnaz unit can also be a Guards unit. Officers of a Guards unit bear the title “of the Guards” added to their title, so, a Colonel of a Guards regiment would be a Colonel of the Guards or Guards Colonel. Of course, it’s important to address an officer or unit appropriately. The legendary and beloved Russian movie Only Old Men Go to Battle (a must watch for Russia lovers) joked about this. In the film, singer and ace pilot Captain Titarenko is walking by and one of the surprised soldiers in the scene said, “Oh, excuse me, Comrade Captain”, and he jokingly replied, “That’s Comrade Guards Captain to you!”

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The film is a classic about the Great Patriotic War, which is the main reason why these units received their special titles, to “preserve glorious military historical traditions, to instil in military personnel a spirit of devotion to the Motherland and loyalty in fulfilment of one’s military duty”. Of course, ultranationalists from the Ukraine, Poland, and (possibly) Romania may falsely see this as some form of expansionist threat, as some Ukrainians already have. This is ridiculous, as the units received such titles in honour of historical deeds of heroism. People shouldn’t blind themselves to their history, and the reality is that the USSR liberated these countries from fascism. Were it not for the might of the USSR, the fascists could’ve ruled all of Europe and likely the entire world. In the case of the Ukraine, this was Russian land, liberated by Slavic peoples… Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians, but the USSR also helped Polish, Romanian, and Moldavian partisans to push the fascists off their land.

It was particularly interesting and ironic, but very appropriate, that a Guards Regiment would receive the title Lvov, which means “The Lion-City”. Lvov is the historical capital of Galicia; it’s the most stereotypically Western of Ukrainian cities. The traditional date of the founding of Lvov is 1256; however, some historians believe its foundation was between 1240 and 1247, shortly after the fall of Kiev (1240). The city served as the capital of the westernmost principality of Rus, quickly conquered by Poland, then, merged with the Polish-Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita. During the period of the Rzeczpospolita, the Uniate Catholic religion arose; to this day, Lvov has one of the highest rates of Uniates or outright Roman Catholics in the Ukraine. This is illustrative of the extreme cultural differences between one part of the Ukraine and another, to the extent that it almost feels like they’re two separate countries.

Kiev, the traditional birthplace of Russia, was only separate from Russia for a period of around 300 years, between 1360 and 1654 (and again from 1991 to the present day); it has a much more Russian and Orthodox feel. If you didn’t know Russian cities and architecture, a foreigner could mistake it for a city like Volgograd… they both even have a “Motherland with a sword” statue. Kiev is over one thousand kilometres away from Volgograd, twice the distance to Lvov, which is about 500 kilometres from Kiev. Even though Kiev and Lvov are in the same country, whereas Volgograd isn’t, the former two are more distant in culture. Lvov looks, feels, and sounds much more Polish; it only reunited with Russia in 1939 after spending centuries in Austro-Hungary and Poland. It fell to the Germans during World War II; the Red Army only liberated it in 1944. Just imagine the differences between Lvov and the Donbass.

Not only does Lvov have a distinctly less “Soviet” look to it, but also the buildings even fit in with those in Poland, Austria, Hungary, Czechia, etc. The Churches look far more Catholic than they do Orthodox. These things influence culture and thought tremendously. There are Orthodox Christians from Lvov. Orthodox people in Lvov feel no different from those from the rest of the Ukraine or in Russia, aside from the language and accent of course. People in Lvov can still speak Russian if they encounter those who don’t speak Ukrainian. Lvov people are still Ukrainians, therefore, Eastern Slavs, and Galicia was once an equal part of Rus, so there’ll always be a common history. Still, one can’t deny the powerful foreign influence in Lvov. A simple look at the skylines reveals the cities have a different character. This doesn’t mean that it’s bad to be Polish, Austrian, etc, or it’s bad to have Catholic churches in your cities. Of course, it’s positive to coexist and respect all peoples and cultures. It’s simply worth noting that when a city looks and feels different, when the people speak a different, more Polish-influenced, Ukrainian, and when they spent most of their history in other states, it can cause cultural differences. These differences shouldn’t cause conflict, but human nature allows them to. I fully believe the Orthodox Church will unite the Ukraine, and see her through the storms, and that fascism has no future in this land, in the West, or the East. Still, there are difficulties today, caused by cultural differences.

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These differences express themselves clearly in Ukrainian political life and demographics. Naming a Russian regiment after Lvov is merely one of the ways to remind people of their brotherly bonds, of a time when people from all over the USSR fought together against fascism. There’s still much we must do to bring peace to the Ukraine after Western neocons and Ultranationalists tore it apart. Learning about when in history differences first emerged can help; ultimately, studying history reveals that all of the Ukraine, even Lvov, has roots in Kievan Rus. Instead, Ukrainian ultranationalists believe that they’re the “True Russians”, and that Russia has no claim to Kievan Rus. They think they’re more Russian than the Russians are! The Red Army drove the West out of Lvov, which invaded and occupied it. Indeed, Hitler came from the same group of Austro-Germans that occupied Galicia for centuries. It’s important to remember that and not to forget it.

3 July 2018

Russia Feed

http://russiafeed.com/putin-names-russian-army-groups-after-ukrainian-cities

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Farewell, Fur Hat!

00 Sergei Yolkin. Farewell, Fur Hat! 2013

Farewell, Fur Hat!

Sergei Yolkin

2013

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The ushanka, for them not in the know, is the traditional Russian flapped winter fur hat. It’s very popular, so, this may not fly. Supposedly, it’s being replaced by high-tech winterwear. Of course, Yolkin has fun with the stereotype of the poofter fashion designer, even working in the theme of the dropping of footcloths, too. In this cartoon, too, the soldier is in a 1980s style uniform… Yolkin was born in 1962, so, he would’ve done his army service in the ‘80s.

BMD

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Following the abolition of footcloths, the Russian Army is doing away with the flapped ushanka fur hat for winter wear.

18 January 2013

Sergei Yolkin

RIA-Novosti

http://ria.ru/caricature/20130118/918722496.html

28 February 2013. Sergei Yolkin’s World. Out with Footcloths!

00 Sergei Yolkin. Out with Footcloths! 2013

Out With Footcloths!

Sergei Yolkin

2013

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The Russian Army is doing away with footcloths as it’s doing away with the old pull-on marching boots, replacing them with lace-up boots. The footcloths were better for the old pattern of boots… and they’re well-beloved of the troops, as they’re easy to wash and dry compared to socks. Russian soldiers joked that their footcloths were chemical weapons, sure to knock over any enemy not used to their stench.

The “shrink” is Defence Minister Shoigu, in case you wuz wonderin’… oh, yes, the uniform worn by the soldier is more in the mould of the Soviet issue of the 1980s… when Yolkin probably did his hitch in the army.

BMD

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According to Defence Minister General Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Army will no longer use footcloths by the end of 2013.

14 January 2013

Sergei Yolkin

RIA-Novosti

http://ria.ru/caricature/20130114/918044980.html

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Russian Army’s Weaknesses Exposed During War in Georgia

On 10 September, Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov is scheduled to address the RF Gosduma, the lower house of parliament, to inform the deputies about current military development and various problems. Serdyukov will probably have to explain why the Russian Army lacked modern weapons during the recent peace enforcement operation in Georgia. The main elements of the North Caucasus Military District’s 58th Army have already been re-deployed to Russia. The bravest officers and men have received government decorations. Those killed in action have been buried. Now, it’s high time to assess the operation’s lessons. President Dmitri Medvedev has senior Defence Ministry officials doing this, and he’s also giving Serdyukov a brief to submit proposals on amending the state rearmament programme. Primarily, the Russian Army requires combat-support systems, rather than new weaponry, in order to become a genuinely modern and effective fighting force. Those who fought in the South Caucasus this August know that Russian peace-keepers sustained the greatest casualties during the first hours of the Georgian invasion because Moscow and Vladikavkaz, where the 58th Army’s headquarters is located, failed to promptly order troops to repel the attack and to send elements of the 58th Army to South Ossetia.

Moreover, Russian forces didn’t know the firing positions of Georgia’s Grad multiple-launch rocket systems, Gvozdika self-propelled guns, and T-72 tank units. Nor did the Russian Army have any dependable reconnaissance systems, including unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs). Although Russian and foreign UCAVs are regularly displayed at the annual MAKS international aerospace show in Zhukovsky near Moscow, including at the MAKS-2007 show, the Russian Army still lacks them because the Defence Ministry decided to stop buying them in 2006. Consequently, Russia had no choice but to send a Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bomber on a reconnaissance mission and to use Sukhoi Su-25 ground-attack jets to hit Georgian MLRS batteries. The Georgians downed four Russian aircraft, which could’ve been saved if the Russians had the required UCAVs. The destruction of three Su-25 attack planes, which had won a reputation for themselves during the 1979-89 Afghan war, shows that they haven’t been overhauled since. The Su-25s still lack radar sights, computers for calculating ground-target coordinates, and long-range air-to-surface missiles that could be launched outside the range of enemy air-defence systems. Nor did they have any “smart” weapons for destroying Georgian artillery pieces and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. This is quite surprising, because such weapons have been repeatedly displayed at various exhibitions. Although some companies are ready to install interchangeable state-of-the-art radio and electronic equipment on the Su-25, the Defence Ministry prefers to deal with (and handsomely pay) its favourite contractors. These companies weren’t up to the task, and are responsible for the loss of four aircraft and the capture of two pilots. Several more pilots were killed as a result of their incompetence.

A similar situation holds in the sphere of radio-electronic warfare. It turns out that Russian electronic counter-measures (ECM) systems are unable to jam and suppress enemy SAMs and reconnaissance systems, radars, and UHV communications and troop-control networks. That’s rather disturbing, especially as the Georgian Army lacked modern systems. As a result, the 58th Army sustained unnecessary casualties, and also lost more combat equipment than it should have. The Russian tank force has been suffering from major problems for a long time. The North Caucasus Military District, for instance, still operates T-72 main battle tanks without night sights. However, not even the more sophisticated T-80U and T-90 have such sights, either. Moreover, their explosive-reactive armour wasn’t filled with explosives and, therefore, couldn’t deflect high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) weapons. It’s common knowledge that tanks are extremely vulnerable in mountainous and urban areas, and during re-deployment, because their crews lack all-round visibility, making it difficult to spot enemy soldiers with rocket launchers or shaped-charges hiding in caves and ravines and behind rocks and bushes. The Dzerzhinsky Ural Railroad Car Works (Uralvagonzavod), which has developed all post-Soviet and Russian main battle tanks except the T-80, unveiled its Tank Support Combat Vehicle (TSCV) over 20 years ago. The TSCV featured nine weapons systems, including guided anti-tank missiles, large-calibre machine-guns, SAMs, and 30-mm and 40-mm automatic rocket launchers, and was intended to be used against Mujahedin forces in Afghanistan. Most importantly, the TSCV had effective target-acquisition systems for detecting and killing enemy soldiers long before they could fire the first shot. Although the TSCV has passed all state tests with flying colours and has also been displayed at numerous exhibitions, it hasn’t served with the Russian Army to date.

Unlike most advanced foreign armies, including the Israeli Army, Russian tanks aren’t supported by attack helicopters. There’s no regular radio communication between Russian tank, motor-rifle, helicopter, attack-plane, and tactical-bomber units either. Although experts have been discussing the creation of an integrated combat-control system for many years, such a system remains on the drawing board. The Russian Army and its commanders haven’t yet realised that all units and weapons accomplishing a joint objective must become part of an integrated combat-control system. Russian officers and soldiers have to compensate for the current lag in combat-support systems with their selfless heroism and bravery. However, this costs the country and its armed forces dearly. It’s high time that we learned modern fighting skills. The system for awarding state defence contracts must also be modified accordingly. Unfortunately, the Russian Army is unlikely to receive new weapons and combat-support systems after the South Ossetian conflict. Although Russia has once again paid a high price for victory, its generals and politicians often prefer empty talk to candid and sober-minded assessments.

9 September 2008

Nikita Petrov

RIA-Novosti

http://en.rian.ru/analysis/20080909/116657490.html

Editor’s Note:

This is an extremely sober and no-holds-barred assessment. There’s nothing like actual combat to wake up a somnolent army and bring it back up to snuff. The US should be careful. It has too much of a love affair with its high-tech toys, and its forces are permeated too thoroughly with a Tom Clancy-like attitude. On the other hand, the Russian forces have shown time and again an ability to improvise and implement needed solutions and pass them down to the troops quickly. Russia learned its lesson well in South Ossetia. It was lucky, because the Georgian forces were incompetent and cowardly, and they deserted before there was any serious combat. The Georgian grunt refused to die for the “glory” of Mikhail Saakashvili, and rightly so. The brutality and nastiness of Saakashvili’s rule was shown by the way the Georgian forces simply melted away. All of their American-supplied improvements to their equipment are now in Russian hands. The next time the Russian forces take the field, it’ll be with many of these faults addressed or in the process of being so. Mikhail Saakashvili did Russia a great favour. Do bear in mind that the bear’s claws shall be sharper the next time around…

BMD

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