Russian Ground Forces
Country Russia
Type Army
Russian Ground Forces

The symbol of the Russian Ground Forces.

The Russian Ground Forces (Russian: Сухопутные войска Российской Федерации, tr.: Suhopútnuiye voyská Rosseeyskoy Federácii) are the land forces of the Russian Federation, formed from parts of the collapsing Soviet Army in 1992. This in turn, posed many economic challenges coupled with reforms to professionalize the force during the transitional phase that Russia had to endure due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. While the Russian Ground Forces in their present form are only 15 years old, Russian officials trace their antecedents' history through the Imperial Russian era back to the time of Kievan Rus. Since 1992 the Ground Forces have had to withdraw many thousands of troops from former Soviet garrisons abroad, while being extensively committed to the Chechen wars, and peacekeeping and other operations in the Soviet successor states (what is known in Russia as the "near abroad"). Most recently they clashed with Georgian forces in August 2008. Mission

The primary responsibilities of the Ground Forces are the protection of the state border, combat on land, the security of occupied territories, and the defeat of enemy troops. The Ground Forces must be able to achieve these goals both in nuclear war and non-nuclear war, especially without the use of weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, they must be capable of protecting the national interests of Russia within the framework of its international obligations.

The Main Command of the Ground Forces is officially tasked with the following objectives:

  • The training of troops for combat, on the basis of tasks determined by the Armed Forces' General Staff.
  • The improvement of troops' structure and composition, and the optimization of their numbers, including for special troops.
  • The development of military theory and practice.
  • The development and introduction of training field manuals, manuals, and methodology.
  • The improvement of operational and combat training of the Ground Forces.


As the Soviet Union dissolved there were some efforts made to keep the Soviet Armed Forces together as a single military for the new Commonwealth of Independent States. The last Minister of Defence of Soviet Union, Marshal Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, was appointed supreme commander of the CIS Armed Forces in December 1991. Among the numerous treaties signed by varying republics in order to direct the transition period was a temporary agreement on general purpose forces, signed in Minsk on 14 February 1992. However, once it became clear that Ukraine, and potentially the other republics, were determined to undermine the concept of joint general purpose forces, and to form their own armed forces, the new Russian government made its move.

Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on the formation of a Russian Ministry of Defence on 7 May 1992, bringing the Russian Ground Forces into existence along with the other parts of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. At that time the General Staff was in the process of withdrawing tens of thousands of personnel from the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, the Northern Group of Forces in Poland, the Central Group of Forces in Czechoslovakia, the Southern Group of Forces in Hungary, and from Mongolia.

Thirty-seven divisions had to be withdrawn from the four groups of forces and the Baltic States, and four military districts totalling 57 divisions were handed over to Belarus and Ukraine. Some idea of the scale of the withdrawal can be gained from the division list here. For the dissolving Soviet Ground Forces, the withdrawal from the former Warsaw Pact states and the Baltic states was an extremely demanding, expensive, and debilitating process. As the military districts that remained in Russia after the collapse of the Union consisted mostly of the mobilisable cadre formations, the Russian Ground Forces were to a large extent created by relocating the formerly full-strength formations from Eastern Europe to those under-resourced districts. However, the facilities in those districts were quite inadequate to house the flood of personnel and equipment returning from abroad, and many units "were unloaded from the rail wagons into empty fields." The need for destruction and transfer of large amounts of weaponry under the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty also necessitated great adjustments.