On 10 November 1931 K.Ye. Voroshilov as a Commissar for Defense issued a directive to commanders of districts and separate armies, chiefs of the RKKA Staff, Air and Naval Forces, Political and Combat Training Administrations. This directive ordered to develop the following doctrinal documents: regulation on field command of military forces, instruction “Organization and command of the army’s operation”, instruction on operations of rear services, instruction on operation of fronts’ and armies’ staffs in wartime. This work was to be completed in 1931-32. Editorial commissions were created in the same year and proceeded to work, yet soon it turned out that the deadline was unrealistic. Only in 1933 the project of instruction “Field service of staffs” and “Provisional instructions on organization of the deep combat” were issued, in 1934 – “Provisional instruction on deep combat”, which in 1935 was modified and published as Instruction on deep combat. In the same 1935 the “Provisional instruction on field service of troop staffs” were issued, and finally in 1936 – “Provisional field regulation of the RKKA of 1936”. In 1939 it was succeeded by the project of the Field Manual of 1939. Most of these manuals and instruction focused on tactical formation and units, i.e. on the corps and lower echelons, whereas higher military organs lacked strict regulations.
Renewed attempts to develop official operational manuals followed. On 13 December 1933 the People’s Commissar of Defense ordered to the RKKA Staff to develop a project of “Instruction on employment of the higher formations of the RKKA (army)”. Preliminary work started in the winter of 1934, by 1935 the project of the instruction, which covered key questions of the operational art and preparation and conduct of front and army-level operations, was completed, but not disseminated. The project was published in 1000 copies, almost all were later confiscated, a single copy survived in the Russian State Military Archive. According to kombrig Isserson one copy was given to the General Staff Academy where it was used as a basis for the course on operational art. Some chapters were used in an unofficial textbook entitled “Principles of conduct of operations”.
In 1935 another draft instruction which regulated organization of command of the front, army and tactical formations was completed.
In May 1940 the Main Military Council [of the RKKA] issued a resolution on «Provision of the Red Army with manuals based on experience of recent wars” (*), which prescribed to “rewrite active manuals and instruction of the Red Army” and develop “Regulation on field command of military forces”, “Instruction on employment of Red Army forces (army – army group), rewrite the project of the Field Manual of 1939. As a result projects of the Field Manual of 1939 and later 1940 emerged which were subjected to prolong editing process and hadn’t been officially approved before the war. As for Regulation and Instructions mentioned above, none was actually completed.
* Actually it was a draft resolution from 5 May 1940 which wasn’t officially adopted by the Military Council. See
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This text raises interesting questions, namely a lack of doctrinal documents and even abolishment and destruction of some of these documents for political reasons after 1937.
Some comments: theoretically the hierarchy of military manuals looked as follows:
- Battle manuals of arms (e.g. manuals of infantry, artillery, cavalry, tank troops etc), describing employment of units of a single arm
- Field manuals describing employment of combined arms with a focus of higher tactical formations (e.g. brigade, division and corps)
- Manuals or instructions on employment and command of higher echelon formations (armies and group of armies)
Battle manuals of arms were periodically updated prior to 1941, and some new battle manuals, e.g manuals of infantry and tank troops were reissued in 1942 or later.
The last permanent pre-war field manual was published in 1929, the next field manual issued in 1936 was designated as “provisional”. It was followed by successive projects developed in 1939, 1940 etc which were disseminated for evaluation but not officially approved. Only in 1943 a permanent field manual was approved and published.
As for manuals/instructions for higher formations none apparently existed, although development of such instructions was explicitly defined as one of the key functions of the Red Army’s [General] Staff. According to Zhilin a draft instruction existed but revoked during the purges. As a result higher staffs and commanders existed in a sort of doctrinal vacuum.
Manuals had to be supplemented by various regulations and instructions in specific questions. As far as organization of high military command, higher staffs, their structure and functions are concerned the last such instruction was adopted in 1928 (“Basics of structure of field command of military forces in wartime” approved by the Revolutionary Military Council on 23 March 1928).
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No other document of such types followed after 1928, although, as described above, attempts were undertaken.
In a similar vein the last regulation defining the structure and functions of the People’s Commissariat for Defense as a key body in command of the army was approved in 1934, yet it was hopelessly outdated by 1941. The project of the new regulation was prepared in 1940 after Timoshenko took the office and subsequent reorganization, but for some reasons this project was not officially approved either.