Soviet Union Table of Contents
Under Soviet law, two armed services were outside the control of the Ministry of Defense but were nonetheless part of the Soviet armed forces. These services, the Internal Troops and the Border Troops, were subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the KGB, respectively. Although often termed "militarized police," the Internal Troops and the Border Troops were military organizations, equipped, like motorized rifle regiments, with tanks and armored personnel carriers.
In 1989 the Internal Troops had a personnel strength of about 340,000 soldiers. These troops had the mission of suppressing demonstrations, revolts, riots, strikes, or other challenges to the regime that the militia (police) could not contain (see Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs , ch. 19). The use of Internal Troops instead of the Ground Forces in these situations helped to preserve the favorable image of the latter with the population. In extreme circumstances, the Internal Troops also served as the party's counterweight to the military services.
In addition to these peacetime roles, the Internal Troops also have been assigned wartime missions. In time of war, they would support frontline operations by providing rear security against enemy sabotage, defending supply and communications lines, and operating prisoner-of-war and penal battalions. In the early days of World War II, the Internal Troops manned machine gun detachments located behind Soviet frontline units. The detachments were charged with firing on Red Army soldiers who tried to retreat or desert.
Data as of May 1989