Narodnoe Opolcheniye

The People's Militia (Russian: Народное ополчение, tr. Narodnoe Opolcheniye, IPA: [nɐˈrodnəjə ɐpɐlˈtɕenʲɪjə], lit. popular regimentation) was the name given to irregular troops formed from the population in Russia and later the Soviet Union. They fought behind front lines and alongside the regular army during several wars throughout its history.

The People's Militia is of the type known as "national troops" such as the Dnieper Cossacks, or German Landwehr, and although often translated as the "people's militia",[1] "home guard",[2] "people-in-arms",[3] "national popular army",[4] "civilian reserves",[5] "popular levy",[6] "People's Volunteer Army",[7] "national guard...the factory regiments",[8] "bataillons ouvriers",[9] "all men fit to bear arms from their 21st year",[10] like "British Local Defence Volunteers",[11] "a hastily mustered militia, the opolchenie",[12] "a reserve force",[13] "Opolchenie (a kind of "Landsturm")",[14] "home guard militia",[15] "volunteer militia",[16] "territorial army",[17] or "temporary militias composed of mostly peasant 'volunteers'"[18] its members never belonged to an organised military force, but were in all cases selectively accepted from a body of volunteers during a national emergency.

The People's Militia features prominently in early Russian history, for example in The Tale of Igor's Campaign when it refers to the entire force led on a campaign. It was used for political purposes when the Grand Duchy of Moscow assumed the leading role in the 16th-century Russia. It sought to emphasise the Tsar as the "father" of all of Russians, which included other principalities which sought to remain independent. Before the unification of Russians under the leadership of Moscow, each city and town had its own Opolcheniye not named Narodnoe, but named after the city or town, so Novgorodskoye Opolcheniye, Suzdalskoye Opolcheniye, Vladimirskoye Opolcheniye, etc. These were not militia as such, but armed crowds that, when attacked, would arm themselves and gather into a polk, which is translated in its modern meaning as a regiment. Dal' [19] gives other usages such as rat', voisko, opolcheniye, tolpa and vataga.

Although formed into regiments, divisions and even armies during their existence, the Opolcheniye never had their own permanent units, and it was only during their last creation in 1941 that they were transferred to the regular units and formations en masse.

  • First Narodnoe Opolcheniye, was formed in 1611 during the Russo-Polish War of 1605–1618
  • Second Narodnoe Opolcheniye, was formed in 1611–1612 during the Russo-Polish War of 1605–1618
  • During the War of the Fourth Coalition (1806–1807), the Narodnoe Opolcheniye was raise numbering some 612,000, but not used in combat
  • In 1812 Narodnoe Opolcheniye of 420,000 was formed during the French invasion of Russia and was used extensively during the war[20] and into the 1813 campaigns. At this time the Cossack opolcheniye was also created that even included use of captured 18th- or even 17th -century Turkish cannon kept as trophies.[21]
  • During the Crimean War (1853–1856), a new Narodnoe Opolcheniye numbering about 360,000 was called out,[22] but not used in combat, although the 7,132 members of the Morskoye Opolcheniye formed from former naval and merchant officers and seamen did serve on active duty. [2]
  • During the reign of Alexander II of Russia from 1874 a Gosudarstvennoye Opolcheniye was created which existed until 1917. The primary organisational intent of the government was to offer administrative framework for the previously spontaneous creation of opolcheniye formations due to the ending of serfdom a decade earlier, and the increasing Socialist revolutionary activities. It was used in Siberia during the Russo-Japanese War
  • The Narodnoe Opolcheniye was formed again in 1941 during the Great Patriotic War in significant numbers.[23] Sixteen divisions were formed in Moscow. Eighteen were formed in Leningrad, of which five became regular rifle divisions.[24]

See also


  1. ^ p. 561, Glantz
  2. ^ p. 43, Kirschenbaum
  3. ^ p. 195, Berman, Kerner
  4. ^ p. 178, Gippenreĭter, Komech
  5. ^ p. 43, Rhodes
  6. ^ p. 197, Harcave
  7. ^ p. 621, Herzen
  8. ^ p. 238, Arlen
  9. ^ p. 335, Elleinstein
  10. ^ p. 503, Drury
  11. ^ p. 31, RAND
  12. ^ p. 203, Rothenberg
  13. ^ p.357, Singleton
  14. ^ p. 91, De Windt
  15. ^ p. 20, Seaton
  16. ^ p.280, Rottman
  17. ^ p. 93,Raymond, Atwater-Green
  18. ^ Harris
  19. ^ p. 262, vol.III, Dal
  20. ^ [1] Russian Army Order of Battle
  21. ^ p.87, Summerfield; from "The Don Cossack Opolchenie in 1812" by L. M. Frantseva, found in the ISTORICHESKIE ZAPISKI, 1954, Book 47, pp. 291–307. English translation by Mark Conrad
  22. ^ pp. 691–704, Moon
  23. ^ p. 235, Chickering, Förster, Greiner
  24. ^


  • Stephen Summerfield, Brazen Cross of Courage: Russian Opolchenie, Partizans and Freikorps During the Napoleonic Wars, Partizan Press, 2007 ISBN 1-85818-555-6
  • Roger Chickering, Stig Förster, Bernd Greiner, A World at Total War: Global Conflict and the Politics of Destruction, 1937-1945, German Historical Institute, Cambridge University Press, 2005 ISBN 0-511-08213-4
  • Kirschenbaum, Lisa, The Legacy of the Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1995: Myth, Memories, and Monuments, Cambridge University Press, 2006 ISBN 0-521-86326-0
  • Russian Peasant Volunteers at the Beginning of the Crimean War, David Moon, Slavic Review, Vol. 51, No. 4, Winter, 1992
  • Glantz, David, Colossus Reborn: The Red Army at War, 1941-1943, University Press of Kansas, 2005 ISBN 0-7006-1353-6
  • Dahl, Vladimir, Explanatory Dictionary of the Live Great Russian language, Vol.III (П), Diamant, St. Petersburg, 1998 (reprinting of 1882 edition by M.O.Wolf Publisher Booksellers-Typesetters)
Dmitri Shepilov

Dmitri Trofimovich Shepilov (Russian: Дми́трий Трофи́мович Шепи́лов, Dmitrij Trofimovič Šepilov; 5 November [O.S. 23 October] 1905 – 18 August 1995) was a Soviet politician and Minister of Foreign Affairs who joined the abortive plot to oust Nikita Khrushchev from power in 1957.

Dmitry Rodin

Dmitry Ivanovich Rodin (Russian: Дмитрий Ильич Родин; 21 July 1912 – 6 June 1992) was a Red Army junior lieutenant and Hero of the Soviet Union. Rodin was awarded the title for his leadership of a platoon during the Lublin–Brest Offensive, during which he was seriously wounded for the sixth time. As a result of this, Rodin spent the rest of the war in the hospital and was discharged in April 1945. Postwar, he worked as an engineer in the Ministry of Railways design and research institute.

Imperial Russian Army

The Imperial Russian Army (Russian: Ру́сская импера́торская а́рмия, tr. Rússkaya imperátorskaya ármiya) was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of more than 900,000 regular soldiers and nearly 250,000 irregulars (mostly Cossacks).

The last living veteran of the Russian Imperial Army was Ukrainian supercentenarian Mikhail Krichevsky, who died in 2008.

Leningrad People's Militia Army

The Leningrad People's Militia Army (Russian: Армия Ленинградского Народного Ополчения) (commander General Major A.I. Subbotin) was initially an all-volunteer formation of the Soviet Union raised during the Second World War for defense of Leningrad.

Leslie (Russian nobility)

Leslie (Russian: Лесли) is the name of Russian noble family of Scottish origin. Descendants of Alexander Leslie of Auchintoul, who was a Scottish soldier in Swedish and General in Russian service. In 1654 he wrested Smolensk from the Poles and became the Tsar's governor/voivode there. Auchintoul fought for the Montrosians in the English Civil War. He was the son of William Leslie, third laird of Crichie, a branch of the Balquhain Leslies. He was commander of Russian forces during the Siege of Smolensk (1654), one of the first great events of the Russo-Polish War (1654–67).

Lev Milchin

Lev Isaakovich Milchin (Russian: Лев Исаакович Мильчин, 1920—1987) was a Soviet animation director, art director, artist and book illustrator. He was also a pedagogue at VGIK. He was named an Honoured Artist of the RSFSR in 1978.

List of infantry divisions of the Soviet Union 1917–57

This is a list of infantry divisions of the Soviet Union 1917–1957. It lists infantry divisions in the Soviet Union from the 1917 Revolution to the reorganisation of the Soviet Army in the aftermath of the Stalinist era. Mechanised Divisions were formed during 1945–46, and then all remaining Rifle Divisions were converted to Motor Rifle Divisions in 1957.

Mariya Polivanova

Mariya Polivanova (Russian: Мария Поливанова; 24 October 1922 – 14 August 1942) was a private in the 528th Rifle Regiment of the 130th Infantry Division, 1st Shock Army on the Northwestern Front during World War II. On 14 August 1942, surrounded by German soldiers whilst she and her colleague Natalya Kovshova had only two grenades left, they set off the last two grenades, killing themselves and surrounding German soldiers. For their bravery she and Kovshova were posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union on 14 February 1943.


A militia () is generally an army or some other fighting organization of non-professional soldiers, citizens of a nation, or subjects of a state, who can be called upon for military service during a time of need, as opposed to a professional force of regular, full-time military personnel, or historically, members of a warrior nobility class (e.g., knights or samurai). Generally unable to hold ground against regular forces, it is common for militias to be used for aiding regular troops by skirmishing, holding fortifications, or irregular warfare, instead of being used in offensive campaigns by themselves. Militia are often limited by local civilian laws to serve only in their home region, and to serve only for a limited time; this further reduces their use in long military campaigns.

With the emergence of professional forces (in the form of mercenaries whose livelihood was military service) during the Renaissance, Western European militias wilted; later however, they would be revived as part of Florentine civic humanism, which held that professional militaries were a result of corruption, and admired the Roman model. The civic humanist ideal of the militia was spread through Europe by the writings of Niccolò Machiavelli (According to Hörnqvist, The Prince, ch. 12 and 13, Discourses on Livy, and The Art of War.)

Beginning in the late 20th century, some militias (in particular officially recognized and sanctioned militias of a government) act as professional forces, while still being "part-time" or "on-call" organizations. For instance, the members of some U.S. Army National Guard units are considered professional soldiers, as they are trained to maintain the same standards as their "full-time" (active duty) counterparts.Militias thus can be military or paramilitary, depending on the instance. Some of the contexts in which the term "militia" is used include:

Forces engaged in defense activity or service, to protect a community, its territory, property, and laws.

The entire able-bodied population of a community, town, county, or state, available to be called to arms.

A subset of these who may be legally penalized for failing to respond to a call-up.

A subset of these who actually respond to a call-up, regardless of legal obligation.

A private, non-government force, not necessarily directly supported or sanctioned by its government.

An irregular armed force enabling its leader to exercise military, economic, and political control over a subnational territory within a sovereign state (See: Warlord).

An official reserve army, composed of citizen soldiers. Called by various names in different countries, such as the Army Reserve, National Guard, or state defense forces.

The national police forces in several former communist states such as the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries, but also in the non-aligned SFR Yugoslavia. The term was inherited in Russia and other former CIS countries, where they are known as militsiya.

In France the equivalent term "Milice" has become tainted due to its use by notorious collaborators with Nazi Germany.

A select militia is composed of a small, non-representative portion of the population, often politicized.

Natalya Kovshova

Natalya Kovshova (Russian: Наталья Ковшова, 26 November 1920 – 14 August 1942) was a Soviet female sniper who fought in the Great Patriotic War.

She fought with her friend Mariya Polivanova who acted as her spotter. Natalya fought bravely throughout the war; she was killed fighting German Wehrmacht forces near Novgorod in August 1942. She was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union's highest award for bravery, on 14 February 1943.

Operation Barbarossa

Operation Barbarossa (German: Unternehmen Barbarossa) was the code name for the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, which started on Sunday, 22 June 1941, during World War II. The operation stemmed from Nazi Germany's ideological aims to conquer the western Soviet Union so that it could be repopulated by Germans (Lebensraum), to use Slavs as a slave labour force for the Axis war effort, to murder the rest, and to acquire the oil reserves of the Caucasus and the agricultural resources of Soviet territories.In the two years leading up to the invasion, Germany and the Soviet Union signed political and economic pacts for strategic purposes. Nevertheless, the German High Command began planning an invasion of the Soviet Union in July 1940 (under the codename Operation Otto), which Adolf Hitler authorized on 18 December 1940. Over the course of the operation, about three million personnel of the Axis powers – the largest invasion force in the history of warfare – invaded the western Soviet Union along a 2,900-kilometer (1,800 mi) front. In addition to troops, the Wehrmacht deployed some 600,000 motor vehicles, and between 600,000 and 700,000 horses for non-combat operations. The offensive marked an escalation of World War II, both geographically and in the formation of the Allied coalition.

Operationally, German forces achieved major victories and occupied some of the most important economic areas of the Soviet Union (mainly in Ukraine) and inflicted, as well as sustained, heavy casualties. Despite these Axis successes, the German offensive stalled in the Battle of Moscow at the end of 1941, and the subsequent Soviet winter counteroffensive pushed German troops back. The Red Army absorbed the Wehrmacht's strongest blows and forced the Germans into a war of attrition that they were unprepared for. The Wehrmacht never again mounted a simultaneous offensive along the entire Eastern front. The failure of the operation drove Hitler to demand further operations of increasingly limited scope inside the Soviet Union, such as Case Blue in 1942 and Operation Citadel in 1943 – all of which eventually failed.

The failure of Operation Barbarossa proved a turning point in the fortunes of the Third Reich. Most importantly, the operation opened up the Eastern Front, in which more forces were committed than in any other theater of war in world history. The Eastern Front became the site of some of the largest battles, most horrific atrocities, and highest World War II casualties (for Soviet and Axis forces alike), all of which influenced the course of both World War II and the subsequent history of the 20th century. The German armies captured 5,000,000 Red Army troops, who were denied the protection guaranteed by the Hague Conventions and the 1929 Geneva Convention. A majority of Red Army POWs never returned alive. The Nazis deliberately starved to death, or otherwise killed, 3.3 million prisoners of war, as well as a huge number of civilians (through the "Hunger Plan" which aimed at largely replacing the Slavic population with German settlers). Einsatzgruppen death-squads and gassing operations murdered over a million Soviet Jews as part of the Holocaust.

Order of battle for the Leningrad Strategic Defensive Operation

This is the order of battle for the Leningrad Strategic Defensive covering the period 10 July to 30 September 1941.

Sergey Vyazmitinov

Count Sergey Kuzmich Vyazmitinov (Russian: Серге́й Кузьмич Вязьмитинов) (7 October 1744 – 15 October 1819, Saint Petersburg), was a Russian general and statesman.

He descended from the ancient noble landowner's family of Ruthenian origin, known from the end of the 15th century. On 22 June 1759 he was recorded as corporal into the Observational Corps, but started service only on 21 December 1761 as ensign of Ukrainian Narodnoe Opolcheniye Corps. In 1762 he was moved into Manezh Company (Манежная рота).

During the Russo-Turkish War, 1768-1774 he was aide-de-camp of the Vice President of the War Collegium Count Zakhar Chernyshev, from 1770 he was a generals-auditor-lieutenants in the rank of premier-major, manager of the affairs of the march office of Chernyshev (from October 1771 of Count Peter Rumyantsev-Zadunaysky). In 1777 he was promoted to Colonel and was appointed as the commander of Astrakhan infantry regiment.

On 22 September 1786 he obtained the rank of Major General and became the commander of the Astrakhan grenadier regiment for whose formation he was chiefly responsible. During Russo-Turkish War, 1787-1792 he commanded joined forces of the chasseurs and grenadiers battalions and participated in the taking of Khotin, Akkerman and Bendery.

From 1 March 1790 Vyazmyatinov was the ruler of Mogilev's deputy and the commander of Belarusian chasseur Corps. On 2 September 1793 he was promoted to lieutenant-general, from 4 March 1794 Senator. In September 1794 he was appointed acting Governor General of Simbirsk and Ufa.

From 1795 he commanded the Orenburg Corps. He helped stifle a rebellion of Kyrgyz and secured election as the khan of the Russian-backed puppet. From 29 November 1796 he was Orenburg military governor and the chief of Moscow musketeer regiment. He was a military governor of Kamenets-Podolskiy from 1 December 1796, from 3 December 1796 Governor General of Malorossiya, from 13 January 1797 commandant of Peter and Paul Fortress and the chief of its garrison regiment. Simultaneously (from 24 April 1797) he commanded the Commissariat Department.

On 5 November 1799 Vyazmyatinov was dismissed from the military service. On 9 September 1801 he was appointed the civil governor of Malorossiya. From 1 January 1802 he was the Vice President of the War Collegium and from 15 January simultaneously a senator and a member of the Permanent Council (Непременный Совет). After the creation of Ministry of Land Forces on 8 September he became the first Defense Minister of Russia and carried out enormous work on the reorganization of the Arms Forces Administration.

During his departure into front-line army (1805) emperor Aleksander I left Vyazmitinov as the commander-in-chief in St.Petersburg. 13 January 1808 he was dismissed (one of the reasons were the large scale of abuses by the commissariat officials). On 20 April 1811 he was newly accepted to the service, and with appointment as a member of the State Council.

From 25 March 1812 he was a member of the Committee of Ministers, and from 28 March Vyazmitinov was the commander-in-chief in St.Petersburg during absence of the Emperor, managing the Ministry of Police. Simultaneously, from 9 September 1812 he was the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, and from 30 October 1816 military Governor General of St.Petersburg.

On 19 August 1818 Vyazmitinov was granted a comital title. He was buried in the Lazarev burial-vault of the Alexander Nevsky Monastery.

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