Ranks and insignia of the Red Army and Navy 1935–1940

Individual rank insignia to the (Army) ground forces and (Navy) naval forces (1935–1940) were established by orders 2590 and 2591, effective from September 22, 1935.[1]

This was mainly directed to supreme commanders, commanding officers, and personnel in charge to exert command and control in the Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, published by order number 176 of the USSR People's Commissariat of Defense, dated from December 03, 1935.[2]

Капитан ВВС РККА у СБ
Kapitan/ military pilot of the Red Army´s Air Force, uniform with distinction insignia ca. 1935/40.

Situation in 1935

According to these new orders, new insignia of command personnel should indicate:

  • Branch of service (e.g. Army, Air Force, or Navy), or special troops
  • Qualification, professional responsibility, specific knowledge
  • Rank insignia, operational/ tactical responsibility, e.g. level of military command, formation, unit, or sub-unit.

The top military rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was created by order of the USSR Central Executive Committee and the “Council of People's Commissars” from September 22, 1935 onward, before the new ranks were issued.

Military ranks

The military ranks created as a result of the joint decision of the “USSR Central Executive Committee” and the “Council of People's Commissars” from November 21, 1935 are contained in the table below. These replaced the ranks used from 1924.

Land forces
Air Force
Naval forces equivalent in GUGB/NKWD
Enlisted men & junior leading staff
Red Army Man OR1[3] Red Fleet Man
(from 1943: Matros)
OR1 no equivalent
Otdeljonnyi komandir OR6
Junior commander OR7 No equivalent
Starshina OR8
Commanding staff
Lieutenant OF1[4] Sergeant of the state security
Starshy leytenant Mladshy leytenant of state security
Kapitan OF2 Captain lieutenant OF2 Lieutenant of state security
Major OF3 Captain 3rd rank OF3 Starshy leytenant of state security
Polkovnik OF5 Kapitan 2nd rank OF4 Kapitan of state security
Kombrig OF6 Kapitan 1st rank OF5 Mayor of state security
Komdiv OF7 Flag officer 2nd rank OF6 Starshy mayor of state security
Komkor OF8 Flag Officer 1st rank OF7 Commissioner of state security 3rd rank
Komandarm 2nd rank OF9 Fleet Flag Officer 2nd rank OF8 Commissioner of state security 2nd rank
Komandarm 1st rank Fleet Flag Officer 1st rank OF9 Commissioner of state security 1st rank
Marshal of the Soviet Union OF10 No equivalent State Security Commissioner general

Additional regulations

The same orders mentioned above provided for separate ranks for the Political commissars and military specialists, as in the table below.

Military-political staff
all service branches
Military-technician staff Military-administration and support all service branches Military-medical service all service branches Military-veterinarian all service branches Military-legal service all service branches
Land forces &
Air Force
Naval forces
No rank established Military technician 2nd rank Technical intendant 2nd rank Army-surgeon Veterinarian army-surgeon Junior military jurist
Politleader Politruk Sensior RKKA 1935-1942.jpeg Military technician 1st rank Technical-intendant 1st rank Senior army-surgeon Senior veterinarian army-surgeon Military jurist
Senior political leader Batalion komissar RKKA 1935-1942.jpeg Military engineer 3rd rank Intendant 3rd rank Military physician 3rd rank Military veterinarian 3rd rank Military jurist 3rd rank
Bataillon commissar RA A-kav PolkKom-1935-40 -SenBatKom-1940-42.jpg Mil-engineer 2nd rank Intendant 2nd rank Mil-physician 2nd rank Mil-vet-physician 2nd rank Military jurist 2nd rank
Regimental commissar RA A PolkKom-1940-42.jpg Mililitary engineer 1st rank Intendant 1st rank Mil-physician 1st rank Mil-vet-physician 1st rank Military jurist 1st rank
Brigade commissar Brigad Komissar RKKA 1935-1942.jpeg Brigade engineer Engineer Flag officer 3rd rank Brig-intendant Brig-physician Brig-vet-physician Brig-mil-jurist
Division commissar Div Komissar RKKA 1935-1942.jpeg Division engineer Engineer Flag officer 2nd rank Div-intendant Div-physician Div-vet-pysician Div-mil-jurist
Corps commissar Korp Komissar RKKA 1935-1942.jpeg Corps engineer Engineer Flag officer 1st rank Corps intendant Corps physician Cor-vet-pysician Cor-military-jurist
Army commissar 2nd rank Army Komissar 2r RKKA 1935-1942.jpeg Army engineer Fleet Engineer Flag officer Army intendant Army physician Army veterinarian Army military-jurist
Army commissar 1st rank Army Komissar 1r RKKA 1935-1942.jpeg No equivalent ranks created

1937

More regulations were established in 1937, following general instructions of the Red Army. According to paragraph 10 of this instruction, the following subdivision of personnel was made:

  • Leading staff: Military officers and heads of departments, military administration and commissariat, medical service, veterinarian service, military legal service
  • Commanding staff: Personnel with the ranks commander in chief and commander
  • Junior commanding staff
  • Enlisted men/ratings

Paragraph 14 of this instruction contained the individual ranks and rank designations according to the order of September 22, 1935, and thus officially sanctioned the additional established OF-1c ranks (Junior lieutenant and Junior military technician), taking effect on August 5, 1937.

1939

By decision of the extraordinary session of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (end of August until early September 1939) the law on universal compulsory service took effect, and the new OF4-ranks of Podpolkovnik and Battalion commissar were introduced as a result of the amendments to the rank regulations of 1935. An equivalent OF4-rank for the Soviet navy was not established, however.

Rank designations

Popov N A praded
Example Polkovnik armoured corps with rank insignia big (coat), small (battle jacket) 1940.

In addition to individual ranks the establishment of defined rank insignia was made in December 1935 as well. From this time military staff, including political commissars, military administration, commissariat, medical service, veterinarian service, and military legal service of the Red Army wore rank insignia as follows:

  • Rank insignia chevron: on both sleeves (short above the cuff)
  • Rank insignia big: on both collar-edges of the uniform coat
  • Rank insignia small: on both collar-edges of the battle jacket (Gymnastjorka)

However, naval military staff wore sleeve insignia (stripes and stars) on both sleeves of the uniform.

Commander in chief, higher commanding officers and top appointments OF10 to OF6
  • Rank insignia, big (overcoat): on a rhombic padding, gold coloured border, one to four rhombic red enameled badges, gold coloured Soviet star small/ big
  • Rank insignia, small (Gymnastjorka): on rectangle padding, gold coloured border, one to four rhombic red enameled badges
  • Sleeve insignia (overcoat): one to four gold colored chevrons, Soviet star small/ big, one red coloured extra chevron OF10
Commanding officers and unit leaders OF5, OF3 and OF2
  • Rank insignia big (over coat): on rhombic padding, gold coloured border, one to three red enameled rectangle badges
  • Rank insignia small (Gymnastjorka): on rectangle padding, gold coloured border, one to four red enameled rectangle badges
Subunit leader OF1
  • Rank insignia big (over coat): on rhombic padding, gold coloured border, one to four red enameled square badges
  • Rank insignia small (Gymnastjorka): on rectangle padding, gold coloured border, one to four red enameled square badges
Sub-subunit leader and enlisted men OR8 to OR1
  • Sub-subunit leader
    • Rank insignia big (over coat): on rhombic padding, gold coloured border, one to three red enameled triangular badges
    • Rank insignia small (Gymnastjorka): on rectangle padding, gold coloured border, one to four red enameled triangular badges
  • Enlisted men: simple rank insignia big (over coat)/ simple rank insignia small (Gymnastjorka)

Table of rank insignia land forces and Air Force 1935–1940

Higher commanders

Designation Higher commanders
Rank
insignia
Coat-collar Red Army Marshal 1935 Red Army 1935 collar big komandarm 1-go ranga Red Army 1935 collar big komandarm 2-go ranga Red Army 1935 collar big komkor Red Army 1935 collar big komdiv Red Army 1935 collar big kombrig
Gymnastjorka Red Army 1935 collar small komandarm 1-go ranga Red Army 1935 collar small komandarm 2-go ranga Red Army 1935 collar small komkor Red Army 1935 collar small komdiv Red Army 1935 collar small kombrig
Sleeve chevron RKKA 1935 chevron OF10 marshal RKKA 1935 chevron OF9a komandarm 1-go ranga RKKA 1935 chevron OF9b komandarm 2-go ranga RKKA 1935 chevron OF8 komkor RKKA 1935 chevron OF7 komdiv RKKA 1935 chevron OF6 kombrig
Rank designation Marshal of the Soviet Union Komandarm 1st rank Komandarm 2nd rank Komkor Komdiv Kombrig
(native designation) (Маршал Советского Союза) (Командарм 1-го ранга) (Командарм 2-го ранга) (Комкор) (Комдив) (Комбриг)
OF-equivalent OF10 OF9 OF8 OF7 OF6
Rank designation after 1940 No change General of the Army
(Chief marshal of the branch & Marshal of the branch)
Colonel general Lieutenant general Major General

Middle and senior commanders

Designation Senior commanders Middle-level commanders
Rank
insignia
Coat-collar Red Army 1935 collar big polkovnik 1940 & podpolkovnik Red Army 1935 collar big mayor Red Army 1935 collar big kapitan Red Army 1935 collar big starshy leytenant Red Army 1935 collar big leytenant Red Army 1937 collar big mladshy leytenant
Gymnastjorka Red Army 1935 collar small polkovnik 1940 & podpolkovnik Red Army 1935 collar small mayor Red Army 1935 collar small kapitan Red Army 1935 collar small starshy leytenant Red Army 1935 collar small leytenant Red Army 1937 collar small mladshy leytenant
Sleeve chevron RKKA 1935 chevron OF5 polkovnik RKKA 1935 chevron OF3 mayor RKKA 1935 chevron OF2 kapitan RKKA 1935 chevron OF1a starshy leytenant RKKA 1935 chevron OF1b leytenant RKKA 1937 chevron OF1c mladshy leytenant
Rank designation Polkovnik Major Kapitan Starshy leytenant Lieutenant Mladshy leytenant
(adopted 1937)
(Native designation) (Полковник) (Майор) (Капитан) (Старший лейтенант) (Лейтенант) (Младший лейтенант)
OF-equivalent OF5 OF3 OF2 OF1

Junior commanders and enlisted men

Designation Junior commanders Enlisted men
Rank
insignia
Coat-collar Red Army 1935 collar big starshina Red Army 1935 collar big mladshy komvzvod Red Army 1935 collar big otdelyonnyi komandir Red Army 1935 collar big krasnoarmeyets
Gymastjorka Red Army 1935 collar small starshina Red Army 1935 collar small mladshy komvzvod Red Army 1935 collar small otdelyonnyi komandir Red Army 1935 collar small krasnoarmeyets
Rank
designation
Starshina Junior platoon commander Section commander Red army man
(native designation) (Сташина) (Младший комвзвод) (Отделенный командир) (Красноармеец)
OR-equivalent OR8 OR7 OR6 OR1
Rank designation after 1940 No change Starshiy serzhant Serzhant No change
(native designation) (Старший сержант) (Cержа́нт)

Table of rank insignia for the navy 1935–1940

The following ranks and insignia were used by the Soviet Navy from 1935 to 1940.

Flag officers

Designation Commander in chief, higher commanders and top appointments
Sleeve insignia Red Fleet 04 (1935-1940).jpg Red Fleet 03 (1935-1940).jpg Red Fleet 02 (1935-1940).jpg Red Fleet 01 (1935-1940).jpg
Rank
designation
Flag officer of the fleet
1st rank
Flag officer of the fleet
2nd rank
Flag officer
1st rank
Flag officer
2nd rank
(native designation) (Флагман флота 1-го ранга) (Флагман флота 2-го ранга) (Флагман 1-го ранга) (Флагман 2-го ранга)
OF-equivalent OF9 OF8 OF7 OF6
Rank designation after 1940 Admiral of the Fleet Admiral Vice admiral Counter admiral

Officers

Designation Commanding officers and unit leaders
Sleeve insignia UdSSR Navy 1943 OF5 insignia.svg UdSSR Navy 1943 OF4 insignia.svg UdSSR Navy 1943 OF3 insignia.svg UdSSR Navy 1943-1991 OF2 insignia.svg UdSSR Navy 1943-1991 OF1a insignia.svg UdSSR Navy 1943-1991 OF1b insignia.svg UdSSR Navy 1943-1991 OF1c insignia.svg
Rank
designation
Kapitan 1st rank Kapitan 2nd rank Kapitan 3rd rank Kapitan leytenant Starshiy leytenant Leytetant Mladshiy leytenant
(from 1937 onward)
(native designation) (Капитан 1-го ранга) (Капитан 2-го ранга) (Капитан 3-го ранга) (Капитан-лейтенант) (Старший лейтенант) (Лейтенант) (Младший лейтенант)
OF-equivalent OF5 OF4 OF3 OF2 OF1

Sub-subunit leader and enlisted men

Designation Sub-subunit leaders, specialists & enlisted men
Sleeve insignia RAF N R8Starshina 1924-1940.gif (RKKF) Squad Leader.png SNMR3601.png
Rank
designation
Starshina Squad commander Krasnoflotets
(native designation) (Старшина) (Отделенный командир) (Краснофлотец)
OR-equivalent OR7 OR6 OR1

See also

References

  1. ^ Rank insignia and sequence of ranks of the “Workers' and Peasants' Red Army” as to order number 2590 of the “USSR Central Executive Committee” and “Council of People's Commissars” from September 22, 1935. Other solutions to ground forces and navy of the “Workers' and Peasants' Red Army” were disposed by order 2591.
  2. ^ Order number 176 of the „People's Commissar of Defence of the USSR” from December 3, 1935 pertaining individual military ranks of the land forces and the Navy of the “Workers' and Peasants' Red Army”.
  3. ^ The abbreviation "OR" stands for "Other Ranks / fr: sous-officiers et militaires du rang / ru:другие ранги, кроме офицеров"
  4. ^ The abbreviation "OF" stands for de: "Offizier / en: officer / fr: officier / ru: офицер"
Marshal of the Soviet Union

Marshal of the Soviet Union (Russian: Маршал Советского Союза; Russian pronunciation: [ˈmarʂəɫ sɐˈvʲɛtskəvə sɐˈjuzə]) was the highest military rank of the Soviet Union.

The rank of Marshal of the Soviet Union was created in 1935 and abolished in 1991, and forty-one people held this rank. The equivalent naval rank was until 1955 Admiral of the fleet and from 1955 Admiral of the fleet of the Soviet Union. Both ranks were comparable to NATO rank codes OF-10, and to the five-star rank in anglophone armed forces.

While the supreme rank of Generalissimus of the Soviet Union, which would have been senior to Marshal of the Soviet Union, was proposed for Joseph Stalin after the Second World War, it was never officially approved.

Ranks and insignia of the Red Army and Navy 1918–1935

In the period from 1918 to 1935 of the young Soviet Union any bourgeois military thoughts were put under general suspicion by the communists, the new political establishment. Among others, the Old Russian tradition to wear epaulets and shoulder straps as rank insignia was rigorously abolished and was replaced with a new tradition of rank designations and insignia for the new Red Army and the nascent Soviet Navy.

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