The army of the USSR until 1946; it later became known as the Soviet Army. Founded by the revolutionary Leon Trotsky, it developed from the Red Guards, volunteers who were in the vanguard of the Bolshevik revolution. The force took its name from its rallying banner, the red flag. At its peak, during World War II, it reached a strength of around 12 million men and women. The revolutionary army that helped the communists under Mao Zedong win power in China in 1949 was also popularly known as the Red Army.
The early campaigns of the Red Army were marked by incompetence, and it suffered a number of humiliating defeats, notably in the Soviet–Polish war of 1920. Discipline, equipment, and general efficiency improved in the later 1920s and 1930s, though the army's leadership was seriously weakened by the Stalinist political purges of 1937 and 1938. The deficiencies of the Red Army were shown up in the Finnish ‘Winter War’ of 1939 to 1940, when the small, tenacious, and mobile Finnish Army inflicted early defeats on the invading force. Similarly, the first phases of the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941 – beginning what is known there as the ‘Great Patriotic War’ – saw the Red Army driven back, incurring immense losses in soldiers and material. But the large human reserves at its disposal and increased output of tanks and guns enabled it to contain the Nazi forces, notably at the sieges of Stalingrad and Leningrad, and then drive them back across eastern Europe.
Russian civil war
Russian civil war
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