The Russian Naval Infantry, (Marines, Морская пехота, Morskaya Pekhota), or Russian Marines, is the amphibious force of the Russian Navy. The first Russian naval infantry force was formed in 1705, and since that time it has fought in the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the Russo-Japanese War, and the First and Second World Wars. Under Admiral Gorshkov, the Soviet Navy expanded the reach of the Naval Infantry and deployed it worldwide on numerous occasions.
The Marines are led by the Deputy Commander for Coastal Troops/Commandant of the Coastal Troops of the Russian Navy, Major General (NI) Aleksandr Kolpachenko. Their motto: "There, Where We Are, There is Victory!"
They, alongside the Coastal Defense Missile Artillery Forces, form part of a larger institution—the Coastal Defense Forces of the Russian Navy(Береговые войска ВМФ России, Beregovye Voyska VMF Rossii).
World War II
Great Patriotic War Soviet Naval Infantry uniform
During World War II about 350,000 Red Navy sailors fought on land. At the beginning of the war, the navy had only one brigade of marines in the Baltic fleet, but began forming and training other battalions. These eventually were
- six naval infantry regiments, comprising two 650 man battalions each,
- 40 naval infantry brigades of 5–10 battalions, formed from surplus ships' crews. Five brigades were awarded Gvardy (Guards) status,
- numerous smaller units.
The military situation demanded the deployment of large numbers of marines on land fronts, so the Naval Infantry contributed to the defense of Moscow, Leningrad, Odessa, Sevastopol, Stalingrad, Novorossiisk, Kerch.
The Naval Infantry conducted over 114 landings, most of which were carried out by platoons and companies. In general, however, Naval Infantry served as regular infantry, without any amphibious training.
They conducted four major operations: two during the Battle of the Kerch Peninsula, one during the Caucasus Campaign and one as part of the Landing at Moonsund, in the Baltic.
During the war, five brigades and two battalions of naval infantry were awarded Guards status. Nine brigades and six battalions were awarded decorations, and many were given honorary titles. The title Hero of the Soviet Union was bestowed on 122 members of naval infantry units.
The Soviet experience in amphibious warfare in World War II contributed to the development of Soviet operational art in combined arms operations. Many members of the Naval Infantry were parachute trained; they conducted more drops and successful parachute operations than the VDV.
The Naval Infantry was disbanded in 1947, with some units being transferred to the Coastal Defence Force.
Soviet Naval Infantrymen in 1985.
Soviet Naval Infantrymen during a demonstration in 1990.
In 1961, the Naval Infantry was re-formed and became a combat arm of the Soviet Naval Forces. Each Fleet was assigned a Naval Infantry unit of regiment (and later brigade) size. The Naval Infantry received amphibious versions of standard armoured fighting vehicles, including tanks used by the Soviet Army.
By 1989, the Naval Infantry numbered 18,000 troops, organised into the 55th Naval Infantry Division, at Vladivostok and at least four independent brigades: the 63rd Guards Kirkenneskaya Brigade at Pechenga (Northern Fleet), 175th at Tumannyy in the North, 336th Guards Brigade at Baltiysk (Baltic Fleet), and 810th atSevastopol (Black Sea Fleet).
By the end of the Cold War, the Soviet Navy had over eighty landing ships, as well as two Ivan Rogov-class landing ships. The latter could transport one infantry battalion with 40 armoured vehicles and their landing craft. (One of the Rogov ships has since been retired.)
At 75 units, the Soviet Union had the world's largest inventory of combat air-cushion assault craft. In addition, many of the 2,500 vessels of the Soviet merchant fleet (Morflot) could off-load weapons and supplies during amphibious landings.
On November 18, 1990, on the eve of the Paris Summit where the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and the Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures (CSBMs) were signed, Soviet data were presented under the so-called initial data exchange. This showed a rather sudden emergence of three so-called coastal defence divisions (including the 3rd at Klaipėda in the Baltic Military District, the 126th in the Odessa Military District and seemingly the 77th Guards Motor Rifle Division with the Northern Fleet), along with three artillery brigades/regiments, subordinate to the Soviet Navy, which had previously been unknown as such to NATO. Much of the equipment, which was commonly understood to be treaty limited (TLE) was declared to be part of the naval infantry. The Soviet argument was that the CFE excluded all naval forces, including its permanently land-based components. The Soviet Government eventually became convinced that its position could not be maintained.
A proclamation of the Soviet government on July 14, 1991, which was later adopted by its successor states, provided that all "treaty-limited equipment" (tanks, artillery and armoured vehicles) assigned to naval infantry or coastal defence forces, would count against the total treaty entitlement.